Tuesday, March 1, 2016

English Catholicism and Victorian Liberalism

THE hundred years that have elapsed since the restoration of the English Hierarchy [in 1850] have been a time of slow but uninterrupted progress for English Catholicism. There have been no spectacular triumphs and no catastrophic defeats, but step by step the Church has been gradually recovering her lost position in the life of the nation. And this is no small achievement when one considers how completely the face of the world has changed during the last century: how the old European order and the new liberal order that aspired to take its place have both alike been swept away by new forces that were hardly perceptible in 1850, so that Europe itself and the millennial tradition of Western civilization are now in process of dissolution.

In 1850 English Liberalism, having surmounted the crisis of Chartism, was settling down to enjoy the fruits of the new order that it had created. The collapse of the old regime on the Continent in 1848 and the failure of the revolutionary movements to establish a stable democratic order had combined to strengthen the prestige of English institutions and ideals, not only in our own eyes but in those of Europe. Consequently, it is not surprising that the restoration of the Hierarchy and the reappearance of Catholicism as a living power in nineteenth-century England should have been regarded as a challenge to the spirit of the age, an act of "papal aggression." For the liberal rationalist and the conservative Protestant alike, the Papacy seemed the embodiment of those forces of reaction against which the modern world was in revolt.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 marked the final achievement of the Victorian compromise in which all the leading elements of English society found their place. High Tories like the Duke of Wellington, cosmopolitan pacifists like John Bright, Christian idealists and scientific rationalists, artisans and capitalists, all came together under the leadership of the Queen and the Prince Consort to celebrate the triumphs of science and industry and the dawn of a new era of universal peace and enlightenment. But there was no place for the English Catholics in this festival of national and international unity. The unpopularity of the Oxford conversions combined with that of Irish Nationalism and that of the Papal Government caused Catholics to be regarded with hostility and suspicion by Liberals and Conservatives alike. In their attitude to Catholicism there was nothing to choose between Liberals like Lord John Russell and Tory extremists of the type of Newdegate and Sir Robert Inglis.

Yet in spite of all this, the deeper intellectual tendencies of the age were far less hostile to Catholicism than one would suppose from the expression of popular opinion in Press and parliament. The great writers of the Victorian age, such as Carlyle and Ruskin and Matthew Arnold, were as a rule highly critical of the optimism and self-complacency of Victorian liberalism.

The romantic interest in the Middle Ages which was so characteristic of the nineteenth century affected moralists and historians no less than poets and artists, and produced a new appreciation of medieval Catholicism which did much to destroy the deeply-rooted inherited prejudices of Protestant England. Here, at last, there was common ground on which Protestant men of letters like Ruskin, Anglican scholars like S.R. Maitland, Catholic converts like Kenelm Digby and continental Catholics like Montalembert and Rio could meet and fraternize. The extent to which these influences penetrated English culture is to be seen not so much in its more obvious manifestations ─ in the Oxford Movement, in Young England, or in the Pre-Raphaelites ─ as in a change in the climate of opinion which made the rabid anti-Catholic prejudices of 1850 a thing of the past. Never since the Reformation have Catholics played such a large part in English public life or possessed such close relations with the leaders of public opinion as in the second half of the nineteenth century under the social leadership of Manning and the intellectual leadership of Newman. The conversion of an elder statesman like the first Marquess of Ripon and the political activity of Catholics like the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Emly (William Monsell) and Lord Russell of Killowen, show what a remarkable change had passed over English society during the generation that followed the restoration of the Hierarchy. 


These changes did not involve any weakening of the Victorian compromise; on the contrary, they strengthened it by broadening its basis and liberating it from religious intolerance. In its essentials the Victorian compromise outlasted the Victorian age and endured until the first world war destroyed its social and economic foundations. It was this unbroken period of peaceful continuity which distinguishes the English development from that of the continent, where the second half of the nineteenth century had proved no less revolutionary than the earlier period ─ where kingdoms and empires were being created and destroyed by war and revolution and where political liberalism was an anticlerical force which threatened the very existence of the Church.

But in England, although the leaders of the Catholic revival ─ Newman no less than Manning ─ were fully aware of the dangers of religious or ideological liberalism, there was never any tendency to identify religious with political Liberalism. On the contrary, the political affinities of the Victorian Catholics were Liberal rather than Conservative, and many of the leading Catholic figures, like Ripon, Acton, Monsell, and Russell of Killowen, were themselves strong Gladstonian Liberals. Thus English Catholicism developed in an atmosphere which was singularly free from political disturbances, and the traditional continental pattern of ideological conflict between Left and Right, between anti-Christian revolutionaries and Catholic reactionaries, remained almost entirely foreign to English life and thought.

Even the catastrophic changes of the last thirty-five years have not changed this situation so much as one might have expected. During the present century English Catholicism has continued to develop along the lines that were laid down in the later nineteenth century. The place of Catholicism in English society, which had been won for a favored few in the age of Manning, has gradually been extended to the rank and file of the Catholic body, so that there is no longer any sphere of national life from which Catholics are excluded. And this has been achieved without political conflicts through the gradual leavening of English society by the independent activity of Catholics in every class and profession.

Yet throughout this period the secularization of English culture has proceeded almost without a check, so that our position today is no longer that of a Catholic minority in a Protestant society, but that of a religious minority in a secular or neo-pagan civilization. We have become so accustomed to this change that we are apt to forget its tremendous implications. During the last hundred years English Catholicism has developed under the protection of the Victorian compromise. We have accepted the Victorian principles of individual freedom, religious toleration and the limited character of the State as elementary conditions of existence which hardly needed to be defended. But, in proportion as civilization becomes secularized, all these principles and rights lose their political expression in totalitarian States. 


Today all the basic liberties which were formerly regarded as essential conditions of modern civilization are everywhere questioned and often completely abolished, and the new secularist ideologies are establishing themselves as exclusive dogmatic anti-religions which demand the total surrender of the mind and will. It is true that this country is still relatively immune. A feeble gas-jet of freedom still flickers in the dilapidated Victorian basement. But it is obvious that English Catholicism cannot rely on the continuance of the conditions which prevailed during the first century of its restored existence. Sooner or later it must come up against the same forces that prevail in the rest of the world. No doubt this will involve great changes in our apologetic, which, like so much else, is an inheritance from the Victorian age, and which has been dominated for a century by the long-drawn-out controversy with Anglicanism. Today these familiar controversies are overshadowed by the world debate between Christianity and atheism, and we have to deal not with the validity of Anglican orders but with the existence of the human soul and the ultimate foundations of the moral order. This is a tremendous task, since the gulf which separates the world of Newman's "Loss and Gain" or that of Mrs. Wilfred Ward's novels from the world of George Orwell's "1984" or Koestler's "Darkness at Noon" is not one that can be measured in terms of years or generations.

But this change is not necessarily unfavorable to Catholicism. When the secularists themselves are forced to acknowledge "the mystery of injustice" and to see modern civilization sliding into the abyss, it is surely the time for Catholics to make the present age realize the claims of the Church as the City of God and the one hope of humanity.

A hundred years ago, at the time of the restoration of the Hierarchy, it was hard to make Englishmen realize the relevance of these tremendous claims amidst the confused babel of the sects and in face of the complacent optimism of Victorian Liberalism. For even men who were not influenced by Protestant prejudices, like Thackeray or Matthew Arnold, viewed the Church with patronizing tolerance as a picturesque survival from the dead past. 


Today the babel of tongues is becoming silent, and Western man has lost faith in himself and in his future. But the Church still stands as she stood fifteen hundred year ago, as the one earthly representative of an eternal order which survives the fall of empires and civilizations: and the darker become the prospects of secular culture, the more clearly does the Church stand out as a city of refuge for humanity. Now the history of the Church in England during the last century has been a preparation for this new situation. From the beginning of the modern epoch English Catholicism has been a minority movement which has had to depend on its own internal resources and not to look for support to the State and the traditional social order. The very period which has seen the secularization of modern culture has also been an age of Catholic rebirth and restoration in this country.

Consequently, though we have hitherto been protected by the peculiar conditions of an insular national culture, and the persistence of liberal traditions, from the impact of total secularization, we are perhaps in a better position to withstand that attack than are those societies which have possessed a continuous tradition of Catholic culture and the protection of a Catholic State. But we can only do so if we accept the full consequences of the new situation and prepare to face the new issues which this situation involves. These issues are not altogether new; they are, indeed, very similar to those that confronted the Church under the Roman Empire, but they are as remote from those of the Victorian age as those of the Apocalypse are from Newman's "Difficulties of Anglicans."

~Christopher Dawson

Source: "The Dawson Newsletter" Fall 1993, P.O. Box 332, Fayetteville, AR 72702.

On Jewish History

A Yemenite Jew, 1914
ANYONE who, like myself, has devoted himself to the study of the history of civilizations or of Western culture cannot go far in it without becoming aware of the importance of the Jews. Yet we have to travel a long way before we begin to understand the significance of Jewish history. We are accustomed to study the history of peoples and cultures as massive entities continues in time and space. They appear and disappear, and if they reappear it is with a different name, a new consciousness and cultural tradition. As the English poet, William Blake [Rudyard Kipling], had written:

"Cities and Thrones and Powers
Stand in Time's eye, 
Almost as long as flowers 
Which daily die.

But as new buds put forth,
To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth
The Cities rise again."

This is not the case with Jewish history. The Jews are always there, but they are never wholly there. I mean that at no time (at least during the last 1,900 years) has a completely Jewish culture dominated its social environment, as Arab or Persian or Chinese cultures have done. There has been a discontinuous series of Jewish cultures, each of which has produced a rich intellectual harvest, but none of which has been an independent sociological and political whole.

Now it seems to me that this series of cultures has never been adequately studied ─ not that the material is lacking or that there has been any lack of Jewish historians, but that historians have been too much inclined to imitate the nineteenth century pattern of historical nationalism and to write the history of the Jews as though they were a political and territorial unit like the ordinary modern nationality.
But if we do this, we contradict the genuine Jewish tradition, which always set Israel against and apart from "the nations."

The history of the Jews is bound up with the history of the world, not with that of any single political or territorial unit. In every age they have had a particular task to perform, but this task is to be seen in relation to the world situation rather than as part of a continuous national tradition.

Hence it seems to me that Jewish history, unlike all other histories, involves two different studies or enquiries. In the first place we have to study the four or five Jewish cultures or cultural ages as distinct entities, trying to understand each of them by its own standards and values without reference to external criteria. Secondly, we need to compare them all in order to find how far they follow a common pattern or line of development and how they are related to one another, either by direct influence and tradition or by the parallel development of common principles and institutions manifesting themselves in different cultural environments.

This second study is of course by far the more difficult one, and I doubt whether it has yet been adequately dealt with except in an encyclopedic fashion. Moreover, in the first and simpler task the tendency has been to follow the tradition of secular national historiography, as I have said ─ to write the history of the Jews in the Roman Empire, or in the Russian Empire, or in a particular period rather than to follow the different culture. But for the study of cultures the vital factor is not the political but the linguistic one. It is only by following the linguistic clue that we can trace the true line of development of the successive periods of Jewish culture.

Using this criterion, we have at least four Jewish cultures or cultural ages in post-exilic times: First, Hellenistic Judaism, the culture of the Septuagint and Philo and the Ptolemaic world. Second, East Aramaic Judaism, the culture of Babylonia and the Talmud. Third, the Jewish culture of medieval Spain, a culture both Arabic and Spanish, by means of which Greek and Arab science and philosophy penetrated medieval Europe. Fourth, the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which, although it was German or Yiddish in language, had its center in Po-land and Lithuania, and spread east and south into Russia and Rumania in modern times.

This last is the age of Jewish culture least well known to the non-Jewish world. The great cooperative works of general history, like the Cambridge Modern History, hardly refer to it at all. Yet it was of lasting importance both for the history of the Jews themselves and for that of the modern world. Its influence is with is today, for it was the main source from which modern American Jewish culture was derived.

Now when we compare these four cultures, we shall find that they have a number of common sociological features. They are all ─ or at any rate the last three ─ essentially frontier cultures, which grew up on the border line between two different civilizations and acted as intermediaries between them. Thus the Judaism of Babylonia developed on the frontier between the Persian and Roman empires, Spanish Judaism developed on the frontier between Christendom and Islam, and East Europe ─ and Judaism on the frontier between Western and Eastern Christendom ─ between Poland and Russia.

In each case there was a gap between the hostile civilizations, and the Jewish cultures flourished most where the situation had become stabilized and the rival civilizations had attained a precarious balance of power. But as soon as this equilibrium had been seriously disturbed, and one of the rivals achieved permanent superiority, the Jewish culture tended to share the fate of the defeated civilization. It might indeed survive for a considerable period ─ sometimes for centuries ─ but only on condition that it accepted the circumstances of cultural and social inferiority. Yet even under these unfavorable conditions the periods of cultural decline often produced remarkable intellectual and spiritual fruits. Above all, these periods saw the spreading of Jewish culture from its old center to the other provinces and regions of the Jewish Diaspora, as in the case of the expansion of Spanish Jewish culture to Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and back to the East ─ to the Turkish Empire ─ in the same period.

Thus in the beginning the Jewish culture of Spain had been the great agent in the introduction of Arabic science and culture into Western Europe, and at the end it became the means by which Western culture was introduced into Turkey and Mediterranean culture was diffused in Northern Europe.

But the most distinctive feature of all the great ages of Jewish cultures was their multilingual character. There have been many bilingual cultures in history ─ in fact, most of the great world cultures have been bilingual. But these Jewish cultures of which I speak were trilingual, which is unusual and possibly unique. Thus in the Hellenistic world the languages were Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; in Mesopotamia they were Hebrew, Aramaic and, after the Moslem conquest, Arabic; in Spain, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish; and in Eastern Europe, Hebrew, German (or rather Yiddish) and Polish.

In every case the classical language ─ the sacred language ─ is the same, i.e., Hebrew, which held a position in the successive Jewish cultures equivalent to that of Sanskrit in India, classical Arabic in Islam, and Latin in Western Christendom. But the position of the other two languages is anomalous. They might be looked on as alien vernaculars, as they were by Ibn Gabirol in the eleventh century when he censured the Jews of Saragosa, half of whom spoke the language if Edom (Spanish) and half the obscure tongue of Kedar (Arabic). But in time one of these might be adopted as a seminational language, occupying an intermediate position between the sacred Hebrew and the language of the outside world, so that we have a threefold hierarchy of languages. This was the case above all with Aramaic, which was introduced into the liturgy itself through the Targums, with the result that the "interpreter" or translator ─ a "methurgeman" ─ came to hold a regular office in the synagogue.

In the same way Spanish became the language of the southern Sephardic Jews and German that of the northern Ashkenazim, and though neither of these was so fully assimilated as Aramaic, they both occupied an intermediate position between the sacred language and the vernacular. But properly speaking, these intermediate languages were for the Jews the true vernacular (the language of cradle and home), between Hebrew (language of school and synagogue) and the third language which was that of the streets and the countryside.

Now the result of this threefold linguistic relation was to make the Jew a natural interpreter ─ a "Methurgeman" or dragoman between the two alien cultures with which he was in contact. The intensive philological study that has always been emphasized in Jewish education ─ especially in the Spanish period ─ laid the foundation for this development, so that in an age or ages when a large proportion of the population was illiterate, the Jews held a unique position as the one superliterate people, skilled not only in many languages but in different scripts, and also in different literary and philosophic traditions. 


This function of Jewish culture as the transmission channel between two civilizations attained its highest importance in Spain in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when Jewish translators were the chief agents through which the scientific and philosophic tradition of Arabic and Greek learning was imparted to the West and when Jewish philosophers like Ibn Gabirol were accepted as authoritative by Western scholastic thought. Nor was this the only important aspect of the Spanish age of Jewish culture. It was a creative age in many different fields, especially perhaps as the golden age of Jewish religious poetry.

This was not the case in the following period. In eastern Europe the Jews occupied a similar sociological position between two rival cultures, but they were unable to act as interpreters and intermediaries on the higher cultural level owing to the backwardness of the peoples with whom they were brought in contact ─ the Lithuanians, the White Russians and the Ukrainians. Thus they were obliged to fulfill the functions of a middle class in lands that as yet possessed no middle class culture. And this led directly to one of the greatest disasters in Jewish history. For this position as middlemen between the Polish and Lithuanian landlords and the Ukrainian and White Russian peasants made them the chief victims of the violent Cossack revolt of 1648. The massacres of 1648-1658 were serious enough, but they were far less destructive to Jewish society than the economic effects of the forced migration of the Jewish population west and south into Poland and Moldavia at a time when Poland itself was undergoing an acute political and economic crisis. Although the progressive impoverishment of Polish and Lithuanian Judaism, which went on for centuries, did not destroy the continuity of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe, as the expulsion of Jews in 1492 had done in Spain, in the long run it probably caused more suffering on a more massive scale because of the larger Jewish population in the East. Indeed, the fact that Polish and Lithuanian Judaism still retained its social autonomy and its independent social institutions ultimately proved harmful, since the prevailing system of taxation and assessments transformed the organs of self-government into instruments of oppression.

It is not surprising that this long period of unbroken depression produced a spirit of profound discouragement and aversion from the traditional patterns of intermediate cultures which had played such an important part in Jewish history for more than 2,000 years. Even today, I think the commonly accepted view of these cultures is based not on fifteenth-century Poland, or twelfth-century Spain or third-century Mesopotamia, when they were most prosperous and creative, but on the life of the East European ghetto in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In that age many Jews, perhaps the majority, turned away from the old intellectual culture toward the ideals of Messianic revolution or mystical pietism. The typical figures of the period were not the learned rabbis, such as Jehiel Halperim of Minsk (1670-1746) or the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797), but charismatic leaders, like the pseudo-Messiahs Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676) and Jacob Frank (1726-1791), or the wonder-working Zaddiks who became the leaders of the hasidim, a mystical sect founded in Poland about 1750.


But these were not the roads that Jewish history was to travel. They were rather signs of the end of an age and the exhaustion of a cultural tradition. Already during the eighteenth century there were indications of the coming of a new spirit, and during the nineteenth century Jewish society and culture underwent a profound change. For the first time in history Jews and Gentiles met on equal terms within a common culture, the culture of the Enlightenment which inspired the movement of political, economic and philosophic Liberalism both in Europe and America. No doubt these ideas were anathema to orthodox Jews, as they were to conservative Christians, but it was difficult for Jews to remain aloof from a movement that offered the hope of emancipation, the abolition of the ghetto and all its restrictive laws and customs, and the opening of the universities and professions to all men of talent. Moreover there was an element of Messianic idealism in the creed of the Enlightenment that appealed to the Jewish temperament and is partly responsible for the position of Jewish thinkers and politicians in modern movements of reform and revolution.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the influence of Liberalism generally declined before the growing power of nationalism. At first the two movements were closely allied, as we see in the case of the Italian patriot Mazzini, and in Germany where the liberals were foremost in supporting the cause of national unity. Nevertheless in Eastern and Central Europe it was almost inevitable that nationalism should have also allied itself with endemic anti-Jewish prejudices. The German national Liberals were the originators of modern anti-Semitism, while the Slavophile nationalists in Russia inherited and reinforced that country's traditional anti-Semitism ─ which constituted a solid bloc of religious prejudice hardly touched by the influence of the Enlightenment.

This nationalist and racialist reaction against the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe did not weaken the Enlightenment's influence on Jewish culture; on the contrary, this influence grew throughout the 1800's and reached its culmination in the early years of the present century with the foundation of the Liberal Jewish movement by Claude Montifiori. But the reaction did change the course of Jewish history. It provided the motive for the mass exodus of the Jews of Eastern Europe to the West. Thus, in a single generation ─ circa 1885-1914 ─ America became one of the great centers of Jewish population and the foundations were laid for a new English-speaking Jewish culture which has grown steadily stronger and more influential during the last fifty years.


Nevertheless the rise of Jewish nationalism, which has been the most epoch-making event in modern Jewish history, was not directly connected with this vast movement of population that was to transfer the center of Jewish culture from Eastern Europe to America. Jewish nationalism developed in reaction to the sudden wave of anti-Semitism which was aroused by the Dreyfus case in 1894 and swept France during the next few years.

There was no country where the Jews had been so thoroughly assimilated as in France, and this sudden resurrection of almost forgotten racial and religious prejudices caused a profound shock to opinion. The poet Charles Peguy, who himself played no small part in the affair, has described the consequence in the unforgettable pages he wrote in honor of Bernard Lazare, his friend and leader whom he regarded as one of the prophets of Israel. To the secular historian, he wrote, the Dreyfus affair was a small matter ─ the vindication of an officer from an unjust accusation and the rehabilitation of an innocent individual. Yet it became a turning point in world history. It signified the ending of the hundred-years truce that had accompanied the Enlightenment and the era of emancipation, and the launching of a new exodus which was to bring Israel back to the desert and finally to the Promised Land.

The men who led this spiritual exodus were, for the most part, representative of the Enlightenment and the assimilationist tradition: Bernard Lazare in France, J. Max Nordau in Austria, Israel Zangwill in England, and Justice Brandeis in the United States. Above all, this was the case with Theodore Herzl, who founded the modern Zionist movement. Herzl was by training and environment a typical product of assimilationist culture, a free-thinking Liberal journalist from Vienna who was in Paris as the correspondent of the "Neue Freie Presse" and who covered the Dreyfus case in the normal course of his duties. But the shock of the Dreyfus trial changed his whole outlook. Henceforward he dedicated his life to the creation of a national Jewish state, and his leadership was so dynamic that he succeeded almost immediately in establishing the worldwide Zionist movement, which held its first congress at Basel in 1897. A few days after this event he wrote in his diary: "If I were to sum up the Basel Conference in a word, it would be this: at Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I were to say this today, I should be met by universal laughter. In five years perhaps and certainly in fifty, everyone will see it. The State is already founded in essence in the will of the people to the State."

Never has the prediction of a political reformer or revolutionary been so completely fulfilled as in Herzl's case. The opposition among his own people, among the orthodox Jews and the anti-political Zionists, seemed alone sufficient to ensure his defeat. But in spite of his numerous disappointments and his premature death in 1904, it was his program and his ideal of Jewish political nationalism that were realized by the creation of the modern state of Israel. The establishment of the Jewish national home in Palestine, made possible by the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, was the direct result of Herzl's propaganda which was able to rally Jews from every intellectual tradition and from every part of the world to cooperate toward this common end.

But the vital factor in the success of Zionism was the catastrophic disaster that overwhelmed the Jewish culture of Central and Eastern Europe in the twelve years of the Nazi terror and intensified the demand for a radical, national solution of the Jewish problem. The proclamation of Israel as a sovereign national state in 1948 represents the total realization of the Zionist ideal and the beginning of a new era in Jewish history and world politics. It marks the end of the European age of Jewish culture which had characterized both the Spanish and the East European phases of Jewish history and, even more, the end of that unique function which Jewish culture has fulfilled for 2,000 years as intermediary and link between two opposing civilizations.

It is true that the new culture of Israel stands on the frontier of two worlds between East and West. But it is no longer a bridge between them: it is a fortified stronghold in a hostile world, a crusading state such as the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem was eight centuries ago.


The modern Jewish world has a double axis. It has one center in Israel and the other in America, and its future development depends on how these two centers can be interrelated and integrated. The problem is a difficult one, for the violent destruction of European Judaism has not weakened the divergent tendencies in Jewish culture that manifested themselves during the age of Enlightenment. The purely political and nationalist solution of the Jewish problem, which was the primary force in Zionism, has not been completely accepted even in Israel. Judaism always has been three things: a people or a nation, a culture or a way of life, and a world religion or a spiritual ideal. Any attempt to identify it with one of these to the exclusion of the others has invariably led to a reaction and restoration of the neglected aspect. Even today, even in the little land of Israel, we have political Zionism, cultural Zionism and religious Zionism coexisting without coalescing. It is obvious that if Zionism is conceived in purely nationalist and political terms, the triumph of Zionism in Israel would lead to the triumph of assimilationism or liberal Judaism in America.

In the past the strength of both religious Judaism and cultural Judaism in Europe was a common factor that helped to unite America and Israel. Now that the Judaism of Eastern Europe, with its ancient tradition of culture and its deep religious life, has been destroyed, America and Israel will have to find a closer and more direct bond of union. Justice Brandeis, speaking some years before the European catastrophe ─ I think in 1915 ─ suggested that the problem could be solved on exactly the same lines as those followed by the other national groups in the United states, since the relation of American Jewry to the future state in Palestine would be "exactly the same as is the relation of people of other nationalities all the world over to their parent home." But it is obvious today that the relation of Israel to the Dispersion must be entirely different from the relations of Portugal to Brazil or of the Irish Free State to the Irish of the United States. Whatever view we take of Zionism, we can hardly deny that Jewish history transcends politics and that the Jewish people still has, as it always has had, a world mission. That is the one point on which the cultural Zionists like the late Asher Ginsberg and the religious Zionists like the Misrachi are agreed; even the political Zionists themselves do not altogether deny it. For it is obvious that if Zionism is conceived in terms of a purely political nationalism, it can no longer claim to represent the whole Jewish tradition and becomes merely a new and more sophisticated form of assimilationism.

Hitherto, throughout the successive ages of Jewish history Israel has held fast to this idea of universal mission: it has served as a unifying factor through the vicissitudes of centuries and in all the different forms of Jewish culture. The present generation may not easily see what expression it will find in the future under the altered conditions of the new age. But it has not been brought to an end by the creation of the political state of Israel. Somehow, it still has to be fulfilled, and Israel and America ─ or American Jewry ─ each have to make their contribution to it.

~Christopher Dawson

Source: Brandeis University lecture, 1959, "Orbis" magazine Winter, 1967. Reprinted in "The Dawson Newsletter" Fall 1993, P.O. Box 332, Fayetteville, AR 72702

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