Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A political reading list for Christian Reactionaries


Now I have your attention...

There is no such reading list - that is to say, there is no political reading list for Christian Reactionaries.

(And if you are looking for one, you should perhaps examine your motivations in doing so.)

A Christian Reactionary must be a Christian first, and political only secondly (or indeed not even secondly but some larger number) - and I don't think there are any books of politics which put things the correct way around.

Rather, the reading list is, or should be, the works of your most esteemed spiritual guides; but read for their politics and their political implications.

So my personal suggested reading list would include JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis (who wrote very little about politics, explicitly), Fr Seraphim Rose (who did write quite a lot about politics) - and from recent reading Fr Herbert Kelly.  - (PDF booklet summarising and quoting Fr Kelly on Theology).

In sum, these are simply my spiritual fathers, when being read for their political insights; and being read in the expectation that where my current political views and evaluations differ from theirs, it is likely that I am the one who is wrong - especially when their views and evaluation methods seem 'outdated'.

Your spiritual guides may well be different, but the method could be the same.

Plus, of course, the Bible should be read in the same manner; and written records of Church Tradition (e.g. lives of The Saints and Martyrs) may guide us in similar fashion.



josh said...

I don't agree with your premise. A Christian reactionary ought to read Jim Kalb, because Jim Kalb is really good. Obviously, recommendations like this are legitimate. Why are recommendations like this not a reading list?

Bruce Charlton said...


"A Christian reactionary ought to read Jim Kalb, because Jim Kalb is really good. "

I can't believe you really mean that!


I respect Jim Kalb enough that I asked him (and nobody else) to write the blurb for my book Thought Prison; but I would never say "ought".

Tolkien, Lewis, and Fr Seraphim Rose never read Jim Kalb (for obvious chronological reasons, if no others), but worked-out their politics from their Christianity.

Indeed I had myself barely read Jim Kalb before writing Thought Prison (partly because from what I *had* read I could see that what he was saying was too close to what I wanted to say, but was not *quite* the same - and I feared confusion).

JK may well be useful to some people, as he was for me; but I would not submit humbly to his teaching as I would for JRRT, CSL and FrSR! Indeed, I have been known to argue-back...

In sum I regard JK as a (wiser and more learned) colleague - but not as my spiritual Father.

Others would choose different spiritual Fathers; but my point is that sFs are the people to whom we should look for political guidance (often implicit).

Brandon said...

What of Tolkien would you most recommend as spiritual guidance?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Brandon - Well, obviously Lord of the Rings is the main thing to read; but then perhaps his selected Letters; and then perhaps TA Shippey's Road to Middle Earth.

Of Tolkien's smaller works, Leaf by Niggle and Smith of Wootton Major are very important (the latter should be read in Verlyn Flieger's recent edition which includes a very revealing 'back story' essay). Verlyn Flieger's criticism is extremely good.

I also found Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth to be valuable in understanding Tolkien's basic motivation. The Carpenter biography is essential at some point, but Carpenter doesn't understand Tolkein, nor sympathise with him.

josh said...

I didn't mean to put Jim Kalb on the same level as the people you mention, nor do I think of him as a spiritual father. That's the premise I am rejecting. I was just using him as a for instance since I know you like his writing, I would have said Thought Prison, but I figured you would object.

And perhaps *ought* isn't the right word. Still, Kalb is political writing, its quite good and interesting, and can help one understand the world (though obviously not at the most fundamental level). Why can't writing like yours and Kalb's comprise a Christian Reactionary reading list that presumes Christianity but discusses practical politics. Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean by reading list.

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - Actually I have a pretty strong aversion to reading lists, and I almost-never read books that are recommended to me. It seems to be so important to read the right book at the right time - and I have a belief that these things will happen by providence/ synchronicity if only you follow your nose (or your heart).

But I have a particular worry about people leap-frogging the Christian in eagerness to tackle the Reactionary - this is something I myself did for a long time. It is correlated with an instrumental interest in 'religion'; and the ways that 'religion' is useful in promoting things like good behavior, fertility and culture.

Ths is linked to that thing which I have harped-on about - that the single most important things is repentance. It is vital that our culture repents; what ideology our culture might adopt after repentance can only be known after repentance.