That time of year

Well, it’s the time of year to be nice to Protestants.

Some of my best friends are Protestants; and when it comes to events like Christmas, we might as well be on the same side. Ditto for the Greeks (though with some calendar questions), Orthodox generally, and other acquaintance in the farther East, among whom I have a special affection for Armenians, and Copts. Reciprocally, they would warmly deny that they are pagans of any sort. We have, too, much anciently in common with believing Jews. We may not be in Communion with any of these people, nor with Mussulmans, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Animists, &c — but then, if you look at some of the people with whom we are in Communion, we could at least be polite.

While, unlike our current pope, I am gung-ho for proselytizing, I remain opposed to violence. There are conventions to be observed, going back to arrangements after the Thirty Years’ War and, in a more strict interpretation, going back to Our Lord. While Peace and Love are not enjoying a good press at the moment, they really aren’t fashion questions.

In the Koran (8th century; 7th by some accounts) we are told that, “There is no compulsion in religion,” and that verily, there needn’t be, because the evidences and commands of Islam are so wonderfully plain and clear. Elsewhere we are told that Muslims should fight, until there is no more Fitnah in the world, and all disbelief and polytheism has been exterminated, leaving universal submission to Allah. As I am not of the Islamic persuasion myself, it would be presumptuous of me to choose between these imperatives. Islamic jurisprudes have tried to refine a Just War Theory, between these positions, which some might characterize as contradictory.

My own crusader-Christian view derives from the Gospels, in which Just War Theory is not explicitly discussed; and from Saint Augustine, who gets into detail. As I understand (although I will simplify), you put up with an enemy for as long as you can, but when, finally, naught less will avail, you press the Smite button. But you really don’t want to, and your forbearance should stretch a long way. It does snap at some point, however, and to my reading, has snapped in the past, for reasons that could be articulated.

Pacifism, vegetarianism, teetotalism, and non-smoking (except for marijuana), are not positions that I find attractive, although I have endured them, heroically in some cases. I may have passed through a hippie phase, between three and five o’clock on 10th August, 1969, but quickly recovered. Worldly (as opposed to spiritual) perfectionism has (almost) never appealed to me. Mortal evils are different in flavour. They were inscribed on a tablet, memorably, for Moses. Each item could be seen as a form of murder, starting with the attempt to murder God. But they were not a social policy.

I am against unnecessary impositions. There was a time when I was reading John Locke (whose Epistola de Tolerantia says Catholics and Jews should forget about citizenship or voting). Among other soi-disant philosophers, lines are drawn elsewhere in the sand, but to me the key is understood, even by animals. Threaten me, my family, my friends, my tribe, and you may not live to regret it. For this, we could have an international convention, to which dolphins, fleas, and rattlesnakes could be invited.

As to aggression and food-seeking, all bets are off. “Rights language” can never cope with such features of reality. But for people who admit a right to self-defence, what the Mericans call the Second Amendment has been in force since the beginning of time, with or without Militias.

And so has been the Law of Love, that governs the universe, invisibly when it is not shown or expressed. It was to this that Our Lord was constantly alluding. It is not a “nice” law — it is the burning Fire of Creation — but it allows niceness often enough, and is all but obligatory on festive occasions.

Which is why I say, it’s the time of year to be nice to Protestants.