Thursday, March 29, 2012

T.S. Eliot: God or Dictatorship

Reposted from November of 2011 for new Sky View readers:

T.S. Eliot, the famous poet, was a Catholic who was born in America but later moved to England (1914). In 1940 he wrote a book called "Christianity and Culture." Most know T.S. Eliot as a poet. However, he was also a Catholic author who penned some uncanny insights about Catholicism, politics and culture. In fact, he was a Noble Prize winner in literature in 1948.

Take a look what he had to say! With each quote, I provide commentary below.

God or Dictators:

• T.S. Eliot: "If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin."

Sky View Comment: Yes, the choice is that simple! Whether it be the hard dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler or the soft despotism of today's European Socialism, the result is such that freedom is lost or compromised and human dignity is eclipsed. In fact, the next big pro-life cause in these United States of America will be (and is now) the growing problem of euthanasia.

More than we would like to admit, the medical community in hospitals and hospices across this nation are resorting to the cruel and unjust methods of starving and dehydrating patients who are considered not worth saving. As the Baby-boom generation enters into their 60's and 70's there will be a greater push to end human lives prematurely. Why is that? In part, because the ratio of nurses (and medical staff) per elderly patients will continue to be disproportionately top-heavy. As it stands, there is a shortage of nurses throughout the country. As our population ages there will naturally be a shortage of younger people to take care of the elderly population. In addition to abortion and the threat to religious liberty, this will be the next big battle the Church will face. Keep in mind that Germany in the 1930's initiated euthanasia programs under the auspices of the private medical profession. Hitler's regime only brought to completion what the Germany's medical community had already begun.

As for political rulers who disregard the divine law and have no use for the Christian religion, they invariably take on too much. They are often led into thinking that they can become all things to all people. When God ceases to be the supreme in society, the State takes his place. But as Pope Benedict XVI said, "The fact is that when politics want to bring redemption, they promise too much. When they presume to do God's work, they do not become divine but diabolical."

The Enemy of the State:

• T.S. Eliot: "When the Christian is treated as an enemy of the State, his course is very much harder, but it is simpler. I am concerned with the dangers to the tolerated minority; and in the modern world, it may turn out that most intolerable thing for Christians is to be tolerated."

Sky View Comment: A contemporary and a fellow countryman of Eliot, Hilaire Belloc, once said something along similar lines: "But if I be asked what sign we may look for to show that the advance of the Faith is at hand, I would answer by a word the modern world has forgotten: Persecution. When that shall once more be at work it will be morning."

It is a just and worthy thing for Christians to pray that they can preach and worship in peace; that is, without any undue interference from the State. With that said, it is equally true to say that nothing makes Christianity flourish more than persecution. Tertullian, a Father of the Church from the second century, once said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.

On one hand, I am convinced that one of the worst things to happen for the Catholic Church in America was to be accepted as mainstream. Before World War II Catholics were marginalized and held in suspicion by a good number of Americans. Catholics knew what it meant to be outsiders. As such, they could more easily identify with Christ-crucified. Pope St. Gregory the Great once said that virtue acts quietly but the reputation of virtue is stirred up by the whip. And yes, Catholics were well acquainted with what that whip symbolized.

Yet, on the other hand, I, as a Catholic, do not relish the thought of being persecuted by the State. I want religious liberty and I want it for my family.

The dilemma is as follows: Religious liberty is a good thing; but being unhindered by the State to worship as we please has, in many cases, lulled us to sleep in our comfort zones. The persecution of religion, on the flip side, stirs up Christian zeal. Like or not, such affliction helps us to better identify with our Lord and his Saints. There is something sobering about being in exile. When we feel like we, as Christians, do not belong here on earth, it bids us to move onward toward to our true heavenly homeland. To be sure, we are much less likely to be satisfied with earthly mediocrity.

The question is: What is worse, being in exile and feeling like a stranger in a foreign land or being so accepted by the world; so much so that we become like the world? No doubt, the choice is not a easy one. But the former, as opposed to the latter, is by far a safer road to travel...spiritually speaking.

Liberalism is Reactionary:

• T.S. Eliot: "That Liberalism may be a tendency toward something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature. For it is something which tends to release energy rather than accumulate it, to relax, rather than to fortify. It is a movement not so much defined by its end, as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards something definite. Our point of departure is more real to us than our destination; and our destination is very likely to present a very different picture when arrived at, from the vaguer image formed in the imagination. By destroying the traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos."

Sky View Comment: This is an important contribution that T.S. Eliot has made in the understanding of Secular-liberalism. This ideology is unprincipled precisely because its thrust is a reaction to that which threatens its license or unbridled freedom. It is, as he indicates, a movement away from rather than towards something definite.

A wonderful complement to Eliot's point is by Bishop Sheen's statement regarding Communists. He said that hate is the main catalyst behind their world view: "Many follow communism not because they are convinced that it is right, but because they have a hidden hate against something or somebody. Those who feel individually impotent to vent their hate upon a person or a class or an institution feel that if they joined communism they could find a corporate expression for their pent-up animosities and their dammed-up hate." Communism, Socialism and Secular-liberalism are all cut from the same fabric. Those who subscribe to such views are generally reacting to something they hate.

Sheen continues: "Because they became disillusioned with their freedom, which produced chaos in their souls, they for a Communist dictatorship outside of themselves to organize their chaos. Because they lost the power of self regulation from within, they seek a Communist-imposed regulation from without…[In] communism they can have a seeming sense of righteousness and justice by hating the wrongs of others without any obligation to better their own individual lives."

Liberal Society and Education:

• T.S. Eliot: "[N]o one could ever assume that any two [students]…had studied the same subjects or read the same books…In a negative liberal society you have no agreement as to there being any body of knowledge which any educated person should have acquired at any particular stage: the idea of wisdom disappears, and you get sporadic and unrelated experimentation. A nation’s system of education is much more important than its system of government; only of proper system of education can unify the active and the contemplative life, action and speculation, politics and the arts."

Sky View Comment: Catholics in America have yet to come to terms with this fact: "A nation’s system of education is much more important than its system of government!" Eliot was right. If this is the case, and it is, why isn't there a campaign against State-run education by the Catholic Church. The current system of public education has much more in common with an agnostic version of Socialism than it does with Christian democracy. What is more, it has delivered a huge blow to the Church in her mission to save souls in this country.

Consider the following quotes (I will repeat them on Sky View until they take hold). Our spiritual ancestors had a much clearer understanding about what a compulsory education would portend for the nation and the Church:

Cardinal James Gibbons (1919): "The spirit of our people in general is adverse to State monopoly, and this for the obvious reason that such an absorption of control would mean the end of freedom and initiative. The same consequence is sure to follow when the State attempts to monopolize education; and the disaster will be much greater inasmuch as it will affect, not simply the worldly interests of the citizen, but also his spiritual growth and salvation."

Bishop Fulton Sheen (1943): "We do not yet realize this truth, but it is an indisputable fact that a nation's education is far more important than a nation's government. Given one generation educated on the principle that there is no absolute Truth or Justice and our next generation will be a government of power."

Catholic philosopher Etienne Gilson (1951): "To the full extent that it educates, the State educates in view of itself…The only conceivable end of a State-owned education is the State itself. States themselves may not know it. They may sincerely believe that nothing is more foreign to their honest intentions; yet, to put it bluntly, the only reason why a State may not want children to be educated in view of God is that it wants them to be educated in view of itself. Totalitarian education does nothing more than go the whole way along the same line. The result is what we know: political, economic, intellectual and spiritual slavery."

Politics Solves All:

• T.S. Eliot: "The obvious secularist solution for muddle is to subordinate everything to political power…it offers some immediate, though perhaps illusory relief."

Sky View Comment: Secular-liberalism is essentially a protest against any restraints upon sexual or moral freedom. And from this protest is an insistence or demand that behavior inspired by such behavior should not be judged. The result is none other than the muddle T.S. Eliot referred to. But people cannot live long in muddle or chaos. People get nervous under such conditions.

Not living by the laws of God and by making earthly goods the sole object of their pursuits, anxiety and insecurity become pronounced. Notice that when the hint of an unknown illness rears its ugly head or when there is a threat of a terrorist attack, the media overreacts with sensationalizing it and the government overcompensates by adding more regulations. As the book of Wisdom states, "A distressed conscience magnifies misfortune."

This is but one of the consequences of State-run education. It inspires an appetite for political solutions. On the other hand, the two agents which are the guarantor of self-governance is the family and religion. Both of these institutions are undermined in our public schools today.

Statism and Socialism are two weeds that need to be pulled from its root if America is to recover her greatness. The root of these weeds is to be found in the public school system. I am not suggesting that if education was privatized all would be well. But it must be done if America is to be well again. Not doubt, State-run education would have to be replaced by a greater access to Catholic education and evangelization.

Pagan Advertising and De-Christianization:

• T.S. Eliot: "The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us…It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions, the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of this dilemma- and he is in the majority –he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space."

Sky View Comment: Christian civilization is built-up from within by Christian institutions. The Christian Faith and the Church does not thrive well without this reinforcement, namely, a Christian culture. Our Secular society has done a bang-up job on convincing Americans, including Christians, that the native soil for the Gospel is the inner sanctuary of a church...with the doors shut. With this constant message being impressed upon us, the courtroom, the newsroom and the classroom have all been vacated by Christians who publicly bear witness to Christ. The 1950's, 1960's and beyond have been decades when Christians have pretty much kept to themselves. That missionary zeal of Christians was out matched by the ambitions of Secularists. But I do believe that the New Evangelization will restore at least some of what has been lost.