What’s Wrong with the World

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


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Practical steps.

Reflective Conservatives are periodically haunted by the question, How do we resist Liberalism? They seek not a theoretical answer, however important that may be, but a practical answer. Liberalism at times seems a resistless force. It has subjugated to its unanswerable authority one of this country’s political parties; and it is on the verge of conquest of the other. It has very nearly made conservatism, at least in its mainstream guises, its vassal and sycophant. It has achieved enormous and ruinous advances into the territory of Christianity. Its opponents are numerous but fragmented, bewildered and largely ineffectual. What concrete steps of resistance should be taken?

Well, the elusive Jeff Culbreath, who with his family took the eminently and admirably practical step of abandoning a big city for the more tradition life of a small-town farmer, has reprinted some excellent advice:

Step one: Become a traditional Christian. Practice that faith in as muscular a way as you can manage. Learn everything there is to know about the Christian traditions. Be Christian on purpose and as forcefully and energetically as you can.

Step two: Forcefully purge all modernist and postmodern ideas from your mental landscape. (This may take many years, but is a most enjoyable exercise.)

Step three: Quit University immediately if you are in. Run! If not yet in, abandon any idea of going to University. (If you have already gone to University, go to confession and forget all about it.)

Step four: Begin to read the Classics of Western Civilization in philosophy and literature, starting with the Greeks and working your way up through the late antiquity guys, into Augustine then on to the Scholastics. When you get to the end of the 15th century, stop. Skip on to Newman. Stop. Skip again to Chesterton and Dawson. Stop again. Skip to Mortimer Adler and Gilson.

Step five: Stop reading and learn to sing, play an instrument, paint or do calligraphy (only one of these, not all at once.)

Step six: Get married to a practising member of your church.

Step seven: Have a lot of children.

Step eight: Teach them all that stuff you’ve just learned.

Step nine: Make sure you go to heaven and take as many others with you as you can.

Culbreath adds: “You can’t do this alone, in one generation, with your progeny scattered to the four winds.” You need a real community. “It is therefore critical to settle someplace permanent and attach oneself to an existing, living, breathing community . . . Find a real place with real character and a real history and become a part of it. Perhaps you are blessed with this already: that gives you a head start. ‘Love your neighbors,’ says Wendell Berry. ‘Not the ones you want, but the ones you have.’ The point is to ensure that your great-grandchildren, along with their families and neighbors and friends, are likely to be buried in the same cemetery plot as you are.”

Comments (13)

A lot of good stuff there. I wouldn't agree to stopping at the end of the 15th century, though. :-) What about Spenser? What about the poetry of George Herbert? Shakespeare and Milton?

Still, the gist is on the right track.

Slightly macabre question, apropos of "being buried in the same cemetary plot": Just how hard is it actually to have a loved one buried in a cemetary, as opposed to cremated, these days? I'm beginning to wonder if the "nobody does that anymore" thing is making cemetary plots passe, hence, prohibitively expensive, so that if you suggest a family cemetary plot, you're essentially suggesting that your heirs beggar themselves.

I like the general thrust here. Not sure I think leaving the city for the farm is the best advice. The Roman Empire was converted through the cities--paganism held out longest among conservative rural folk. If I had to bet on how our Post-Modern Empire will convert, I'd put my money on the city.

I'd also quibble with step four, "Protestant" that I am, but this list is stellar and reflective of my own personal journey — faltering though it is — to recover what was lost.

Step four: Begin to read the Classics of Western Civilization in philosophy and literature, starting with the Greeks and working your way up through the late antiquity guys, into Augustine then on to the Scholastics. When you get to the end of the 15th century, stop. Skip on to Newman. Stop. Skip again to Chesterton and Dawson. Stop again. Skip to Mortimer Adler and Gilson.

Step 4.1: Be absolutely certain to criticize everything you've skipped without reading. Read about Spinoza on the internet, and sneer at his "pantheism." Read some introductory literature on Leibniz and shake your head at the "idiocy" of the "monad." Be sure to hold Holderlin and Goethe in contempt, because, well, they have silly names. And don't read Martin Heidegger, because he was a nazi.

Step 4.2: Enjoy your smug sense of satisfaction and self martrydom when no one in the "academy" takes you seriously.


There is neither a necessity of reading Step 4 literally, nor as univocal counsel for all those, irrespective of their life ambitions, who possess an interest in preserving the Western patrimony for their children and the future of civilization generally.

In the first instance, one could well understand the step as an admonition against regarding most of the thinkers falling outside the parameters as conservators of the Western patrimony, which would be, at least in the case of most of the philosophers, a defensible judgment. One could also concede that the phrasing of the step is tongue-in-cheek, overstating an implicit case in order to convey a serious point, namely, the foregoing negative judgment of the relationship of certain philosophers and intellectuals to the Western tradition. Assuredly, one should read many thinkers who fall outside the parameters of the statement; what would an education be that did not encompass Goethe, Vico, Shakespeare, Maistre, and Nietzsche?

But this is to lead into the second instance which qualifies the statement, which I think that you would understand, given your reference to the academy: the layman concerned for the Western heritage does not stand in the same relation to the 'disputed' thinkers as does someone who aspires to the professional labours of the academy. The former is entitled to render a judgment as to the value of, say, Spinoza (though this should certainly be more than a sneer), and decline to spend much time reading him; there are, after all, many other things that will benefit him, and his children, more than a patient reading of the Treatise on the Improvement of the Understanding. The latter, on the other hand, though this may depend upon his specialization, may have to concern himself with a host of such thinkers and luminaries, for that is the nature of the profession. It may be hoped, however, that he will not consider Spinoza the equal of Aquinas as a constitutive force of Western order.

Speaking as a writer of contemporary analytic philosophy, I don't read Heidegger (any more than some bits years ago) because he wrote nonsense. And in this opinion I'm joined by lots of people in the academy itself who share neither my politics nor my religion. Moreover, there are a dickens of a lot more ways to be rightly taken seriously within the academy for your work than to toady (good British word) to specific icons. Fortunately there are some disciplines left in which one is permitted to disagree with well-known figures.

Of course, the writer of the advice in the piece is advising against a career in academe anyway. That makes a difference, too. And thank God that not everyone does go into the academy. Who would pay the bills--directly or indirectly--for those of us who do? More importantly, who would produce the food, the clothes, and the furniture we all use?

It's a good reader's digest for opposing liberalism.

MikeC reads the advice more seriously, probably because the question is so often answered with terrible seriousness. I won't make the mistake of forgetting to take his criticism cum grano salis.

I'd like to add another step, perhaps more seriously put. It's advice that might be accomplished in part by following the other ones, but it's important enough get its own space. Step 10, anyhow, is missing. So here it is:

Step 10: Change your dialogue to aim for the good, rather than yourself. As Lord Chesterfield might say, nobody is so important that they can't associate with God.

There is a difference between not having any particular interest in a thinker and making some sort of hasty judgement about them.

Heidegger wrote nonsense? Heidegger is going to stand in the tradition alongside Plato, Aquinas, Kant and Hegel long after Quine and Carnap are assigned to the dustbin.

I like your step 10, KW.

Golly! If I'd thought it would get reprinted, I would have given it more than five second's thought. I wrote these off the top of my head in a quickie email to a friend who was responding to someone else.

Don't go using these as the foundation for a new secular institute or anything guys.

...and for the record, I don't think people should need to leave the city. I'm not an agrarian type myself and believe that one should live as close as possible to a large library where one can at least buy a subscription. I know someone who dropped out of school in the tenth grade and spent four years living in London in a squat so he could purchase a subscription to the London Library and read his way through Aristotle. A more classically educated man I have never known, far outstripping other people I know who went to places like Cambridge before the 50's.

"One could also concede that the phrasing of the step is tongue-in-cheek, overstating an implicit case in order to convey a serious point"

Yes Mike, outside the liberal Matrix, we use what we like to call "rhetorical devices" such as "hyperbole" and "irony". I'm sure a well educated person such as yourself is familiar with them. If not, I believe they can still be found in older editions of the Oxford English Dictionary.

But I forget: this is the UN designated Take-Yourself-Deadly-Seriously Week. I shall try to remember to give a little spare change to the International Fund for Humourless Internet Pedants.


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