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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Democratic Man

Can he be saved? (From Fr. Stephen Freeman).
Everywhere he goes, he meets his equals. All of the world is open to him, bidding him enter in, take what he wants and go his way. Early on he learns to negotiate his way through competing crowds of others, jostling for position, asking for attention, making his way forward. His direction is a matter for decision – first this way and then that. He migrates at will, following an inner guide that says, “Go there. Take that. Move on.” He becomes what he wants to be and learns what he wants to know. He chooses his mate and negotiates his marriage, contracting for his happiness. If he chooses, he will have children. If not, he has none. He will turn back disease, and even replace parts and improve his lot in life.

This is the Democratic Man.

Can such a man find God, or even be saved?

That may sound like a strange question, but it lies at the heart of the modern religious crisis. For God is not a choice. He is not just one more product waiting to be consumed or ignored. He is decidedly not democratic. This is a difficult problem, for the habits of the democratic man are utterly unsuited to the spiritual life. In the true spiritual life, you cannot have what you want, or simply go where you would. You cannot choose what you will become or even say just anything. You are free but with a freedom that is a stranger to democracy.

The modern Christian is generally a democratic man. It is a habit of the heart formed by the culture we live in. It forms and shapes us for unbelief and the god of unbelievers. The democratic man cannot believe in God.

He cannot believe in God because the democracy of his heart has no place for true faith. He has the mind of a consumer and wants to choose his faith like he chooses everything else. But we cannot choose to believe or what to believe. Faith is not a choice.

Modern America of course cannot countenance such talk. Choice in everything--not the least including such biological realities as gender, sexuality and pregnancy--is the modern American creed. In case you hadn't already figured this out, no other creeds are allowed.

Walkerton, Indiana is the very definition of Podunkville. A TV reporter travelled there from the cosmopolitan environs of South Bend on the important mission of revealing hate at a local father-daughter business, Memories Pizza.

A local Indiana ABC station spoke to a pizzeria Tuesday night who will not serve to same-sex marriages after the Indiana law was passed.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Memories Pizza owner Crystal O’Connor told ABC 57. “We are a Christian establishment.”

O’Connor said the business is not discriminating against anybody, but she and her family has her beliefs and other people are entitled to their own.

“We definitely agree with the bill,” she added, saying she doesn’t think the bill targets gays or discriminates but instead protects businesses like hers who have a religious belief.

ABC also spoke to her father: “That’s a lifestyle that you choose, I choose to be heterosexual, they choose to be homosexual—why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?”

The business said if a gay couple stepped into their business, they wouldn’t deny them service—they just wouldn’t cater their wedding.

"Now if you'll excuse me," said O'Connor, "I've got to make sure our Negro slaves are properly stacking the Jews in the ovens."

Okay, I made that last part up. The comments I've read are incredible: they would crucify these people if they could. Gays and liberals hate, despise straights and conservatives far more than straights and conservatives grouse about merely allowing people to pursue their separate paths. In one of the last outlets allowed them, social conservatives have voted with their dollars to support the O'Connors. Probably, they will be able to re-open their business, because I don't foresee a lot of liberals trekking to Walkerton, Indiana to make good on threats to burn the place down.

Americans have become obsessed with the idea that they are absolutely and always entitled to be free from discrimination. This is from a random comment over at Dreher's:
America was founded on the idea that equality is a human right because living free from discrimination matters in a uniquely life-giving and powerful way. We need to take that birthright seriously, or we become a people alien to our own founding principles. Universal Equality is precisely what allows a pluralistic society to live together in peace.)
This is an astounding, ahistorical belief. Does equality exist anywhere in the natural world (much less in antebellum America)? A nuclear-armed central government enforces the delusion that all men men and women human beings are equal. We are not, we are demonstrably not, and billions of dollars and much tears are shed pretending that we are.

There is a way for pluralistic societies to work, by the way. It's called 'Hierarchy,' and if it violates sensibilities, well, that's what separate countries are for.

Getting back to Fr. Stephen:
I was recently in an Orthodox Church that was very “old world.” Its habits were formed and shaped in centuries devoid of democracy. The splendor and solemnity of hierarchy were everywhere. Quietness reigned. Certain precincts were off limits. Behavior took on the ritual of a royal court and the hiddenness of certain things was palpable. And strangely, the presence of God was obvious.

“Didn’t you feel it when you first walked in?” A woman whispered to me as we stood in the nave. Yes, I did. And not for the first time. Entering this wonderful cathedral called for leaving democracy at the door. In a few minutes a priest came to me and told me to follow him. I went “into the altar,” passing through the iconostasis that separates the nave from the Holy Place. It is a privilege given to priests – to enter the altar and to serve. But it is never a privilege that can be assumed or demanded. I have no rights. Once in the altar, the priest directed me to his Archbishop, who blessed me and told me that I would be taking part in the service and that I would serve “in English.” He did not ask, he directed. I obeyed.

The democratic heart cannot obey and cannot know the “obedience of faith.”

Christians in the contemporary world struggle with these contradictions. It is clear to most that God cannot be their own invention, and yet they have great difficulty overcoming the inventiveness of their hearts. Where tradition and custom are overthrown, only democracy can reign, and the hardness of the heart begins.
The secular worldview and the Traditional worldview are incompatible, and these are ontological questions that cannot be decided by a vote. As with Protestant-Catholic Ireland and Shia-Sunni-Christian Lebanon, about the best you can do is allow people their safe harbors, from which they can act and interact as they choose. Incredibly, this is the one "choice" that can never be allowed. In the US, the secular ideal is enforced by a nuclear-armed central government which itself is in dangerous fiscal and imperial overreach. If you do business in this society, you must accommodate all attitudes and behaviors, because that's the governing creed. Not even some tiny father-daughter shop in flyover country can be allowed any deviation.

The competing worldviews are in that awkward stage between ballots and bullets, so we should separate now before the shooting starts.

5 comments:

anonas said...

Alright, AG, you've suggested breaking up the country enough times to where it's time to pony up. What would a future map look like?

lannes said...

Unfettered "choice" is now limited to Liberals. Conservatives might choose, but only that which doesn't hurt anyone's feelings.

Visibilium said...

Like it or not, my choices rely on the willingness of vendors to fulfill those choices. For example, I have particular business dealings with a lesbian couple. I don't approve of their relationship, but, then again, they've never asked me for my opinion. My business dealings with the couple are entirely satisfactory, and I have no interest in initiating an anti-gay rant, which could be considered to be disrespectful.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

anonas:

I don't know about a map, but the neighborhoods will look something like this.

Toddy Cat said...

I have said unkind things about Rod Dreher in the past, and I still find his opinions on a number of issues absurd, but he has been all over the religious freedom issue. Good for him...