Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Christians have allowed civilization to become secular”

“IF the Christian faith contains such vast sources of spiritual energy and power, if the Church is the divine organ of world transformation and the seed of a new humanity, how has it come about that the world—above all the Christian world—has fallen into its present plight? From the Christian point of view it is easy to understand persecution and external adversity and failure, but it is far harder to face the failure of Christianity on the spiritual plane. For it is not simply that modern civilization has become secularized, it is that Christians have allowed civilization to become secular.”

~Christopher H. Dawson: The Judgment of the Nations, Part II, Chap. 4.—Return to Christian Unity.

Monday, August 8, 2016

"The profound pessimism of Luther"

THE profound pessimism of Luther saw in Nature nothing but the kingdom of death and the Law of Nature as a law of wrath and punishment, and thus his extreme supernaturalism prepared the way for the secularisation of the world and the abolition of objective standards.

But the revolt against Natural Law did not only spring from

Martin Luther
the other worldliness of Luther and the Reformers. It found an even more powerful support in the worldliness of the Renaissance statesmen and thinkers. Already before the Reformation Machiavelli had produced his Intelligent Man’s Guide to Politics which studies the art of government as a non-moral technique for the acquisition and maintenance of power, thus depriving the state of its religious character as the temporal organ of divine justice and making the interests of the state the supreme law by which all political acts must be judged. This is the source of the “new jurisprudence” which took the place of the common law of Christendom and which Leo XIII explained in his political encyclicals* undermined the moral foundations of Western Civilization.

Niccolo Machiavelli

It leaves no room for the consecration of the state to God which is so solemnly and sacramentally expressed by the traditional rite of the coronation of Christian kings. On the contrary, it involved the secularization of the state and the desecration of law and authority. By emancipating the prince from subordination to a higher order, it destroyed both the principle of order and the principle of freedom in the state itself.

This false political realism which denies or ignores spiritual realities is no less fatal to the Christian tradition and no less destructive of Christendom as a social reality than was the false spiritualism of Luther. Indeed, its influence has been wider and deeper, since it has not been restricted to certain countries and peoples, but has influenced the thought of Catholics and Protestants alike, and has grown stronger with the progressive secularizing of our civilization. The thought of Luther belongs to a different world from that in which we live; he was still a man of the Middle Ages, though he was in revolt against medieval Catholicism. But the thought of Machiavelli is still alive in the modern world and finds expression in the words and deeds of modern politicians and dictators. As Pius XII writes in this Encyclical “Darkness over the Earth,” “Today the false views held in earlier times have been amalgamated with new invention and misconception of the human mind. And this perverse   process has been pushed so far that nothing is left but confusion and disorder. One leading mistake we may single out as the fountain head, deeply hidden, from which the evils of the modern State derive their origin. Both in private life and in the State itself and, moreover, in the mutual relations of State with State and country with country, the one universal standard of morality is set aside, by which we mean the Natural Law, now buried away under a mass of destructive criticism and neglect.”

~Christopher H. Dawson: The Judgment of the Nations, Part II, Chap. 2—Christian Social Principles. (1942)

* Leo XIII: Immortale Dei, and Libertas Praestantissimum.

The Judgment of the Nations

"Common principles and common ideals"

“EVERY society rests in the last resort on the recognition of common principles and common ideals, and if it makes no moral or spiritual appeal to the loyalty of its members, it must inevitably fall to pieces.”

~Christopher H. Dawson

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Desecularisation of modern civilisation"

“The desecularisation of modern civilisation is no easy matter; at first sight it may seem a hopeless task. But we can at least prepare the way for it by desecularising our intellectual outlook and opening our eyes to the existence of the spiritual forces that create and transform civilisation.”

~Christopher H. Dawson: Enquiries into Religion and Culture, Intro.

“The great fault of modern democracy"

“The great fault of modern democracy ─ a fault that is common to the capitalist and the socialist ─ is that it accepts economic wealth as the end of society and the standard of personal happiness....

The great curse of our modern society is not so much lack of money as the fact that the lack of money condemns a man to a squalid and incomplete existence. But even if he has money, and a great deal of it, he is still in danger of leading an incomplete and cramped life, because our whole social order is directed to economic instead of spiritual ends. The economic view of life regards money as equivalent to satisfaction. Get money, and if you get enough of it you will get everything else that is worth having. The Christian view of life, on the other hand, puts economic things in second place. First seek the kingdom of God, and everything else will be added to you. And this is not so absurd as it sounds, for we have only to think for a moment to realise that the ills of modern society do not spring from poverty in fact, society today is probably richer in material wealth than any society that has ever existed. What we are suffering from is lack of social adjustment and the failure to subordinate material and economic goods to human and spiritual ones.”

~Christopher H. Dawson

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"The traditional forms of the family"

“The peoples who allow the natural bases of society to be destroyed by the artificial conditions of the new urban civilisation will gradually disappear and their place will be taken by those populations which live under simpler conditions and preserve the traditional forms of the family.”

~Christopher H. Dawson: Enquiries into Religion and Culture.

The goal of civilization

THE end of civilisation is no longer found in intellectual culture, but in material well-being, and it is no longer limited to a single class, but is the common aim of every member of the society. The economic functions are no longer despised; in fact, it is the non-economic functions that are in danger of being neglected, since they offer no material rewards and are no longer surrounded by a halo of social prestige. It is true that for the ordinary man life has become more enjoyable and richer in opportunities that it ever was before. He owns his wireless set and his motor-bicycle, palatial cinemas and dancing halls are built for his amusement, and he has much the same standard of education and intellectual culture as his employer. But against this we must set a loss of spiritual independence, of which the average man himself is probably unconscious. However harsh and narrow was the existence of the European peasant, he still possessed the liberty to be himself—a liberty which flowered in a rich diversity and an intense vitality of character and personality. But to-day, if a man is to enjoy the material benefits of the new mass-civilisation, he must put off his individuality and conform himself to standardized types of thought and conduct. And this extends also to the details of taste and personal habits. As M. Romier writes: “Such and such a way of dressing, furnishing the home, feeding, amusing oneself, once advertised to the public and successfully ‘launched,’ becomes entrenched and defended through the solidarity of manufacturers, workers, wholesalers, shopkeepers, salesmen, all banded together in quest of profits they will share in common.”

For an individual to escape the pressure of this mass-movement is almost impossible. For “he who would escape from the fixed morals or modes set by standardisation must pay a fearful price; he must undergo a kind of penance.” And, consequently, the springs of creative originality are stopped at the source. The artist and the thinker are no longer the leaders of culture; they have become exiles and outlaws from the general body of society, which is governed more and more by purely external forces. Humanity has become the servant of the economic mass.

It is in the United States that this new type of civilisation has reached its fullest development. For the conditions of American life allowed full play to the new forces, which were here unfettered by social traditions and political complications. In M. Romier’s words: “This enormous social organism, in which under an iron-handed police the most novel as well as the most traditional forms of human activity are carried on at amazing speed and on a colossal scale, has been built up as of at one stroke and without any serious attention to either political ideals or theories of civil administration.”

~Christopher Dawson: "The New Leviathan." (in Enquiries into Religion and Culture

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