Readers will know well that in Nazi Germany there was a "Christian Movement" which aligned itself entirely with the dominant ideology of the decade. In Germany, that ideology was "National Socialist", but much of the error was not confined to Germany. Throughout Europe and North America, there were those who believed that Christianity should adopt the views of the 1930s Zeitgeist.
Adopting the Zeitgeist is the temptation of every age. The Zeitgeist changes ... so that, today, we no longer admire the shine on the jackboots. The smart and intoxicating Hitlerite culture by which Barbara Pym (a biography has recently been published) and Mrs Simpson and Miss Mitford were so bewitched no longer tempts us (although the Mitfords are currently on TV here in the UK). Antisemitism is now the opposite of fashionable. We pat ourselves on our own heads for 'knowing better'. Indeed, "You are so much better informed, so much more morally correct than those who lived 90 years ago" is the sweet mantra which lures the gullible to worship the Zeitgeist in every age.
Therefore, if German Christianity was the error of the 1930s, we must not allow the Enemy in the 2020s to deceive us into assuming that we have avoided the Worship of the Zeitgeist if we simply ban Nazi memorabilia and persecute those we suspect of Antisemitism.
The Zeitgeist is ipsa natura protean. By definition, it does not have the same shape as it did in the 1930s; but ... decked out in its new clothes ... it is still, in 2021, an invitation to Apostasy.
That is why many members of the current German 'Catholic' hierarchy are attempting to impose the modern equivalent of the Deutsche Christen ideology.
A German Catholic bishop is said (Lifesitenews) to have written "As to the demand for chastity: What does this mean from the perspective of people who experience homosexual inclinations? I think that few of them would consider this demand as tactful and respectful ...".
I have little time for people who attack homosexuals while going easy on heterosexual libertines. But I have just as little time for those who wish to privilege homosexual genital activity because this is what today's Zeitgeist has adopted as its current posture.
Superb comment. And very apt. The zeitgeist of the 1950s included hostility to homosexuals, including social ostracisation and even imprisonment for those proved to have engaged in homosexual genital acts. The old saying: he (or indeed she) who marries the spirit of this age will be a widower in the next. The Gospel is timeless. It is the prism through which we view the world and not the other way around.
The answer then to the German Bishop's question is surely then: "The Church makes incredibly high demands of all its followers (as well as offering unlimited forgiveness to those who fail to live up them), so this particular demand treats all people equally regardless of their orientation. It is rather your own words which betray the homophobic prejudice inherent in the lazy trope that, unlike a heterosexual attraction, an attraction to someone of one's own sex is incapable of being resisted."
I was intrigued, Father Hunwicke - indeed somewhat astonished - by your post criticising the Zeitgeist. It seems to me that your blog, and many of the comments on it, are a celebration of the Zeitgeist. But they do not, of course, extol the spirit of today; rather they eulogise the spirit of the day before yesterday. To be more specific this blog seems to me to be a celebration of the Ortgeist and Zeitgeist of Great Britain around 1955.
Consider for example, the following recent posts. On 16 and 17 May you celebrated the writing of C S Lewis, whose oeuvre spans the years 1933 to 1961. And in the earlier of these posts you praise the "crumbly old gentlemen (or ladies) in MA gowns green and disintegrating with age who intermittently sustain themselves with snuff while giving advice on Ciceronian cursus". This is a wonderfully accurate description of Mr Mulcahy, who taught Latin to me and generations of boys before me until he died in harness (but, allegedly, over retirement age) in 1963.
In earlier posts we have had celebrations of, for example, Dorothy Sayers and Ronald Knox, both of whom died in 1957.
And on at least one occasion you have referred to the BBC's Radio 4 channel as "The Home Service". (For the benefit of readers outside the UK I ought to point out that the Home Service was a relatively short-lived British radio channel, which came into being shortly before the 1950s and was abolished in the 60s.)
I cannot recall a single instance on these pages of praise being given to any creative or cultural act that has taken place since about 1960 (apart from the writings of Archbishop Viganò!)
Like you, Father Hunwicke, I am critical - sometimes almost to the point of despair - of the current Zeitgeist. But I am equally critical of blinkered nostalgia.
I'm not so sure that antisemitism has disappeared from the current Zeitgeist given the outrage we hear when the state of Israel attempts to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Palestinians. Although one might argue that it is more anti-Zionist than anti-Semitic, wanting a particular nation that happens to be the only predominantly Jewish nation on earth to be wiped off the face of said earth seems to amount to the same thing in practice.
Terry, surely it is indisputable that some zeitgeists are better than others?
C.S. Lewis, no more than any of us, couldn't help but live in the time of a particular zeitgeist. This is surely not enough to dismiss him as being merely a product of it?
In the words of Saint John Paul II - “the fact that one can die for the Faith shows that the other demands of the Faith can be met.”
And here we are, injecting the DNA of killed babies into our bodies, at the wise counsel of this and (nearly) prior popes, so that our decrepit may live ever longer in well-washed care homes, safe from their ultimate judgement. As you say, it's just the zeitgeist. To hell with it.
Thank you, Michael. I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time and trouble to respond to my comment.
I certainly agree with you that some Zeitgeister and Ortgeister are better than others. For example, I am very pleased that I did not spend my childhood in "Catholic Ireland" in the middle of the 20th century, a time and place in which so much unchallenged physical and psychological abuse was perpetrated on so many young people - including my own parents - by priests, brothers and nuns. (Actually I had a narrow escape. My parents, like many of their compatriots, moved from Ireland to the UK after the second world war.) Recent visits to Ireland have shown me that it is a far less dark place these days.
Many thinkers and writers whom I admire certainly set themselves against the assumptions of the Zeitgeist of their time. I think of Galileo's stand against geocentrism, Ignas Semmelweiss's crusade against insanitary practices in 19th century maternity hospitals, Father Edward Flanagan's 1946 condemnation of Irish Industrial Schools, and (Father) Ivan Illich's 1971 debunking of conventional approaches to schooling. But what all these "anti-Zeitgeisters" had in common was that their thinking looked forward not backwards. They foreshadowed what was to become the thinking of future generations rather than harking back to some imagined golden age.
I would not dream of putting this blog in the "harking back to some imagined golden age" category if it limited itself to criticism of particularly liturgical and theological developments since, say, 1962. But surely you would agree that there is more than a hint of "things were better before..." in the posts and comments here. Things were (it is implied) better before Greta Thunberg; better before Papa Francesco; better before the BBC reorganised its radio channels in 1967; better before Dorothy Sayers and C S Lewis put down their pens; better before the English Reformation; better before the Great Schism of 1054!
Finally, let me put your mind at rest about my view on C S Lewis. I would not dream of suggesting that he was, in your words, merely a product of a particular Zeitgeist. I suggested no such thing, as should be clear to anyone who has read my previous comment with the care with which I sought to write it.
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