“What Can the Righteous Do?”

Archpriest Lawrence Farley | 21 January 2020

I sometimes find that it is very depressing not to live under a rock. If I lived under a rock, I would not know how bad things are progressing in the western world, but as it is, with newspapers, Facebook, and the six o’clock news, one gets a very full and depressing picture of how western civilization is currently faring. And the picture is not good.

It is true that the media does not give one the full picture. But given the western media’s left-wing bias (at least in Canada), together with its almost total blackout of news reporting the persecution of Christians occurring now throughout the non-western world, I have no trouble believing that the picture is not fully accurate. Rather, I believe it is probably worse. In a word, I believe that western civilization is in the process of undergoing a total collapse, like the implosion of a building that is being detonated to remove it from the landscape, with the difference that this implosion takes a generation or so, not just a few seconds.

If you doubt this, or think I am over-reacting, meditate on the fact that in England lately two women, one calling herself a man, just had a baby (see inset photo of the woman in the last stage of her pregnancy). She was married to her female spouse who had her breasts removed and refuses to be identified with either gender. The sperm donor was also transgender, as was the attending doctor. The whole spectacle was celebrated, complete with photos, and anyone speaking against it as unnatural or insane could be denounced by a court for expressing opinions “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”. Remember: this was not California or Vancouver, the proverbially wacky west coast; this was England, where the Head of State still bears the title “Defender of the Faith”.

As the Psalmist says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). Western civilization has been built almost entirely upon a foundation of Christianity. In an earlier day, this foundation included the spiritual inheritance of the eastern part of Christendom too, though for some time now the western part of Christendom has parted company with the eastern part. (To read all about it, see the excellent book by Strickland, The Age of Paradise.) But even after the parting of west from east, western civilization was Christian civilization. Its understanding of gender, marriage, God, the sanctity of human life, the role of religion, and the importance of reason were all informed by the Christian faith, so that its ethics, by and large, were Christian ethics. And when it erred (e.g. in accepting slavery) the errors were later corrected on the basis of Christian principles.

As anyone who like me does not live under a rock can see, the Christian foundation is being radically eroded, if not violently overthrown. When one steps back a bit to survey the total landscape, this becomes clear. What do such diverse things as the pandemic of child pornography, violence against women, transgender confusion, gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, opposition to traditional piety in the public square and in schools, and rampant gun violence have in common? They all share an antipathy to the values of traditional Christianity. These things are not the root problem, but the fruit of the root problem. They are signs that western civilization is collapsing. The West, having effectively rejected the traditional Christian faith, is losing the superstructure of civilization which was built upon it.

This should not come as a surprise. Any architect knows that a building is only as secure as the foundation upon which it is built. The Lord said the same thing: if one builds upon a foundation of sand, the building will not survive the coming storms. It is only by building upon the rock that the building can stand secure and endure. And the rock upon which to safely build is His divine teaching (Matthew 7:24f).

It might be argued that my jaundiced view of our current state is the result of me living in highly secularized Canada, and on the even more highly secularized west coast of Canada. It is sadly true that Canada is very far advanced in its anti-Christian secularism. In Canada there is no real right-wing, but only left-wing, further left-wing, even further left-wing, and the Green Party. (The Marijuana Party has, I think, disbanded since the legalization of marijuana. Its supporters will have to find something else to protest. Maybe global warming? Bring on the Swedish children.) We are all very anti-traditional here (or “progressive”, as we bill ourselves), so that no politician in Canada dare voice opposition to gay marriage or abortion. Some might argue that it is my location that has made me unwarrantedly pessimistic and that I just need to get out more.

I have been out a little, and visited the American South. In spots it was refreshingly different than my native Vancouver, where no one ever wished me “a blessed day”. But even there I witnessed the same symptoms that afflict us here in the Great White North, leading me to conclude that the disease is not confined to my home and native land. The disease has (happily) not progressed as far down there as it has up here, but I suggest that we both suffer from the same affliction, and that the ultimate prognosis is the same for all of us. To vary the metaphor, the flood water is rising all over North America; the water level is just a little higher in some places. The foundation has been eroded all over the continent, which will suffer the same final disastrous results.

I suggest that the proof of foundational erosion lies not in the answers given to certain questions, but to the presence in society of the questions in the first place. When a cultural foundation is secure, no one thinks of asking the question, (for example) whether two men may marry each other. The question can only be asked if something fundamental has shifted in the underlying culture. Once the shift has taken place so that the question may be asked, it is only a matter of time until the non-traditional answer is given to the question and which then finally replaces the traditional answer.

We have seen this occur in our lifetime. That is why the destruction of traditional culture (i.e. western civilization) begins not with the man in the street making assertions, but with academics in ivory towers asking questions. The process does not begin by someone shouting, “Gay marriage is possible!”, but by someone quietly asking, “Is gay marriage possible?” Once the question is allowed as a real question, the liberal answer is ultimately assured, for the question can only be asked once the traditional foundation has been eroded or destroyed.

That is also why the call for “dialogue” is dangerous as well as more than a little disingenuous. What is demanded in the call for dialogue is not true dialogue, but acceptance of a new cultural foundation. There can be no dialogue over things that are clearly wrong when a traditional cultural foundation is in place. For example, if someone wants to open a dialogue over whether or not National Socialism has merit and should be adopted, the call for dialogue will, quite properly, be refused. The cultural structure built upon a traditional Christian foundation refuses to acknowledge that this is an open question. Of course National Socialism is wrong; there is no need for dialogue about it. It is only when the Christian foundation has been dislodged that anyone regards this as a genuine topic for discussion.

I have been speaking about the collapse of western civilization in the West and not just in North America because I see the same disease and opposition to Christian dogmas and ethics in Europe as well. This reveals that the cause of the collapse is not rooted in specifically North American developments, but in the rejection of the Christian faith, for it was only the Christian Faith that was common to North America and Europe.

Some people, alarmed at these developments, have sought an answer in immigration—in other words, in flight. I do sympathize. The Psalm cited at the beginning of this essay alluded to the counsel “Flee like a bird to the mountains” (v. 1)—or possibly, like a bird to Russia. Some Orthodox families in America have indeed decided to take flight and have made the move to Russia. I do not judge them. But I think it is a mistake.

I do share their sorrow over the present and escalating collapse of traditional western civilization. I could murmur like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, “I wish all this need not have happened in my time”. But that would provoke the obvious reply, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” And for good or for ill, divine providence has placed us where we are in these times. Western civilization has collapsed before, and doubtless those who lived through those days of increasing darkness and ultimate collapse similarly lamented that they lived to see such times.

But God’s providence has placed us all where we are, and with it, given us the obligation to fight for the truth in the battleground in which we find ourselves. The results of our striving are not ours to know in advance. Perhaps we shall prevail; perhaps we shall go down in flames. Perhaps western civilization may again arise like a phoenix from the ashes to build upon the foundation that we preserve in secret. Perhaps we live at the end of days, and the changes we see represent the final apostasia/ rebellion foretold by St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. We cannot know. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. We need not fly like a bird to the mountains. Now is not the time for flight. Now is the time for battle, for standing our ground, for truth-telling, for generous deeds, and perhaps for martyrdom. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? We can do what we have always done: love and sing and serve the Lord. And lift up our heads when the powers of the heavens are shaken, for our redemption draws nigh.

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