October 07, 2009
It is hard to tell which part of Christopher Lyons’ ode to Odin is more preposterous, the assertion that Christianity is the cause of Western malaise or the hope that the return of sacred holly groves and a belief in wood sprites will reverse the decline. The multicultural mania that has gripped much of the West is not the result of Christianity but of modernity. Indeed, this mania did not arise until belief in Christianity had waned, and it has its historical origin in the Enlightenment. One of the weapons French philosophes used in their attack on Christianity was praise for the manners and morals of non-Christian cultures, the same sort of praise today’s multiculturalists use as a weapon in their attack on the heritage of the West, including Christianity.
Indeed, as a practical matter, there is a strong correlation between worshipping the God-Man Lyons dismisses as a “pauper” and conservatism, while those most devoted to advancing multiculturalism tend to be contemptuous of Christianity. What is more, those attracted to drumming circles and dressing as druids and other contemporary manifestations of neo-paganism tend to be the dopiest leftists there are. It is true that many Christian clergy seem to confuse liberalism with the Gospel, but liberalism is as fatal to Christianity as it is to anything else: liberal congregations are dying and more conservative ones are thriving. It is also hard to see why someone who wants a “spirited and life-affirming” faith is attracted to paganism. What the pagan opponents of Christianity have in common, from Julian the Apostate to Charlemagne’s foes, is this: they were defeated by Christianity. I doubt that Lyons would argue that defeat is “spirited and life-affirming.”
Nor is there any contradiction between a belief in “an afterlife, universal charity, and turning the other cheek” and the sort of medieval Christianity that Lyons seems at least willing to tolerate. Francis of Assisi—who renounced all his possessions, married Lady Poverty, and welcomed Sister Death—was one of the towering figures of the Middle Ages, revered by nobles and peasants alike.
The central point remains the one made by Hilaire Belloc: The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith. The truth of these words is more apparent now than when Belloc wrote them, since we have all around us evidence of what decline in Christian belief brings, not civilizational vitality but decadence, decay, and self-doubt.
A related point: as someone who has been writing about the War against Christmas since 2001, I was particularly taken aback to see Lyons’ mouthing the multiculturalist talking point that the celebration of Christmas is really a pagan celebration. It is not. There is good reason to believe that the date for Christmas was chosen because the early Christians believed Christ was crucified on March 25, and they also accepted the Jewish belief that great prophets died on the date they were conceived. Hence Christmas on December 25. But even if December 25 was chosen as the date for Christmas to supplant now defunct pagan celebrations, that does not mean that Christmas is a pagan celebration, as anyone who has ever listened to Christmas carols or seen a creche should be able to discern.
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