Saturday, 1 December 2018

The content of mainstream Romanticism (contrasted with Romantic Christianity)

 The Romantic Christianity of William Arkle - inspiring reality behind the mundane surface

Romanticism is very important, indeed inevitable.

Most people regard Romanticism as a reaction to the industrial revolution, or to Enlightenment rationalism - but I regard it as coming from within: as a development of human consciousness. And, as such, part of God's plan for Man.

From the middle 1700s there were early signs (especially in Britain and Germany) of a new consciousness. The invention of the novel by Samuel Richardson, and its rapid and runaway success is a clear example. Romanticism emerged among poets, painters, philosophers, musicians - it was a cultural phenomenon and it has never gone away.

However, most Romanticism is bad, harmful, evil tending; and was and is opposed by traditionalist religious Christians.

A classic story is of a miserable, alienated young man growing up in some kind of strict (often hypocritical) Christian background, enmeshed in 'right wing' attitudes; who seeks more 'life' in terms of extramarital sex (of whatever kind), drugs, crime, and/or radical/ revolutionary politics. Another kind of romanticism favours paganism, and contrasts its naturalness, spontaneity, happiness with the wretchedness of sin-obsessed, negativistic and legalistic Christian churches.

There are many thousands of such stories among novels, movies, TV programmes etc., and new ones emerge all the time. Romanticism of this sort is found in art illustrations, rock and pop music, fashion... just everywhere. This is mainstream Romanticism: typified by sex-politics-intoxication and anti-Christian themes and attitudes.

It is so popular precisely because 'Romanticism taps-into this changed human consciousness; yet it is also a failure. On the one hand mainstream Romanticism cannot be defeated by traditional Christianity because it addresses a need which will not go away; and against it tradition is merely endorsing a life of unavoidable alienation and misery, of boredom and despair. And, anyway, since Romanticism (properly understood) is divinely-driven, Christians should love and embrace it; not fear and fight it.

Yet 250 years and thousands of examples of experience shows us that this mainstream Romanticism is a failure. It leads nowhere better than disillusion or death. It has proved to be helpless against the rise and rise of bureaucracy, and even (via 'transhumanism') feeds-into the advanced plan to make people into robots in a totalitarian machine.

It is this reasoning  that lies behind my advocacy of Romantic Christianity - the principles, in two words - are the inevitability of Romanticism and the truth of Christianity.

Without Christianity, Romanticism is merely psychotherapy by another name, and psychotherapy doesn't work. But without Romanticism Christianity will be undesirable.

Put the two together, however, and we get the best of both worlds: Romanticism rooted in truth, meaning, purpose and the reality of relationships with a loving God and each other; a hope-full Christianity that successfully addresses alienation and despair, and potentially motivates, energises and en-courages us.