I have, like most blogs, a series of sidebars off to the right that link here and there to things and places I find of general interest.
Just because I link to them doesn't mean that I agree with them 100% of the time by any means. Indeed, if you find yourself agreeing with 100% of most websites you like, well. . . . you maybe want to rethink your approach to things a bit.
Anyhow, every now and then you can catch glimpses of synchronicity. It's always interesting when that happens.
One of the sites I link into is dedicated the English writer and philosopher Hillaire Belloc. The current entry from that site provides the following
CULTURES spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe; the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it—we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines—the very structure of our society is dissolving.Just below it is my link to the National Archives Tumblr blog where we learned, yesterday, that this is LGBT History Month. In the Tribune I read an editorial in regards to the current Administration and those in the "LGBTQ" "community". I don't know if National Archives is shunning the "Q" or just got confused on the expanding list of letters of the alphabet in this imagined category, but its entry provided:
In honor of LGBT History Month, we would like to share with you a federal court case from 1955 that led to a landmark Supreme Court case regarding the right of free speech, in which the Court held that speech in favor of homosexuals is not inherently obscene.
Tintern Abbey, Wales. This abbey passed from the Church into private hands in 1540 and the lead was immediately stripped from the roof.
Recently I listed to a BBC History Podcast in which the speaker was speaking on the Reformation. The speaker noted that he was not religious at all, quite the contrary, which in some weird way, as an English historian, may have allowed him to overcome the baggage that English historians usually carry on the Reformation. Having said that, a couple of English historians recently have come out with works that take a refreshing view on this topic. This fellow, to my huge surprise, pretty much condemned Martin Luther and then went on to condemn King Henry VIII, quite a departure from the usually propaganda of the Reformation view that English historians usually have (this is not, I'll note, a post on The Reformation or most certainly not on Martin Luther). One of the points this fellow disturbingly raised is that he was of the opinion that huge historical change, and disastrous change, can happen overnight.
Valle Crucis Abbey, Wales. It was closed by King Henry VII in 1537 and leased to a private owner. It's now protected by the Welsh government
I think he's right.
And I think we're living in a time that recalls that.
One of the great myths if history, or at least one of the great American erroneous beliefs about history, is that all history is progressive. We're always advancing towards some shining city on a hill. But as English history teaches us that is far from true (and we won't even dare to comment on what Russian history might teach us). At best we might be able to say that history is progressive over a very long time, but not necessarily during any one person's lifetime or even over a period of centuries in many cases. So, if a person is comforted by the thought that history must be advancing, they should be discomforted by the fact that it might not be advancing for you. No, not by any means. And true disasters and radical changes can and do happen nearly overnight.
Let's take the example of the English Reformation, and no I don't mean to pick on Protestants in general and those in the Anglican Communion in particular. Rather, I think the history of what occurred, particularly to average people and their culture, is extremely important and we can take our lead from the English historian noted above who, I might add, was a self declared atheist. As an earlier English historian who has written a book on the English Reformation has recently noted, up until Henry VIII's break with Rome, England was radically Catholic and defined its existence as a Catholic state with a Catholic monarch. When Henry could not obtain an annulment (not a divorce, Henry never obtained a divorce from anyone, contrary to the common opposite assertion) he determined that he, not the Pope, was the head of the Church in England, a view that the Anglican Communion today would regard as fairly absurd (and interestingly at least a few High Anglicans maintain today that, no, the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church of which they view themselves to be part of). So Henry acted to create what was then probably a schism but soon developed into more. Henry never attacked the Mass, but he destroyed the monasteries and soon after his death England was thrown into a state of religious strife that lasted basically until 1660 when the English Restoration occurred. During that century plus period the English lived in a state constantly on the edge of revolution with its social culture completely destroyed and a sort of terror frequently in place that would rival, to some degree, that of the more famous French model that would come a century after that. Catholic Priests were murdered. Peasants rose up in rebellion. Anglicans were suppressed by Calvinists. Anglicans suppressed Calvinists and Catholics. It was horrific.
Glastonbury Abbey, England.
For the average person in the 1530s, life in England became a sort of nightmare and this would continue on for decades. The overall result was that when England finally emerged from the era of endless strife much of its preexisting "Englishness" had vanished and would never return. When Episcopal parishes today look about and wonder why they are generally hurting in the United States (where a huge percentage of the population has English roots) and in England, part, but not all, of that answer lies with King Henry VIII's bedroom driving decisions of the 1530s. Indeed, a large portion of that lies there.
Again, this isn't a history of the Reformation in England, but the point is that Henry VIII destroyed the English culture in significant ways in just a few years. Prior to the 1530s there were Englishmen who held dissenting religious views to be sure, but after Henry VIII nobody could be secure in their views for long. Men and women in the pews went, by law, to their old churches week after week and attended services not knowing if they were Catholics or something else, served by a Priest who couldn't be sure if he was in schism or not, and an overarching terror existing for anyone who dared dissent, which many in fact did. Things to some degree would grow even worse when the same people were told that they were not to attend a Mass at all and that Christmas (along with sports) were being abolished in the name of religion, something that must have been distressing in the extreme. Largely powerless, although at least one major rebellion was attempted, most just went along with it no doubt feeling a constant feeling of distress.
Lincluden Abbey, Scotland. Still a ruin today.
We're undergoing something like that now, but not with religion, but rather human biology, although like the Anglicans to the Catholics, and then the Puritans to everyone, fundamental religious beliefs, along with fundamental scientific truths and also philosophical beliefs are being shunned so that the dissenters, recently the majority and maybe still the majority, play along.
We know more about biology than at any time in our prior history, and yet we are at war as a culture, or at least cultural leaders are, with our actual human nature, a nature which is fallen and far from perfect for anyone which gives rise to problems in everyone. We're a mammal, as we ought to know, with a high level of sexual dimorphism. That is, the two genders, and there are only two, are radically different in human beings. Humans, as a species, are extremely complicated and part of that extreme complication is due to our extremely high level of evolution. That evolution, in turn, has created a situation in which the two genders in human beings show more disparity between themselves than nearly (or perhaps) any other mammal. So great is the disparity that if human samples were viewed in a vacuum with no other knowledge about them a typical scientists would doing a Linnean classification would risk defining them as two separate species. Even our closest relatives in the primate family of animals are nowhere near as dimorphous as we are. And that uniqueness is not only merely in our appearance but it goes right into our core. The psychology of male and female humans is simply different and is different across cultures. Positive and negative human behavior, from a social point of view, repeats in predictable form across cultures and religions with perfect predictability by gender everywhere and throughout time.
We're now pretending that's otherwise, and like the agents of the King in the 1530s, we have actually reached the point where official and semi official organs of government and society require the populous, which held no such beliefs just a few years ago, and in which many doubt them now, to comply. The media insist that Bruce Jenner is a woman, and that his name is now Caitlan, even if only skillful surgery and drugs can create and maintain that appearance. The courts have determined that every American must agree that marriage can be contracted between members of the same sex, which has never been the case in our own history or the history of any other people until suddenly it arrived upon us via Justice Kennedy and his fellow travelers in an area of the law, marriage, that traditionally the Court rarely entered. As a result of that radical departure from the universal past and historical global norm, a baker from Colorado finds himself at the Supreme Court this term for running afoul of a Colorado commission that seeks to require him, against his will, to bake cakes for same sex wedding ceremonies. An American organization that's dedicated to promoting traditional views on marriage found itself without the ability to process credit card donations as its processor, a Wells Fargo entity (not exactly otherwise on the morally clean list recently) bumped them when another group defined them as a "hate group" for taking that view. The Boy Scouts have decided that girls can be "boy" scouts too. The military has determined that an occupation limited pretty much to men since men first picked up a rock and killed a member of another tribe, and which is clearly part of their psychological makeup, must be opened to women even if the NFL basically isn't. The same military has decided that maybe those who are confused about their gender and who seek to change it can somehow also serve in an occupation in which you fight other cultures who have no such confusion and who won't be sympathetic to the confused or their unique medical needs.
This will all have a bad end. It's not possible to take views contrary to nature over the long term. But it is perfectly possible to disrupt, and even destroy, a culture in the short term.
Iona Abbey, Scotland. This site has been partially rebuilt in recent years by the Church of Scotland.