Thursday 8 December 2011

DO NOT READ THIS BLOG - The paradox of Christian reactionary blogging


The paradox of Christian reactionary blogging is that the basic ethos of blogging is hostile to the Christian reactionary life.

We blog, in part, for 'company', and to keep each other's spirits up; but the behavior of frequent blogging, keeping-up with blogs, commenting etc is all very much part of the world of mass media and on-line inter-connectivity that is one of the major reasons for that state of affairs which - in our blogs - we lament.

We want (and get) regular, attentive, insightful readers and commenters, yet deep down perhaps we would prefer that they had 'better things to do' - and that we did too!

Perhaps the underlying intention in Christian reactionary blogs is akin to Wittgenstein's last comments in his Tractatus. In paraphrase:

Anyone who understands me finally recognizes my propositions as senseless. When he has climbed out through them, on them, over them; then he must throw away the ladder. 

In other words, once the reader 'gets' what a reactionary blogger is saying, he should stop reading that blog!



PatrickH said...

There's quite a lot of you to 'get', Bruce. I'll need to keep reading you for some time to even begin to make a dent.

FHL said...

I was just thinking of the same thing.

I am supposed to write a paper on Kierkegaard for one of my university (a small private Christian college) classes. I have unable to get started on it, however, because I keep thinking "To write a paper on Kierkegaard would be a great misunderstanding of Kierkegaard and his ideas and desires."

What could be possibly said but "Ok"?

It is too immediate, hits too close, far too actual.

I have instead chosen a chosen to write a paper on irony (the fact the Kierkegaard started his great literary career in the same vein is no great irony to me either). The central irony is this: once you "get it" you can't talk about it... because... can't really say...

Yet I also think that Kierkegaard knew this... and yet kept writing.

And then another thought appears to me: maybe this focus on "getting it" is also off. Maybe once you get it you can talk about it. After all, sin happens in the heart. So long as you proceed with prayer and service and attempt to get your heart in the right place maybe your writing will do some good.

If it is any consolation, your blog and writing has done a great deal of good to me, if only for the consolation of mutual agreement. This extremism of "if I can't do it right, no need to do it at all" might be actually be destructive. The things you do and say may be influential in ways you couldn't predict, according and through God's grace.

What can be said but that, as Kierkegaard would say, "we are always in the wrong in relation to God"? Never accept it, never excuse it, but it is true, and then I realize that there is indeed something that can be said: "Lord have mercy."

FHL said...

Another thought along the same line:

And I say this without a hint of sarcasm, it is really both a troubling and comforting thought to me.

Sometimes I see people get frustrated and say "You just don't get it!"

But when the thing they are trying to explain cannot sufficiently be placed in words, how were they ever supposed to express their "getting it" in the first place? Maybe they do "get it"? In a way that you didn't "get"?

Gyan said...

I do not get how 'reactionary' goes with 'Christianity'

The label 'reactionary' is negative but Christianity is a positive thing.

The reactionaries seem a confused bunch. Some of them want 19C arrangements with Europeans on top but do not care for 19C moral arrangements that 19C Europeans had.

Others, that want 19C morals are better called Traditionalists.

Bruce Charlton said...

@FHL - Good points

@Gyan - the underlying idea is to adopt as a self-label the bad word being used against you - this was the origin of 'Christian'.

Penda said...

Indeed. Could you imagine if we were still going around calling all of ourselves 'saints?'

Anyways, I've been thinking about this paradox quite a bit recently, since reading John Senior's "Restoration of Christian Culture."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Oenda - I found that Book of John Senirs very interesting. It seems to encapsulate the spirit of pre-Vatical II Roman Catholicism.

Extremely admirable in its way, yet it had the effect of propelling me towards Eastern Orthodoxy!

It is the sheer *legalism* of Roman Catholicism which I find mistaken. There is a severe cost to pay for striving for ever-more-complete clarity and consistency - and in leaving no question unanswered.

Kristor said...

Bruce, I have to disagree with you on this one. When I first encountered VFR – the first traditionalist blog I ever stumbled upon – I was already convinced I was a total reactionary. But I was wrong. I was merely a rightist liberal of libertarian leanings. I soon learned that I had barely begun to discover the depths of my chthonic liberalism. It takes a long, long time, and a lot of thinking and learning, to work through all the consequences of any one of the major planks of liberalism (reject one of them, and one must if consistent sooner or later reject all of them).

Years after I began to read Auster, Kalb, Wood, and you, I still find myself learning and growing. Almost every week, my reading list grows, too. So, I have to say: the minute you think you “get” what a reactionary blogger is saying, you should read him repeatedly, and more carefully, and then read him again, to perfect what is without doubt only the beginning of acquaintance with his thought, and of your work in integrating that thought into your own.

There is no course of studies in Traditionalism. Blogs play a critical role in bringing together like-minded students, who can then talk to each other about their readings of the masters. Think of it this way: the orthosphere is the Lindisfarne of the internet.

Speaking of which, does anyone know of an online bibliography of basic traditionalist books? We all talk about them all the time (Feser, Rose, Lewis, Voegelin, & al. – and Kalb & Chalmers, now, too), but is there an actual list somewhere? Auster has a reading list somewhere on his blog, I seem to recall. It would be great if that list could be participatory, so that commenters could add to it, or discuss the works therein.

Wurmbrand said...

Kristor's idea is a good one if the bibliography can be compiled with real care. A sharp distinction should be made between Christian works and writings from other sources that some feel have "affinities" with Traditionalism, etc.

I'm thinking, in fact, of the peril of "Traditionalism," the "school" associated with Schuon, Coomaraswamy, Sherrard, Pallis, and others, including notably Guenon -- whom Fr. Seraphim Rose appreciated at one point but whom he left behind as he became Orthodox. I would be very sad to see the ideas of this group getting mixed up with sounder thought.

If the list is to be truly Christian, then some sort of test(s) would be needed such that writings by Fr. Seraphim, Tolkien, and Lewis (and others -- Charles Williams?) were to be received, but not -too- many things. The test(s) should be clear enough that someone who wondered whether a given work was an appropriate nomination would be able, himself, to judge, at least most of the time.

It might be considered appropriate eventually to have a very clearly identified second list of works that were perceived to contain valuable material but that did not pass this test. But I fear it would be easy to get bogged down in its compilation prematurely and would urge that discussion focus, for now, just on that core reading list.

I think it could be possible to work on a project like this without getting unduly legalistic.

I suppose we would be aiming for a list that had a "fragrance" or "savor" of -- orthodoxy? Orthodoxy with a capital O?

I think it would be good to think not just in terms of whole books, but notable articles or even poems. For example, I might suggest some poems by Ruth Pitter. My sense is that people are not talking just about "ideas" but about a "sensibility."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Kristor -

Thanks. You are right, of course; but the path is nearly always a middle way - and it is possible to spend too much time reading blogs, and indeed reading at all. Solitude, prayer, silence are the things most people are really short of, not information nor even new perspectives.

I suspect that only a little bit of sound reading, or - better - oral teaching - would go a very long way for a true contemplative.

@Dale - It makes sense, but I have always been aware that I need not just the right book, but to read it at the right time - so I have tended to go from from book/ writer to another, following trails - and have found lists of recommended reading to be worthless for my own use.

Also, they do not take into account special personal appeal - whereby a chemistry exists between the writer and the reader - yet another writer may provoke (irrational) hostility.

For instance, I find it hard to overcome a hostility or resentfulness towards TS Eliot; all the time I read him I am fighting it!

Whereas I have an affinity toward other writers - and enjoy time in their company.

I suppose I like to leave space for providence to work, and try to avoid anything like a curriculum.

Bruce Charlton said...

H/T Joseph Ebbecke for this Roman Catholic perspective on blogging: