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The Way of Education Living Under Law

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The Way of Faith

by Christopher Chantrill
January 01, 2005 at 12:18 pm

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WHEN PEOPLE make the great migration from the country to the city, how do they acquires the skills of the city? How do they adapt from the life of the sun to the life of the clock? How do they change from a life in thrall to a noble lord to a life in thrall to the almighty dollar? It is clear that one road is faith, the monotheistic faith of Judaism and Christianity that encourages its believers to cast aside the life of instinct and impulse and build instead a life of faith and purpose.

But weren’t the people in the countryside—the peasants and farmers—religious, and didn’t they lose their faith as they came to the secularized city? That is the received paradigm of the secularized elite that experiences the Enlightenment as a moment when modern man awoke from the superstitions of the past and learned to base society on rational principles. In God is Dead, British British sociologist Steve Bruce experiences western Europe beginning in the religious era of the Protestant Reformation and gradually secularizing through individualism, rationalism, and relativism to the present European disinterest in religion. But American sociologist Rodney Stark and his collaborators disagree. From their research, they conclude that the pre-modern era was not religious. In revolutionary North America, only 15 percent of the population were church adherents. But by 1850 after the rise of Methodism over 35 percent were church adherents. Today, over 60 percent of Americans are church adherents.

Perhaps both sociologists are right if we understand the Christianity of the agricultural era as a top-down affair. The lord was Christian, the church was established, and the peasants got with the program. In the United States, where there is no lord and no established church, the people build their own churches. In Peru, for instance, where Pentecostalism is growing rapidly, the Catholic church is usually located in the central Plaza de Armas alongside the government buildings; the Iglesia Cristiana Pentecostes is a hole-in-the-wall on some side street.

Christianity answers the need of the person who is learning how to take responsibility for his life in the rough and tumble of the city. That is why the Wesley brothers found a ready population for their Methodism in England and colonial North America. That is why the Methodist circuit-riders of early nineteenth century United States doubled the church adherence of Americans in 50 years. That is why “Dagger” John Hughes, first Catholic archbishop of New York, energized the Irish and Italian immigrants of mid-nineteenth century Gotham to a new revivalist Catholicism that had learned from the Methodist revivalists. That is why Christianity is booming in Africa and South America, and reportedly spreading in China against firm repression. That is why Christianity is booming in the striver suburbs of North America, and why a new Pentecostal church opens in New York City every three weeks. And that is why Christianity does not thrive in Europe, where the welfare states relieves the people of the need to take responsibility for their lives.

In Latin America, writes David Stoll, Penecostalism characteristically empowers and frees women from their subjection to the humiliation and depredations of the Latin machista culture of the “street, bar, brothel, football stadium, and drug culture... The restoration of the family as a viable moral, cultural, amd economic household, largely through the reformation of the male and the elimination of the double standard of morality for the two sexes” is the key result of converting to Pentecostalism. And the Protestant movement easily accommodates the prosperity gospel, as a celebration of the improvement in material prosperity that follows the abandonment of machista culture.

The urban sophisticates who have mastered the life of the city have forgotten the power of Christianity. They see its rigid rules and its personal relationship with God as superstition. Advancing beyond rules and traditional roles; they believe in creativity and universal community. Their faith extols the right to experiment and to pursue the demands of the creative life, and their most authentic experience is the heroic break with their strict Catholic or Protestant childhood. Knowing only their own needs, and blind to “the other” plodding along the road to the middle class, they declare war on “so-called Christians,” and support pressure groups organized to drive religion from the public square.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

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 TAGS


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


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