IS "REACTIONARY" A DIRTY WORD?
Sylvia Neely concludes her book, A Concise History of the French Revolution, on an expectant note: "The final word on the meaning of the French revolution is still to be written." Surely no better conclusion is possible for a subject as rich as this one. The episodes in French history, dating from July 14, 1789 (the fall of the Bastille) through November 10, 1798 (the coup d'état of Brumaire that brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power) continue to influence our world in profound, but often subtle ways.
Let me give you an example. In 1789, the French National Assembly divided ideologically down the middle, into supporters of Louis XVI (pictured at right), religion, and tradition on the one side, and into supporters of the revolution on the other. The former sat to the presiding officer's right, while the latter to his left. When the National Assembly was replaced by the Legislative Assembly several years later, the same division continued, with the radicals on the left, the moderates in the center, and the supporters of the new French constitution on the right. To this day, the political spectrum is denominated in basically the same way. Those on the left tend to advocate change, while those on the right tend to hold to tradition.
The term "reactionary," to which radicals ascribe racist and fascist overtones, is also a bequest from the French revolution. One who refused to support the revolution and desired to move away from its radical ideas of no monarch, no religion, and no constitution, and back to the Ancien Régime, where the king and church were front and center, was a réactionnaire. To this day, revolutionaries favor radical innovations, while reactionaries support restoration of a former regime.
As for myself, I am a reactionary. No, I take it back, I AM A REACTIONARY! The size of the federal government has grown, in my opinion, to monstrous proportions, resulting in Americans being extortionately taxed in order to pay for it. It's my belief that beating the drum for "civil rights" has more often than not issued in injurious excesses, such as "affirmative action" programs, which provide preferential treatment to particular groups based upon factors other than achievement. "Freedom" has become synonymous with license. So when I hear particular politicians speaking glibly of "democracy," "equality," and "neutrality," red flags are hoisted in my mind, and there's an inaudible scream of "Lies!" Just as did the philosophes (the philosophers of the French revolution), who loved humanity and hated individuals, and Maximilien Robespierre, pictured at left, who sought to impose his own ideas and brand of terror upon the French people and to call the result "democracy," a similar specimen of radical is at work in America, demonstrating a hateful and arrogant disregard for hard-working citizens and couching leftist ideas in liberal "humanitarian" gibberish.
Most Americans do not want a bilingual country, open borders, unlimited immigration, proliferating entitlement programs, astronomical taxation and waste, improvident wars, and Obamacare. Most regard Jane Fonda as a despicable traitor who has no right to live or to work in this country. Most do not believe that the covenant of "marriage" accommodates homosexual unions. Most are convinced, however, that "one nation under God" should remain part of the Pledge of Allegiance and that giant media, which are helping to drive secularism, want to frame issues, manipulate reportage of the news, and improperly influence American opinion. Most Americans desire to return to another period in American life, not because it was perfect or "golden," but because it appears in many ways to represent a far more hopeful time than their own. I suspect that there may be many reactionaries in America, and unrepentant ones at that!
Since the 1960s, Americans have suffered draconian increases in the size of government, along with many social changes which have not enhanced the quality of their lives one iota. Try on the following ones for size:
*A woman in her third trimester of pregnancy can legally enlist the "care" of an abortionist, terminate her pregnancy, and do so with a rationale as murderous as that of Casey Anthony.
*An eighteen-year old, who looks, thinks, and acts like a cretin, is entitled to vote.
*The opinions of half-wits, like rapper Lupe Fiasco, can (and do) receive national air time.
*A college education no longer guarantees that one can even read or write, much less think.
*A citizen boots up AOL, Yahoo, or Dogpile (an appropriate name) and discovers that the daily headlines are tawdry and appeal primarily to prurient interests.
*One may, while traveling through the heartland of America, hear an actual Muslim call to prayer in a nearby town or village.
Do you appreciate these changes? I don't. Are you willing to lie down and play dead in the face of them? I'm not.
Many wonder why I continue to emphasize religion in my writings. It's because the church has influenced traditional American culture more than any other institution. One need only read sermons preached during the founding of America, by men such as Benjamin Colman, Isaac Backus, and John Witherspoon, to realize how formative Christianity was on the politics, traditions, and mores of traditional American life prior to 1965. What's happened to that burning religious spirit? Think about it.
The mainline Protestant church is, very possibly, the most spiritually irrelevant institution anywhere in the world. If one attends church nowadays and hears the Bible preached in a manner that takes a given passage with exegetical seriousness and, at the same time, relates it cogently to the concerns of people in the pews, it is nothing short of miraculous. Most clergy are adept at smiling, slapping backs, attending fellowship dinners, and otherwise functioning as "constitutional" priests (that's what the French called them). Such clergy are toothless dogs who've forgotten how to bark, who wag their flea-bitten tails while the culture around them burns. They are also intellectual pretenders, whose sermons are routinely boring, unlearned, and uninformed. The moral understanding they reflect, if there is one, can be taken straight from the pages of The Progressive magazine, not as a critical appropriation to be sure, but as an unconscious osmotic assimilation.
I believe in restoring America and the church to their pristine preeminence. I don't contend that former times were without problems, or even without some of the worst forms of bigotry. But, overall, those were better and more productive times than those in which we live. Manufacturing was stellar. Welfare was minimal. Elementary schools taught the three R's and upheld fundamental Christian principles and values. Courts of law were respected. Families were intact. America possessed a common culture, pervaded by distinctively Christian modes of thought, which bound its people together.
Will our country and its culture ever be restored? I don't know. But, in the meantime, what's wrong with clergy giving their congregants a "progress report" each Sunday morning on a passage of Scripture, telling them not only what the passage meant when written but also what it means today? What's wrong with the church leading the way to a restoration of core biblical values, without the nasty excesses of radical social policies we suffer at present? What's wrong with Christian men and women applauding liberty, which is informed by a sense of personal responsibility, and which is embodied in our Constitution, especially our Bill of Rights? What's wrong with Christians, as Christians, being intolerant of corrupt, agenda-driven media; lying, self-serving politicians; and degenerate Hollywood morals?
There's nothing anywhere mandating that the church must be led by a bunch of Caspar Milquetoasts who weakly resign themselves and their congregants to the values of popular culture as infected by leftist politics. (It may not even occur to most clerics that there's actually another option!) What I'm saying is that we live in a time of outrage. Christian men and women, who still take their spiritual calling seriously, must be the first to stand up and to sound the tocsin, which will reverberate throughout culture and, yes, even politics.
I am un réactionnaire culturel et politique chrétien – you bet that I am, and I'm proud of it -- and I cordially invite all my readers to join the order.
June 24, 2011