Saturday, October 2, 2010
I've been meaning to do a review of Wendell Berry.
As I dig deeper into my Christian patrimony which I have inherited (and have yet to make utterly, entirely my own, though the heart which has once loved, never forgets), I keep coming up against certain contours that endure. In addition to a skepticism over Aquinas (due to his intellectualization of Christian faith) and all other systematic thinkers (including Calvin), I often find myself drawn towards Southern Agrarianism. No modern thinker embodies this tradition better than Berry.
I also have an affinity for Eastern Orthodoxy, which likely stems from their large measure of freedom from "white guilt", a leftover Puritan hangup that has been secularized until it largely means attacking one's political opponents and loving one's non-neighbors so that they don't come kill you and take all you have. Puritan theology emphasized sin so heavily that it was inevitable that this took a toll on the Western ego. In Orthodox theology, sin is emphasized, but not at the expense of free will or the good impulses of man. Although they join with us in praying that ALL elements of our nature would die and be resurrected (good & bad, in different forms and ways), they insist with Saint John Cassian that man's freewill and original nature is still "good". Man is fallen in his integration with himself and his assimilation with God, but this doesn't make him a "pile of dung" in every respect, except when held up against the immediate presence of God in an arrogant way. Orthodox Christians still have ethnic/national churches, and aren't ashamed of being "Serbian" or "sons of Japeth". In fact, they count it a means of grace, which indeed it is.
In our modern hyper-Protestant world of unitarian/universalist secularism (degraded DNA from rationalistic Puritans), both white nature and natural Nature (green Nature) are subjects of manipulation, contempt & control. Creation is not "good" until it has been landscaped and divided into suburbs, preferably integrated and multicultural ones. There is no such thing as a "happy union" of Luck, Nature & pious Man living on the land. Thus, there can be no "American" identity. Identity is what we make it, which is largely a matter of channeling or co-ordinating the ferment of the rainbowed Masses with the lever-pulling of politically correct bureaucrats. These Satanic operators of the "dark Satanic mills" (the machine of Science & Empire) make sure that both man and Nature are plasticized and rendered inert to the operations of CenterCom, which emanates from charismatic elites able to surf the rising Chaos. Thus, the "heartland" shrinks every year under the hammer and the anvil.
Wendell Berry is opposed to all of this, although he wouldn't put it in such a way (he says it even better):
"Despite its protests to the contrary, modern Christianity has become willy-nilly the religion of the state and the economic status quo. Because it has been so exclusively dedicated to incanting anemic souls into heaven, it has, by a kind of ignorance, been made the tool of much earthly villainy. It has, for the most part, stood silently by, while a predatory economy has ravaged the world, destroyed its natural beauty and health, divided and plundered its human communities and households. It has flown the flag and chanted the slogans of empire. It has assumed with the economists that "economic forces" automatically work for good, and has assumed with the industrialists and militarists that technology determines history. It has assumed with almost everybody that "progress" is good, that it is good to be modern and up with the times. It has admired Caesar and comforted him in his depredations and defaults. But in its de facto alliance with Caesar, Christianity connives directly in the murder of Creation. For, in these days, Caesar is no longer a mere destroyer of armies, cities, and nations. He is a contradictor of the fundamental miracle of life. A part of the normal practice of his power is his willingness to destroy the world. He prays, he says, and churches everywhere compliantly pray with him. But he is praying to a God whose works he is prepared at any moment to destroy. What could be more wicked than that, or more mad?"
What has Christ to do with the dark Satanic mills?