The frenzy of the Christmas Rush is mercifully over. The felt joy of Christmas Day itself, while real and memorable, was already fading by Boxing Day, and now we begin to remember where we are: facing the long weeks of Seasonal Affective Disorder until the light begins to return, interrupted by the forced celebration of New Year’s Day. And the culture we inhabit seems in the doldrums of winter itself, poised between forced celebration and despair. The words of the poet ring true: “The time being is the hardest time of all.” What are we to do in such a moment?
There is no hope to be gained by looking to society or to the state. The irrational hatred of everything good and wholesome by Islamic Terrorists is matched only by the sad inability of the West to find a reason to preserve itself. Multiculturalism has blinded us to the stubborn fact that not all cultures are created equal after all. There is a difference between barbarism and civilization. Civilization is to be preferred, but it cannot be preserved or defended if it refuses to believe in an objective difference between itself and the barbarians. There is a difference between health and decadence within that civilization, even when it is not threatened from without. Health is to be preferred, but it cannot be preserved if we refuse to believe that there is an objective difference between good and evil, if we are unable to use a word like “wholesome” without irony. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
There is no hope to be gained by looking to the church. The most popular and fastest growing form of Christianity in the world is the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” the health-and-wealth or “name it and claim it” (more accurately, “blab it and grab it”) movement. If ever we wanted a theology scientifically designed to confirm the suspicions of our secular neighbors that ministers are just in it for the money, boy, have we got one! More faithful followers of the Savior who sacrificed Himself, not for self but for others, seem more marginalized than ever. They have not adjusted well to the loss of the position of cultural privilege they once enjoyed, and half of the adjustments they propose to the new situation they have finally come to recognize sound more like strategies for retreat than for a better and more effective engagement. Scandal, compromise, and accommodation where there is not actually false teaching–no, if you are looking for encouragement, do not look to the church.
How then is the faithful remnant to sustain itself in this moment of cultural Seasonal Affective Disorder? As it has always done, when it faced even worse times like the fall of Rome: by staying focused on the things that do not change; by remembering that while Seasonal Affective Disorder may seem permanent while you are in its grasp, it is, by definition, seasonal; by staying faithful to its Lord as something worth doing for its own sake whatever the outcome and leaving the consequences in His hand. It will do so more effectively if it remembers the wisdom of Gerard Manley Hopkins:
For though the last lights off the black West went,
Oh, morning at the brown brink Eastward springs
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast, and with, Ah! bright wings.
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