“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
“Beauty reminds us that we are more than mere matter and that we long for meaning from outside ourselves. And that is why modernity hates it.”
“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are not making their destiny brighter but darker.”
“Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.” “Through Beauty, art cleanses the world of our self-obsession.”
“Truth, Beauty, Devotion, and Tradition are the best inoculations against the poisons of modernity.”
In recent times, it has become rather clear that the World has rejected its Lord and His Servants once more. In the place of Christ and His Beloved, there sits the New, the Modern, and the Fashionable. Servants of the so-called “Enlightenment.” For, as the World will tell you, “There is no God, and Marx is his prophet!” These prophets of the new cults and religions of Ideology have amassed quite a following; a following that threatens the remnant of Christendom and of what remains of Western Civilization. Whether you know it or not, these devotees have declared war on Christ and His Bride, and it’s high time we stepped up to the fight. It’s not a war of might and strength, though. So, what type of war is it then?
For too long we Christians have assumed that the war must be fought with pure logic and reason alone. We’ve believed that if we simply confront lies with facts, then The Enemy will promptly scamper off, with his tail between his legs. Or, worse yet, we’ve believed that if we hole ourselves up in the warm embrace of Lady Truth and patiently wait out the storm, The Enemy will tucker himself out and soon enough all will be right as rain again. If we believe that, then we are very much mistaken.
Does debate seem to be working? The answer is, of course, no. Anyone who has ever debated an atheist/marxist knows that they will not listen to Lady Reason alone. We live in a World where Truth Itself is considered subjective. The Enemy claims that Truth is personalized, using phrases like, “That’s my Truth!” or, “You can’t blame her, she’s just living out her Truth!” Even more recently, it has been said, “We would rather be morally correct than factually so,” as if “moral nonfacts” were a thing. You see, we’re far behind The Enemy. We’re fighting an uphill battle, believing we can win with debate and logic alone against hordes who don’t recognize that the Emperor wears no clothes. Not only are we fighting uphill, but we are fighting on the wrong battlefield.
G.K. Chesterton, a Christian Apologist, once upon a time wrote a short book called The Everlasting Man. This book, C.S. Lewis claimed, is one of the primary reasons he converted to Christianity. In the book, Chesterton weaves a Beautiful story of the History of Mankind. It’s one where God sets forth a decree, then The Enemy tries to subvert that decree, so God sets up a counter-decree to show up The Enemy’s shallowness. This is what has happened now.
We are at an era where The Enemy cannot be beaten by cold facts, for he has not seduced the masses by reason and cunning. Instead, he has moved the battleground to Story and Emotion. If we want to win, if we want to bring the Lost Sheep back into the Flock, then the weapon with which we fight must be Beauty. For Beauty is not, as many have attested, in the eye of the beholder. God Is Beauty, and therefore Beauty has a Name. Beauty is something Real and Good and True and Logical. If everything were Beautiful, then nothing would be. Beauty cannot be subjective and still exist; and still be a thing.
The Enemy has tricked the world with stories of false beauty. Take for example, the story of sexual promiscuity. It goes something like this: “Once upon today, there is a you. And you are beautiful, and your body is beautiful, and you have beautiful urges in your body. Would it not be the most beautiful thing in the world to give full reign to these urges? Your sexuality is beautiful. Let it blossom! Explore, play around, have sex with whoever you want! It’s a beautiful thing! No matter how ‘perverse’ people say it is, it’s beautiful. Because beauty is up to you! Everything is beautiful!”
Notice how The Enemy cleverly sneaks Truth into the lie. He goes about it by first stating that yes, our sexual urges are Beautiful. But notice where he ends up. He ends up at sin. How, then, are we to counter such stories? We must tell a Story of Greater Beauty than The Enemy knows. We must weave a more compelling Tale than that silver-tongued serpent of Eden can weave. And, we must yell it louder and more often than The Enemy can tell his.
The answer to this story, is, of course, the Story of the Sacrificial Man. There once was a man who Loved his Beautiful Wife with the Truest and deepest and most Beautiful of Loves. He Loved her thus even before he met her. And so, he gave the ultimate sacrifice he could give for her apart from his life. He remained chaste, eagerly waiting to give away his most precious and Beautiful gift, the one which can only be given away once, to her. His Beautiful Love had no concern for his own needs or desires; instead he sacrificed himself and his reputation for her.
Take heart! We are in Good Graces, Brothers and Sisters. Our General foresaw these terrible times and sent to us a Hobbit, and a Wardrobe of Old and Deep Magic, to teach us how to fight. Yes, look at those who got it right not less than a century ago. Tolkien, Lewis, and all of the other Christian allegorical writers like Chesterton and MacDonald; they’ve paved the road for us. Our job is but a simple one compared to theirs. We need only to stand on their shoulders and shout that the sun is rising!
But how do we go about getting the ball rolling? We must, each of us, make our Churches into Shires; our homes into magical and hospitable havens; our Brides into Queens and our Husbands into Kings; and our children, most importantly, must become inheritors of that royal and inexhaustible storehouse wealthy with far-flung hopes and dreams and ideals called The Future. We must make Christianity Beautiful again. And, it must be done quickly if we are to say we fought at all. We must alight on angelic wings and make all haste. Like Paul Revere, we must ride about with urgency telling our Story: “The King is Coming! The King is Coming!” And, most of all, we must make The Enemy reveal his true form. We must undo his spells of illusion. We must provoke him into shewing his scales, his fiery breath, and the corpses at his feet. We must make him into a Dragon again!
The Story we tell, however, must not be with words alone. Indeed we have, many of us, forgotten that aesthetic is Good and Godly. And aesthetic does not just belong to the arts, but rather to the whole life lived. Beauty must become “lived theology.” We must, each of us, become like Hobbits. For it is often in staying in that the best Evangelism may be done. For those of you who have read or seen the great masterpieces that are The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, you know of that which I speak. Hobbits are a simple, conventional folk who do not do many great things by man’s standards. And yet, everyone wants to live in the idyllic Shire with them, as them. And why? Because they live counter-culturally. They live lives mired in Beauty, but the Beauty they have is not all found in great works of art (though they undoubtedly have those). No, the Beauty they have is found in their lives. The Hobbits live in deep, honest, reciprocal community where the Family and the Neighbor are authentically at the center of day to day life. They live simply and slowly, in the moment, enjoying the company of others, of good and filling food, of hard toil, of laughter and occasionally one too many drinks (though they don’t make a habit of drunkenness). And, they are at home with their Creator and Creation.
Merely by these little folk staying in and jealously guarding the Hobbittish ways of Beauty, the average reader or watcher longs to go and join them. That, Brothers and Sisters, is the secret we’ve lost. Offering a counter-culture of deep, True, authentic Beauty; a life of liturgy (both personal in our daily routines, and corporately at Church) and of having one’s deepest desires and needs met by Him, the One whom all hearts long for, and by one another through their Beloved Jesus, is attractive to anyone looking on. For, as Tolkien said, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
Yet another thing we must recover in our liturgical lives is the Beauty of awe and wonder. For you see, we’ve lost the magic of it. We’ve allowed symbols and actions to become stale; we merely move through the motions of the Great Dance without realizing the meaning behind our steps or even the Presence of the One Who Dances With Us. When we wake up, when we step out of our very ordinary front doors, when we walk in a completely standard forest, or through the doors of a properly normal Church, we must remember that we’re really crossing through that Magical Wardrobe to meet with Our King the Roaring Lion. When we cross a threshold, we are entering a new world full of the divine and supernatural; full of spiritual realities. One where angels and monsters really do exist and influence the world; one where trees and waters and the laughter of children have spiritual significance. Indeed, if you listen closely, though we live not in Narnia, even the animals will whisper wisdom of deeper mysteries into your ear. We must do away with the lie of Modernist Materialism, the belief that all which exists perceptibly is the physical world, and allow God to re-enchant, to re-mystify and re-mythologize, the world around us. And, in doing so, we will revive the greatest Apologetic tool: Beautiful experience.
“Well that’s all well and good, but how do we go about doing any of that?” you may ask. The answer is easy. We must first pray, and when we pray we must think in terms of Relationship. Experience God, don’t just talk at Him or think lofty doctrines about Him. He Is a Person after all, and not just some high and lofty philosophy. Secondly, we must consume great works of art; we must watch Beautiful movies and plays, read Beautiful Stories and Poems, listen to Beautiful music, and have Beautiful conversations and Relationships. Beauty is not found in convenience or mass commercialism as today’s “artists” would have you believe. Nor is it found in crass experimentation; it is found in mastery alone. It is found in intentionality alone. Thirdly, we must tell Beautiful Stories to ourselves. Run narratives of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty over and over in your mind, and soon you’ll find that not only has the world somehow been magically transformed, but you have been changed alongside it. As Scripture says, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And then, watch and see as the Lost World changes around you. For every story that The Enemy concocts, consult The Artist and ask for Him to tell you a more Beautiful Story yet that counters it. Beauty must always be present; for Beauty is objective. For this, this is how we win the Great Battle of our time. Every act of Beauty is a revolt against the modern world. The World would have you believe they have rung the death toll of Beauty and Christendom…let’s show them how Beautifully wrong they are…