Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Ancient Rhythms

It would be difficult to imagine a society more uncongenial to Christianity (save that of Islam) than our present, capitalist, post-Christian society. The capitalist dynamic is diametrically opposed to Christianity. Historically, Christian societies have tended to be agrarian and traditional: “the tilled field and hedgerow, linked to the plowed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden plot.”

In contrast, Christianity does not do well in societies that,

…pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.
Lay me on an anvil O God.
Beat me, hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white stars.

--from “Prayers of Steel” by Carl Sandburg

Although there are those who will advise us that we can have Christian skyscrapers, I think we must reject that advice as either maliciously deceitful or stupid in the extreme. Steel-girder societies based on greed and avarice will never be compatible with societies of evening lingerings.

Resistance to steel-girder capitalism, however, seems doomed to failure, because so much effort must be expended in trying to survive and stay above the lower half of the pyramid that one has no energy for counterrevolution. (I don’t see why Enron executives were singled out for running a pyramid scam when all of our economy is based on one.) Nevertheless, since the only alternative to counterrevolution is a surrender to capitalism, even the tired and poor need to be summoned to the counterrevolutionary ranks. One fights for victory, but even in defeat there is the supreme consolation one has saved his soul through the strife against the dragon. This is not always apparent while the battle is raging, but it becomes clear afterward.

The Scottish Highland culture was seemingly dead forever after Culloden. But whenever the Scots want to feel their culture is in tune with divine rhythms and in opposition to the base, materialist, Whig culture surrounding them, they turn to the bagpipes and play a tune that evokes Prince Charlie and the days of the clan over the corporation, the village over the city, the farm over the factory, and the blood oath over the lawyer’s brief.

Likewise in the South, when Southerners want to feel connected to something and someone greater than themselves, they don’t sing songs and write poetry about how they just sold a worthless piece of real estate to a rich widow. No, they sing of Robert E. Lee, of Forrest, and of the Great Cause.

I see the smug capitalist laughing in the corner. “I’ll permit mere nostalgia. Let the Scotsman play his bagpipe in weekend parades and let the Southerner whistle “Dixie” and go to Civil War re-enactments, but just make sure both men are back in the office on Monday.”

Yes, a counterrevolution must be more than nostalgia. But the nostalgia should prime us for the counterrevolution. From whence comes the nostalgia? Why do we yearn for the evening lingerings? Because we have souls. Capitalism needs men without souls for its steel girders, but our Lord only takes men with souls into His kingdom. A steel spike does not to heaven go.

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