Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Unbreakable Link Between European Culture and Christianity

Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 1998) by Edward J. Larson is not a partisan work; the author is not anti-evolutionist, but he does present an objective account of the Scopes trial and the prior and subsequent liberal and fundamentalist lobbying that went on before and after the trial. The debate is ongoing, and the topic has eternal consequences, so I can think of few non-fiction works more deserving of a reading than this book.

The author gives us a little background about the Christian fundamentalist movement, explaining that it came about in response to modernist interpretations of scripture. He also gives us a brief summary of the Darwinian concept of evolution and its status at the time of the 1925 Scopes “monkey” trial.

What happened in Dayton, Tennessee as depicted by Larson was something very different from the current liberal folklore. The basic facts were these: Tennessee passed a law that made teaching Darwinian evolution as fact instead of as mere theory illegal. The law was on the books but not enforced. By pre-arranged plan, Scopes, an inconsequential part-time teacher, in conjunction with the ACLU, decided to challenge the law. Scopes taught evolution as fact and invited the authorities to prosecute him. They did. William Jennings Bryan, populist, anti-capitalist, and anti-evolutionist, was the leader of the prosecuting team. Ironically, the ACLU was not interested in the religious aspect of the case but wanted to challenge the notion that a state’s right to control what was taught in its public schools was not as important as an individual’s right to free expression. Larson notes that at the time -- 1925 -- the Supreme Court had not yet discovered the establishment clause of the 14th Amendment which forbade the teaching of religion in the schools. Darrow entered the picture against the wishes of the ACLU. His interest was in the science vs. religion aspect of the case.

The popular liberal view of the case’s disposition is that Bryan and the prosecuting team won a minor legal victory while Darrow and company won a great victory for humanity, etc. The actual facts were quite different. Larson notes that people at the time were equally divided about who had won. The fundamentalists thought Bryan had won, and many of the middle-of-the-roaders thought Bryan had at least held his own. Only the most hardened atheist liberals, like H. L. Mencken, thought Darrow and company had won a resounding victory against the fundamentalists.

Two popular works of fiction, however, changed the popular opinion of what actually happened at the trial: Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen Twenties and the infamous play and movie, Inherit the Wind. Both works were shameless liberal travesties of the truth, and Larson presents them as just that.

Larson also gives us the aftermath of the trial. The ACLU, during the Warren era, had more individual rights’ decisions go in their favor and against religion than they ever had deemed possible in 1925. Bryan died five days after the trial ended and would be repudiated much later by Jerry Falwell and other Protestants because he was anti-capitalist and because he wavered on the ‘twenty-four hour, seven days’ creation theory. Scopes, on the other hand, got a free graduate education and a free ride throughout the rest of his life as a result of his accidental, phony, and liberal-credited martyrdom.

Larson points out that the evolution issue has not died. The fundamentalists are still fighting the battle, only now the fight, as Larson points out, is not to keep evolution out of the schools but to put creationism in.

Larson, interestingly, also notes that Roman Catholics were on the sidelines during the evolution debate, their church allowing them some leeway between the liberal position and the fundamentalist one. My own sympathies are with William Jennings Bryan, and I think the Catholics err when they cozy up to the evolutionists. “He does not win who plays with sin,” or with monkeys, for that matter. I also think of Herman Melville’s thoughts on the subject: “If Luther’s day expand to Darwin’s year, Shall that exclude the hope—foreclose the fear?”

The question always arises, when dealing with the issue of evolution, “Why couldn’t God have set the evolutionary process in motion and when it was completed, breathed life into the first man? Wouldn’t that be just as much of a miracle as the creationists’ story?” Of course it would have been just as much of a miracle, but that isn’t the point. God did not choose that method of producing the first man, that is, if we can trust the scriptural account. Ah, there is the rub. The evolutionists do not trust the scriptural account. And if you were to ask them why they don’t credit the scriptural account of creation, they would claim, as a reason for their disbelief, that the scriptural account of the creation of man is unscientific, which usually ends all argument. Who wants to be unscientific?

In one of his many masterpieces, Language is Sermonic, Richard Weaver points out that every society has God words and devil words; these are words that come to mean much more than the dictionary definition of the word. He suggested that ‘democracy’ had become a God word, just as ‘reactionary’ had become a devil word.

I would suggest that ‘scientific’ has become a God word. The dictionary defines it thus:
Of, relating to, or employing the methodology of science.” But the liberals who run our society mean something quite different when they use the word. When they say something is scientific, they mean that it is true, and true in a self-evident, empirically, discernible way. That is why the liberals claim they reject the Biblical view of the creation; it is not scientific. And it is certainly true that the truth of the Biblical account cannot be proved ‘scientifically’; it is a matter of faith. What kind of faith would it be if it wasn’t unseen? But it is equally true that the liberal’s belief in evolution is a faith, not a scientific fact. They accept on faith the existence of the empirical fact of an actual missing link that proves the Darwinian theory. So it is an issue of two competing faiths, not one of faith vs. scientific fact. And when two faiths collide, the final arbiter is the heart of man. What do our intuitions about the nature of existence tell us? Well, we feel in our hearts, and we observe in the hearts of others, a divine presence. From that touchstone of reality, we begin the journey that leads to the foot of the cross. And from that point we accept, on His word, the revealed truth of the creation of the world. It is not scientific fact; it is something more certain; it is faith.

In contrast, the faith of the liberal does not square with reality. Liberals intuit no divine presence in themselves or in other human beings and view the natural world as something that sprang into existence without purpose or design. And yet their faith operates by one absolute, inexorable law: the law of hate. Bryan put it quite well: “The Darwinian theory represents man as reaching his present perfection by which the strong crowd out and kill the weak.” All the blather from the liberal leftists about peace and love is just that – blather. Undergirding their faith is hate. Their forerunners, the liberal capitalists, were simply blunter about their social Darwinism.

Now let’s venture beyond the parameters of Larson’s book and look at the fundamentalist movement today and see how that movement helps or hinders the white Christian. The term, fundamentalist, is a relatively new term. Protestant Christians started using it in the early 20th century to distinguish themselves from the Christians who did not believe in the inerrancy of the scriptures. I have no statistics on the subject, but I would guess that initially, in the early part of the 20th century, fundamentalist Christians were a rather sizeable minority nationwide and quite probably a majority in the South. But by the later part of the 20th century and certainly now in the 21st century fundamentalists represent a very tiny minority of those who call themselves Christian.

While agreeing with the fundamentalists on the inerrancy of scripture, I must say that the modern fundamentalists such as the late Rev. Falwell and the prolific author Henry M. Morris (The Long War Against God) have preserved Holy Scripture at the expense of Christianity. And I say this because the fundamentalists, as represented by Falwell and Morris, have in the name of creationist theology jettisoned the European cultural heritage. This might seem like a minor thing; after all, what is a cultural heritage compared to the Holy Bible? But in cutting us off from the European cultural heritage, they have cut us off from the living God who is the source of the Holy Bible. Let’s backtrack a little.

Martin Luther, the first fundamentalist, maintained that any man who read the Holy Scriptures with a sincere desire to comprehend their contents could know the truths of divine revelation. In contrast the Catholic Church maintained that no man could know the truths contained in the Holy Bible unless they were properly interpreted by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Divine revelation came, in the Catholic Church, from scripture and tradition properly interpreted by the Church. In theory, I agree with the Catholic Church in that it seems rather dicey to allow individuals to pursue the Gospels on their own and come up with a proper metaphysic. But in practice, I agree with Martin Luther, because from personal experience and observation, I have learned that an individual has a better chance alone with his Bible than he does with the ‘pope-to-bishop-to-parish-priest-to-parishioner’ system. But the fundamentalist and the Roman Catholic have both overlooked the one element of the faith that is anterior to the acceptance of the inerrancy of scripture or the acceptance of the inerrancy of the Church’s interpretation of scripture. That overlooked element is the essential element: the human factor. In jettisoning the European cultural heritage, which is done when anyone mentioning the words ‘white’ or ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or using phrases like ‘white man’s burden’ is lumped with Hitler, the fundamentalist and the ‘inerrancy of the Magisterium’ Roman Catholic deprive man of his basic intuition about the nature of reality. Contained within the European cultural heritage is the truth that there is first that divine intimation in our heart and then the sympathetic connection with a divine element in the hearts of our kith and kin. Without that intuition and sympathy, we have no way of knowing or of caring about the truths of divine revelation.

It seems, to the fundamentalist, that he can jettison the 19th century Southern whites and the ‘white man’s burden’ type of Brit of the 18th and 19th century. “They are mere dross, forerunners of Hitler,” fundamentalists Falwell and Morris maintain. (The Catholic jettisons Cortez.) “All we need is the Holy Bible.” But the Bible is an unopened book, and the Roman Catholic Church is an empty building without the spirit and blood of the old European.

It is ironic that the fundamentalist, who deplores the liberal’s faith in evolution, is compact with him on the issue of the European cultural heritage. Both maintain that the European’s actions toward other races and his intuitions about the nature of reality were in error. But then how can we have faith in anything? If the one civilization that took Christ into its bosom is not essentially correct about the nature of man and his relation to God, then aren’t we all doomed to either Beckett’s despair or Montaigne’s skepticism?

The fundamentalist is certainly correct; the evolutionists must be opposed. But he is not fundamental enough. Man is a fish out of water if he is severed from his fundamental intuitions about the nature of reality. The European cultural heritage confirms our heartfelt intuition that Christ is the focal point of human history. If we are severed from that heritage of the white man, we will descend to the spiritual level of the apes whom Darwin says are our progenitors. Presumably the fundamentalists would not like to see that happen, but then they should stop trying to Negroize Christianity and return instead to the segregationist, hierarchal, fundamental faith of their European forefathers.

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