Christians like to believe that our age is a frightening one, an age in which everything is allowed, and all the horny powers of hedonism run rampant. The Godless — God bless ’em — believe the same, but as far as I can tell, they’re happier with the prospect.
We’re all becoming pagans, the Christian frowns, using that wonderful, royal we. We’re becoming pagans, the Godless smile back, shaking off the cruel bonds of organized religion.
Lol, pagans? C.S. Lewis asked. Then:
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs…
And I believe he drove his stake through the heart of the Stupid, for both the Christian and the Modern mistake this age for something hard. The Christian sees all the licentiousness, barbarism and relativism as terrifyingly bad, and thus attributes to it — intentionally or not — the hard qualities of Strength, Magnitude, Viciousness and the like. The Godless see it as brave and rebellious and thus attribute to it the same. But this is not a hard age. This is a flaccid age, an age of Viagra, angst and gossip.
The pagans, by which I refer to pre-Christian Western man, may have been unwilling to accept that strange doctrine of the Son of Man, but they willingly accepted that they were sons of men. They may not have known how to be Christian, but they knew how to be human. The post-Christian, having left Christ, is in the busy process of altogether leaving Man. With respect to those delivering our daily mail, one might say we are moving increasingly to the Age of the Post-Man.
Think about it: Christianity is still attacked — one would hardly deny the fact — but the Christian today is rarely summoned up to defend the Holy Family. He is instead forever being called to rise to the defense of that Pagan institution, the human family. The fundamentally human idea that a vow is a thing forever kept is an idea weary and battered by divorce. That natural, human understanding that a child is Good is an understanding contracepted from our hearts. That our elders are a hell of a lot more important than ourselves is a thing that must be defended against the cult of progress, the cult of the youth, euthanasia and all the rest. Many fault Christianity for adopting elements of Paganism. I praise it for the same, for that she adopted was well worth keeping.
As Lewis says, “Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not…” Indeed, and I would sum it so: The Pagans may have had false Gods, but they had real men. The post-Christian attempts to be God, and loses man in the process.
I needn’t plunge the well of history to show that the Ancients killed each other. Have a particular favorite: In the Battle of Clontarf, The Irishman Wolf the Quarrelsome hunted down the Viking murderer of his older brother, cut open his stomach with a battle-axe, pulled out his entrails and tied him to a tree with them. Whether the story is true or not, it exemplifies a zeitgeist that saw such thing as worthy of praise and storytelling. Their battles may have been wrathful and sinful, but they were certainly heroic.
The post-Christian world kills each other — more so than the ancients ever could have imagined — but our death is dealt from a distance. Our wars seem cleaner, more intellectual, justified, and reasonable; led by economic self-interest, not by blind blood-wrath, and yet our solders are more likely to kill themselves afterwards then die in them. Why? Why is modern warfare so depressing, where it was once heroic? There’s no statistical evidence of any sort, but I highly doubt that — in the aftermath of any of the great Pagan wars — more warriors killed themselves than died in battle. Our post-Christian world still retains the evil of the Ancients, in this case magnifying it, but that same evil loses its intoxication, its confidence and pride. Somehow I doubt the Pagans would be impressed with our Drone attacks.
Again, allow me to quote the Narnian: “Theology, while saying that a special illumination has been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men. The Divine light, we are told, ‘lighteneth every man.’ We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story—the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth.” The Pagan world awaited Christ as a virgin awaits her bridegroom. In her myth and legend she whispered of Christ. The post-Christian world leaves Christ as an adulteress. In her timidity and weariness she slanders His name. They are both without the fullness of Truth, but oh, how much happier the Pagans must have been.
Do I romanticize? Perhaps. But it does seem that the world is in desperate need of conversion, not at first to Christianity, but to Paganism. Not to that Americanized silliness that seems to be under the impression that Paganism largely comprised of the eating of the proper roots at the proper times and idolizing liberal politicians, no: The world — myself included — needs to learn what it means to be human.