Sunday, October 25, 2009

God’s Fairy Land

“Before the railway came to Cornwall and killed the fairies...” – H. V. Morton In Search of England

Writing during the last days of Christendom, C. S. Lewis gave us, in the marvelous image of the wardrobe, a last glimpse of what it was like to live in Christian Europe. The ancient European did not see life on this earth as a life separate and remote from God’s kingdom of heaven. “Behold the kingdom of God is within you,” was a reality, not just a theory, to the pre-modern European. Like the Old Testament Hebrews and the children in C. S. Lewis’s novel, the ancient Europeans felt that the wall between God’s Fairy Land and this earth had a door through which the intrepid Christian and the pure of heart could go.

This traffic back and forth between Fairy Land and Europe was quite irritating to Satan, because Old Scratch works best with men and women who cannot see the door or climb over the wall between God’s Fairy Land and Europe. Satan’s task then was to fortify the wall and bolt the door between heaven and Earth. And to give the devil his due, he has done an excellent job of it.

While not discounting every single story in which Christian men and women have claimed to have seen Christ, the blessed Virgin Mary, an angel, or some particular saint, I must state that I am not talking about such revelations when I say that the ancient Europeans felt themselves to be intimately connected to God in a way that the modern European, even if he is an avowed Christian, is not. The pre-modern European was connected to God in the way the old prayer books suggest: “In Him, with Him, and through Him”; through our common humanity and through our common blood, the Europeans who believed gained access to the door that linked His realm to our world. And whenever the European let the image of His divine humanity become obscured, the European found himself groping in the dark, unable to find the door to His world.

It was an article of faith to the Enlightenment philosophers that there was no door between the wall of God’s Fairy Land and man’s earthly realm. And the modern European takes his blasphemies a step further. He declares there is no Fairy Land beyond the wall, nor anything else. The liberal says (speaking only figuratively, you see, because he knows there is no anthropomorphic-type god), “God bless the wall without a door and without anything beyond it.” He even writes sacred words on the wall: “There is only the wall of Nature, and we are all governed by the laws of Nature; glory be to Nature, which has always been and always shall be, Nature without end, (speaking metaphorically, of course) amen.”

The restoration – I don’t say ‘renewal’ because we have long passed the stage of a renewal – will not come from the Christian churches. The building of Christendom was done by the European Everyman who tried in his own humble way to live the Gospel. The rebuilding of Christendom will also be accomplished by the Christian, European Everyman. The faith that moves mountains will not come from the clergy because their faith is a constricted faith. They have settled for an anemic, technocratic faith instead of a faith in the God of Fairy Land.

Because the technocratic faith, the faith in systems and syllogisms rather than Christ, is the reigning faith of the modern European, I have been forced to ponder the question of ‘why’. Why does the modern European prefer the technocratic faith to a faith in Jesus Christ? There seems to be two reasons:

1) The St. Augustine dilemma. Augustine tells us in his Confessions that he had great difficulty in accepting the truth of the Gospels because they seemed intellectually inferior to the Gnostic philosophers he was studying. The idea that the Christ story is stupid and inferior to the philosophical systems of the Greeks and other assorted “experts” is a golden oldie of a heresy, but the modern European has bought more copies of the old album than any of his heretical progenitors. The Catholic theologians and their Protestant rivals never could get rid of the uncomfortable feeling that the pagans were smarter than Christians. For that reason their faith in Christ was always couched in the language of the Greek experts. Only the Christian poets and the Christian peasants looked at Christ without the Greek ‘extras,’ which is why the poets and the peasants were perceived as being too dumb to be taken seriously. In modern classrooms and seminaries, the faith of the poet and the peasant is seen as relevant only because of what such a faith tells us about "the unconscious and man’s need for a faith that is something greater, and greater always means impersonal, than the narrow, sectarian faith of the Gospels."

2) Technological wizardry holds out the promise of a God without the Cross. Christ promised us eternal life in Fairy Land with the proviso that we take up our Cross and follow Him. “A cross can be a beautiful thing.” “Not so,” say the modern purveyors of wizardry; “We can show you the way to Paradise on this earth without the Cross.” “It’s a deal!” cry the Brave, New World Europeans. But there is always a cross, and the wizards’ promise of a cross-free existence is a lie. Tragically, the modern European believes the lie and seeks to construct a world where faith in the Cross of Christ is always deconstructed and syllogized into nothingness.

Against the new wizardry stands the Christian poets, with Shakespeare leading the vanguard. "The cross of Christ is greater than the syllogisms of the philosophers. Only those who pick up their cross and follow Him will dream dreams and see visions of God's Fairy Land beyond the wall."

One of my favorite movies is called The Luck of the Irish, which stars Tyrone Power. The main character (Power, of course) very early in the movie does a favor for a leprechaun. Throughout the rest of the movie the leprechaun tries to repay the favor by showing Tyrone Power that the modern Amazonian woman he is engaged to is not the woman he should marry. The leprechaun tries to get Power to see that a particular Irish village girl, very feminine and very old-fashioned, is the girl he should wed. When it appears that the leprechaun has failed in his efforts, he says, “I offered you gold [meaning the Irish lass of course]. I cannot help it if you preferred a pebble.” That Irish parable sums up the modern European tragedy. Christ was the gold the modern European was offered, but instead the modern European preferred the pebble of technological wizardry. There is no love, no honor, no life in the new European religion. And there will be no such thing as a European unless the European opens the door to the thatched cottage that leads to God’s Fairy Land. +

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