Idle Thoughts on Christian Music

It was a cool October afternoon thirty years ago and we were doing hill workouts. My high school varsity athletic team drove to a nearby neighborhood to sprint up its hilly terrain. It was a loop, where you pump your arms and legs up a steep incline, then walk back down where jogging would be too much like riding your brakes. Several teammates and I formed a small group and our competitiveness drove us to top performance up the hills. I was in a state of runner’s high — a hyper-oxygenated brain awash in natural endorphin — reveling in the functional perfection of my weightless body. I thought: This is an incredible workout for the mind, the body nourishing the brain

But thoughts raced on. Is the brain the end-beneficiary of physical health? No… something whispered. The brain merely regulates everything so that the reproductive organs can do their job. My first encounter with doubt: the body’s purpose is to replicate itself, and the illusion of having a mind or a soul is a byproduct of fluids.

***

The next hill workout was several weeks later. It was late Sunday afternoon and I was alone, catching my breath on the grassy hill overlooking an empty vista of my school’s athletic fields. A teenager’s emotional state is volatile and his mind solipsistic, taking certain things with grave seriousness. As euphoric I was during the previous workout, the rush of oxygen was now fueling thoughts of doom. The air was cold, the western sky was on fire.

Miserable thoughts piled on: Is this the best it’s going to be? The heart pushed jets of bile through my overheated body. Would it be best to die now? What is my purpose?

This is vivid recollection, not poetic license: I looked down from the hilltop and the panorama of athletic fields glowed golden, like the Elysian fields.

***

Ideas that ran in conflicting directions took me, at turns over the course of my twenties, to materialism and then back to knowing of another plane. I’m becoming convinced that keeping your eyes open and thinking without fear, over the course of a long life, will lead you to the foot of the Cross.

What Is Out There?

I can’t convince you of any metaphysical reality because I don’t understand it myself. Rather, it’s a certainty to me that God is more real than the two hands I’m looking at right now. So I’ll just leave you with someone’s comment from a recent thread at Chateau Heartiste:

I always keep coming back to the martyrs of Christianity. From St. Stephen, to St. Paul, to St. Peter, to St. Ignatius of Antioch, to St. Maximilian Kolbe, to the Copts massacred just this last Palm Sunday, and all the known and unknown martyrs in between…

Either:

1. There is absolutely nothing after death. Just the big “Nothing.” Lights out for good. Eternal Oblivion. They’ll never know they were totally wrong. All of them are all the biggest fucking idiots in history, throwing away their lives […] St. Paul himself says as much in 1 Corinthians 15:14.

or…

2. There is something more to all this.

Good and evil. If they are real, than so is God. To get a sense of evil, imagine extremes of depravity, and not necessarily involving violence — just look around you. And to contemplate an expression of good, read John 15-13:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Laying down your life for your friends. This next comment is not my original insight but I agree with it: A.B. Breivik volunteered to spend the rest of his life in 23-hour/day solitary confinement to deliver his countrymen from evil.

High Art

It’s not just martyrdom that the Cross inspires. There is also our sublime output. Finally acknowledging the title of this post and starting with high art, there is Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring,” Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” and Henryk Górecki’s “Symphony No. 3.” There is also this Eastern Orthodox hymn from Serbia. Speaking of Coptic martyrs, listen to this Assyrian Palm Sunday prayer in Aramaic.

Popular Songs

Stepping away from high art, there are songs that regular people can sing. A famous example is the immortal “Stille Nacht.” It was written in 1818 by a young Austrian priest, with music composed by a schoolmaster from a nearby village.

“Pescador de hombres” was written in 1979 by a Spanish priest. Pope John Paul II famously said that “Pescador” (Polish version: “Barka,” transl. below) is his favorite song:

Lord, you have come to the lake shore
Looking for people who are ready to follow
To capture hearts with the truth of God’s word

REFRAIN:
O Lord, your eyes have looked upon me
Kindly smiling, have spoken my name
Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me
By your side I will cast a new net

I don’t have many possessions
My treasure is my two ready hands
To work with you and my pure heart

Today we set out together
To capture hearts on the seas of human souls
With Your truth and the word of life

The calling of a priest is to be a holy man. Since the one true religion, by definition, applies to all of humankind (unless you go with an assumption that not all subsets of mankind have a soul), then such a man’s thinking will be catholic, lower-case. I imagine that such a priest would wish for everyone to aspire to godliness according to their nature, on their own land and among their own people, encountering others solely in friendship.

With that thought, what do you make of the scene a little after 3:45 in the Barka video linked above, showing an African man and his son crying at the Pope’s funeral?

***

The great bass-baritone Bernard Ładysz leads a choir in this arrangement of the traditional evening-song “All Of Our Daily Matters” (“Wszystkie nasze dzienne sprawy”). I like the spontaneous feel of the performance. It sounds like a what you would hear in a church with the parishioners singing.

All of our daily matters
Accept mercifully, righteous God
And when we fall asleep
May our dreams praise You

Your eyes turned
Day and night in our direction
Where the frailty of man
Your rescue awaits

Turn away the nightly perils
From all harm protect us
Have us always in Your care
Guardian and Judge of man

And when we ascend to Heaven
We will sing to You together
God in Trinity unfathomed
Holy, forever and ever Holy

From 966 A.D. onward, men have sang hymns in that language in preparation for putting foreign invaders to the sword.

Christian Rock?

In the live performance below, the eye is on the ghoulish guitarist until the vocalist lets out the pathos in a lung-defying howl.

He looks tormented, maybe possessed. This isn’t a comment about the band members. I don’t know Thom Yorke. Yet even if that dramatic performance is all-artifice, the fact that it expresses the inner state of listeners points to their hunger for something.

Did we just watch an artistic interpretation of a station toward the foot of the Cross?

Is Anti-Racism A Religion?

Peterike forwards a post from Those Who Can See blog titled “When Progressives Get Religion,” which shows the parallels between religion and Anti-Racism (here capitalized). Specifically, the linked post addresses Anti-Racism’s similarity to Communism, which the blog’s author M.G. calls a nontheistic religion:

Communism, has been intriguing scholars for the last 100 years for its likeness to spiritual belief. The millions of pages written on the subject have taught us this if nothing else: The leftist, in his own way, seems just as prone to religious thinking as the rightist.

M.G. compares the tenets of Anti-Racism to traditional religion with generous use of visuals in a historical sweep from the Bolshevik era through Rotherham:

  1. Living our Faith (with subsets zeal and confession, sacrifice, and acts of piety)
  2. Dogma (subsets being doctrine, indoctrination, and utopianism)
  3. Fighting Heresy (with science denialism, ethnic denialism, and purging of heretics)

There is, however — and this is my contention — a key difference between religion and Anti-Racism: religion is adaptive for its adherents and Anti-Racism is maladaptive. Rather than sustaining its people, it devours them. That makes Anti-Racism, like Communism before, not a religion but a psychotic episode that at best mimics the outward forms of religious practice. The victims of both systems are the masses of people who had never consented to this new faith, yet they carry all of its burdens with none of its benefits. And that makes Anti-Racism not a religion, but a Jim Jones cult with partly-indoctrinated hostages.

A distinction without a difference? Not entirely. Genuine religions last millennia while left-wing zealotry burns itself out once it consumes the human fuel it feeds on. Revolutionary Marxism-Leninism died in Stalin’s purges in the mid-late 1930s and with his hit on Trotsky. Yet Communism’s destructiveness during its terror phase was unprecedented on the historic scale, the Ukrainian genocide being a better-known example. Wikipedia’s entry on the Holodomor’s death toll:

A 2002 study by Vallin et al.[…] estimates the amount of direct deaths for 1933 as 2.582 million. This number of deaths does not reflect the total demographic loss for Ukraine from these events as the fall of the birth rate during crisis and the out-migration contribute to the latter as well. The total population shortfall from the expected value between 1926 and 1939 estimated by Vallin amounted to 4.566 million. Of this number, 1.057 million is attributed to birth deficit

Birth deficit. That’s a statistic that the raw numbers of murdered don’t show. See the faces of Holodomor behind the numbers:

holod1

holod2

And now, the faces of the victims of Anti-Racism:

faces

Radiance inside a ring of shit. That’s what I dub that collage from M.G.’s post. No, it is not dismissible as a sad compilation of people struck by a bad-luck event such as leukemia or a traffic accident; those things are not preventable in the aggregate, which would make the collage a meaningless invocation to futility. It is also not a representation of a free society’s rough edges because a free society provides its law-abiding citizens with avenues of recourse and deterrence against their victimization, and ours made lynching illegal. What the collage does, is it gives a human scale to liberal America’s animus against Whites. By using weaponized Blacks — and now the terror attacks in European cities and child rapes — our governments enable those outrages in order to demoralize and pacify us. What is the White birth deficit in desegregated America?

***

While left wing ideology, be it Communism or Anti-Racism, is not a religion in my opinion, the utopian faith among its true believers is real. That utopianism was dramatized in Arthur Koestler’s 1944 novel “Darkness at Noon.” The dialogue below is between two characters in the story, both being Bolshevik revolution veterans during Stalin’s purges of the old guard. The prisoner Rubashov, who at this point comes to doubt his earlier revolutionary convictions, is interrogated by his former comrade Ivanov, a Party member still in good standing:

Rubashov rubbed his pince-nez on his sleeve, and looked at him short-sightedly.  “What a mess,” he said, “what a mess we have made of our golden age. […] in the interests of a just distribution of land we deliberately let die of starvation about five million farmers and their families in one year. […] We have built up the most gigantic police apparatus, with informers made a national Institution, and with the most refined scientific system of physical and mental torture. We whip the groaning masses of the country towards a theoretical future happiness, which only we can see. […] To me it sometimes seems as though the experimenters had torn the skin off the victim and left it standing with bared tissues, muscles and nerves …”

“Well, and what of it?” said Ivanov happily. “Don’t you find it wonderful? Has anything more wonderful ever happened in history? We are tearing the old skin off mankind and giving it a new one. That is not an occupation for people with weak nerves; but there was once a time when it filled you with enthusiasm. What has so changed you that you are now as pernickety as an old maid?” Rubashov wanted to answer: “Since then I have heard Bogrov call out my name.” But he knew that this answer did not make sense. So he answered instead:

“To continue with the same metaphor: I see the flayed body of this generation: but I see no trace of the new skin. We all thought one could treat history like one experiments in physics. The difference is that in physics one can repeat the experiment a thousand times, but in history only once […]

“For a man with your past,” Ivanov [said], “this sudden revulsion against experimenting is rather naive. Every year several million people are killed quite pointlessly by epidemics and other natural catastrophes. And we should shrink from sacrificing a few hundred thousand for the most promising experiment in history?

In his “Rivers of Blood” anti-immigration speech in 1968, Enoch Powell said that the supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. He was describing something that is the opposite of utopian ambitions.

Utopianism is hubris at its highest amplification. It is not religion, as those always counsel humility. But if one were to search for supernatural origins of both Bolshevism and Anti-Racism, he would discover that their animating flame comes not from the Divine, but from that other place.