Fight them on the beaches, &c

Sometimes, I learnt in a schoolyard somewhere, you just have to fight. My own experience was usually of getting clobbered, but I did not come from a pacifist home. That Our Lord told us to turn the other cheek towards importunate Roman legionaries, I noticed, but if gentle reader examines the biblical commentaries he will see that His proposal could be interpreted as a diss. He had more irony than a White House press secretary, and often answered questions in a more confrontational way. In this world conflict happens, even within families, and it is important to remember, in addition to the fight, just what it is that one is defending. Blessed are the peacemakers; but not all of your adversaries have prioritized peace.

To my mind — the one that is employed to write these Idleposts — there are better reasons to fight than to uphold one’s ego. This is a point I did not fully grasp when I was younger and more proud. A great deal of conflict can be avoided by letting insults pass. What people think of you, including the thought that you have no honour, is a matter of no consequence in light of what God thinks. But to do something that might very well be dishonourable, on the field of the divine, suggests sloppy thinking.

“Martyrdom” or “witnessing” is a good fight to have. I don’t mean an habitual self-indulgent posture, but the real thing. To my secularoid friends it is foolish. Why court death, when “sucking up” offers an easy way out? They imagine themselves pro-life where Christians are pro-death. But for a person whose conception of life is limited to not getting snuffed biologically, this whole definition of foolishness is strange. We (Christians) are in for the long game; they are in for the short.

Notwithstanding my dislike of politics, in the aesthetic and several other dimensions, there are political battles that must be won, and I favour winning them. I was writing recently that one should be governed not by optimism but by hope, including the hope that God will contrive the best possible worldly result (since no human will be capable of imagining it). But as I said above, I am familiar with losing. True honour requires a willingness to lose, which is almost opposite to a willingness to surrender. For in causes where good and evil are easy to distinguish — abortion is an example — we must never surrender.

Victory also requires a willingness to win, however; and then, having won, to show magnanimity, &c. The transition from victory to magnanimity is a pretty one to watch. I would argue that this is only possible to the happy soldier, in the grand scheme of things; to the soldier not prey to his own pathologies. But there is no happy soldier unwilling to fight.