September 23rd, 2013

saxon cross

Cheering myself up

These are discouraging times for orthodox believers, also for conservatives of all stripes. I read comments by fellow United Methodist clergy and am shocked and saddened by their desertion of the ancient faith and by their willingness to break their vows and the rules of our Church. In matters of public policy, our government refuses to enforce laws and assumes that laws on the books can be changed by Presidential fiat; meanwhile, the Supreme Court just makes stuff up. Hateful people accuse us of hate speech. In ten years’ time, it may be that beliefs and values that we have held our whole lives will be seen as unfit for public expression.

I comfort myself with the following thoughts. The progressives think that “progress” moves only in one direction. They are, in effect, following a Brezhnev Doctrine of sorts. You remember the Brezhnev Doctrine, don’t you? The basis of détente – from the Soviet point of view – was that once a country went Communist, it could never go back. Unless the West accepted the irreversibility of the Communist advance, no relaxation of tensions could follow. Many Western diplomats accepted the Brezhnev Doctrine, at least, tacitly. And then Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And the Wall came down.

Not only did Communism falter, several members of the Warsaw Pact joined NATO! I also never thought I would see Germany re-united in my lifetime, but it happened. And you know, there have been a lot of “permanent” changes that have been rolled back over the years.

In 359, the Council of Rimini threw out Nicene Orthodoxy. “The whole world groaned,” said St. Jerome, “and was astonished to find itself Arian.” All the right people in the right positions backed Arianism. Only the old fogeys stood in the way. But within twenty-some years, Nicene Orthodoxy was re-established in the empire. Even as the Western half of the empire disintegrated, the Church reached out to convert the Germanic Arians who had dismembered it to Catholic Christianity.

Even in matters of love and marriage, the pendulum can swing back and forth. Queen Victoria, acting under the influence of her husband Prince Albert, changed the acceptance of adultery and public frolicking with mistresses that had once been part of palace life. The monarchy espoused middle class values and changed not only British society, but American society, in this and many other ways. "The domestic virtues" became predominant. Even France once shifted its values in this regard. I remember watching a TV movie of Les Miserables. At the end, when Marius tells his noble grandfather that he intends to marry Jean Valjean's adopted daughter, the old man suggests he keep her as his mistress instead, then abruptly changes course when he realizes he stands to lose his grandson, who is disgusted by his grandfather's attitude. In that day, it was positively revolutionary to marry for love, and to marry for life!

There are no inevitable directions in society, no irrevocable steps. I may not live to see my values vindicated at large, but I believe they will be. The Church or the country may be broken by what it passes through, but we have the better arguments. Gildas complained about his countrymen in 5th Century Britain, that it was their fault that the pagans were tearing their land apart. But in another one or two hundred years, those pagans would be building churches and sending missionaries to the Continent.

So “let us not grow weary in well-doing.” God plays a long game.