GARLINGTON: Building On A Foundation Of Sand

The 13 colonies of England gained their independence at an inauspicious time.  Christianity was at a low ebb in much of the world:  In western Europe, Roman Catholics and Protestants were continuing to have violent quarrels.  The Orthodox Christians of eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa were under the heavy yoke of the Muslims, while the Orthodox in Russia were being oppressed by Empress Catherine II.

All of this together helped create a spiritual vacuum in the West, which was filled by new atheistic and humanistic theories (i.e., the Enlightenment).  Among them was the one that has become central to the United States, that the unhindered exercise of freedom here in the world is the sine qua non of human existence, that history unfolds as the quest of humanity towards greater, more expansive liberty.

But Christianity teaches us something different.  St. Seraphim Rose of Platina, California, says in the first lecture of his Orthodox Survival Course:

If you read the Old Testament, you will find a remarkable history which is different from the history of any other country. In other countries there are rulers [who] rise and fall: there is tyranny, there are democratic paradises, there are wars, sometimes the righteous triumph, sometimes the unrighteous triumph; and the whole of history is extremely sceptical. Historians will tell you their chronicle of crimes and savagery — and no meaning. And what happens to come out is some chance event which no one can see any meaning for. But in the History of Israel we see a very deep thing which is the history of the chosen people of God which is now following God’s commandments, and now falling away; and its history depends upon how it is, whether it’s following God or falling away from Him. . . .

The whole history of Israel is this history between belief and unbelief, between following God and turning away from God. And the history of Israel becomes in the New Testament the history of the Church, the new Israel. And the history of humanity from the time Christ came to earth until now is the history of the Church and of those peoples who either come to the Church or fight against the Church, or come to the Church and fall away from it. World history, from that time to this, makes sense only if you understand there is some plan going on, which is the plan of God for the salvation of men.

History, according to the Church, is about the peoples of the world accepting or rejecting the salvation made available to man through the incarnation, birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the God-man.  This is actually the essence of what it means to be human – to be united to the Lord Jesus and to His Church, to acquire fully the Grace of the Holy Spirit, not simply the exercise of freedom.

But since the peoples of the States have divinized human freedom, they have also necessarily divinized the political system in which that freedom is exercised.  This has led to an interesting reversal:  When Christian faith was strong, adherence to the teachings and traditions of the Holy Apostles was paramount, and every deviation was strongly contested.  Hence the intense doctrinal debates from the 4th to the 8th centuries, that led to the Seven Ecumenical Councils, those gatherings of the bishops from throughout the Christian world that established the dogmas of right belief about the Holy Trinity and other matters.  But now when Christian faith is weak and humanistic faith is strong, adherence to the proper political traditions has become paramount, with corresponding anathemas and denunciations of heretics who hold to this or that ‘false teaching’ about constitutional matters; meanwhile, one may believe whatever he likes about religious matters with hardly a care by anyone.

Thus we have created in a real sense in the States a substitute church for that of Christ’s, and we diligently preach the gospel of this church around the world:  not that of Christ crucified for our sins, but of mankind’s liberation from tyranny through constitutional government, with its holy trinity of legislative, executive, and judicial branches, man’s salvation being in the mutual antagonism (rather than mutual love) of these three towards one another.

George W. Bush admitted as much in his second inaugural address in 2005:

Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Because of this absolutizing of human liberty, rights, and politics, the notion of the States as ‘one nation’ itself becomes absolute, and a separation of the States is considered unthinkable, a sin even.  Scott McKay and Jeff LeJeune, for both of whom we have great respect, express this to varying degrees in essays they have recently written at The HayrideMr. McKay frowns at the idea of secession:

It’s time for states like Louisiana to begin protecting our people from the federal government. It is not engaged in safeguarding or promoting the interests of our people, and that puts it in the realm of tyranny. Short of secession or revolution, which we do not favor, steps must be taken to limit its damage.

Mr. LeJeune uses a variant of ‘America’ thirteen times in his essay, implying that the 50 States are ‘one people’ who shouldn’t be divided.

This cascades into a second tragedy:  the death of real cultures across the US as the culture of the political religion covers and asphyxiates them.  The peoples of the States are more than Americans.  They are Southerners, French Cajuns, Yankees, Rustbelters, Celtic Appalachians, Spanish Southwestern cowboys, Scandinavian Great Plains farmboys, Hawaiian natives, Alaskan Aleuts, Pacific Northwest green utopians, and so forth (see the helpful map here).  These must all wither and die so that eternal, unified ‘America’ may live and not ever be troubled by a deviant, dissenting cultural voice.

Since this a web site of ‘Southern Politics and Culture’ we dwell a moment on the Southern tradition that is being torturously maimed and destroyed by the inquisitors of the Church of Unified America, via this essay:

I hope it may never be said of the South that she has ceased to appreciate the sacrifices of her men or the patient endurance of her women in her hour of darkness and need. I saw the widow yield to her country her eldest born, on whom she leaned to manage her estate; then another and another son in quick succession until her baby boy of sixteen was called. I saw the wife bid good-bye to the husband, and draw close to her breast the little ones who depended on him for bread, and looking aloft cry: “God pity us.” How fondly do I remember the contending emotions of fervent patriotism, love, and pride in my own heart as I saw my young husband start to the front arrayed in the suit of gray which my willing hands had woven, cut, and made. He who was mine now yielded to God and his country. Shall the South ever forget these things? Never! Sweep away the dust of time! Let nothing dim their lusters! As Rizpah, in sacred writ, stood guard over the bodies of the dead whom she might not bury, and drove away the vultures which would have fed on their bodies, so we will resist and drive away the unholy touch of every harpy who would drag down in the dust the sacred memories of the past. It ennobles us to write of noble deeds. It enkindles in our breasts the sacred flame of heroism, and the hovering spirits of our dead heroes shall inspire us to emulation.

Martha Neel Northen (1839-1918)

 . . . “To me the sweetest and noblest chapter in the book of our misfortunes and sorrows was the treatment which the South accorded the fallen chief of the Confederacy. His was a pure, a great, and an incorruptible career. He had served the Union with great distinction in high stations, in war and in peace. No ambitious longings for place or power now remained. All hope for his preferment had gone out in the darkness of defeat. Imprisoned and in irons, he suffered for them all. Released without trial, no plea for pardon, disfranchised, broken in health, and tottering with care and age, he returned to his people, to be welcomed as no other man, and in the calm dignity of a private citizen, in his quiet home, he remained their idol, their counselor, and their friend, devoting the last days of his noble life to the preparation of a defense and justification of that people for whom he had been made a vicarious sacrifice. He had never lost their faith, their confidence, their admiration, or their love. There is something strong and deserving of all honor in a people like this.

. . . “We affirm our desire that our children may understand these things; that they may the more reverence their ancestry; that they may know of their sufferings and sacrifices and be able to defend their good names, and, proud of their achievements, emulate, in the great struggles of the future, if such await our country, the fidelity, patriotism, love of home and country attested by the veterans of 1861 on a hundred bloody battlefields.

“Who would have them forget the Lees, the Johnstons, the Jacksons, and the Hills? Who would have them forget Bragg, Beauregard, Hardee, Price, Polk, and Hood? Who would have them forget that great wizard of the saddle, Bedford Forrest, and our own little Joe Wheeler, Pat Cleburne, the lamented Walthall, and innumerable others? Who would have us forget the grand old man yet with us, and others still spared; and the hosts who made for them names that can never perish from the earth as long as genius and courage and patriotism challenge the admiration of mankind?

. . . “Who would have them forget Chickamauga, where friendly darkness shielded the army of the Cumberland from destruction? Who would have them forget Jackson in the Valley of Virginia, whose campaigns have challenged the military critics of England and Germany to find a single error? Dr. Hunter McGuire, Jackson’s corps surgeon, in an address delivered in Richmond in 1897, made this statement:

Therefore it is with swelling heart and deep thankfulness that I recently heard some of the first soldiers and military students of England declare that within the past two hundred years the English-speaking race had produced but five soldiers of the first rank – Marlborough, Washington, Wellington, Robert Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. I heard them declare that Jackson’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, in which you, and you and myself in my subordinate place, followed this immortal, was the finest specimen of strategy and tactics of which the world has any record; that in this series of marches and battles there was never a blunder committed by Jackson; that his campaign in the Valley was superior to either of those made by Napoleon in Italy.

One British officer, who teaches strategy in a great European college, told me that he used this campaign as a model of strategy and tactics, and dwelt upon it for several months in his lectures; that it was taught for months in each session in the schools of Germany, and that Von Moltke, the greatest strategist, declared it was without a rival in the world’s history. This same British officer told me that he had ridden on horseback over the battlefields of the Valley, and carefully studied the strategy and tactics there displayed by Jackson; that he had followed him to Richmond, where he joined with Lee in the campaign against McClellan in 1862; that he had followed him in his detour around Pope, and in his management of his troops at Manassas; that he had studied his environment of Harper’s Ferry and its capture, his part in the fight at Sharpsburg and his flank movement around Hooker – and that he had never blundered. Indeed, he added, “Jackson seemed to be inspired.” Another British officer told me that “for its numbers the Army of Northern Virginia had more force and power than any army that ever existed.”

This is only part of what is being devoured in the US by the all-consuming blaze of political culture.


We are glad to have protections in law requiring warrants for searches, guaranteeing ownership of firearms, habeas corpus, etc.  But human life is more than these things, more than politics and elections and court rulings.  It is life in Christ, and fellowship with our ancestors, and enjoying the culture they have handed on to us – both big things (for Southerners), like the English language and its literature, and small things, like biscuits, unique words such as ain’t and darlin’, duck hunting, and the smell of honeysuckle.

Seen in this light, disunion is not the nightmarish evil that some people imagine it to be, but rather a blessing, as it would allow the peoples of the States to live a normal human life pursuing the highest human good (Christianity) according to their own ancient cultural folkways instead of distorting it by devoting all attention and effort to the modern instantiation of Nebuchadnezzar’s giant golden idol (Book of Daniel chapter 3) – the myopic pursuit of human liberty.  For, as St. Seraphim said above, history is ultimately the record of those who befriend the Church and of those who fight against her.

Conforming to the patterns of the 2,000-year history of Christendom, not those of the Enlightenment, must therefore be the goal of the States, whatever that may mean for the current union and its political system.  It is the difference between building our houses on sand or on solid rock (St. Matthew’s Gospel chapter 7).

When the States who still have discernment and wisdom have done that, to close the loop from our previous essay, they will then discover that they know the methods and have the might (the Grace of God) to expel the evil Deep State from its seemingly permanent grip on power.

And lest anyone doubt that, little Georgia is illustrating this for the world right now.  As God allows, something better will come for the faithful States, too.



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