On ‘Christian Soldiers’
Christianity is not bound up with any particular race or culture
Engagement in the “culture wars,” or striving to maintain the good name of Western and Christian civilization, runs the risk of pushing us over a line, forgetting our primary purpose and losing the plot. Someone once defined a fanatic as a person who, having once forgotten his original purpose, redoubles his efforts! We must be alert and keep our ultimate objective in focus: fight hard, but never engage in mean-spirited carping at our opponents.
Rudyard Kipling put the following into the mouth of an old soldier:
If England were as England seems,
and not the England of our dreams,
but only putty, brass and paint,
‘ow quick we’d chuck ‘er!
…But she ain’t!
Substitute England for your own country, gentle reader, and this little verse works for everyone, and for every good cause: every human society is flawed, sometimes grievously, but each is much bigger and greater than the sum of its flaws. The essence of patriotism is to love one’s country or culture, warts and all, recognizing its greatness, without despising others.
Nationalism, on the other hand, can be self-vaunting, arrogant, cruel and bullying. It may start life as patriotism, but all too often it crosses the line and becomes brutish. It thrives on its own imagined superiority over others. The repulsive tyrannies of the twentieth century offer ample proof.
So is it a good idea to talk about culture wars at all? Are we crossing a line by using the terminology of warfare? I don’t think so. C. S. Lewis and others have spoken of the special vocation of the Christian Soldier. England’s late Sir Roger Scruton, Canada’s Jordan Peterson, and Australia’s Kevin Donnelly (to name a few of very many) have all been hard-fighting warriors on the side of traditional culture. But nothing in their work implies a contempt for other nations and cultures. They fight hard but clean. Their goal is not to put down other cultures, but to affirm the value of their own. Indeed we have no grounds for taking any other position, for, as Christopher Dawson himself reminds us, “Christianity is not bound up with any particular race or culture. It is neither of the East nor of the West, but has a universal mission to the human race as a whole…”
Christ and all his apostles were Asians, not Europeans. For 500 years the epicenter of Christianity lay over the Middle East, only to move westward after the rise of Islam, not because it had special affinities with the West but because it had been displaced. For the next 1,500 years Christianity has been chiefly associated with the West, where it gave rise to some (I would say all, but must be cautious) of the West’s greatest achievements. Today the epicenter of the Christian faith appears to be moving southward towards Africa, whose countless faithful Christians, hardened by persecution and suffering, are holding the torch high and shaming us, I sometimes think, for our malleable indecisiveness.
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