Christine is still exploring the heart-led path with her fourth installment. She mentions in passing something that was poking at me all day.
A prominent feature of Western mythology is taking oneself too seriously. You aren’t supposed to notice the inherent hypocrisy in Western culture, particularly the strain of culture that dominates today: middle-class materialism. It’s that middle-class hypocrisy that ignores the greater complexity of Western tradition itself, since there was once a genuine upper class, and there has always been a lower class that is ignored. That is, the lower class is ignored until they are needed for cannon fodder. Their unique strain of culture within Western tradition has been ignored and misrepresented; the middles pretend the lowers simply don’t have any culture at all.
Now, that previous paragraph would read like a confusing diversion unless you catch on to where I’m going. If there is anything in Western Civilization worth saving from a biblical moral perspective, it’s the lower class culture stream that will still exist when the West is forgotten. That’s because the lower class stream of culture existed before there was a Western Civilization. Christine notes in the linked post above that history is just a story, and the history offered to us in writing is mostly the story told by those who survived all the battles. That would be the folks who didn’t send their own children to war, but sent peasants.
Then again, middle class has outlasted the upper class, as well. Today you would be hard pressed to find someone Western who is also genuinely upper class in terms of culture. You see, America has never had a true upper class in that sense, and America dominates the image of what it means to be Western. I’m not saying there is no upper class in Western countries, but that there is so much noise from America that you won’t hear much about the rest of the West.
So you’ll hear way too much noise coming from people who are middle class with a pretense of wanting to be upper class. I note in passing that’s almost the defining characteristic of middle class culture: a pretense of wanting to be upper crust, but with a smoking crater in the place where their transcendent values are supposed to be. So it’s not that Western Civilization is so utterly vacuous in moral terms, but the crass materialism of the middle class is all that’s left in human awareness as a whole, particularly in terms of whatever passes for education and common public mythology.
That is what’s dying when I say the West is doomed. That is the thread of human existence under Western tradition that most infuriates God and Creation.
Meanwhile, the peasantry of humanity have always had more in common with each other across civilizations — so much so that it constitutes a sort of civilization in itself that seldom gets any academic attention. And while we cannot forget that mankind is fallen, we also find the Bible tends to be much more respectful of peasantry than just about any other class of humanity. When Jesus talked about passing a camel through the eye of a needle, the context was all about how people who have little to lose are quicker to hear His voice. When He said you will always have poor people in this world, it’s not for reasons popular among the middle classes. It’s because there will always be some folks who aren’t owned by their possessions, people who would rather be poor as the price for moral identity.
And then we have a ton of teaching in the New Testament that calls us to become like that in the sense of learning that your material possessions are never really yours, so stop holding to them so tightly. Of all the things humans can do to move closer to Christ, it’s learning to think like a peasant — the kind of person who has always been marginalized by those who have the loudest voice and most power in human society. It’s not the final answer to moral truth, but it’s a good starting point, a good first step.
I’m going to have more to say on these things because this post didn’t go where I thought it would. Stay tuned.