Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is There a Future for Religion?

Is there a future for religion?  The short answer is "yes, of course:" Homo sapiens is intrinsically and incurably religious, and will create his own gods if necessary in order to have something to worship.  Just look at the cult of Mao in "atheist" China.
So, the answer is "yes," there will be religion.  The question is, what kind of religion?

Insofar as we have a choice in the matter, we would want a religion that promotes human flourishing, that is a religion that will makes us happy.  We thought, certainly in this country, that a religion of consumer goods, material prosperity, and the gross satisfaction of our natural urges would make us happy.  It hasn't, and though we still pursue it, it should be clear now that it isn't going to.  

That is because the very thing towards which religion draws, something that is bigger than ourselves, than our species, is denied by all of these substitute religions.  We are engineered for something that is bigger than we are, something that is more beautiful, more real, and better than we are, and we will not be satisfied until we attain it.  

However, any religion that promises us such a transcendent end, but is not compatible with all that makes us human, including our human reason, will not work either.  We do understand part of the cosmos, and it is not rational to believe that what we do understand is utterly incompatible with what transcends our understanding.  This is why religious fundamentalism will not work any more than ideology as a substitute religion.  There are in the cosmos numerous things that are beyond our explanation or ability to understand, but I do not want my faith insulted by people creating incomprehension and unreason where I can understand.

Now, this is a Christian blog.  But at a certain level I am not really concerned whether my readers become Christians or not (especially when I look around at what is presented as Christianity).  I myself am a Christian, because, among other reasons, the Christianity I was taught places me in a tradition of reasoning that enables to make the kind of analysis of the human condition that I make herein.  This is a tradition of faith that values the intellect and a "liberal" approach to knowledge—the belief that people should be encouraged to grasp the truth of things for themselves, as opposed to an approach that asserts "X says it, I believe it; that settles it."

My chief concern is that my readers should gain a real taste and desire for what is good and true and beautiful. If they have that, they will find God, or rather, I do not doubt, God will find to them.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dr. King

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
—Martin Luther King

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Christian Humanist's Motto

Civis sum rei publicae litterarum, necnon rei publicae christianae,
sed primo sum civis regni caelorum.

I am citizen of the republic of letters, and also of the commonwealth of Christians,
but chiefly I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Southern Poetry: "Approach" by John Gould Fletcher

John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950) was the first Southern Poet to win the Pulitzer Prize. He belonged to the Imagist school, which is thought of as the first Modern school of poetry; he also belonged to the Southern Agrarians, a group of Southern poets and writers who severely criticized Industrialism and social engineering, and was a member of the Episcopal Church.


Only this morning I sang of roses;
Now I see with a swift stare,
The city forcing up through the air
Black cubes close piled and some half-crumbling over.

My roses are battered into pulp:
And there swells up in me
Sudden desire for something changeless,
Thrusts of sunless rock
Unmelted by hissing wheels.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Getting Our Priorities Straight

Ratzinger is right about this.  It is in worship that we work on our relation with God, and that only can provide the foundation for moral action or loving our neighbor. This is because true worship is a gratuitous act: It is not done with any hope of gain. 

"Worship, that is the right kind of cult [i.e., liturgy], of relationship with God, is essential for the right kind of human existence in the world.  It is so precisely because it reaches beyond everyday life.  Worship gives us a share in heaven's mode of existence, in the world of God, and allows light to fall from that divine world into ours.  In this sense worship...has the character of anticipation.  It lays hold of our more perfect life and, in so doing, gives our present life its proper measure.  A life without such anticipation, a life no longer opened up to heaven, would be an empty, a leaden life.  That is why there are no societies altogether lacking in cult.  Even the decidedly atheistic, materialistic systems create their own forms of cult, though, of course, they can only be an illusion and strive in vain, by bombastic trumpeting, to conceal their nothingness."
— Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 21

Monday, August 24, 2015

St. Bartholomew (Anglo-Catholic Humor)

Beneath a fig-tree once there sat
A very guileless Jew.
He had the firm conviction that
He was Bartholomew.

But then the Higher Critics came,
With L and M and Q
And if you ask him now his name
He hasn't got a clue.

So out upon these men of clay,
This unbelieving crew!
May others treat them just as they
Treated Bartholomew!"
—E.L. Mascall

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Glory of God is a Living Man

"Gloria Dei vivens homo; vita hominis visio." (Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", 4, 20) is the most mistranslated and misunderstood verse in patristic literature.  To make it clear, the translation is "The glory of God is a living man; the life of man is the vision of God.". (generic man).

Who is the man?  It is Jesus Christ, of whom the scriptures say that he is the glory of the father (cf. John1:14, et al.). The life of man, i.e., all human beings, is the vision of God, whom we can only see in Jesus Christ,, for "no one has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son...he has made him known."

How then do we see God? We see God through the gift of faith, through the indwelling of his Spirit, who provides us eyes to see.  We thus see God worship, and in the Holy Scriptures, especially as they are proclaimed in worship, the Scriptures which are the Word of God, i.e., Jesus Christ, "in letters" as Ss. Augustine and John Chrysostom say.  We see him  in the sacrifice of Christ made present, the Eucharist, where Christ incorporates bread and wine into himself, making them his body and blood, so that we may see him, yes, but also so that we too, eating his living flesh and drinking his living blood, may be incorporated into him, and become members of his body, one flesh as his bride with him.  We thus also see him in the Church, and in the deeds done in his name, which is how the world may see and know him.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Duty of Protecting One's Self

There is one mistake that Christians often make — too often with the encouragement of their pastors: that is enduring unnecessarily harm to themselves, and in particular to their capacity to receive God and his gifts, in the name of patience, suffering, or a misguided notion of obedience. 

Perhaps the most painful example I have seen of this is wives (or even husbands) who endured abuse from a spouse, including sometimes physical violence or the threat of physical violence against themselves or their children. When this kind of thing occurs, then there is certainly justification for "divorce from bed and board." (As Bp. Wantland taught us in canon law class, "divorce from bed and board" does not dissolve the sacramental bond, but does absolve from the contractual obligations with regards to property, support, etc.) In fact, one may have a moral obligation to divorce in this fashion, if one's life, the life of one's children, or one's well-being and ability to serve God, follow HIm, or keep His commandments is threatened. 

I have cited moral obligation, and there are many reasons, moral, legal, and even philosophical, why the principle of self-protection applies in this case, and in others. There is another reason, which has to do with practices of the Christian life, the disciplines involved, or to use the technical term Christian "asectics" ("askesis" being the Greek word for discipline). There is an important ascetical principle at stake here, indeed one might call it the chief ascetical principle, and that is the principle of sacredness. 

Holiness is proper to God himself. Now the saints, who are not God, nonetheless participate in His holiness by their participation in Him, by Him dwelling in them and working through them. The complement to holiness on their side is sacredness, that is their capacity for God, those things which enable such participation. Thus, when we speak of the church building as a sacred space, that means that it is a space set aside for God, and NOT for some "profane" (meaning “non-sacred”) use. Because it is set aside for God, we can better meet Him there than we can in other places where we will be distracted from Him.

Likewise, Man, created in the image and likeness of God, has something of a sacred character in relation to the rest of creation, a capacity created in him for the encounter with God. The Christian in particular, who has been united to Christ by baptism, has a particularly sacred character among his fellow men. Hence St. Paul speaks of the bodies of Christians as being "temples," sacred spaces, for God the Holy Spirit. 

An essential part of our duty as Christians is to guard sacredness, our sacred spaces, our sacred times, our bodies and souls as dedicated to God. Indeed, from one perspective, the whole goal of Christian ascetics is precisely the creation and preservation of the sacred in ourselves and in our lives, so that we may be more receptive to God's grace. This is done through moral purification, repenting of and seeking God's forgiveness in Christ for our sins. It is also done by a discipline and regular practice (or "rule") — of prayer, of fasting, of good works, and of other things that make way for God, and inculcate the habit of being open to God. 

It is also an essential part of ascetics that we defend our sacred space. This may mean removing ourselves from situations where that space is threatened, or of removing threats to ourselves or others. This requires a "zeal for God's house" (cf. Ps. 69:10), a zeal which is, according to spiritual writers, the proper end of anger when it has been transformed into something godly, that is, no longer a desire for vengeance against those who have done one harm, but a burning desire to protect those things that are sacred, that make room for God.

Nor does God leave us without help in doing this. He first gives us His Holy Spirit to strengthen us for the fight. He also gives us the assistance of His Holy Angels. The angel particularly assigned to this task in Scripture and the subsequent tradition of the Church is St. Michael, and I shall conclude this post with a prayer asking for his aid:

SAINT Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Or for you latinists

SANCTE Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

History does not repeat itself, but nonetheless...

As I see it, the Roman political system facilitated a most intense and ultimately destructive economic exploitation of the great mass of the people, whether slave or free, and it made radical reform impossible. The result was that the propertied class, the men of real wealth, who had deliberately created the system for their own benefit, drained the life-blood from their world, and thus destroyed the Greco-Roman civilization over a large part of the empire...If I were in search of a metaphor to describe the great and growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the upper classes, I would not incline to anything so innocent and so automatic as drainage: I should want to think in terms of something much more purposive and deliberate — perhaps the vampire bat.
G.E.M. de Sainte Croix

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Passing on the Lore (re the Resurrection & Fr. Charles Caldwell)

For any culture to survive, it must pass on its traditions, its stories, and its learning or "lore."  So here is a bit of High Church lore, concerning an essential Christian doctrine.  One of my professors at seminary, the most influential on me by far, was Fr. Charles Caldwell.  (We called all our professors "Fr." at Nashotah.)  One of his professors, someone who also came and did some teaching at Nashotah House while I was there, was The Rev. Dr. Reginald Fuller.  I remember Fr. Caldwell telling me that one day in class, Dr. Fuller came in quite excited.  He then told the class why.  He had demonstrated, using perhaps the most skeptical method of biblical criticism, the method of Bultmann, that the bodily resurrection of Jesus must have belonged to the original kerygma, that is the original layer of proclamation of the gospel, upon which all of the Gospel texts are based.

This is important, because it means that the disciples, as far back as we can trace their teaching, truly believed that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and that he was seen and touched.  This is important for us because it tells us that, so far as it can be known, the followers of Jesus really did believe in the bodily Resurrection, something some scholars still try to deny.  I understand that Fr. Fuller's findings were published a few years later.  (If someone has the reference, please share it.)

The Resurrection was part of the genuine lore of the early Church.  Fr. Fuller's discovery is part of the more recent lore of Anglicanism.  I am passing both on to you, as they were passed on to me, so that you may pass it on to others.  

Χριστός ἀνέστη!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What is the Illusion?

Mt. Rainier

“I have left behind illusion,” I said to myself. “Henceforth I live in a world of three dimensions – with the aid of my five senses.”
I have since learned that there is no such world; but then, as the car turned out of sight of the house, I thought it took no finding, but lay all about me at the end of the avenue.
—Brideshead Revisited

The idea that the world can be fit down to the measure of man's mind is not a new one.  The atheist, the puritan, the rationalist, the modernist, the materialist, the fundamentalist (and they are all fundamentalists) — all believe that they have somehow escaped the illusion that the world is enchanted, that it is a mystery, that there are always more and more beautiful things to be wondered at and loved, and things beyond our ability to see, to measure, and to comprehend.  They think that the cosmos, and human life, and even "God," can be reduced to a few maxims of truth or falsehood, and that they have escaped the illusion of transcendence.  But they have in fact succumbed to illusion. Part of our job is precisely to dispel the illusion, to rediscover for ourselves and others that the world is enchanted, no easy task.

Of course, human society will sooner or later discover this fact for themselves.  Reality is a terrifying mystery, one which will eventually assert itself, and wipe away the neat little illusory world we have created to avoid it.  It is best that we should "agree with our adversary quickly" before He rises up against us.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

William Porcher Dubose

Today we commemorate William Porcher DuBose, the patron of this blog, who died on this day in 1918.

Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant William Porcher Dubose special gifts of grace to understand the Scriptures and to teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant, we beseech thee, that by this teaching we may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 

DuBose was a native South Carolinian of Huguenot descent. He studied at the Citadel, where he experienced an encounter with Christ that changed his life:
"I lept to my feet trembling, and then that happened that I can only describe by saying that a light shone about me and a Presence filled the room. At the same time, ineffable joy and peace took possession of me which it is impossible to either express or explain."

DuBose  served in the Confederate Army, first as an adjutant, and later, after ordination, as a chaplain.  He was a prisoner of war for a short time early in the war.  After the war, DuBose served as Rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ridgway, S.C. before accepting appointment in 1871 as a chaplain and professor of theology at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee.  He remained at Sewanee until his death in 1918, influencing many generations of students.

DuBose is arguable the greatest theologian produced by the Episcopal Church. (For my fellow Houstonians, John Hines, one-time Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and, before that, of the Diocese of Texas, said that the most influential theologian he ever read was Dubose.)  DuBose's "Southern High-Churchmanship" combined Tractarian and High Church theology with the social gospel message of F.D. Maurice and the best of contemporary biblical scholarship.   Some of his works are on line here: Project Canterbury | William Porcher DuBose.

God has placed forever before our eyes, not the image but the Very Person of the Spiritual Man. We have not to ascend into Heaven to bring Him down, nor to descend into the abyss to bring Him up, for He is with us, and near us, and in us. We have only to confess with our mouths that He is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead — and raised us in Him — and we shall live.
— Wm. Porcher Dubose

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer in Athens, East Texas

Beware the undead, the unfulfilled vow,
the sin unavenged, the lust unsated,
the wrath unspent, the vengeance untaken.
The city is full of ghouls.

Elves do not fear the ghosts of men—
they sicken not; but men they do,
and fear of death gives hell the might
to turn us round and endless down.

We shared a burger at Dairy Queen,
in the long East Texas Summer,
the hot red brick below the wide panes.
We drove from Tyler with new clothes
in paper sacks— receipts, labels,
new clothes' smells, and my grandmother's perfume.

At home I looked out my window,
At the wood patch, hiding the cemetery.
In the wood patch was a buried cave
In the cave manacles wherewith
my great great grandfather had dragged
a runaway slave back back from New Orleans.

I removed the labels from the clothes.
An elf had taken refuge in the wood patch,
And brought his charm with him,
The magic of his home,
Which he shared with us, my grandparents and me.
I put on my new clothes,
And lay looking at the white walls
And fell asleep to elvish song.

When my elf left; it broke my heart.
Twas when the sorcerer came;
Deceits of a warlock drove my elf away;
The wood patch sickened, died.
Buried manacles breed sorcerers.

Where lay our honored dead,
(Dead, for the most part, of lust and drink,
Of sloth, greed, cruelty and pride) there
The slaves had once planted
Weeded, harvested the cotton,
And where the community college lies
And the country club: It was a large plantation,
But very few remember.
Forgetfulness breeds ghouls.

The one who once hears elvish song
Does not forget; the memory stays:
And one can face the shades,
Though not without trembling.
We are not elves, and elvish song
Is but a start, if freely given.

Here is a chapel, white and bright
where we both prayed and pray,
My grandmother and I. (For Prayer is timeless.)
Before the houseling house and cross.
The undead gather. Graves lie open.
All lust may spend itself as nails.
The veil is rent, manacles binding
Slave to master, and master to slave,
Are broken, and all made free.
There can the undead die at last,
Be planted. And angels sow
And weed and harvest their graves.
We all must die before we live.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Let's look at the words South, Southern, and Southerner.  The South refers to the Southern United States, especially those states which were part of the abortive Confederacy.  It denotes not just a region, but a definite linguistic and cultural group, in which I was brought up, and to which I belong.

When I was a growing up, among white southerners our identity was still one formed by the myth of the Lost Cause: I remember very well belonging to the Children of the Confederacy, pledging allegiance to the Confederate flag, and singing patriotic songs about the Confederacy.  The myth of the Lost Cause lost much of its power in the 1970's, and, due to embarrassment over slavery, segregation, and the attempt to dehumanize the Black race, was replaced by a different approach to our history.  White Southerners decided we were beyond our past and it were best forgotten.  We were helped in this by White Northerners, who had long been eager to leave the past behind in the search for national unity.

The problem is that public denial and forgetfulness over our history provides itself a cover for another form of racism, and leaves many problems unsolved, including the essential task of racial reconciliation, for you see, White Southerners were ignoring another fact, that Black Southerners were Southerners too.  They share with us related dialect, a common place, a shared past and culture.  So in acknowledging my Southernerness, I assume responsibility for accepting the past, and squarely facing the problems my ancestors have left me.

One cannot successfully undo one's past, and the attempt to do so often continues many of the evils one would deny or avoid, as well as creating new ones.  That Southerners are Southerners is unavoidable.  The question is how to face all that honestly, neither condemning the good as irredeemable by association nor condoning the bad, but rather working to correct it.

Everyone comes from somewhere.  I am from the South (East Texas to be specific), with forebears and a long history there.  By saying that I am a Southerner I am admitting a fact, and taking on a commitment to face the demons associated with that fact as well as acknowledging and being thankful for the good things involved in this fact.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

High Church?

High-churchman, this is a word with a specific context.  Usually "high church" is taken to mean ceremonial and ritual.  If one's congregation employs ornate vestments, incense, and sings as much of the service as possible, or relatively, even if one has vestments and a set liturgy at all, this is "high church".   However that  that is not its original meaning.  The term "High Churchman" comes from the Anglican ("Episcopal" in America) Church, and refers to a particular doctrinal tradition, namely a high doctrine of the Christian Church, with a concomitant emphasis on fundamental doctrine, a sense of the sacred, the disciplines of the Christian life, and use of set of appointed forms of worship, that is a liturgy, in particular a faithful following of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.  Being high-church has important doctrinal, philosophical, and cultural consequences.

Most importantly it means that one is a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, and a member of the Christian Church.  Doctrinally it means affirming the unique revelation of God in Christ, that Jesus Christ is the both the fully divine Son of God the Father, and the fully human son of the Jewish virgin, Mary.  Because Jesus is who he is, we can know God personally through him.  It also means that one knows that Jesus died a human death, on a cross, an instrument of execution used by the officials of the Roman Empire,  and that he then rose bodily from the dead.  Jesus offered himself willingly to this death, sacrificing himself for us.  By his sacrifice he restored us to a right relation with God, and preserved us from the everlasting death that was the result of our deliberately breaking our relation to God, who is our creator, the source and purpose of our life.  This sacrificial act of Jesus by which God forgives our rejecting him and restores us to a life-giving relation to him is called the Atonement.

The Atonement is the key teaching of Christianity, which I reckon hard to over-emphasize.  Unless we make the center of our teaching Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, whereby he opens for us men the divine glory, then we can hardly consider ourselves high church at all, or even much in the way of Christian.

The high-churchman also holds the authority of Jesus, who is the Son and Word of God, in Holy Scripture, all of which is God the Word "in letters" as the ancient Church Fathers said.  Because of his doctrine of Scripture, he takes the sacraments, in particular Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, not as pointless commands, but as occasions where actions done in obedience to God's command are employed by God as means of His Grace, such that the things they symbolize become the means of conveying reality thus symbolized.  Hence in Baptism our sins are truly washed away and we are born again in Christ; in the Eucharist bread and wine are incorporated in Christ, becoming His Body and Blood, so that Christians receiving them are likewise incorporated into Christ, becoming and growing up as His Body.

The High Churchman holds close to the basic doctrines of Christianity as found in the creeds, i.e., the Nicene and Apostle's creeds.  High churchmanship also means catholicity as a standard by which to discern Christian truth, that is holding to what the Christian faithful have believed and practiced in all times and places, and in particular to the common faith of the ancient church, as handed down by the tradition of the apostles, as the standard to be appealed to when then is present disagreement among Christians.

It also means an understanding that essential for apprehending the truth of faith is the reason with which God has endowed our human nature.  The high-churchman understands ancient classical philosophy and culture as providing a divinely given preparation for the gospel, which, while it is subordinate to the gospel proclamation (the "kerygma") and must be critiqued and purified by it, also provides an essential component of revelation, and is necessary for understanding the Scriptures of the New Testament in particular.

He also understands that while he is forgiven by the free gift of God in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that the Christian life and the divinely commanded use of his talents requires rule and discipline both personal and corporate, including the discipline of liturgy, that is, common prayer.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Martyr

Today the Episcopal Church commemorates Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who was murdered for his work in the civil rights movement on August 20, 1965.

His biography is here:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Gentleman's Manifesto: An Essay

What is a gentleman?  Is it, as a learned friend of mine said, a limited legal term, referring to a male of a certain age, with a certain amount of property, and certain legal rights, as formerly defined in the laws of the United Kingdom?  If so, why do societies other than the United Kingdom talk about people being gentlemen, or acting like a gentleman?  Why do we talk about a gentleman as manifesting a certain standard of behavior.  And why do there appear to be related concepts, for instance in Confucianism or in ancient Greece, or in many other civilizations?  Are we talking about a common human reality? Is this reality something worth our attention?  Risking the danger of oversimplification, let me lay out what the basis of the idea of a gentlemen is, and how it applies to our present world.

In so-called primitive human societies, a natural division of labor occurs between males and females.  (One reason this division is necessary is the need to contain and manage the greater aggressiveness and libido of males so as to mitigate its destructive force, and direct it to the benefit all of society.) In these societies, all male groups, in particular, are dedicated to hunting and warfare.  These male groups both value certain qualities in their members, and also train and encourage their members to acquire those skills and habits useful in hunting and warfare, those skills and habits of behavior that promote cooperation in the group, and also those qualities useful for beneficial interaction with the greater tribe of which these groups and its members are a part.  Such skills would include physical strength, speed, agility, and skill with a weapon; also the ability to kill and dress prey.  An essential quality would be courage, the ability to overcome one's own fear sufficiently to kill prey or stand up to an enemy.  Other qualities would include courtesy, respect for the group's leaders, the ability to follow orders, and a willingness to listen and learn.  They would include honesty, and the ability to communicate. They would include the ability to learn the stories and lore of the group, and to pass these on to the next generation.  Perhaps most significant is the willingness to sacrifice one's self, one's own particular good, for the good of one's fellows.  (I am aware of, but, for the sake of brevity and the scope of this essay, am not dealing with the parallel, but very different and equally important, development of the idea of feminine virtue.)

Those qualities and habits are good which served the purposes of the tribe.  Those which did not are bad.  The good qualities are virtues.  Virtues can be innate, or acquired.  For instance, some people are naturally strong or fast, and thus have the innate virtue of strength.  By contrast a person who gains strength by assiduous exercise has the acquired virtue of strength.  We also see from this that the concept of virtue is not limited to moral virtue, however, for the purpose of this essay, we will restrict our discussion of virtue to acquired and habitual virtue.  Thus bad habits are vices; good habits are virtues.  The sum of one's virtues or vices is one's character.  A person who had a virtuous character was noble.  One who had a vicious character was base.  Later, in Greek thought, the idea of the good, and thus of virtue, was expanded to include not just all of human society, but the transcendent good for which man was created.

With the rise of increasingly complex civilizations, many societies created servile classes beneath a military ruling class.  An example is the Spartans and the Helots who served them.  The creation of servile classes had the effect of excluding from the male brotherhood those relegated to these classes, and also of denying to them the possibility of striving for nobility.  Thus nobility gradually lost the aspect of acquired virtue, and became seen as a something one was born into.  For many in the servile class, "nobility" ceased to be a matter of real virtue at all, and became the despised status of an oppressor.

There were exceptions to this.  Very clannish societies, like the Highland Scots, preserved an egalitarian ideal in which all males could aspire to an ideal of manly virtue.  Also, the idea of being noble, or being a gentleman, was not entirely discredited, and in the British colonies of North America it combined with egalitarian and republican ideals to become once again something which could be available to all males.  These American ideas spread to other parts of the world in consequence of the American Revolution and the rise in her power in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The problem in the modern context is that two different, and fundamentally opposed, egalitarian ideas compete.  The first is that the pursuit of excellence and manly nobility is available to all, and to be encouraged.  Let us call this republicanism (not to be confused with anti-monarchism).  Of course, a problem with those who promoted the republican ideal is that those who advocated it, as in the U.S., often tolerated their own servile classes, and this undermined their witness; a further, and related, problem was the mistreatment of women.  However, the goal of returning manly virtue and nobility to being the objective of all human males is an admirable one, and a necessary one, if we wish the flourishing of human society and the human person, and if we truly wish to abolish servitude and ensure that women are to be treated as of equal dignity with men.

The second egalitarian ideal has been described as totalitarian democracy.  It holds that equality is to be achieved by reducing all to the same level, and discouraging and discounting excellence, virtue, or the idea of being better than others.  In order to enforce equality, and to replace the social order and stability lost when ideas of personal responsibility are discredited, increasing bureaucracy is created, and more and more power is accrued to the state and other large bureaucracies.

Totalitarian democracy is now in the ascendant—not just in the state, but also in for-profit corporations, and even religious bodies, most obviously in the Roman Catholic Church, whose post-Vatican II liturgy has been aptly described as the liturgy of totalitarian democracy.  As a necessary consequence of this ideology, and to reinforce the power of the state and these other bureaucracies, much trouble has been taken to discredit the idea of a gentleman.

The problem is that human males have certain drives, including a drive towards manliness.  If these are not recognized and directed, they become very destructive.  Denying to most human males this direction, the effect of totalitarian democracy is in effect to render a very large part of the populace into a servile status, with entirely predictable and destructive results increasingly evident.

The question is whether we shall have the goal of raising everybody up, or putting some people, indeed most people, down.  The former will build a free society; the latter will create anger, resentment, and eventually violent social disorder.  If we chose the former, then the way forward for human males is to revive the ideal of the gentleman as something towards which every human male can and ought to strive.  This is, inevitably, an act of revolutionary resistance to our present servile state and society.  Thus the man who wants to be a good man must of necessity now be a revolutionary.