While much has been made of the “Ten Commandments” in recent history, men for centuries have accepted these commandments as deeply rooted in the order of the universe and of creation—as an overt expression of the Natural Law. And, to be certain, they are logical as well as honest. They promote good order in the society, in the family, and in the community.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/08/burning-bushes-smoking-mountains-law-bradley-birzer.html
Even if the Allies should utterly defeat the Axis, Dawson feared that the poisons of power and centralization will remain. “The sufferings that the occupied countries have endured have weakened the whole tradition of civilized order and have accustomed men’s minds to violence and lawlessness,” he wrote a year later, in 1945. Because the democracies themselves were forms of totalitarianism, their party politics would especially descend into thuggery after the end of the war, thus permanently dividing Republicans from Democrats and Tories from Labour. We will no longer see our opponents as opposition, but rather as the enemy in a stake for total control of each respective society. Political opponents will call not for victory over their opposition, but rather for the complete “liquidation” of the opposition. “Every election,” he predicted, would become “a potential civil war.” Even as of 1945, broader commentaries identified fascists as “right wing” and democrats as “left wing,” thus creating artificial distinctions in the race for total control. “The result of this division is to obliterate the distinction between constitutional and totalitarian parties, and to force every shade of political opinion into alliance with some extremist totalitarian party which inevitably tends to become… predominant.”
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/08/christopher-dawson-modern-public-opinion-bradley-birzer.html
The irony, Dawson noted, is that the allies, ostensibly at least, waged their war against fascism. What is this thing the enemy propagated through extreme violence? It is, Dawson stated, “an attempt to transform the modern society into a purely dynamic organism, and to fuse community, party and state as a unitary mass driven by the aggressive will to power.” Dawson cautioned against the identification of fascism with authority. Instead, he claimed, one must identify fascism with power. Authority, as opposed to power, was the proper acquiescence every society (and its members) gave to those who ordered and secured a healthy society. Thus, as examples, a judge had authority because he decided things with wisdom; a teacher had authority because she taught her students the good, the true, and the beautiful; a policeman had authority because he upheld the law. Authority, as properly understood, was vital to a free society as were natural rights, Dawson argued. Authority, when used well, protected social freedoms, justice, and law. When violated, though, authority easily became power, a “poison” that seeps through societies, destroying all that it cannot corrupt. Power is, in essence, raw and naked force.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/08/becoming-enemy-world-war-ii-christopher-dawson-bradley-birzer.html
I am not a professional economist. Nor have I played one on TV. My own academic background is in literature, philosophy, and then theology, where I earned my doctorate writing about soon-to-be-saint John Henry Newman and the threat of Hell. My knowledge of economics has come out of interest and necessity. My interest is because my own liberal education, no matter how flawed it may have been or dilatory I was in study, convinced me that all knowledge is one, and that to truly have a view of the world, one must have a sense of the importance and place of all subjects. Though economists have often overstated the importance of their discipline, I have nevertheless been impressed with the ways in which economists, though often dismissed with Macaulay’s gibe about being a “dismal science,” have often come, as William McGurn has observed, to the same practical conclusions about freedom and human dignity that theologians and moral philosophers have.
The necessity in my interest in economics is because I am married and have seven children. Though the sums needed to raise them are often overstated, my experience is that they do cost money. “Economy” comes from two Greek words, oikos (home) and nomos (rule). While many of us tend to think of economics as involving titans of industry, IPOs, international deals, and world-scale decisions and players, economics in its original sense is all home economics.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/08/writing-economics-david-deavel.html
As with all of Tolkien’s great tales of the First Age, the story of Beren and Lúthien transformed dramatically over sixty years from its first imagining and version in 1916 and 1917 to its relatively finalized version in 1977’s The Silmarillion. During those six decades, it appeared as a long tale of the Lost Tales, as a summary in the 1926 Sketch of the Mythology (written for Tolkien’s beloved professor from King Edward’s, R.W. Reynolds), as a radically ambitious poetic lay, The Lay of Leithian (1925-1931), and as an essential story within the various versions, including the final version, of The Silmarillion.
Yet, the essence of the story has remained the same in all of its many versions. Or, as Christopher so wisely put it, “The fluidity should not be exaggerated: there were nonetheless great, essential, permanences.”
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/08/jrr-tolkien-beren-and-luthien-bradley-birzer.html
All of this is understandable, of course, given that Barfield lived in London, not Oxford, and he joined his father’s law firm in 1929. Though he continued to write, often prolifically and always brilliantly, he had to earn his living as a solicitor, not as an amateur philosopher. At best, Barfield claimed, he attended fewer than ten percent of the total meetings, and even this seems an overly generous number, especially given that he could not name the beginning or the end of the group.
And, third, to be sure, any right-thinking individual, then or now, would want to have Owen Barfield as a vital and central member of the Inklings. The man was, simply put, genius and, equally important, generous and charitable. His insights into the Inklings, frankly, are beyond compare. In a 1969 lecture, Barfield claimed correctly that the Inklings had stood for and advanced four ideas: a longing for the Infinite and the western desires of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful; that every person is endowed with dignity, especially as he or she moves toward sanctification; “the idealization of love between the sexes”; and, finally, that the truest stories end in joy, not sorrow.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/07/was-owen-barfield-inkling-bradley-birzer.html
Every vital question the Greek philosophers asked, St. Paul answered in his letter to the Christians of Colossae.
Indeed, Christ came not at any point, but in the “fullness of time,” when three distinct cultures intersected, again proving that history was vital to God’s plan. Christ, coming in the “fullness of time,” was born into a Hellenistic Jewish culture, controlled militarily and politically by the Roman Empire, and divided, theologically, among several Jewish schools of thought.
The Incarnation allows the church, the representative of the City of God on earth, as Cardinal John Henry Newman put it, “to gather His Saints.” Christian loyalty, then, can be to no nation primarily, but to the universal, Christian church, no matter how divided its body might be. Among those saints, there is neither male nor female, neither Greek nor Jew, neither black nor white, but all made one in His unity.
— Read on thefederalist.com/2019/07/11/preposterous-say-western-civilization-whiteness/
This essay is dedicated to the genius of William Winston Elliott III, co-founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of The Imaginative Conservative. Long may it continue to grow under his inspiration and our perspiration.
Kirk, of course, never fought the fight alone. Not only did he rely on the inspiration of Babbitt and More, but he took further advice (directly and indirectly) from T.S. Eliot, Flannery O’Connor, Willa Cather, Jacques Maritain, J.R.R. Tolkien, Zora Neale Hurston, Gabriel Marcel, Romano Guardini, Josef Pieper, John Paul II, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, C.S. Lewis, and a myriad of others, all dedicated to preserving and conserving the most dignified aspects of humanity against Demos, Mars, and Leviathan.
After 468 weeks of life, Winston Elliott, Editor Stephen Klugewicz, every author of The Imaginative Conservative, and I take seriously (and with great confidence) the wisdom of our beloved T.S. Eliot: “We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation it will triumph.”
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/07/imaginative-conservative-9-bradley-birzer.html
When I read Vital Remnants, an entirely new world opened up to me. And, not merely because I had been so immersed in one aspect of the Founding, but because Vital Remnants made me fully aware just how profoundly deep the Founders were, in their minds and in their souls. Reading “When in the Course of Human Events” strikes any patriot at the heart. But, when one realizes—as is so well expressed in Vital Remnants—that the Founders themselves knew the very course of human events, something seismic in the soul shifts.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Gregg, as editor, follows the mode of the Founders, as Founders. Just as the Founders saw themselves as new Romans, behaving classically, so Dr. Gregg proposed seeing the Founding as the Founders saw it, not as we wish them to have seen it. In this, Dr. Gregg went directly against the reigning historiography of the 1990s and its fetishist obsession with social justice, class, and gender, and instead embraced the Whig and republican philosophy of history as found in Russell Kirk’s John Randolph of Roanoke, Caroline Robbins’s The Commonwealth Men, Douglas Adair’s Fame and the Founding Fathers, and Trevor Colbourn’s Lamp of Experience. Many books from the 1990s have failed to age well, but Vital Remnants has.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/07/gary-gregg-vital-remnants-bradley-birzer.html
To be sure, though, the greater question one should ask is not at what answers did the group arrive, but, rather, what questions did they ask? It was their very questions—and the trust that comes with asking questions—that defined them. As such, they asked about the limits of heroism, the nature of beauty, the connection of the pagan to the Christian, the relationship of holiness and sanctity, the interplay of technology and magic, and the connectedness of flesh and soul. They discussed mythos (story) and logos (idea), and they shared with one another their most intimate thoughts and questions.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/07/friendship-among-inklings-bradley-birzer.html
In graduate school—at Indiana University-Bloomington—I first encountered the dreadfully dull and dreary political correctness of the New Left. Prior to IU, I had encountered a number of left-wing academics, but they had all been interesting, on fire, and ready to listen to a variety of viewpoints. Indeed, they still believed in free exchange and the free and open debate of ideas. At Indiana, though, I found something quite different. There, certain opinions—sometimes explicitly stated and sometimes implicitly—were becoming orthodox. Those students who defended them did so with sincerity but not verve. This became especially obvious when the politically-correct leftist debated an anarchist or a black power supremacist. Usually, the more radical tore apart the PC, recognizing intellectual weakness for what it was. The politically-correct of IU had become so comfortable in their own opinions that they failed to develop them with any serious standards. I found them boring, frankly, but pervasive. Few things can be duller than a number of similarly-minded folks sitting around a table for two-and-a-half hours to agree and disagree upon all of the same things… but to do so with what could only be considered the Scandinavian white sauce of the culinary world!
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/roots-of-political-correctness-bradley-birzer.html
Whatever his exact reasons for adopting a more Stoical approach to life, Cicero unwittingly (but perhaps gracefully?) prepared Rome for Christianity in ways that other pagans and paganisms could never have allowed or done. That generation of Stoics, including Virgil and Seneca, expected, amazingly enough, the human incarnation of the God of gods. It is little wonder, then, that so many of the early Church fathers—such as Jerome, Augustine, and Ambrose—considered Cicero to be a pagan Christian, more related to Christ and his teachings than not. Most certainly, his martyrdom on December 7, 43 BC, did not hurt his cause among Christians, either.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/06/cicero-republic-on-duties-bradley-birzer.html