Have a Little Pride, Show a Little Spine

When I went through RCIA twenty years ago, the program directress kicked off the first session by assuring the eager catechumens that every terrible thing they had ever heard about the Catholic Church was true.  I believe she intended this remark to inspire confidence.  It was really a gross delinquency.  If you have taken it upon yourself to join in the defense of something, you first act should not be to raise the white flag, open the gates, and apologize for not doing this sooner.

She was a sweet and featherheaded women, so I cannot blame her for thinking that agreeing with the enemies of the Church might be the quickest way to end their attacks.  That doing so would also end the Church no doubt never occurred to her.  She was not, however, singular in using the wily tactic of groveling to escape a beating.  A great many conservatives seem to think that the essence of conservatism is agreeing that Progressives were right all along.

To conserve is to defend, and the first job of a conservative is to defend other conservatives.  This especially includes all of the grisly conservatives who Progressive historians have damned to the ninth circle of infamy because they went down fighting against Progress.  I do not insist on hagiography, but a true conservative cannot, as people nowadays say, throw  these old campaigners “under the bus.”

And what goes for the old campaigners goes also for the old campaigns.  We have as much right as the communists to admit that “mistakes were made,” but we should despise those “conservatives” who spinelessly admit that Progressives were essentially right about everything, from the regicide of Charles I, right down to whatever picayune thing got up their nose and made them “conservative” the week before last.  You really cannot cheer the sexual revolution right up to the point where transsexuals are tickling the kiddies at story hour, and then sternly draw the line and start LARPing as a latter-day Cotton Mather.

People who do that are not conservatives.  They are just slow learners.

Please don’t take me as saying that anyone should actually be a latter-day Cotton Mather.  For every “conservative” who is trying to conserve the Progressivism of yesterday, there is a reactionary re-enactor who thinks it helps the cause for him to chant the slogans and wave the flag of one of our many lost causes.  I said we must defend  the grisly conservatives who Progressive historians have damned to the ninth circle of infamy.  I did not say we should impersonate them.

There is, for instance, a tee shirt sometimes sported by trad-Catholics that says, “I’d rather be burning heretics.”  No you would not.  You have a squishy, squeamish twenty-first century soul, just like everyone else.  But you do need to defend those who burned heretics (actually heresiarchs) as good and reasonable men who were doing the best they could, under the circumstances.

You might even admit, as I said earlier, that “mistakes were made.”  But you must always insist that these were errors in execution, not purpose.  Conservatism has had its fair share of bunglers, hotheads, bigots, clowns, perverts, and fanatics who did not know when to say “enough.”  But these rogues, wretches and rascals are our rogues, wretches and rascals, and it is our duty to declare that their hearts were in the right place.

Let me turn it over to Comrade Lenin to show you how this is done in a serious movement that wants to win.  This is from his Letter to the American Workers, which he wrote in 1922, when the stink of five million dead peasants was still pungent in the air of Ukraine.

“Even if there were 10,000 mistakes for every 100 correct actions of ours, even in that case our revolution would be great and invincible, and so it will be in the eyes of world history . . . . Each mistake in such a work . . . is worth thousands and millions of ‘faultless’ successes of the exploiting [bourgeois] minority.”

Observe that Comrade Lenin owns Bolshevik mistakes without selling his soul or the honor of the Bolsheviks who made those mistakes.  Go and do likewise.

4 thoughts on “Have a Little Pride, Show a Little Spine

  1. Catholics are encouraged to think that the Catholicism is the creed and sacraments (or, more mystically, Jesus Christ Himself), not the Catholic people, past and present. Not only are we not encouraged to any kind of loyalty to the latter, we are actually warned against investing too much emotionally in them. After all, many Catholics have been and are bad people. (Funny that no other religion feels the need to, or sees an interest in, emphasizing this point about itself to its members so strongly.) Put your trust in Jesus, and to hell with your brothers in faith. You and I have both noticed aspects of this attitude.

    I’ve taken to using the phrase “the Catholic people” sometimes to emphasize that it’s a concrete people, not just–or even primarily–a doctrine or heavenly communion that I’m interested in protecting and perpetuating. I think that’s always been my real interest, and defending Catholic doctrine (perhaps re-interpreted as a sensibility of my people) has been a means to it. I don’t think my people are more wicked than others–at least, the degree to which we have been singled out as wicked seems quite unfair. It’s true that we are not as brilliant as the Protestants and the Jews–I had hoped that the golden age of Catholic geniuses might lie in the future, but we must have one first. We are certainly poorly adapted to the great status-driven struggle for survival. But it’s often the failing child, the one who’s sickly or slow or just can’t cut it, whom a parent will love with a special fierceness.

    • Catholics may be encouraged to think of Catholicism as the creed and the sacraments, but I have the distinct impression that kinship keeps the whole show on the road. My parish is primarily composed of extended families whose primary loyalty is to blood. They are not bad people, but their faith is in many cases a sort of ancestor worship, a sort of reverence for some sainted aunt, or granny, or mother. I’m not condemning this, only relating what I observed. I think I have mentioned that we attended mass for years before anyone began to greet us, and we’ve never been invited to anyone’s home, which is the very opposite of what I remembered from protestant culture.

      Catholicism is designed to function as a monopoly, and is therefore poorly adapted to an environment where it must compete for market share. In fact, I know from my years on Parish Council that Catholics wince at this sort of crass description. I understand their wincing, and think competition tends to debase religion. But an outfit that is consciously competing for market share knows enough to flatter its customers. If I ran a restaurant, I would flatter my customers that they had superior taste or knew how to get maximum value for their dollar. I would not say they just wandered in off the street.

  2. Pingback: Have a Little Pride, Show a Little Spine | Reaction Times

  3. Pingback: Going Underground – The Orthosphere

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