About 1/3 of the way through the book I realized that I had read another book by Rod Dreher, "How Dante Saved My Life". I enjoyed that book, and my wife actually enjoyed and made it through it as well, which is RARE for "Moose Books". I hope to blog on that book in the future as well, however this one is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL for anyone who believes that they are a Christian to read.
Rod agrees with me, and I think millions of Christians in the US that we are officially and totally in a post-Christian nation, as well as post Western civilization. This is a new "Dark Age", and as St Benedict, born in 480 decided sometime around 500 as he journeyed to the shadow of once great Rome, now ruled by barbarians, it was time to found a "remnant" to keep the core of the faith, which he did at Norica, and in his "Rule of St Benedict".
As Dreher says; "Professing orthodox biblical Christianity on sexual matters is now thought to be evidence of intolerable bogotry, Conservative Christians have been routed. We are living in a new country" ... one which I label as "BOistan", but the label makes no difference, it is a barbarian nation.
On page 154, Rod quotes from Phillip Reiff: "Barbarians are people without historical memory. Barbarism is the real meaning of contemporaneity. Released from all authoritative pasts, we progress towards barbarism, not away from it.". I've covered this fact a number of times ... "Closing of the American Mind", "Ideas Have Consequences", and others. Technology is not "advancement", it is just giving monkeys nuclear weapons without theology, philosophy and history. The beginning of wisdom is humility ... and barbarians have none of that!
One of the topics that is explained very well in this book is nominalism, a opposd to metaphysical realism (see pages 26-29). Metaphysical realism tells us that EVERYTHING that is created has MEANING -- as Charles Taylor would say "It is Enchanted" ... or in philosphical terms "teleological".
This ought not be so hard for us to understand today ... one by one, from phones, to watches, to locks on doors, to thermostats, to labels on products (RFID), more and more of our "objects" have built in "smarts", and are often even "connected". Does it REALLY seem so "magical" that an all powerful God can and does imbdue his creation with sacred meaning ?
Well, everyone thought so up until William of Occam in the 1300s. Strangely, Occam thought he was "letting God off the hook" because being linked with his meaningful universe of laws "limited him" ... so Bill decided that the Christian God was to be like the Muslim "god" ... able to call evil good and good evil at his whim -- an issue covered really well (and a bit ironically) in a great book based on a speech by Pope Benedict, "The Regensburg Lecture".
Occam convinced the west that "matter is just matter" -- it has no meaning except that imposed from outside it, so "parts is parts" ... matter (including life) only means whatever we decide -- and as we became atomized individuals, each supposedly "the measure of all things", we arrived at "my view is just as good as yours (and of course I think BETTER), so I'll call it whatever I want -- cells, tissue, a baby, etc ... it's ALL UP TO ME!)
This book is WAY too rich for me to cover the MANY great points that are well made, a couple key points ...
- We are in a post-Christian, post-virtue post-civilization age. A "dark age", likely to be FAR worse than the previous one. The World Wars and the Holocaust are likely just "warm ups" -- the ONLY thing our "culture" worships is gratification of the self!
- "To live "after virtue", then is to dwell in a society that not only can no longer agree on what constitutes virtuous belief and conduct, but also doubts that virtue exists. In a post-virtue society, individuals hold maximal freedom of thought and action, and society itself becomes a collection of strangers each pursuing his own interests under minimal constraints". (p16)
- People feel they MUST "do things" ... have an affair, have a same sex relationship, etc because they would not be "true to themselves" if they did not. "It is in carnal desire that the modern individual believes that he affirms his individuality. The body must be the true 'subject' of desire because the individual must be the author of his own desire". (p43)
In the end, this book also gives us at least the start on a "blueprint" to save Western civilization. We don't need to worry about saving Christianity ... God will do that. It just may well not be in "the west' -- as I increasingly believe from books like "The Divine Conspiracy".
God REALLY means that we have free will! He is NOT going to be giving this or any other generation any huge "signs" to save us -- he gave us Christ and the Bible, as well as his divine and teleological creation pregnant with meaning. If we seek him, we WILL find him -- because as long as we are not actively turning our back on him as our current civilization is, it is absolutely not his will that ANY should perish -- UNLESS THEY ABSOLUTELY WANT TO! ... and it seems abundantly clear that the bulk of the people in the west DEARLY want to perish on their own terms, and in many cases, as rapidly as possible!
I'll reluctantly close with this from page 234 ...
"The mind of technological man cannot resist his hearts deires, because he has been trained by his culture not to question them. .... The Christian must rebel against this. The only impregnable fortress is metaphysical, the conviction that meaning transcends ourselves and is grounded in God. There are boundaries beyound which we cannot go if we want to live."
We Christians need to build a lot of small communities following something like the Rule of St Benedict. Please read this book, contact me, and let's try to be the leaven ... Dreher gives us many ideas on on existung heroes of God already doing this work.