CONTRA MVNDVM

Resisting the Gnostic Empire

MCMXIV

Never such innocence,

Never before or since,

As changed itself to past

Without a word—the men

Leaving the gardens tidy,

The thousands of marriages

Lasting a little while longer:

Never such innocence again.

— Philip Larkin (source)

Flannery on the Ineffective Church

You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it. To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures.

From The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

Lewis on Liturgy

The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual.

A Preface to Paradise Lost, p. 17

Lewis on Education

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

— C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man

John Adams on the Mass

This afternoon, led by curiosity and good company, I strolled away to mother church, or rather grandmother church. I mean the Romish chapel. I heard a good, short moral essay upon the duty of parents to their children, founded in justice and charity, to take care of their interests, temporal and spiritual. This afternoon’s entertainment was to me most awful and affecting; the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their pater nosters and ave Marias; their holy water; their crossing themselves perpetually; their bowing to the name of Jesus, whenever they hear it; their bowings, kneelings and genuflections before the altar. The dress of the priest was rich white lace. His pulpit was velvet and gold. The altar-piece was very rich, little images and crucifixes about; wax candles lighted up. But how shall I describe the picture of our Savior in a frame of marble over the altar, at full length, upon the cross in the agonies, and the blood dropping and streaming from his wounds! The music, consisting of an organ and a choir of singers, went all the afternoon except sermon time, and the assembly chanted most sweetly and exquisitely.

Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination–everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell. Adieu.

Thoreau on Education

“We seem to have forgotten that the expression ‘a liberal education’ originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.” — Henry David Thoreau

[source]

Ancient Christian Roots of Religious Liberty

Religion “cannot be coerced. It is a matter to be dealt with by words not by blows.” — Lactantius (AD 240-320)

“It is a person’s natural right and inborn capacity to worship whatever he intends; the religious practice of one person neither harms nor helps another.” — Tertullian (AD 160-225; Ad Scapulam) 

[Source]

Bonhoeffer on Resistance

image

There are three possible ways in which the church can act toward the state: the first place, as has been said, it can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and accordance with its character as state; i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibility. Second, it can aid the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to Christian community — “Do good to all people.” In both these courses of action, the church serves the free state in its free way, and at times when laws are changed the church may in no way withdraw itself from these two tasks. The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Die Kirche vor der Judenfrage” (1933)

Martyred 9 April 1945, Flossenburg KZ

Solzhenitsyn on Apocalypse

Today’s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: “This is the Apocalypse!” Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.

—Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 Templeton Address

Sayers on Tolerance

The sixth Deadly Sin is named by the Church Acedia or Sloth. In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair…the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.

The Other Six Deadly Sins,” 23 October 1941