Friday, January 15, 2021

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture, Roger Scruton

 I found this review to be "useful", though less positive than I am on the book. 

My kitties have declared that I need to post this warning that the moose is NOT an "intelligent person", but a moose of little brain. Honesty is the best policy! 

As a Confessional Christian, I was struck by this statement on page 7; "In religious belief and observance, it is not the large differences that count, but the small ones. The nearer someone is to me in his religious convictions, the greater my revulsion to the 'errors' which divide us". 

At one level I agree -- at least for more conservative evangelical churches, splits over "issues" like "what conservative Christian university you support", and even more minor, like "you allow women to dress too stylishly" are common. I suspect the Amish have a lot of discussions about proper piety. 

In this secular age, however, where Christians are a clear minority in the West, I find this to be "less true". I very much appreciate a monthly table talk at a local pub which usually is half Catholic and half Missouri Synod Lutheran. Both believe in the same creeds, and both agree on what are now considered  by the secular culture to be "social" as opposed to "religious" differences -- abortion, gay "marriage", transgender, etc. Very civil and useful talks, however we still do not share the communion table. I see that as appropriate, however we are on the same side of the barricades in today's culture wars. As this book makes clear, culture is CRITICAL!

OTOH, it would be a more difficult (however maybe more valuable) if the discussion included a Baptist (or other "fundamentalist"), and an ELCA Lutheran (or other "mainline")  Christian faith. The confessional churches generally agree on the social issues, and on the inerrancy of scripture, although they disagree on the specifics of the sacraments, and of course, the pope. The "mainline" faiths generally agree on the creeds to some degree, sometimes marginally on the  "real presence" in the sacraments (though usually they practice "open communion"), where the confessional churches do not. Some of the more strict "fundamentalists" weight "be ye separate" as a more important admonition than "love even your enemies", which would seem to ban "shunning". Those who have left the particular "fundamentalist" faith usually fall far short of being "enemies". (there are certainly verses that can be taken to support "shunning")  ... a topic not for this post. 

It's complicated. In 1974, a personal "young love" relationship I had was broken up firmly by her Catholic dad. She was a good daughter that honored her father, so "that was that". Today, the mainline Christian faiths, and even many (most?) of the confessionals would take an "evangelical and catholic" union as "what a relief"! The "mainliners" might be slightly stressed by a gay or some sort of transgender union, but it would be highly unlikely they would not accept it -- significantly because there would be no question that the children would not respect the parents wishes, and would very likely shun them -- "Honor your father and mother" is very nearly a thing of the past. 

From the mainline position, marrying a "conservative", or (Horror!) a Trump supporter, could lead to estrangement -- with a very high probability of estrangement if the parents were on the "confessional/conservative" side. In the modern world, "politics" and the secular humanist faith trumps all, especially family. That is one of the points of the book. Being woke is "morality", all others are deplorable, including your family. The secular IS the culture. 

On page 32, we find; "Rational activity involves both ends and means. In a technological age we acquire increasing grasp of the means to our goals, and a decreasing grasp of the reasons we should pursue them". Amen.

"The mystery deepens In a consumer society, when all channels of social life are directed to consumption" ... [of things, of entertainment, of signalled "virtue", etc.]

The book assumes that religious belief is impossible for most of the general population in the Darwinist "Secular Age" -- at least for the intelligent/educated. Since I fail the intelligence test, my religious faith proves my stupidity from a secular view. The book asserts that "higher culture" is a possible replacement for religion, and that a continuation of culture demands a replacement,  even if it is just living "as if" your life has eternal meaning. Scruton practices the Anglican faith -- this article goes into some depth on his fairly complex faith. I'm a lot less judgemental than the article -- my personal experience and faith include at least significant periods of doubt and practicing "as if" faith is a "solid rock", even in the dark nights of doubt and or despair. Sometimes it doesn't "feel" that way -- which is why practicing my faith in daily devotion and regular communion is critical. Even if it involves risk, as in the age of Covid. 

Higher culture is classic art, classic, music, sculpture, architecture, etc ... read the book for more. I'm REALLY stupid (though attempting to study) in those areas. I'm bourgois to the core. Scruton has been one of my guides on that path ... though I'm a poor student. 

The old Western "common culture", ("bourgeois") is a special object of hatred to the "post modern / woke". As we find on page 129, "Those who propose alternatives [to the bourgeois society], however never study them. They are led by hatred of the present to a blind faith in the benefits that will come from destroying it." A statement I could not agree with more. 

To me, it seems like after seeing the USSR, Nazi Germany, North Korea, Communist China, Venezuela, etc -- in my mind, temporal examples of hell, the left says "yes, let's give that a try"! In a modern version of Milton, "I'm happy to live in hell as long as those damned bourgeois are punished"! 

In the conclusion; "We have knowledge of the facts, knowledge of the means, but no knowledge of the end." I would add that the "facts" known by the left are purely materialistic. They are devoid of what makes us different from automata, ... any idea of "beauty, love, the soul, etc" is at best an inconvenience. 

As a deplorable moose, I dare to be stupid. 

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