On victory

“Go with God,” my father used to instruct me, at each parting. This, he once told me, was what his own father had often said to him. Yet papa was lapsed from his family’s Methodist church-going past, and not externally even a Christian, let alone the Catholic his son became. Until, I think, his very last hours. But the phrase appealed to him, and so he kept it in his heart. Do good, and be on the side of good; be brave, and never deviate from the good cause. Be a soldier, as the knights of old.

He’d had firsthand experience of war (had been, for instance, a Spitfire flyboy), and thought that at some level life is war — a Crusade, through which we are called to be happy soldiers. He was invincibly cheerful. (“We may not win, but they will wish they never met us.”) An officer and a gentleman by disciplined habit, he could give as well as receive orders, and had trained himself to “be British” — it is a variation on Romanitas — and rule instinctively by example.

But to the point, I recall his principal standing order: “Go with God.”

The mass media have prepared us for some chaos in Washington today, to go with the Trump inauguration. It will thus be the opposite of spontaneous. They will play innocent on air, while reporting in loving detail any violence they can find, and conveying dark hints from the “anonymous sources” with which they are consciously conspiring. Their challenge is to present everything — including everything that went wrong in the preceding administration — as the consequence of Trump, and retroactive proof of his illegitimacy. To call them “biased” is exceedingly droll.

I have known this Fifth Estate from the inside, and through it, the Left mindset of academia and all their captured bureaucracies. To my disgust I have watched it spread among opponents, as media on the Right adopt the same malicious tactics, an eye for an eye. It is difficult for the bystander to avoid becoming engaged in an increasingly globalized contest between the forces of darkness on one side, and the forces of darkness on the other. So long as the electrical grids hold out, we may expect escalation.

As I argue elsewhere today (here), the solid ground of moral and intellectual authority is itself beginning to liquify, outward from an epicentre at Rome. We have the incredible scandal of a pope, actively undermining the foundations of Catholic faith and reason; after decades of similar “modernizing” efforts in the Church and all other Western institutions. Those who earnestly defend civilization itself, in all of its charted and uncharted fields, find themselves marching through mud and quicksand, and being shelled from their own rear.

War, too, is on many levels, and the Christian conception of its essential form (see the Spiritual Combat of Lorenzo Scupoli; or the interpretation of it by Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory) is more likely to eschew than to embrace violence; though it is never pacifist. Our war is against principalities and powers, and the front line strings through every human heart.

It is presented by the Prophet Nehemiah, as the condition of life on this earth, as he rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem: with sword in one hand and trowel in the other. Or as rephrased in Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock: “The trowel in hand, and the gun slightly loose in the holster.”

“O Lord,” we read, “deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

Our world may seem to be crumbling around us, our purported friends our actual enemies, but it is important to remember that this is nothing new. Verily: one purpose in reading the Old Testament, with creative attention, is to allow this lesson to thoroughly sink in. To “go with God” is to go into battle, now, as always. It is to restore what is constantly being taken away,

Civilization is the action of building, barbarism a tearing down. Even in the most worldly terms, this is so. God, who made man capable of faith and reason, made him capable through those qualities of high civilization, as we may observe in our surveys of the past; made us capable not only of building, but rebuilding.

Therefore, Rejoice! … For seen from another and higher angle we have the spectacle of the false, dissolving in its own acids. The Devil can destroy, but cannot build. The same extends to all his earthly agents. This is why, in the end, our victory is assured, even if the whole world dissolves into chaos. For still, we may go with God; and in the words of the old flyboy song:

Oh Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
Oh Grave, thy victory?
The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me.