Thursday, September 29, 2005
Vessel and Spirit
Part of my cultural or even my American awakening, which I will date from 1978/9, just in time to vote for Reagan, thank goodness, included the realization that the health of Christianity is important to the safety of Jews, since we've never been safer than we are here and now, in this broadly Christian nation.
I began to see that if Christians didn't renew their faith, they'd go into default mode and become the thing humans become when they're not religious – pagan. Nazism was such a pagan anti-Christian rising in Europe that we thought was a one-off. We can now see that it was no such thing.
It never occurred to me that the problem that had earlier attacked Christianity would infest itself into (some) Christian institutions. If a number of high church Protestants were comfortably anti-semitic through the 50's and 60's and beyond, that was just the echoing of an ancient prejudice through their families, a childhood virus. It wasn't by any means their ministers who were exhorting them to it.
But now the Anglican Church, behind the fig leaf of an academic boycott, is essentially characterizing Israel as an illegitimate state. They don't say outright what should be done about this illegitimate state. That's left to the imagination.
I'm not the first to notice this slow-motion putsch that's been going on, this infiltration of the institutions that at one time presented themselves to the public as the repositories of our moral traditions. One by one they've either been hobbled or at least taken an eight-count. Academe, the Judiciary, to some extent the Catholic Church (though I foresee a great 15th round comeback following a season of spiritual upheaval and renewal), even Major League Baseball for heaven's sake (and there with no comeback in sight), and now the Anglicans.
Now does all of this give us reason to wring our hands? Not at all.
Ronald Reagan often told the extremely Jewish-sounding story of a boy whose mean father, after promising him a pony for his birthday, gives him a shoebox full of horseshit.
"Oh, great," the boy exclaims, "there must be a pony around here somewhere!"
"There must be," I will exclaim, "keepers of our moral traditions around here somewhere!"
A door closes, and a window opens, as the Yiddish proverb goes. Not only are there plenty of such moral leaders still in pulpits, quietly seething at the power grab occurring over their heads, but I sense their existence also in our companies (which are almost surrogate societies and where a lot of the true action is), and in our military, and in our better, front-line charities and NGOs, and elsewhere. There may even be a few on the net. (My own candidate for net-based moral guru is Hugh Hewitt).
If these moral leaders among men and women aren't populating the institutions they used to populate, it may be because there is now so much more scope for action in the world, indeed for moral action in the world. So we shouldn't be surprised if our moral leadership is a bit more spread out on the ground.
Let a few radicals grab the reins at this church or that college in an act of moral piracy. Nobody's going to follow them anywhere. We're not the gullible rubes we used to be. We've got each other now, and at the flick of a wrist.