What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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To be stewards

Gandalf the Grey:

The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?

This, now, is our task. To guard the things that remain. To cherish the seeds, though Gondor should perish. If anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower in days to come, we shall not wholly have failed of our task.

We cannot do this if we become bitter and cynical. (I speak to myself here at least as much as to anyone else.) We shall not be able to carry out our task if the only things we can find to say are despairing things and bitter things. We shall not be able to carry out our task if we tear one another to pieces. We shall not be able to carry out our task if the only thing that fills our minds is the evil of mankind.

There is evil among the people and there is evil in high places. Something great that we have loved is ending. America as we have known it--even as we have known it in the past forty years, when much evil had already been put in place--will, I believe, not survive this night. And there is indeed a place for chronicling that, if only to make people aware of what they now have to face and of what props they no longer have. Mourning is not wrong. Telling what is wrong with the world has an important value, if only to contrast it with what should be, what has been, and what we hope will one day be again.

But something we can preserve, if we love it. Therefore, let us, with the help of God and the assistance of men of good will, love and cherish all that we can of those worthy things that are in peril.


Comments (46)

Paging Lawrence Auster... do you copy?

M.E., I prithee, no personalities. Seriously.

If we are going to preserve the seeds of good and noble things, like pieces stuffed away in attics or preserved in museums, which ones and how? Usually, the way we "preserve" traditions and culture is to live them, to use them (unlike Grandma's old crystal). But that's just exactly what we are going to be stopped from doing by the coming night.

Typically, when the church and culture in one nation fails, that in another is waiting in the wings to carry the standard and continue God's work, to remain in continuity with the Church from Christ and the Apostles. In our case, one suspects that the Church in Africa, being never associated with the tyranny of any governments, will be able to persist when churches in Old Europe and New America fall under the knife from the tyrannical governments that hate religion (all religions but its own, secular humanism). But that's a matter of having or sending the seeds to be preserved beyond the habitat in which night is falling to a different habitat or climate, not boxing them up and storing in out of the way places.

Well, Tony, there was something similar that happened with the fall of Rome (the Western Rome, that is). Warfare, sacking, death, disease, siege--these all prevented learning from taking place, broke down buildings, killed many people. Just consider how hard it must have been to find people to ordain to the priesthood, much less people to be monks and copy manuscripts, when so many young men got killed, and the ones who were left were needed on the farm to scrape a bare living for old mom, dad, and the little brothers and sisters, hoping nobody would come and burn the pathetic crops this year before they could get them harvested. A lot of worthy things require excess people, beyond those required to stave off grim necessity. I've lost track of how many times Rome was besieged and taken in the back-and-forth between the West and the East in the 500's. Those trying to reinstate a Latin as opposed to a Visigothic emperor did, in some ways, more harm than good by subjecting the city to more destruction.

What it's going to come to is that one has to preserve in whatever ways present themselves. Sub-optimal as it is, some things _will_ probably have to be kept quietly in attics (or virtual attics) so that they can be taken out and lived again later. In A Canticle for Leibowitz, the monks copy and re-copy electrical diagrams that nobody understands for hundreds of years until civilization re-creates itself and people are once more able to interpret them.

Some things may have to be lived on a very small scale--a small church here and a small church there continuing to say an ancient liturgy from one week to the next. Home schooling is an example of keeping things alive on a small scale.

Obviously, we need lots of ideas, because many ideas will turn out not to work. Sometimes, as you say, things won't work out because the barbarians will get wind of something going on and come in and destroy.

What we have to do is not give up and meanwhile pray for guidance.

If memory serves, at least some of the preserving happened in good ole Ireland, which (in part because it never was truly part of the empire) didn't go through the same degeneration and struggle to maintain "itself".

I am inclined to say that while you are in the midst of it, a lot of the struggling to preserve bits and pieces of the good will look just about exactly the same as struggling to restore the old regime itself. And (not sure if this is different), a lot of the required effort needed to in fact manage to preserve will have been consciously intended to attempt a restoration of said old regime: a soldier fighting "for flag and country" may make a small but semi-permanent difference in which communities are left alone for long enough to teach yet another round of children what virtue and nobility and bravery are, even if the country ceases to exist.

Wasn't Catholicism found alive and well, albeit hidden, almost 300 years after the death of the last Jesuit missionary in China? A perfect example of God's Providence, and some hope.

As said above homeschooling is a perfect example of what's needed. A "back to the land movement" a la Father Vincent McNabb?. Priests who would go to the wall for the Latin Mass (Father Miguel Pro anyone?). It will come to this. But there are many who say "bring it on." Our FFSP parish priest is one.

Our Lord said prayer and fasting was the only way to exorcise certain spirits - a lesson there, surely. Personal holiness (say, is that catching?) may be the answer.

Yes, the missionary efforts to the far-flung place of Ireland later did bear fruit when the monks came back, via Scotland, and south into England during the "dark ages." To what extent this can be replayed in the following centuries I don't know.

I must say that the book _Never Silent_ seems to show an example thereof. It's a very inspiring book about the actions of African (and Asian) Anglican bishops in helping those who had finally had it in America with the corrupt Episcopal church. One of the only weaknesses of the story (though I know why the author left it out) is the issue of women's ordination. Unfortunately, the African bishops involved believed in women's ordination, which has therefore been duplicated in the new Anglican groups led by those African bishops, created by those leaving the wreckage of the ECUSA. However, the parallels to the Irish re-Christianization of both England and parts of Europe are too notable to be overlooked.

Tolkien's work has kept many a Christian man from the sin of despair. I re-read The Silmarillion every year, pretty much for that reason. The story of small things delivering salvation unlooked-for is in every strand of the Professor's great mythology. Much of it takes on a "too convenient" quality for some people's tastes, violating the reader's faith that the author is really playing by the rules of his own world (which breaks down the necessary suspension of disbelief), but for me that's just the point: much of life truly is that way, and ultimate reality really is a story of hope in the face of certain calamity. From tiny Bethlehem to the empty tomb. There it is.

Sam's song when he cannot find Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol is an example of the refusal of despair:

Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the stars farewell.

Another passage presses the point:

"Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep."

Also, it is an important detail that the character whose sin was mortal despair, Lord Denethor, ultimately casts himself into the flames, and so ends. (He passes Theoden moving in the opposite direction, who goes from a waking death to true life, when he undertakes bold action even in the absence of hope.)

Also worth savoring is Gandalf's reply to Elrond in this passage from The Silmarillion (the setting is Rivendell, in the Second Age):

"I forbode that the One will yet be found, and then war will arise again, and in that war this Age will be ended. Indeed in a second darkness it will end, unless some strange chance deliver us that my eyes cannot see."

"Many are the strange chances of the world," said Mithrandir, "and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter."

Barbara, could you send Lydia your email address? I have an article I would like to send you. Thanks.

We are Christians-we believe that God died. Truly died. The devil won. The game was lost. It was over.

And yet, God came back. Death was defeated. When all seemed lost God opened the Gates of Heaven and restored hope for us all.

Lest we forget-when things look at their worst, Christians believe in the Resurrection. Their is truth to the saying "It's always darkest before dawn".

Y'all are posting my very favorite quotes from my very favorite of all books! There is another that I like (I shall have to paraphrase as I am not at home now), and that is when Gandalf and Pippin are standing on the walls of the city looking at the darkness sullying the sky over Mordor and the winged Nazgul screaming at the fords, with no idea if Frodo and Sam are still alive or captured, and Pippin watches Gandalf's face. Discouragement and worry he reads there, but then he sees below it -- mirth. Enough mirth to fill the world if he let it go . . . because the things that are most important are never the temporal things; they are the things that last forever and conquer, just as Sam realizes when he sees the star shine out above Mordor . . . We not only must not despair, and work to preserve what can be preserved, but do so in the joy of the Lord.

The rising persecution of the Church in America may just be the best thing that could happen to it. If it costs nothing to be a Christian, if there is no public humiliation that goes along with it, then anyone can call themselves "Christian". If it costs something to be a Christian however, if there are public humiliations that go along with it, then only those who are committed to the faith will continue to call themselves Christians. I have the utmost respect for Christians in Islamic countries who know that at any moment they can be jailed, lose their jobs, be tortured or even killed for being a Christian. Believers like that are the backbone of the Faith. American Christians have had it too easy for too long. We've become soft-bellied believers. When the tide starts to turn against us, we turn to the State - not to God - for our relief. Once the State completely abandons us, as it inevitably will, we'll finally see from Whom our help really comes.

That's true, that only the strongest believers will persevere in the face of persecutions, but I don't know if that means that all the others were somehow false Christians. In, say, England in 1250, when there was zero 'cost' to being a Christian, I don't think it follows that most of the English weren't really Christians.

Daniel, I know that it's sort of easy in a way to say, "Hey, maybe this will be good for us by driving out all the fair-weather Christians." But I don't think that is wise. There is actually a pretty old liturgical prayer that prays that God's church may be spared from earthly peril! While there are souls lost through too much ease, there are also souls lost in persecution. This is especially true of people who are not able to hear the Word in the first place. Or people who grow up all their lives just thinking Christianity is stupid because that's what the propaganda teaches them, and Christians are just a despised minority. As the Bible says, "How shall they hear without a preacher?" I think the increasingly hardened secularization of the America public schools is a good example here. It's not as though Christianity has flourished there under persecution. Instead, it has simply been suppressed, teachers aren't allowed to pray or take God seriously in any discussions, and many young people have been led thereby on the road to hell. In Muslim countries you aren't allowed to witness. No doubt a certain amount of surreptitious evangelism goes on, but it can't be good for the church that the Word is thus bound and stopped from spreading. In Communist countries, the State continually came between parents and children to prevent the parents from passing on Christianity to their children.

So I really think it's too facile to say, "Hey, coming persecution will be a good thing."

If I may presume to restate your point, Lydia:

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, truly. But the point of the seed is the fruit. We will have taken a great step backwards if again there is no place on earth where the Church may flourish unmolested, and it is not desirable that we should enter in to that trial. Persecution is an opportunity, but it is not a good in itself.

That's true, that only the strongest believers will persevere in the face of persecutions, but I don't know if that means that all the others were somehow false Christians.

Matt, that's exactly the point I made to a friend who basically was saying "let it come". I know that my own faith is not a facade, but I also know that it is not perfect. Like St. Thomas More, I am not ready to face an executioner's block unless absolutely necessary. Jesus himself says not to fear the one who can kill the body, but the one who can destroy the soul. Well, the whole point of persecutions is that they attack the soul. The communists wanted to destroy faith, not the bodies of believers. It is reasonable to fear Satan and his works, even though we have confidence in the grace of Christ.

We don't know how many of the baptized Christians of Roman times fell away from the faith because of persecution, but we DO know that there were many. These were people who, (some of them, at least) did not become Christian because the culture around them had already embraced Christianity and they were going along with the crowd. No, they were acting out of a sincere conversion. Just an imperfect one. Like mine, perchance.

Point taken Lydia (and others).

My highest hope is not that the mediocre Christians will be purged from the ranks but that this will drive us back to God as a first recourse.

Having gotten sidetracked, let me just emphasize that I think Lydia is right not only that we have a duty to preserve what we can--which may or may not involve disengagement from the world at large, depending on the particulars--but also that taking joy in the good is a huge part of that task.

And really, what could give us greater comfort than to know that our joy and our duty are so neatly entwined?

Right on, Sage. To that end, I strongly suggest that those of us distressed not only by the recent election but by much else going on in the world be sure to take plenty of breaks to do and take joy in things beautiful and good in themselves. Obviously the number of these is almost limitless and includes both small things and large--cooking, reading to children, going to great music concerts, enjoying the company of our spouses, reading the Bible, singing with other believers, woodworking, and on and on. That list no doubt shows my own biases and abilities (though in actual fact I stuck in "woodworking" to try to counteract that bias and know nothing about it whatsoever), while others will have other, and maybe surprising, things that spring to mind. The larger point is that all of this is also a kind of fighting the culture wars. It's the more enjoyable part than reading and writing about horrible stories on the Internet. But not to be neglected for that reason. The Kantian idea that it can't be good if one enjoys doing it is, in fact, wrong.

Once they put lights in Wrigley Field, Western Civ was pretty much done any ways.

Christians who made an idol of this Nation have been chastened. As a Catholic I look forward to divesting from the brick & mortar structures of hospitals and schools. The Church is not a social agency or apparatus and the sooner we embrace that truth the better. We've concealed Christ under flags, programs and agendas. Can't help but think many will now finally meet Him for the first time.

The reactionary does not yearn for the futile restoration of the past, but for the improbable rupture of the future with this sordid present.

My highest hope is not that the mediocre Christians will be purged from the ranks but that this will drive us back to God as a first recourse.

Which is, presumably, a leading reason God allows that sort of thing to begin with. But that's God's look out, and since He has the power to move people internally, by grace, He can take "responsibility" (as it were) for making sure it comes out that way. For us, though, I think we have a duty to prevent that sort of social degeneration to the minimal extent we can, even when we can see it coming. Who knows, maybe our effort will affect one more person before the persecutions come in earnest.

A parallel chain of events happened in the first half of the 20th century.
The GOP had been betrayed and decimated by progressives like Theodore Roosevelt, Isaac Stephenson & Robert M. LaFallotte, Sr. Under their leadership the U. S. Constitution was to some degree disregarded, and "good government" legislation was passed. Under President Taft the progressive trajectory was partially rolled back. A stalwart progressive split occurred in the GOP. Thankfully the Progressive Theodore Roosevelt lost and the only slightly more progressive Thomas Woodrow Wilson was elected.
Under Charles Evans Hughes, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge the GOP moved back to conservative constitutional government. The progressives had their revenge and nominated Herbert Hoover who won handily; defeating a generally good gold standard constitutional Democrat Alfred Smith who happened to be Roman Catholic. [Hoover himself was a generally nonpracticing Quaker heretic but that did not seem to bother the Protestant establishment.] Hoover had no real commitment to the free market and adopted policies that were detrimental to the American economy.
In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt won promising to end the Depression and create an era of full employment. He didn't. In 1936 unemployment was higher then it had been under Hoover.
The progressive wing of the party worked overtime to see to it conservatives were not nominated by the GOP for President. It was not until 1964 that a conservative was nominated for President. Robert Taft revived stalwart conservatism in the Senate. Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley Jr. wrote brilliantly and revived conservatism.
My maternal grandfather thought the cause of Western Civilization was lost when Franklin Roosevelt was reelected in 1936. He was wrong, a new vibrant conservatism emerged. Sadly 48 years were lost between 1932 and 1980.

It may be best to adopt the attitude of Winston Churchill: "I am an optimist. It seems to me not much use to be anything else."

I would be dismayed to see further disengagement by Christians from society. To cite only one means of doing so, in my area private Christian schools proliferate. They cost money, and people dislocate their finances to get their kids into them, even though the actual educations are in some way no better than public schools. These students, along with their heavily involved parents, could have a great leavening effect on the wider society if they weren't cloistered away on their own. Light, bushel, and all that... Secularists are as ignorant of the Christian blessings in public life as fish are ignorant of water, and even the most radical, spotty-bearded coffeehouse subversive would miss them if they were gone. In time, if we are not too thin-skinned, we may persuade them that this is so. Sure, the light of Christ seems to shine more brightly in Kenya and South Korea these days than in the tired old First World. But I don't believe that America has bestowed her final God-given gifts on humanity just quite yet.

My maternal grandfather thought the cause of Western Civilization was lost when Franklin Roosevelt was reelected in 1936. He was wrong, a new vibrant conservatism emerged. Sadly 48 years were lost between 1932 and 1980.

I think he was right, and that the 48 years to which you refer demonstrates as much. In that 48 years, America as a home of limited Constitutional government was utterly dismantled, and legislation put into place which made its final destruction completely inevitable. To say that half a century being lost was merely "sad" greatly understates the matter. It wasn't just "sad" it was an absolute calamity of the highest order.

The "vibrant" conservatism to which you refer was successful in helping to win the Cold War, but purchased that victory by adopting liberalism for itself, and ceding the possibility of any domestic victory of real and lasting significance. That's why, since the end of the Cold War, the Buckley-inspired "conservative" movement has basically been wandering about,beating the air with its fists like a doddering old man, while the left bobs and weaves around it like Mohammed Ali. November 6th was the final left hook.

TSI, I disagree strongly about public schools. They are Sodom and Gomorrah. With getting beat up day after day. I think that those who speak airily of sending one's children there to have a "leavening effect" really do not know how bad they have gotten. Perhaps you are thinking of the public schools in some not-so-bad town circa 1960. At this point, a Christian parent who sends his child to public schools is seriously risking both his physical safety and his immortal soul. And the odds that the child will come out having been taught about sexual material (from the teachers, not to mention the students) that ought not to have been put into his head, having had his latency period destroyed and perversion taught as normal, are very high *even if* the young person stands up against the brainwashing.

Education in the good, the true, and the beautiful is a gift we give to the young people of the future. It is part of being stewards. If someone calls it "withdrawing from the world still more" or whatever, that gets a big shrug from me. I'm too busy trying to give some great gifts.

Gandalf also said: “despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.”

One more LOTR quote that, when I read it, really stood out to me as applicable to our situation:

“In nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.”

Tolkien's work has kept many a Christian man from the sin of despair. I re-read The Silmarillion every year, pretty much for that reason. The story of small things delivering salvation unlooked-for is in every strand of the Professor's great mythology.

A great comment, one that I could have written myself. As a matter of fact, I am re-reading through LotR right now, for the first time as an adult, and the number of spiritual lessons in the story that I never noticed as a teenager is legion. Some commenters have posted favourite quotes, but I've been observing, during this time of real-world trouble, that every other page or so contains quotations relevant to the topic of keeping up hope when there seems to be none, and laughing in the face of despair.

Much of it takes on a "too convenient" quality for some people's tastes, violating the reader's faith that the author is really playing by the rules of his own world (which breaks down the necessary suspension of disbelief), but for me that's just the point: much of life truly is that way, and ultimate reality really is a story of hope in the face of certain calamity.

Yes. It's a story that can only truly be appreciated by those with a belief in God Almighty. I am fairly convinced that Tolkien was

The rising persecution of the Church in America may just be the best thing that could happen to it.

I agree with the other commenters warning against this attitude, but it does remind me that, oh, ten years ago, I guess, there were articles going round about this supposed trend of Christians in China praying for persecution to come to the American church (so that the American church would experience a purifying, strengthening fire). I wonder if those articles contained any truth.

(though in actual fact I stuck in "woodworking" to try to counteract that bias and know nothing about it whatsoever)

Well, I have been enjoying some recent woodworking during these times that try our souls!

TSI, I disagree strongly about public schools. They are Sodom and Gomorrah...having had his latency period destroyed and perversion taught as normal, are very high *even if* the young person stands up against the brainwashing.

Absolutely right, Lydia. Top grade, spot on.

The Word From Experience: I know a family that has been arguing - vodiferously - just exactly what TSI suggested. And (even though they did NOT submit their kids to public school), they encouraged their kids to be "the leaven" with others, including many public school kids. Result: they have at least 1 kid who is not practicing the faith anymore. This, mind you, is only a modest infusion of the kids into the ordinary public school youth experience, not even so much as ordinary school time.

From my own experience, oh so many decades ago (well, before the 80's at least) in a (not public) school: Most of the time you spend avoiding the worst of the moral crazies, you are just barely managing to keep your head above water purity- and sanity-wise, and you simply don't have time or energy to really grow in the faith. Your sense of where "the good" lies is skewed: anything to the right of "sleeping around and drinking behind your parents' back" is "good", instead of a more noble measuring stick, like real virtue.

It's like being in a battlefield every day, enduring minor cuts and scrapes when you dodging bullets and shrapnel. The cuts and scrapes can be survived, but if you spend ALL your time healing those things, you aren't really going to thrive. A kid who hears at home the truth about God and the 10 commandments, and who hears 8 hours a day how "those religionists" are at best bamboozled superstitious people, and at worst child-molesting preverts and stone-age reactionaries, cannot possibly be EXPECTED to internalize only one message and deny outright the other message. Christ says: when the student is fully trained he will be like the teacher. But the teacher for 8 hours is a state-paid teacher told to emasculate truth and principle and religion, and students raised on pop-music and pop-TV. I see what goes into the standardized tests, and it is obvious that they assume a classroom that is positively drenched in propaganda. Parents can attempt to counteract the propaganda that they know about, but they will only know about the portion that their kids report. What about all the aspects their kid doesn't even know is skewed?

Speaking from a more theoretical stance, it seems to me that a child's sense of where right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful vs ugly sit should be second nature to him, because it is "home". That is, he ought to feel completely at home in being able to be normal, where "normal" is according to a true and permanently right standard, not the average today, or the typical of today. He ought to feel comfortable around the good, doing the good, liking the good, assuming the good can be achieved because it IS achieved on a daily basis. (I remember, as a youth, thinking that there was simply no point in expecting kids to stay off drugs, cause they were so prevalent that
it was like expecting kids to not get muddy shoes - not even worth arguing about.) If you put kids in an environment for 8 hours a day where "good" is distorted by not being grown integrally from the Truth, where the beautiful is ridiculed, where Truth is mocked as impossible, then the kid will be always stuck in a double-world. They shouldn't have to fight THAT HARD to become formed. The parents will spend all their out-of-work hours battling the degraded sensibilities of the kids' peers: what they can wear, what music they can listen to, what activities they can participate in, what movies they can see, and books they can read - all of these will become long drawn out battlegrounds FOR NO GREAT GOOD other than merely not having your kid be degraded that one more inch THIS time. That's a never-ending fight with a never-to-be-met end goal, because the opportunities for additional degrading are _infinite_.

No: while their sensibilities and moral selves are being formed, you want the overwhelming influences (measured both by time and by importance) to be wholesome. Trust me, there is no way in THIS culture that they won't be exposed, here and there, to other influences. Our job as parents is not to seek these out, but to regulate them so that they remain minor irritants in an otherwise wholesome environment. Public school isn't it.

There is always time, after they are raised, to enable them to become the light shining from a hill. That's for them to decide, when they are old enough to be responsible for themselves. Parents don't get to choose for them, that's taking on a prerogative that is uncalled for.

Proverbs come before Gospel. We must exceed the righteousness of Pharisees i.e. first we must reach the righteousness of Pharisees.

The error of Pharisees lay not in shunning the bad people, but in their wrong intention in doing so. The Proverbs tell us to shun evil men, because we are not good enough.

Thus a Christian family is well-advised to drop the leavening thing esp do not regard their own children as leavening fodder.

Tony's comment is detailed and excellent and deserves to be widely understood. There is a real failure of understanding both of the stewardship imperative and of the imperative to create anew, to restore, in the suggestion that children should be deliberately sent into the moribund public school system (or into any school system that presents, by widespread peer agreement and/or by teachers, the abnormal as the normal and the virtuous as the deviant) as emissaries or "leaven," in order to avoid the charge of "retreating from the world." Retreating, nothing! We who give our children a normal and healthy childhood and a good education are remaking the world! Jesus says, "Behold, I make all things new." He is referring there to the eschaton, but on a private and mundane level, there is nothing more new and wondrous than a new human child. The child is, to be sure, not a tabula rasa, but he is frighteningly impressionable, and he remains so for many years to come. (All the more so in our present society in which social adulthood is greatly delayed.) If he comes to believe that promiscuity, drug use, sexual perversion, and ugliness are as normal as the use of spoons and forks, and comes to believe this by the osmotic process of being surrounded both by explicit propaganda and by practical observation in the unnatural school environment, something will be lost. Great harm will have been done. It will be at that point much harder to "teach the bird to fly" (to use C.S. Lewis's concept from The Abolition of Man). Our world is increasingly filled with young people who have had their sense of the good and the beautiful warped if not destroyed from a very early age. This is a terrible tragedy, and it is not one that parents should blithely risk out of fear of being thought reactionary or out of hope that their children can be used (treating them, thus, as a means and not as an end) to try to make the warped-droid-factories of the public schools slightly less bad!

Gian, for once we agree.

Gian's comment reminds me that a lot of common wisdom on the right interpretations and applications of Scripture has been based, for quite some time, on the assumption that we still live in a Christian society. We are more comparable to a people in captivity, and extraordinary efforts to remain "a people apart" may be more applicable to us now than they were to the medieval or early modern Christians. We are re-entering a time when we shall carry the secret Truth with us, as in the Arc, or as Robinson Crusoe's tiny treasures from which we might build a civilized life from the flotsam of a great calamity.

There is a sense in which the world must relearn what it has forgotten, which is that the Good News is necessary, and that it is in fact Good. As Peter Kreeft pointed out in a lecture once (maybe he was borrowing from Lewis, I'm not sure), today's pagans are worse off than the pagans of Christ's time, because they rejected only the cure offered by the Gospel, while today's pagans reject the diagnosis. Until modern man relearns the terrible truth that he is, in fact, in need of saving and that Man's situation is not one from which he can rescue himself, the world will have ears of stone.

So why wallow in that desolation, when we still are able to revel in a great many beautiful and wondrous things? Cultivating the love of these things in our children and in the Christians of our acquaintance ought to be our primary task, while some time remains to us. Obsessing on some impending doom that has not yet befallen seems like a singularly unhelpful way of proceeding. It's true that the burning is underway, all around us. There is no end of horror to spend your time in revolving about in your mind. But while certainly it behooves us to be on top of the situation, there is still great refreshment to be had in our cultural and civilizational patrimony. All the more should we turn our attention to these things, and doing so is not the same as willful blindness, or at least it need not be. We all agree the situation is very bad.

Re: the idea that we should send our children to these institutions that are designed to destroy their faith in any authority outside the state, in the hopes that they can somehow be a force for positive change there, I think it's unwise in the extreme. It vastly overestimates the extent to which a child or a young adult's faith really has been formed, it flatters us that we have built up an army of little St. Patricks when that probably isn't true in nearly all cases, it esteems too highly the role of a student as a transmitter of culture rather than as a passive recipient, it ignores altogether the fact that such institutions establish for our children peer groups from whom they take all their daily cues, etc., etc., etc. It is a foolhardy, even delusional, rationalization for the decision to send your child to one of those brutish little subversion factories. I suspect some Christian parents reach for that rationalization because they don't think they have any choice but to avail themselves of a public school, and many of them probably don't. But let's not kid ourselves about what it means for them.

I am in college to be a teacher. What do you think of that, then? (This is not a challenge, but an honest query; I want to see people's responses).

M.A., if you want an honest answer, here it is: First of all, consider studying something other than an education major. From what I've seen, actual education degrees tend to teach faddish ideas that are actually bad for educational practice. (Case in point: The "new spelling" idea that came out a decade or so ago or so in which children were first to be taught to spell without using vowels.) Instead, consider majoring in a contentful subject at a college that teaches that subject well. Second, consider trying to teach after graduation at private schools that do not need to seek education degrees or state accreditation in their prospective teachers but rather are looking for good-quality teachers who love their subjects. An example of the type of school would be one in the Association of Classical Christian Schools:


(One of these days, I should actually learn the HTML code for inserting a link into a comment, huh?)

Chances are, such schools will also have far fewer problems with violence than many public schools, so you will be able to concentrate on actually teaching children and young people the material, which presumably is what you want to do anyway, rather than risking your life or playing prison warden!

Third, have a backup plan in case these ideas don't work out. The backup plan might be to go on to graduate school in a contentful field that still has job openings for MA and PhD holders (this is another reason not to major in education per se but rather in a content field). It might be to get a job in a completely different field for which you could get qualified relatively quickly with an additional degree after graduation (if you could afford the additional tuition)--e.g., a paralegal, or something like that. Or it might be to become an electrician or a plumber so that you would still have a job if or when high-level education is a luxury that society can no longer afford!

Hmmm, thanks for the advice. I actually am not majoring in Education (though I'll be taking a class on it next semester) and will probably be majoring in History and, hopefully, Foreign Languages. meaning Spanish. (I say hopefully because I'll be starting out knowing NO Spanish at all.) And I'll be minoring in Theater. I'd major in it but I'm not sure if you can have a LESS practical major.

I will definitely take a look at the ACCS. I went to a private Catholic High School and I loved it there (As opposed to my public Middle School), so I'm definitely partial to private schools already-violence aside!

As for a back-up degree...well, I'm looking around for that already. I like computers but hate math, so perhaps I'll conquer the math hurdle and try and get into computers.

One thing I DO have going for me, and against me: I'm opinionated. The best teacher I've ever had, and one of the two smartest people I've ever met, is my Senior year Theology teacher. I took a college level Apologetics class with him, and I'm convinced he ran class the right way. If I can teach the way he did, I will. His was class was incredibly informative and interesting.

MA, when you approach your senior year, check out Teach for America, which is a stellar training program for those who would like to teach but do not have Ed degrees. We have two students from our English major now participating in TfA, and they are loving it -- it puts you straight into a needy school system and teaches you how to teach while you are doing it (well, there is a summer orientation before you start, of course).

The catacombs have been sealed off and are not an option. The surveillance State was built for our protection. Maybe not.

Apostasy or martyrdom are the only choices. Most of us have already chosen the former and the rest will do so after their lines of credit and Internet access are cut off. A few hold outs will lose their heads on Reality TV and the rebellion quelled.

Let's hope immigration brings a truer kind of Christian to these shores. ,In the meantime, pass me the remote and some apple pie. I'm going down with my Tony Lama's off.

Marc Antony

I'm 15 years a teacher in Northern Ireland.
My advice would be (a) love your subject (b) love your students. If you can do both at the same time the right thoughts will get out of your brain and into theirs.
I would add a word of caution - you are only as good as the people backing you up. Choose your first school wisely.
Hope that helps!


And this, from "A Man for All Seasons"

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.


Thank you everybody for all of the advice. I appreciate every bit of it and will definitely take this into account in the coming years!

Re: public schools...

Any well meaning adult who wants the best for society should be against state run schools. All education should be local - and optimally community driven. Hence, it is imperative that we at least get the federal government out of the education business.

I read about a study some time ago that examined adolescent behavior in various cultures. This study found that behavioral problems decreased dramatically in cultures where adolescents were rarely isolated from adults. The fewest issues were found in African tribes where kids were raised and educated by the tribe and thus constantly around adults. In these cultures adolescent behavioral problems were virtually non-existent. In settings like our school systems (public or private) - where kids spend the majority of their time with other kids, adolescent behavior problems were magnified.

Unfortunately this article was in a psychology magazine I found in a waiting room - so I can't reproduce it. It made me wish I had home-schooled my kids though!

Yep, Dan, you're seeing a truth there.

My experience watching the raising of kids (my own, and my friends' and neighbors') is that kids are going to formulate role models and emulate them. That means, in the long run, adopting a mental picture of the world that makes this model's words and actions not only intelligible but worthy of being emulated: they are going to back-fill and CREATE a role model to emulate even when one isn't there. ALL kids are going to do this to some extent, if the material for a proper role model isn't available.

When we leave the kids in a school room for 8 hours per day, it is nearly impossible that the model be someone other than in the classroom. In most classes, the teacher is both not-cool personally, and a symbol of hated authority (homework), and cannot become the practical role model. That leaves some other adolescent, some "cool" kid who bends others' minds into viewing his or her adolescent "me" worldview into some strange normalcy. It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE for kids to come out of that with a healthy view of what the world ought to be like. (And that's if none of the teachers or administrators are intentionally skewing the texts and environment into evil ideas.)

Children are supposed to look up to adults and want to emulate them. That happens naturally with children looking up to their parents, if nothing in society interferes. That should last fully into teen years, at which point their personal horizon may expand enough to emulate SOME OTHER WORTHY adult, someone whose affect on the kid is still under the influence of the parents - parents ought to be able to suggest and encourage their teens to take up interests in other persons, interests that bring to life more of their personal aptitudes than the parents themselves can help along. And that encouragement should be directive so that your kids start looking up to other highly virtuous, highly worthwhile adults.

Yes, that can theoretically happen in a school. But practically it won't, not in a classroom setting. It might happen with a coach on a team. It might happen with an art teacher with whom your kid connects, including outside of the classroom activities. By it's nature, the teacher cannot really foster a close personal relationship, a mentorship, within the constraints of a normal high school classroom.

Reason number 263 why the modern school system is failing us.


I think also that most kids view the classroom environment as artificial. To them, the 'real world' is the one they share with their friends and peers outside the classroom. This is where they are most free and where their views of what's 'good' and what's 'bad' are ultimately formed. And, as that view becomes more estranged from the views of their parents, they begin to see their home life as artificial also. At that point the seeds of rebellion bear their ugly fruit.

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