The Belt loses its Bible

Can you imagine Holland without the windmills, France without the cathedrals, Italy without the opera, Britain without the warm beer or Russia without the cold vodka? I can’t.

But then neither can I fathom America’s Bible Belt without the Bible. Take it away, and the belt turns into a noose, throttling all life out of that part of the world.

Yet Texan schools don’t seem to share such qualms. Following parental complaints, many of them have withdrawn that subversive book. It’s regarded as unsuitable for children to see.

One vigilant parent objected to the Bible because of its “sexual content, violence including rape, murder, human sacrifice, misogyny, homophobia, discrimination, and other inappropriate content.” Splendid. Not a word out of place, each is unimpeachable.

The only problem I have is with that wishy-washy “other inappropriate content”. I would have been tempted to spell it out, extending the list to include incest, cultural appropriation, drunkenness, meat eating and cruelty to animals. But fine, even the offences mentioned are sufficient reason to put Bibles in a tidy stack and burn them in every schoolyard.

Now, when I lived in Texas (1974-1984), a school district in receipt of such a complaint would have forwarded it to the institution for the criminally insane. The next day that concerned parent would have received a visit from the men in white coats equipped with a stretcher, a straitjacket and a tranquilliser syringe loaded for horse.

Those were reactionary times though. These days no one questions the parent’s sanity, nor the legitimacy of his complaint. His deranged diatribe is seen as a call to action even in Texas. One wonders what more liberal states, such as Massachusetts or California, will come up with, what or whom they may wish to burn.

Much as I am appalled by such no-holds-barred hostility to Christianity, boosted by most refreshing ignorance of it, I’m not especially concerned. Christianity has survived Pelagianism, Arianism, Docetism, Catharism, the Enlightenment, Marxism, Bolshevism, Darwinism and whatnot.

I’d suggest we’ve made it into the semi-finals, and I don’t think anything concocted by those Texan educators or other clinical idiots will hold us back. A much greater danger is presented by otherwise intelligent atheists, who magnanimously acknowledge the social utility of Christianity.

In my view, such people are dangerous because they can use their talents and intelligence to peddle to the masses a perverted idea of Christianity without overtly rejecting it. Such thinkers as David Hume or, later, Tolstoy, or, even later, Max Eastman or, later still, Roger Scruton are deadly in this respect, much as they are commendable in others.

They all reduce Christianity to a moral system, while denying everything supernatural in it, everything that has anything to do with faith. Tolstoy even took the trouble of producing his own Gospel by merging the known four into one and cleansing it of everything he regarded as nonsensical, such as the Incarnation, the Resurrection, Virgin Birth, the Eucharist, the miracles. (For details, see – if you can find it – my book God and Man According to Tolstoy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.)

Tolstoy basically defined a Christian as a good man, making one wonder what he needed that term for. Why not just describe a paragon of morality as kind, charitable, honest and so on?

Then, of course, the writer espied with his eagle eye that morality doesn’t change substantially from one religion to the next. After all, none of them encourage people to be beastly to their neighbours, lie, steal and murder. On that basis, Tolstoy issued a redundancy note to Christianity – there’s no point in it if it’s more or less the same as all others.

All those thinkers are seductive, and they seduce their admirers into atheism by asking the wrong question: “Is Christianity good for society?” That way they draw people away from asking the right question, the only one that should matter to a thinking person: “Is Christianity true?”

This is a binary question allowing for only a yes or no answer. Each in turn allows for only one conclusion.

If Christianity is true, then the question of whether or not it’s socially useful is irrelevant. Any intellectually honest man is duty-bound to espouse it first and ponder the social ramifications later.

If, however, Christianity is some kind of protracted hoax, then the same man must reject it, taking his cue from those educational idiots in Texas. Claiming that Christianity is useful anyway is tantamount to insisting that a successful society can be built on the foundation of a lie.

All the men I name-checked were brilliant, as are some of my friends who agree with them. Yet the things I mentioned are so elementary and self-evident that their failure to grasp them is baffling. But only until one has realised something important about Christianity.

Whatever rewards Christianity offers to individuals or societies, it comes packaged with a severe punishment to be meted out to any intelligent atheist trying to interpret Christianity to suit his preconceptions. He instantly stops being intelligent, as if leaving his mind on the way into the argument, only to claim it back on the way out.

Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat,” was how Dr Johnson Latinised a popular Greek phrase. Those whom God wishes to destroy he first deprives of reason. Only temporarily, in some cases. Permanently, I’m afraid, in the case of those Texas educators.

P.S. The list of likely members of Liz Truss’s cabinet includes just one white man, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and even him only in a minor post. So where’s the diversity in that?  

Education, sussed out and put down

Petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson knows exactly what education is (rubbish) and what it’s good for (nothing).

Jeremy plus one on deck

For years now he has been posting an annual message of consolation when A-level results come out in August. Some pupils don’t get the scores to make it into a good university, but not to worry.

Clarkson is on hand to shine a ray of hope. The first part of every message is the same every year, with only minor changes of a word or two: “Don’t worry if your A-levels are disappointing. I got a C and two Us, but…”

The second part varies, depending on what part of his vulgar achievements Clarkson wishes to highlight. This year it’s: “…I’m currently holidaying on this boat.”

The boat in question is taking Clarkson and his girlfriend around Saint Tropez. (As an aside, the preponderance of people like him is making our friends sell their Saint Tropez houses and flee to less befouled areas.)

I’m surprised he didn’t add, “…and my girlfriend has long, shapely legs”, so perhaps this is something to look forward to next year. Those things have a monetary equivalent too, and the longer the legs, the higher the price.

Last year, the tail end of the boast was different: “…and I’ve ended up happy, with loads of friends and a Bentley.” In 2020, it was: “…I’m currently building a large house with far reaching views of the Cotswolds.”

This is an upgrade from the 2014 message: “…And I have a Mercedes Benz.” Things must be looking up for Clarkson – in a mere seven years he traded his Mercedes in for “loads of friends and a Bentley.”

He didn’t specify the exact models, but an average Bentley costs some £150,00 more than a high-end Mercedes. I don’t know the price tag attached to Clarkson’s ‘loads of friends’, but I’m sure they are all happy to sit next to luxury vehicles on his shop shelves.

The Top Gear presenter is occasionally amusing, but that doesn’t make up for the subversion he has dedicated his life to fostering. He is one of the most successful promulgators of the philistine heaven on earth: a life wholly signposted by material possessions, of which cars take pride of place.

I like cars as much as the next man, unless of course the next man is Jeremy Clarkson. He has elevated vehicular transport into a philosophy of life, and millions of people gobble it up avidly, McPherson struts and all.

That’s what I hate about cars. For me, they are purely functional machines. I like them to be fast, comfortable, steady around bends and aesthetically pleasing. That’s all. I refuse to detect any transcendent, metaphysical properties in cars, the kind peddled by advertising – and the likes of Clarkson.

I wish that were all they peddled. Alas, their wares also include utter contempt for life of the mind, spirit and beauty, the sort of transcendent cosmos for which universities were supposed to provide a launchpad.

That used to be their role and, at their best, they can still play it, sporadically. But few people these days understand education in such terms – the Clarksons of this world have done their job well.

Most people see university education as the starting point on a road to prosperity, and some degrees don’t disappoint. IT, computer science, engineering, medicine, law all score high in that department.

Humanities, however, are in the doldrums, which is reflected in a number of apt jokes. Such as: “What do you say to a philosophy graduate? I’ll have fries with that.”

To some, considerable, extent this is universities’ own fault. Humanities departments have been turned into indoctrination centres, with Marxism in its various genres acting as the mainstay of most curricula. But the real problem is deeper than just the ideological bias of humanities faculties.

They increasingly attract lefty ignoramuses full of ideological rancour because subjects directly linked with the essence of our civilisation have become marginalised, just like the civilisation itself. That’s why they draw individuals who find themselves at the margins of society and resent it.

The mainstream is formed by those who see life in strictly materialist terms, usually of the crudest type. They are the ones who have made Clarkson rich because he knows how to tickle their most vulgar bits effectively. He is their flesh and blood, and they are his.

And he is right: success defined by Bentleys, yachts and houses with a view doesn’t depend on a university diploma, although it may still help. Why waste years at university, accumulating student debts in the process, when you can do paid apprenticeship at a plumbing company (or, in Clarkson’s case, a local newspaper) and get a head start on an aspiring egghead?

I can confirm that on the basis of my own experience. The only decent living I’ve ever consistently made in the West came from advertising, a field for which I had no educational credentials whatsoever. However, I’d cite this as an example of a life wasted, not one of enviable success.

I have nothing against Jeremy Clarkson. In fact, I find him a charming and capable man who has earned his success, as he defines it. However, I do have plenty against a society shaped by people like him. Someone like John Henry Newman would be my preference, but, well, not in this life.

“I hate myself”

You must have uttered this phrase at least once in your life. I know I have, and more, much more than once.

But did we really mean it? Perhaps we did, on the spur of the moment. The moment might have bared its spur after we did something nasty, shameful, unkind, something we knew was wrong, something we knew we’d regret later.

Hence the precise way to describe our feelings about ourselves would have been “I hate what I’ve done” or perhaps even “I hate myself for what I’ve done.”

The sentence in the title is shorthand for that, but it’s misleading shorthand. For we tend not to hate ourselves in general. We may not like ourselves very much, but we still love ourselves. After all, though we like for something, we love in spite of everything.

Such love is tantamount to knowledge mixed with hope that things will end up well for us. We may be occasionally nasty, dishonest and rude, but we wish ourselves well regardless.

This simple observation provides a clue to some essential Judaeo-Christian commandments, which otherwise may seem baffling. Take “thou shalt love thy neighbor”, for example.

What, any neighbour? What if he tosses his rubbish into your garden, blocks your driveway with his van, plays intolerable music full blast through the night? How can you love that sad excuse for a human being?

By taking another look at the commandment, is the answer to that. For the form in which it’s usually cited is truncated. The full text of what Leviticus said is actually: “though shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” [my emphasis].

That’s why I started out by trying to understand how we love ourselves. For this is the only way in which we are expected to love our neighbour, figurative or literal – in spite of everything he is or does. We may hate all those things, but Leviticus says, if not in so many words, that we must wish him well in the end.

Here we must define ‘the end’, which means moving from the Old Testament on to the New. For, according to Scripture, just as there is death in life, there is life in death. The ultimate purpose of life is salvation, which gives it a teleological dimension that continues undamaged after physical demise.

Such is the ultimate meaning of a happy end to one’s life: if it’s to be happy, it’s not the end. Thus loving our neighbour only means wishing him ultimate salvation, not shrugging with benign indifference at the awful things he may be doing.

This explains Christ’s embellishment of Leviticus, who only extended love to one’s neighbour. St Matthew records Jesus’s words as saying: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

To any outsider this commandment sounds counterintuitive, to put it mildly. It also sounds like at least a correction of Leviticus, if not its outright denial. It’s neither though. What Christ said was simply a logical development, taking Leviticus to the next rational step.

The key is in the words “…pray for them…”. Pray for what exactly? That they stop doing those ghastly things to us? Such a prayer would be an exercise in futility, for those reprobates’ actions are a matter of their own relationship with God, not ours.

The only possible thing you could pray for is that, for all the horrible things that man has done, he will be saved in the end. In other words, it’s the same plea you enter not only for your neighbour, but also for yourself.

This explains why treating Christianity as pacifism is a woeful misunderstanding. Christ himself was unequivocal on the subject: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

This means Christ knew that his arrival would be divisive. Some people would accept it, others would turn against them with hatred.

They too ought to be loved, in the same sense in which we love ourselves and our neighbours. But this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be resisted, with violence if necessary.

Violence is evil, but it’s to be condoned when it prevents greater evil. Moreover, perpetrating such violence doesn’t contradict the commandment to love our enemies.

This is indirectly hinted at in Matthew 10: 28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The final reckoning is again relegated to life eternal, not life here and now. The worst fate to befall a man isn’t the destruction of his body in this life, say on the battlefield. It’s the destruction of “both soul and body in hell” – which is to say denial of salvation.

This is something a soldier fighting for a just cause mustn’t wish on his enemy even as he tries to kill him. Killing an enemy under such circumstances doesn’t mean not loving him in the sense of wishing him salvation.

This understanding lies at the foundation of the Augustinian (later also Thomist) concept of just war. That’s how some of the greatest minds in history reconciled just war – but only that kind – with the notion of Christian love and the commandments postulating it.

The same argument can be applied to capital punishment, which neither Testament treats as either cruel or unusual. A campaign against it can only proceed from purely materialist premises. That such a campaign has succeeded throughout much of the West proves that much of the West is indeed purely materialist.

A materialist regards as the ultimate tragedy the premature end to physical life, not denial of salvation in life everlasting. An executioner’s axe was seen in Christendom as an instrument of divine justice, which is to say an aspect of divine love.

The judge passing the death sentence, the priest administering the last rites to the condemned man and indeed the executioner prayed God had mercy on his soul. That way they expressed Christian love – not only for the man to be executed, but also for the society he had wronged.

History’s greatest Christian thinker (in my view greatest thinker tout court), St Thomas Aquinas, saw no contradiction between any Christian commandment and capital punishment. Natural moral law stated unreservedly that the state had the duty (and therefore the right) to protect its citizens not only from external enemies, but also from internal criminals. The former might have involved just war; the latter the death penalty, equally just.

Our materialist world equates the abolition of the death penalty with a high moral ground, which is simply wrong. For example, the death penalty was abolished in Stalin’s USSR between 1947 and 1950, which was one of the most evil periods in human history.

Millions of innocent victims were at the time tortured to death either quickly, in Lubyanka cellars, or slowly, in concentration camps. Whole nations were being deported to a slow, but certain, death. But there was no death penalty on the books, to the hosannahs chanted by Western ‘liberals’.

By the same token, the death penalty doesn’t exist in Putin’s Russia, one of the world’s most evil extant regimes. This doesn’t prevent it from murdering people extrajudicially, nor from waging genocidal war.

This is yet another proof of how hopelessly contradictory modern, which is to say, materialist liberalism is. And how logical are Christian dogmas, when one bothers to explore them in sufficient depth.

Who’s the likelier criminal?

Both men are black, but that’s where the similarity ends.

One is an Olympic sprinter; the other a sociologist cum philosopher. One is young; the other isn’t. One is named Ricardo Dos Santos; the other, Thomas Sowell.

Now imagine you are a policeman patrolling empty London streets at 3 AM. Both men drive past you in £60,000 cars, and your nose twitches. Which one are you going to pull over?

This is a no-brainer. Young blacks are statistically likelier to offend than whites, but old blacks aren’t. Thus, though both men are racially similar, statistics work against Dos Santos.

But policemen don’t just go by statistical probabilities. They also rely on the evidence before their eyes. They look at a man and match his appearance to the profile of a typical criminal they’ve had to nab many times.

Prof. Sowell just doesn’t fit it, whatever his race. His clothes are conservative, and so is his haircut. Neither does he look especially athletic or aggressive. In fact, he looks like a chap whose only brush with the law has been a parking ticket he got around Cambridge, Mass., in 1976 or thereabouts.

The muscular Mr Dos Santos, on the other hand, sports a cornrow haircut popular in gangsta circles, and our cop has had to chase similarly coiffed chaps through many a dark alley. Another strike against Dos Santos.

I am trying to reproduce the thought process sequentially, but I’m sure things don’t work that way in real life. All that analysis must have flashed through the cop’s mind in a fraction of a second, which was all the time he had to react. He pulled Dos Santos over, while Prof. Sowell kept driving on, definitely within the speed limit.

The situation is partly hypothetical, for as far as I know Prof. Sowell was nowhere near the A40 at that time. But Mr Dos Santos was indeed stopped by police there in the early hours of Sunday. Since this is the third time that has happened to him in the past two years, Dos Santos is going to sue the Met, claiming he was racially profiled.

Profiled he doubtless was, but not just racially. His cultivating a dope pusher’s je ne sais quoi must have had something to do with it as well.

I am sure Mr Dos Santos is an upstanding young man. In fact, once you’ve looked past the first impression, he comes across as one. Then why does he want to look like a gang member?

This is yet another vindication of my frequent observation: the gravitational pull of conformity is these days vectored downwards. Young whites don’t want to look like Jacob Rees-Mogg. They want to look like young blacks, and young blacks want to look like dope pushers on a Sarf London estate.

This is indeed a form of conformism, masquerading as individualism. Those youngsters think they are flouting ‘the establishment’ by refusing to look, talk and act like its members. In fact, they are lemmings, blindly following one another to the cultural precipice.

Mr Dos Santos is understandably irate. I know I would be if a cop stopped me for no good reason (or even with good reason, truth be told). Yet this isn’t what he described as “a harassment thing”. It’s police doing their job – something assorted ‘liberals’ are tirelessly working to prevent them from doing.

And their job involves profiling, trying to match an individual to a certain Identikit picture experience has formed in their mind’s eye. That way they have a better chance at preventing a crime, rather than responding to it post factum.

Unfortunately, this means some innocent black youngsters like Mr Dos Santos are occasionally going to suffer some discomfort. It’s tempting to put this down to the institutional racism of the Met, but that temptation should be resisted.

I’m sure black or Asian officers follow the same profiling pattern. Their suspicions must be triggered by similar factors, and race is only one of them. However, denying the racial aspect of criminality means ignoring facts, which isn’t what cops do – or are supposed to do.

I’m sorry to hear that Mr Dos Santos no longer feels safe driving through London. Perhaps if he made a bit of an effort to look like a law-abiding Londoner, his problem would disappear.

He should use Prof. Sowell as his role model or, closer to our shores, Sir Trevor McDonald. Looking like a gangsta may mean being treated as one.

Hollywood’s last shot at decency

The actress Anne Heche, 53, has died after driving her car into somebody else’s house at 90 mph.

Love doesn’t quite conquer all

I’m mildly upset because I liked watching her on screen. That had little to do with Heche’s thespian excellence, for I found her performances rather mannered and histrionic.

But my aesthetic standards leave room for compromise wherever good-looking actresses are concerned, and yes, I know how sexist this sounds. Moreover, moving right along from sexist to troglodyte, every time I admired Heche’s gamin pulchritude, I thought, “What a waste.”

For the actress was a lesbian, although she seems to have been versatile enough in her affections. Her omnivorous sexuality was only objectionable because everyone knew about it, and please don’t accuse me of moral relativism. All I’m saying is that even the strictest moralist couldn’t have objected to Heche’s lesbianism had she kept it under wraps.

But she didn’t. In fact, Heche turned it into a cause célèbre, much to the detriment of her career.

In 1997, when Heche was at her nubile best, she insisted on attending the premier of her film Volcano with her lover, Ellen DeGeneres. She had informed her Hollywood bosses of that intention beforehand, and they were furious.

You do that, they said, and you can kiss your Fox contract good-bye. Millions of dollars were at stake, but Heche valued her principles more. Even DeGeneres tried to talk her out of that attempt at career suicide, but Heche stuck to her guns.

As a result, she lost her contract and didn’t make another studio picture for the next 10 years. She managed to hold on to her role in the 1998 comedy Six Days, Seven Nights, but only because the studio was desperate.

The film had been intended as a vehicle for Julia Roberts, but she had walked off the set. Heche was brought in as a last-minute replacement, and the shooting couldn’t be delayed any longer, lesbianism or no. And Heche’s co-star, Harrison Ford, interceded on her behalf.

All those events unfolded 25 years ago, not an especially long time. But time can be measured not only chronologically, but also historically, culturally and socially. By those standards, 1997 wasn’t just a quarter-century ago. It was a different era, an age when even generally amoral Hollywood still had to take a bow towards conventional decency.

The obituaries praise Heche’s self-sacrificial heroism in her fight for LGBT+ causes. Obviously, had she taken the same stance in 2022, rather than 1997, she wouldn’t have to die to rate gasping plaudits.

If anything, today her career would suffer if she tried to stay in the closet. She’d be roundly castigated for cowardice, careerism and letting the side down. As it is, she is showered with posthumous accolades for courage in the face of reactionary forces.

However, those forces were never as reactionary as all that. Provided people’s private parts remained private, no one cared one way or the other (or both).

Staying with Hollywood, it was widely known that some of the top stars were open to unorthodox amorous options. Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Lawrence Olivier, Marlon Brando were all homosexual to various extents – at a time when homosexuality was still against the law in many American states.

But those stars lived according to the maxim by that great aphorist, De La Rochefoucauld (d. 1680): “Hypocrisy is a tribute that vice pays to virtue.” They didn’t just play roles; they also played the game.

Hypocrisy has a bad name these days. However, not just civility but indeed civilisation would be impossible without it. Hypocrisy is inevitable when society lives by certain norms of public behaviour (and if it doesn’t, it’s not a society but an aggregate of atomised egoists).

Whatever such norms are, they will always seem too lax to some people and too stringent to others. But as long as they all agree to live by those norms or at least to pay lip service to them, not to flout them too vehemently or openly, society will remain stable.

Amazingly, the shock waves of the sexual revolution still hadn’t quite destroyed civilised hypocrisy by 1997, 30-odd years after the explosion. Now they have, and transmorality has been added to transvestism and transsexuality.

Yesterday’s virtues have become today’s sins, yesterday’s sins today’s virtues. That’s how it has always been with revolutions: the saints of the old regime become the demons of the new one and vice versa. And the accelerating moral and cultural decline of modernity is nothing if not revolutionary.

Hence it’s not surprising that the moral about-face happened. What’s surprising is that it happened so fast, and the story of Anne Heche provides a useful speedometer of the metamorphosis.

Anne Heche, RIP.  

Those raving mad priests

Pounding, blaring din pumped through giant speakers. Youngsters twisting their bodies in a choreographic equivalent of an orgy neatly harmonised with a Nuremberg rally.

Blazing strobe lights that would kill an average epileptic. Inflatable balls being tossed up in the air. Booze everywhere.

Does this look like a Catholic mass to you? No, not to me either. However, Pope Francis is ecstatic – his confession has found new ways to attract teenagers.

The pioneering effort, called Rave4Christ, was undertaken by the Naples priest Don Michele Madonna, who took up the cloth after a successful career as DJ at his father’s disco.

Having found himself working in a poor area of Naples, Don Michele noticed that most of the local youngsters preferred crime to any productive activity. They could only be saved by Jesus, he decided, which conclusion was par for the course in his new profession.

But how could he bring them into the church, where Jesus could do his salvaging job? The task seemed impossible at first, but then Don Michele experienced a Damascene epiphany. I don’t know if he, like Paul, fainted and fell off his horse, but the effect was as revelatory.

Don Michele realised he had to blend the objectives of his new calling with the tricks of the old one. Once that overarching idea formed in his mind, the rest was a matter of mere technicalities.

A mass must be turned into a rave, but what could it be called? Clearly, the Italian language couldn’t accommodate such a daunting challenge – English, especially its Twitter variety, had to pick up the slack. Hence Rave4Christ, which makes the adman in me crack an avuncular smile.

A promotional leaflet flew off the press and into the shanty areas of Naples: “An evening in which we want to enjoy ourselves, dance, sing and stay together. And all for free, including the consumption (sandwich and drinks).”

What, no weed, no E, no meth, no oxy, no coke? Oh well, give Don Michele time to develop every potential of his brilliant idea. And develop it he will, considering the encouragement he has received from up high.

No, not quite from Christ himself, but from His Vicar, Pope Francis. His Holiness found time in his busy schedule to pick up the phone and congratulate Don Michele personally. The specifics of the conversation haven’t been divulged, but I wonder if the Pope had a few practical suggestions to make.

He could have stolen my thunder and reiterated the idea of dispensing free drugs. Or else turning the whole affair nudist – that too might put more bums, or in this case bare feet, on pews. Flagellation, body paint, perhaps even simulated human sacrifice (the police might have something to say about the real thing) – all these may herd even more of those criminalised youngsters into Don Michele’s church.

However, they would be unlikely to undergo a catharsis once there, at least not a Christian kind. The fact that deafening dance beats may accompany remixed Christian songs is meaningless.

Those feral teenagers won’t respond to the message even if they can discern it behind the incoherent electronic cacophony to which they gyrate. Can you make out the lyrics of pop songs at a rave or in a disco? I bet you can’t. I know I wouldn’t be able to, if I ever patronised such entertainment.

Don Michele and, judging by his response, Pope Francis refuse to understand that it’s not enough to draw youngsters into a Christian church. It must be done by Christian methods and to a Christian end.

The apostles didn’t convert people by bribing them with handouts and cheap, vaguely satanic entertainment. They did so by fiery sermons that ignited souls, inspired minds and changed lives. The task was hard, and they didn’t succeed every time. Often they ended up beaten, imprisoned, killed.

But they never renounced the dignity of their faith, never demeaned its grandeur, never resorted to vulgar tricks. They realised something that escapes today’s lot: neither persecution nor limited appeal will bring the Church down.

Persecution comes and goes, appeal ebbs and flows, but the Church survives come what may. Neither cruelty nor apathy can destroy it. But vulgarity can.

Our Anglican priestesses insist on wearing tight vestments accentuating their charms, claiming that would increase turnouts. (Looking at most of them, I can confidently predict exactly the opposite effect, but that’s beside the point.) Raves are routinely held in our great churches – we once fled from Winchester Cathedral when one was about to kick off.

Now the Catholic Church has begun to follow suit. The holy fathers ought to remind themselves that their job is to raise people to Christ, not lower Him to the basement level where vulgarity reigns.

Only church music belongs in churches. A Byrd motet, a Bach cantata or a MacMillan chorale do provide the requisite spiritual hoist, whereas pop din is bound to stamp the spirit into the dirt liberally mixed with vomit.

The deafening monotonous beat hinting unsubtly at coital gymnastics bypasses the mind and spirit altogether, appealing directly to the putrid swamp of dark cravings sloshing about in underdeveloped souls. The souls of those Naples louts are as underdeveloped as any, and they are guaranteed to turn Rave4Christ into Rave4Rave.

They’ll be leaving Don Michele’s church with the nihilistic beat imploding their heads, not with the words of Christ ringing in their hearts. My guess is they’ll be committing more crimes, not fewer.

Perhaps Don Michele ought to do some soul-searching and reconsider his career change. He may be happier back in a disco – once in, never out. I’d suggest the Church would be happier too, should he revert to his old trade.

The cutting edge of Islam

I’ve always thought that referring to literary criticism as lacerating is a figure of speech. Yet a young Muslim, Hadi Matar, added a literal meaning to it by stabbing Salman Rushdie 15 times.

That tragic event happened on stage, where Rushdie was about to make a speech commending America for being a safe haven for exiled writers. In that context, Matar’s crime may be seen as an illustration.

I watched Sky News coverage of the aftermath and was both shocked and amused. The shock came when an eyewitness referred to the stabbed writer as ‘Mr Rushdie’.

The writer can be addressed as ‘Salman’, ‘Rushdie’ or ‘Salman Rushdie’. However, since he was knighted by his friend Tony Blair in 2007, the only thing he can’t possibly be is Mr Rushdie. Sir Salman will do nicely, thank you very much.

Then there was a state trooper presenting the law-enforcement aspect of the ‘alleged’ crime. We are, he said, trying to establish the motives behind the murder attempt.

That I found amusing. Surely any sentient postpubescent human being must have heard of Ayatollah Khomeini who declared a fatwa on Rushdie in 1989. This means that any pious Muslim is supposed to kill Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. A large cash reward is also on offer, thereby appealing to people’s piety and greed at the same time.

Since then, unsuccessful attempts have been made on Rushdie’s life, and half a dozen successful ones on the lives of his publishers and translators in various countries. I doubt the state trooper in question possesses a keen interest in post-modern literature, but even in its absence it shouldn’t have been hard to figure out Matar’s motive.

When interviewed for background interest, Matar’s classmate put it in a nutshell, if unwittingly: “He was a very devout Muslim and one of the few things that I remember talking to him about was kindness.” The young man didn’t say how Matar felt about kindness, but it doesn’t seem he extended that virtue to cover writers whose work he found offensive.

As for his being a devout Muslim, say no more. Such piety presupposes blind obedience to Koranic prescriptions, and that book contains at least 300 verses obligating Muslims to kill infidels and apostates.

Offending Mohammed is also a capital crime in Islam, but someone has failed to explain to Muslims living in the West that their canon law has no legal force in their adopted countries. In general, it’s fair to say that efforts at assimilation haven’t been a uniform success among Western Muslims. 

That’s hardly surprising. The only approach likely to solve the problem would be telling Muslims in no uncertain terms that they should either abide by Western values or get out.

Yet such an uncompromising statement can only come from certain premises. The overarching one is that Western values aren’t just different, but better. Moreover, these are the only values by which a Western society will live. Everything else is and must remain a strictly private matter, reserved for one’s sitting room or perhaps some sort of community centre or prayer house.

Yet the ‘culture’ or, more appropriately, dictatorship of diversity precludes such premises, especially when it’s married to an unwavering commitment to equality. All religions, with their resulting cultures, are deemed worthy of equal respect and an equal share of voice.

That’s why Lefties can’t possibly object to Muslims marching through our streets with posters saying, “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to insult”. But of course it does, dears. One can’t think offhand of any constitutional document anywhere in the civilised world mandating freedom of only nice speech.

Yet flags with similar superimposed slogans have been toted throughout the West by all and sundry, such as feminists or LGBTQ and trans activists. They have succeeded in creating a subversive cancel culture whose very essence is denying free speech.

And Rushdie, the guiding light of the Occupy movement and a good friend of both Blair and Obama, has done his fair share of subversion. No doubt those two gentlemen will now make the usual speeches about their thoughts and prayers going to the stricken writer. They – and their likeminded comrades – won’t be put off by the incongruity of defending Rushdie’s right to free speech, while denying that right to those whose speech they find unpleasant.

I don’t mean that Rushdie has reaped what he sowed, and neither do I wish to gloat about his misfortune. I do despise most things he stands for, but I don’t see a knife as a valid way of expressing disagreement. So I do hope he recovers from his wounds.

Whether the wounds visited on our society by those who share Rushdie’s philosophy of life will heal as easily, if at all, is a different matter. As doctors in upstate New York are trying to save Rushdie’s life, I wish similar efforts were made to nurture the West back to health.

I spoke too soon

The other day I complimented the French on lagging slightly behind the British on the road to cultural perdition. But perhaps they aren’t as far behind as all that.

Makes you proud to be British

On 10 August we always go out to lunch because that day marks a sort of special occasion (made less special every year, if you ask me). Our area is really the back of beyond, so the choice of restaurants is limited.

But France being France, the four places within easy reach of us are all good. One in particular is our default restaurant for 10 August. We’ve had excellent meals there several years running, of the kind that would cost twice as much in London.

That’s where we booked. However, when we looked at the menu, we had to check to make sure we were at the same place. Gone was the scrumptious, inventive fare we knew so well. The few things on offer were basic stuff, the sort of food I could whip up at home in 15 minutes. I like steak frites as much as the next man, but that’s hardly a treat for a special occasion, is it?

When we asked what was going on, the waitress explained they couldn’t keep up their standards because of staff shortages. Considering that most of the locals subsist on benefits, one would have thought there would be no such shortages, but that’s a subject for another day.

Anyway, we walked out, and I did a Lewis Hamilton trying to get to another restaurant we knew before it stopped serving.

Alas, since last year that formerly nice place has been turned into a tapas bar with youthful proletarian music blaring as loud as the speakers allow, which is way too loud for our eardrums. Being neither youthful nor proletarian, we rang two other places, only to find out that they were closed on that day due to, well, staff shortages.

We drove home, where my claim of being able to cook such meals within 15 minutes was put to a test. However, Penelope isn’t the type to accept defeat. The next day she insisted we extend the special occasion and still go out.

Since our gastronomic expectations had been lowered, we went for the atmosphere, and a local restaurant set up in a converted mill is hard to beat. Its terrace overlooks a picturesque weir, surrounded by trees and flower beds. Good for the soul, that, even if the tastebuds are less happy.

The restaurant is popular with our friends, and we always bump into some of them when we go there. Yet on this occasion we recognised neither the customers nor the proprietors.

None of our fellow diners were what Penelope describes as PLUs (People Like Us). Oh well, vive la différence and all that. We aren’t snobs, are we? And even if we are, we shouldn’t be put off by the prospect of having one meal in the company of, to quote Penelope again, the salt of the earth. (I don’t think she uses the expression the way Jesus used it.)

Fair enough. Except that some of the salt of the earth, and all our waitresses, were heavily tattooed. Ankles, arms, wrists, necks, behind the ear – and that’s just the places I could see, leaving my imagination running wild.

Now, that presented a problem, one that had nothing to do with social awareness. You see, I physically can’t look at tattooed flesh, even if shaped as nicely as our waitress’s ankle. The revulsion is purely instinctive, not something I could successfully submit to forensic scrutiny.

One young tattooed woman was obese, square yards of bluish rumpled flesh spilling out of her XXXL tank top and short skirt. That gave her a lot of epidermal canvas to paint on, and she hadn’t wasted the opportunity.

The young lady was directly in my line of vision, slightly ahead of me and to the left. If I looked at Penelope across the table, the corner of my left eye had to feast on the body art, turning me off my food.

Searching for visual relief, I turned my torso slightly to the right, losing sight of the fat girl but still staying in visual contact with the left side of Penelope’s face. Alas, that wasn’t the only visual contact.

Now I could see a middle-aged couple to my right. They were holding hands, a nice romantic gesture so rare in our unromantic times. I would have been deeply moved, except that the man’s muscular forearm had a tattooed ring around it, about three inches wide.

To make eating at all possible, I let my eyes slide above the tattoo, all the way to the chap’s angular face topped by a buzzcut. That optical movement didn’t work out as well as expected, because I realised that the chap wasn’t a chap at all. He, or rather she (or whatever French pronouns she was using) was a woman. The romantic couple were lesbians, and they didn’t care who knew it.

I shared that discovery with Penelope, and at first she didn’t believe me. Finally, she squinted to her left discreetly, performed her own examination and wondered what the world was coming to.

Our quiet rural area has become unrecognisable in the 20-odd years that we’ve been spending half our time here. The ubiquitous tattoos, for example, are a distinctly recent phenomenon.

The local urban centre, Auxerre, is one of the loveliest medieval towns I know. When we first got to know it, it didn’t have a single tattoo parlour. Now it boasts half a dozen and, by the looks of it, their business is thriving.

The demographics of Auxerre, one of the five provincial capitals of Burgundy, have also changed visibly, in the direction of most commendable diversity. As a result, our fishmonger had to flee the area, leaving us at a loose piscatorial end.

His young wife could no longer walk through the city centre in the evening without being pinched, felt up or lewdly propositioned. And his children were taught at school that they ought to be ashamed of being white.

The man didn’t leave a forwarding address, so I don’t know where he went. I hope he’ll find the peace he’s looking for, but somehow I doubt it.

An observation I’ve made everywhere I’ve ever lived clearly holds true for this corner of Burgundy as well. When cultural deterioration starts, it has an accelerator built in. It’s like a snowball rolling down the hill faster and faster, and getting bigger and bigger until it falls off the edge and shatters to pieces in the abyss below.

The edge hasn’t quite been reached yet, not here anyway. But as Her Majesty’s subject, I’m proud to see how British culture makes inroads in France. All the Auxerre tattooing and piercing parlours have their signs in English.

Nazism is as modern as liberalism

Courtesy of Putin, debates about the origin and nature of evil regimes have perked up.

Close. But not quite

Political scientists, both in Russia and elsewhere, are arguing about Putinism. Is it fascism? Nazism? National Bolshevism? (I’m strictly mentioning plausible versions, not the panegyrics peddled by Putin’s trolls.)

Alas, when it comes to political terminology, confusion reigns. Words are used imprecisely, with their core meaning muted by emotional overtones. Connotation wipes out denotation. Subtext dominates text.

Even founders of political movements often don’t understand their true nature. That’s because political convictions aren’t always, and never merely, rational. As often as not they come from the viscera, whose miasmic emanations are impossible to put into words.

Those who attempt to simplify such devilishly intricate phenomena often end up with a product that isn’t so much simple as simplistic. But people who think along such lines deserve sympathy. For no simple explanations exist. Every polity is bound with such an entangled ganglion of synapses that even first-rate philosophers are routinely stymied.

However, politicians striving for popular appeal can’t afford the luxury of philosophising. They have to get their message across in short, punchy slogans that inspire decisive action, not nuanced thought.

Thus Hitler once defined Nazism as a “wholesale repudiation of 1789”. Shallow political thinkers of various hues got hold of that claim and began to portray both Nazism and fascism as some sort of archaic throwbacks to the pre-Enlightenment times.

The underlying thought is based on their unshakeable commitment to the ideals of the Enlightenment, belief in its axiomatic goodness. Hence the implicit syllogism: everything produced by the Enlightenment is good and modern – Nazism isn’t good – ergo, Nazism isn’t modern.

It’s true that all totalitarian regimes reject Western liberalism as the basis of modern polity. But liberalism is only a product of the Enlightenment, not its essence.

Its essence was revolt against Christendom, starting with the founding religion and proceeding to all its social, cultural and political manifestations. And every modern totalitarian regime mans the barricades of that revolt, continuing by various methods the gruesome work of the sans-culottes.

They are all godless in deed and typically also in word, with the pseudo-Christian rhetoric of Putin’s regime perhaps the only exception. Mussolini tempered his anti-Christian pronouncements because the Vatican still held sway over much of the Italian population, but that didn’t make his fascism any less atheist.

Hitler, along with Lenin and Stalin, didn’t even bother to lower the temperature of their atheist diatribes. They replaced Christ with a muscular human demiurge holding up either the hammer and sickle or the swastika, it didn’t really matter which.

The cultish aspects of modern totalitarian regimes aren’t pre-Enlightenment but pre-Christendom. They are pagan, with the nation acting as the bull’s head sitting on the totem pole.

Even when a totalitarian regime starts out by worshipping other idols, the nation eventually ousts them. Thus, although Bolshevism began as an internationalist cabal denying nationalism, it quickly evolved into a sort of National Bolshevism.

Mussolini noticed and approved. “Bolshevism,” he wrote in the early 1930s, “has developed into a sort of Slavic fascism.” His own regime insisted on tracing its spiritual origins back to the glorious pre-Christian days of the Roman Empire.

Yet nationalism, that ubiquitous, some will say defining, feature of all totalitarian regimes, didn’t exist in Rome and Athens. Nationalism didn’t exist at all until the Enlightenment ushered it in, along with the very concept of a consanguine nation.

People are by nature gregarious and divisive. They seek membership in a clearly defined group that both unites them and separates them from outsiders. When Christianity was removed as the spiritual glue, other adhesives were needed, and nationalism filled the gap.

The Enlightenment neatly blended it with liberalism by producing the concept of national self-determination, meaning that any consanguine ethnic group was entitled to statehood as of right. That elevated the state to the lofty plateau previously occupied by Christianity. Aspects of worship were bound to follow.

Thus the Enlightenment begat not only nationalism but also statism. That too, in its most virulent form, is a ubiquitous feature of all totalitarian states.

However, following the Ariadne’s thread of commonality, one may lose sight of equally valid diversity. For every polity is sui generis, a product not only of universal trends, but also of indigenous character.

Overstressing the commonalities may well obfuscate rather than elucidate. Thus Putin’s Russia is as much of an Enlightenment construct as Mussolini’s fascism, Hitler’s Nazism or Stalin’s National Bolshevism. For that matter, liberal democracy is also an Enlightenment construct, different though it is from totalitarian regimes in some important details.

However, while all totalitarians are anti-liberal, they are also pro-other-things. Those form a more or less universal palette, but different regimes tend to use some lurid colours more than others.

For example, corporatism is a child of statism, the natural offspring of post-Enlightenment state worship. Thus all modern states are either corporatist already or moving towards that ideal relentlessly.

However, totalitarian regimes are more consistent and less apologetic in their pursuit of corporatist control over the economy. The Bolsheviks pushed it to the natural extreme of total nationalisation.

Putin’s economy is as corporatist as Mussolini’s and Hitler’s, but it also includes constituents of both anarchic and organised crime that existed in neither Italy nor Germany. This blend is unique because, unlike those two countries, Russia has never developed stable laws and institutions underpinning economic activity.

That’s why transition from Bolshevik nationalisation to mock-Western corporatism created a multitude of loose ends, each avidly grabbed by itchy fingers. Italian and German corporatism, on the other hand, was more orderly and less prone to violent convulsions.

Putin’s nationalism is also somewhat different from Hitler’s and Mussolini’s. The latter saw Italy as a modern reincarnation of the Roman Empire, with himself as a second coming of Augustus.

Hitler, on the other hand, stressed the mystical, cultish, sylvan aspects of German identity. Those he blended with the Nietzschean Superman to come up with an ideal defined in strictly monoracial terms.

Putin’s brand of nationalism, while sharing some aspects with Mussolini’s and Hitler’s, adds to them a hodgepodge derived from traditional Russian messianism, suitably perverted Orthodoxy and imperialist Bolshevik universalism.

This blend is unique, which means that anyone drawing parallels with other totalitarian regimes must exercise caution. Nor is it easy to find the philosophical antecedents of Putinism.

If there is one thinker Putin openly identifies with, it’s Ivan Illyin (d. 1954). Putin regularly quotes this émigré philosopher, who combined Russian supremacism with frank admiration of Hitler and Mussolini, an emotion that outlived them both.

Illyin has acquired an iconic status in Russia on Putin’s watch, with the first part of his heritage brought up all the time, and the second, fascist one, ignored. Putin clearly sees Russia the way Illyin saw it, as a saviour of the world.

“No one nation in the world,” wrote Illyin, “has had the same amount of burden and the same task as the Russian people. And no one nation has gained out of these trials and ordeals so much strength, so much uniqueness and so much spiritual depth. Our Cross is heavy”.

That Cross is to be not only borne, but also used to bash resisters on the head. “Politics is the art of identifying and neutralising the enemy,” explained Illyin, and the soil of Putin’s Russia has proved fertile for such seeds.

Hitler, on the other hand, had no ambition of letting other nations reach out tropistically for the light shining out of Germany. His aim was to conquer, not to save, others. They were to be turned into servants to the German nation, not its doppelgängers.

All in all, it’s difficult, nay next to impossible, to describe any totalitarian regime, including Putin’s Russia, in the terms borrowed from any one discipline, be it politics, history or philosophy – or even from a combination of many such disciplines.

Usually, when a system of thought fails to arrive at truth expressible in terse, precise definitions, the system is faulty. Describing Putin’s regime as Nazi, fascist or even National Bolshevik is valid, provided we don’t expect to ride such taxonomic horses all the way to truth.

That destination could be best reached by a moral rating, which would make fine semantic distinctions largely irrelevant. Putin’s regime is evil, in the same senses in which Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and the Soviet Union were evil, but also in its own way.

That should suffice for all practical purposes. Theoretical puposes can only be served by a long book, not a short article.

The French aren’t quite British yet

This penetrating insight is prompted by an incident at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris. Or rather by the ensuing French news bulletins.

Two hours ago as I write, a man brandished a knife at Terminal 2F. When police officers asked him nicely to drop it, he rushed at them, only to be killed by a single shot for his trouble.

Now, my recurrent gripe about modernity is that it fosters uniformity – not only among individuals but also among countries. These days they all tend to speak woke in every language under the sun, pledging allegiance to any modern perversion on offer.

Yet, for all the efforts to expunge differences in that respect, they persist. It’s not that some Western countries refuse to go woke – heaven forbid. However, they tend to proceed at slightly different speeds.

Looking at the three countries I know from personal experience, I notice that Britain is some 5-10 years behind America in its embrace of political correctness, whereas France lags behind Britain by the same margin.

The news bulletin flashing across my screen is a case in point. Every French news service states that “a terrorist motive cannot be ruled out”. This is proper woke language under such circumstances, and it goes into English word for word without giving anyone a start.

Exactly the same words would be used if an Air France liner were blown to pieces by a bomb. Until some group claimed responsibility for the act, it wouldn’t be described as unquestionably terrorist. A possible terrorist motive would represent the outer limit of the claim.

A slight variation on the theme comes into play whenever a suicide bomber screams “Allahu akbar!” before self-detonating. In that case, reports tend to say that “a religious motive cannot be ruled out”.

That’s allowed, provided it’s kept nice and generic: ‘religious’, not specifically Muslim. That keeps the possibility open that the scream of “Allahu akbar” could have been issued by a Methodist, Mormon or Mennonite.

So far so good. Even though the words used by the news services are French, the spirit behind them is British, American, universally woke. But then the bulletins let the side down.

The knife-wielder is described as a “large homeless man of colour”. Excuse me? What does his race have to do with the price of gas?

Are they implying that a man of colour is more likely to pull a knife on policemen? Even if they are not, how is this information conducive to anything other than stoking ethnic hatred? Such unpardonable racism would be strictly off-limits in the lands of les anglo-saxons.

And don’t get chromatically pedantic on me, claiming that white is also a colour. Not in this context, it isn’t.

White is allowed to become a colour only to identify the perpetrators of colonialism, slavery and general oppression. When a news report talks about a man of colour, especially a large one “of no fixed abode”, it means a member of one of the historically oppressed non-white races.

Not all of them, mind you. Thus, I’ve never heard of a Chinese or Japanese described as a man of colour. Perhaps they haven’t been oppressed enough to qualify for that distinction, I don’t know.

No, a man of colour has to be black or Arab, possibly a black Arab. So let me tell you: no British report would be as brazen as the French one in question.

When the dead man’s identity, complete with photographs and neighbours’ acounts of his sterling character, has been released to the press the next day or the day after, then yes. Within minutes of the incident – absolutely not.

So I repeat: in this respect, the French aren’t quite British yet. Thank God.