A-ha! You thought I’d forgotten about this hadn’t you? No, it’s just that the election really punched me hard, and then it was time for a Serious Think (actually, more like three or four serious thinks), but I held on to my hand-written notes (and then lost them again halfway through. . . there was . . stuff y’know, wibbly-wobbley, timey-wimey. . .stuff. . .) for this one, so here I am again, to wax ponderous and opaque for you.
The Fifth admonition of chivalry is:
Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
There are two key words for this admonition which we shall focus on in this discussion, these being “Recoil” and “Enemy.”
The dictionary at Mirriam-Webster.com defines “recoil” thusly:
1 a : to fall back under pressureb : to shrink back physically or emotionally
2 : to spring back to or as if to a starting point :rebound
The dictionary further discusses the connotation of the word, saying: “recoil implies a start or movement away through shock, fear, or disgust.”
What we take from this, then, is that “to recoil” is an overwhelmingly emotional response– in fact, an emotional response so strong it overrides our conscious control of our bodies. Unlike a retreat, which can be a considered evaluation of relative strengths, weaknesses and strategy, to recoil from something uses no reason, or perhaps a perversion of reason– a facsimile that is seems like logic, but is really only justification for emoting. It is generally a reaction of disgust– think little girls confronted by something “gross”. Like spiders.
Unfortunately, many of us have been guilty of just such “recoiling” in our public stances, and have justified it with various arguments that all really boil down to “But, those people are gross! We don’t want to be mixed-up-with/ associated with that mess!”
Allow me to give some examples.
Let’s start with the tale of two different musical paths– the paths taken by many, or even most “Christian Music” artists, and that chosen by Irish rock band U2.
The lyrics to U2’s songs have always skirted the line between “love song” and “hymn”. In fact, their October album featured the song “Gloria” which was entirely in Latin. In the documentary Rattle & Hum, lead guitarist The Edge states quite plainly that the song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a gospel piece. On their earliest albums (Boy, War, etc), many of the songs are quite plainly about God, Jesus, etc.
However, this meant that record stores started sorting their records into the “Christian Music” bins– and the boys from Ireland were quite upset about this, because it automatically limited their potential audience. One can clearly see the monetary concern here– but would that other such artists had had such concern! Yes, they were concerned about the limits of who would shell out the money– but the flip side of that is exposure. If it’s in the “Christian” bin, the rock stations wouldn’t play it. They would be reduced to playing for the choir, and that was never in their plans.
So, Bono (lead singer) hit upon the idea that all he had to do was change the pronouns (He/ Him to You), and they would still be played on the big stations, and more people would hear their music. Still the same subject, just even more direct. Which is how they got the song “Mysterious Ways”– about the Holy Spirit — to still be played on the major rock stations across the world. It’s why they always end their concerts with the song “40” (which is mostly Psalm 40). In the years when radio stations were pouring out Madonna, the Sex Pistols, and later such voices as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. . . those same stations were also playing songs extolling the Holy Spirit, or love songs in the general tradition of St. John of the Cross and the Song of Songs.
Contrast that with the fate of too many “Christian” artists up until very recently (Like, Switchfoot and Owl City type of recently). For decades, “Christian” or “X-tian” music has existed in a musical ghetto. This was not entirely imposed by the music industry, for there was also a sentiment upon many Christians that unless the lyrics were straight out of the Bible, or hit-you-in-the-face-blatant about Jesus, that it was trash and would lead people to Hell. The Music Industry that upheld Madonna, Brittany and now Lady Gaga and Ke$ha was quite content for the Christian music scene to self-marginalize. Christians were safe in the superior virtue of their music, and the greater masses went on with their lives with little to lure them into thinking of things greater than booty-calls and getting hammered. Worked out for everyone. . . well, not really, as the evidence mounts before our eyes.
Every so often on the radio, Larry O’Connor (writes for Breitbart, too) makes the point that many conservative families want their children to be lawyers and doctors– careers that will bring them financial stability. He says he has often seen children of conservative families turned away from the arts– and then those same parents decry the lack of conservatives in the arts. His point was that if you want a more conservative presence in Hollywood, on Broadway, in the music industry, etc. . . then you have to stop steering your children away from the arts.
His point and mine are the same– we have lost this ground in society not only due to being “forced-out”, but just as much because we have “conceded” it. And worse, so many of us “staunch conservatives” are teaching our children to so staunchly cede the ground as well.
I will say upfront that I acknowledge that I am not yet a parent myself, nor would I even then have much of a right to tell anyone how to raise their children. Therefore, you may certainly dismiss all that I have to say on this subject. However, I would ask that you give it brief consideration, and not think it personal, nor criticism into your value as a parent.
Have you ever heard some parent say, “Oh, no, I never let my children watch/ listen/ be exposed to any of that!” Or, “We never allow them to see _____”. Or “______ is not allowed in the house.” Yeah? I know I’ve heard a lot of it from “our side”. Believe me, I understand that you don’t want certain things touching your children, touching their precious minds. And yes, there are certainly some things that should never be allowed under one’s roof. But it is very easy to go too far, and cross the line from prudent protection of the innocents you have responsibility for, into coddling them and leaving them defenseless against the snares and enticements of evil.
While I am certainly support the idea of “Age Appropriate”, the fact is you have 18 years, at best, to get your children ready to go our into the world and not trip into Hell four steps out the door. If we fail to inculcate our children against evil, they will be easy prey.
For example: I went to college in New Orleans. Every year, at my little school, at least 5 freshmen (~18 years old) wound up in the hospital from alcohol poisoning within the first few weeks of the first semester. Every so often, one of them died. The one thing these kids had in common is that they came from families where alcohol was either strictly forbidden, or else indulged in without any control. Not only was alcohol given the shine of the forbidden, they also were robbed of any models of moderation and self-control. They literally had no idea how to handle alcohol, and had no idea how to fight the allure of the easily accessible and completely forbidden and illegal.
You know what kids never had this sort of trouble? The ones that were raised with parents that would let them sip their wine, with parents that had a beer or glass of wine or tumbler of scotch after work and never got drunk. Not only did we have examples of moderation and control, but alcohol never had the lure of the forbidden. It was no big deal to us. It was nothing special, and therefore, it was no problem for us to resist. We were inculcated by our parents against drunkenness by being exposed to alcohol throughout our upbringing.
This same approach worked with culture. My parents decided early on to never censor our reading, trusting that if something was “too grown up”, that we’d either ignore it or bring it to them. Same with music and movies– in fact, with movies and television, there was, looking back, a deliberate process of discussion from our earliest days. Starting with questions like “What was your favorite part?”, “What was your least favorite part?”, “Who was your favorite character?”. In later years, these questions grew into philosophical discussions, moral discussions, story-telling discussions, etc. Again, there was certainly awareness of “Age-appropriate-ness”. When I saw Die Hard, my mother made clear that certain language was not be be used by my mouth. And I may have hid my face in Daddy’s side once or twice. But we also discussed courage, love, protecting against bad guys, helping the good guys, and the merits of always having a decent pair of shoes to slip into before walking over shattered glass.
Sexy scenes were met with eye-rolling and groans and mutters of “Oh, come on, this romance stuff is boring! Let’s get back to the story/ explosions!” from us kids, with the occasional comment of “Hey, that’s not her husband! Why’s she doing that?! I don’t like her anymore!” If there was any storytelling merit to such scenes, they might be discussed after. Same with fight scenes or other parts that might effect rating.
The point is, that in having these conversations, and starting them start before I can remember, my parents gradually taught me how to evaluate what I was taking in– how to parse messages, take the good and dispose of the rest. It wasn’t that my parents let us watch whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. . . rather, we kids watched whatever they wanted to watch, whenever they wanted, and then they made us think about what we saw. Same with reading, when I skipped from reading Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle books straight to Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. There was a lot of the Zelazny that I skipped over and totally didn’t remember when I re-read the books again some years ago. Because I was too young for some things the first time, and so ignored them. But Dad was always there when I wanted to discuss plot points, or ask what jeweler’s rouge was.
In allowing exposure to the culture in a controlled way, in not shutting us away from everything, we were inculcated against most of the worst of it. We tended to find the philosophical and theological angles in everything we saw. Yes, for a time, when I was in college, I did loose my way a bit. Just like a newly loosed ship in a tempest, it took me a little while to find my bearings again. But I was only able to do so because I’d already had some experience with that tempest. Unlike other people I knew who, just like the kids with alcohol, had no defense against the world, and drowned.
In keeping our children clear of anything even slightly questionable, we rob them of the lessons in how to battle these things. You cannot learn hand-to-hand combat by studying books– you have to run drills, have some sparring (for the non-lethal techniques), actually fight some people and get bruised and battered and bloodied. And best if such things are learned in a friendly, supportive, loving atmosphere, and not out in the field of battle. If you, as a parent, recoil —and in so doing, teach your children to recoil— from all that is less-than-entirely-Godly, then you are sending them into battle unarmed. Or, in teaching them to recoil, you are teaching them to cede ground, to abandon the lost and the hopeless who need the help of Heaven’s Soldiers the most. (Who needs our prayers more than Lady Gaga, and the typical Hollywood elites?)
I’m not saying that you should expose your children to the worst of everything. Rather, expose them to the best of everything, and some of the not-so-great, and teach them how to tell the difference. There’s no need to teach your children to slay dragons that even the hardiest of men have trouble with. But teaching them to fend off wolves and maybe even wrestle gators is a good idea. But before they leave your shelter, they should know that the dragons are out there. That way, they know when to run, and when to stand and fight. That way, they won’t get eaten.
Let’s now address the second key word in the admonition: Enemy.
What is meant by the term “enemy?” Who is your enemy?
I would say that one’s enemy is the one whose basic principle(s) stand in mutual exclusion and opposition to one’s own basic principle(s). Therefore, in order to know one’s enemy, one must first have some sense and knowledge of their own most basic philosophic principles. For example, I would say that I have One Foundational Principle, which leads directly to a few following Basic principles that organize my views on everything else in life. That first, overriding principle is this:
This is the beginning. From this follows my second principle:
GOD IS LOVE
Which is expanded into
GOD IS LOVE, and thus has Power.
[This is in opposition to the ancient idea that: GOD IS POWER, and thus has Love. In many ways, the Old Testament is the story of the Hebrew people moving from the God = Power paradigm to the God = Love paradigm, upon which Christianity then becomes an extended exposition.]
This, then, is the foundation of all my spiritual thought– all my thoughts involving my relation to the Divine. My thoughts involving my relation to my fellow created humans branch off of this, with this principle:
The Individual Human is Sovereign Under GOD.
This is the foundation of my “political” thought– subsidiarity all the way. These two Principles then, are the foundation of all my other philosophical thought. Therefore, my enemy would be any person whose basic Philosophical Principles stand in mutual exclusion and opposition to my own. For instance, someone who believed as one of their basic principles any of the following: God is not, God is Power, Group is Sovereign (under God).
This is why Islam as religion cannot co-exist with any other Religion– Because for them, God = Power, while most other religions are based on a God = Love paradigm, and their mere existence implies that Allah is not All-powerful, in which case, the existence of any religion other than Islam means that Allah does not = God. And this cannot be allowed to be. Therefore, in order for Allah to = God, there cannot exist anything other than Islam. Islam stands in direct opposition to almost every other religion in the world due to this opposing paradigm. Christians and Jews (when each group is functioning properly) can co-exist, because both groups agree with the God = Love paradigm, and thus all other disagreements are merely that– disagreements. But the existence of Jews does not threaten the Christian paradigm (indeed, some would argue that Christians need Jews). Nor does the existence of Christianity threaten the Jewish paradigm (our existence is merely one of misguided Jews and Gentiles, from their perspective). Neither needs to destroy the other in order to make sense, unlike Islam which necessitates the destruction of everything not of Islam.
Likewise, Leftists hold that “Group is Sovereign”, while America was founded upon the principles of Subsidiarity. For this reason, the Collectivist Philosophies of the “Progressive” Left will always be the enemy of the American (and Judeo-Christian) philosophy of subsidiarity, for neither can co-exist with the other in the same culture or society. They are mutually exclusive and opposing. Subsidiarity is the basis of the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, the reservation of State’s Rights. However, the philosophy itself goes farther. States trump the nation, local communities trump the States, families trump the community, and individuals trump them all.
Naturally, in the social contract, individuals choose to defer some of their personal will in order to function in larger groups, in exchange for the benefits that the teamwork of working as a family, pack, tribe, etc. . . will bring over each person working solely as an individual. But each association is voluntary, and in a functioning social system, an individual is free to leave any given group at any given time. (While it could be said that “Family” is involuntary, being the initial group that God places a person into for their basic level of support, sometimes blood family is more harmful than helpful. And, personally, I hold to Bobby Singer’s belief that “Family don’t end in blood.” Thus, I would say that family, too, is ultimately voluntary.)
Of course, my principles may not match yours– this does not mean that we are enemies, as differing principles are not necessarily mutually exclusive nor opposing. But you cannot know who your enemy truly is if you do not know your own basic principles, much less theirs. So much of the trouble in “Conservative” circles these days seems to come from the mis-identification of those with whom we merely disagree on an issue as “enemies” when, in fact, they may be natural allies. People can have the same basic principles and still come to different conclusions — this is what it is to be human. Those who truly are our enemies have taken full advantage of this confusion, dividing us against each other with a myriad of shallow “opposing” issues that would be a moot point if we stuck to the basic principles of things. I’m sure you can think of a few.
To close, allow me to say I completely understand the “recoil” instinct– I may live in Maryland, but the only reason I haven’t moved to Texas or Idaho yet is lack of winning the lotto. And yet, what good would it do for me to go to these places? That’s one less libertarian voice in Maryland, only to be added where my beliefs are already common. But here, I can be the nice girl who happens to own a gun or two, who knows how to ride a motorcycle, make my own jam, bone broths and soap, and has been known to spontaneously break into shimmies when the Arabic Pop-music comes ’round on Pandora. I’m the girl at work who is one of the only people supporting my current Team Leader in his efforts to stop buying whatever techs want willy-nilly, and start telling them “no!” from time to time. Yes, I fled from the educational system, because while I knew there was something wrong, I didn’t have the knowledge, skills, or strength to do battle with those monsters. But I can still fight the fight in the heart of the DoD, can still uphold the values of self-reliance in my community. Something that, while appreciated, is kind of a moot point in the places I’m tempted to flee to.
Now, I am done. Feel free to tell me how I’m wrong in the comments below.