Having just finished St. Augustine of Hippo’s monumental work City of God, I am struck not only by its theological and philosophical impact and its rhetorical beauty, but its relevance to today’s Weimerica.
Augustine lived in the late-stage Western Roman Empire, when barbarous immigrants were quite literally at its gates. At the same time, despite economic inflation and political strife, there was still a general level of comfort, if not outright decadence, amongst the population. Christianity was miraculously the law of the land, but it seemed to be doing little to encourage virtue and holy living, especially among those who were still pagan. Pagans routinely mocked Christians and their ways, despite fleeing to their churches for safety when the barbarians struck. There really is nothing new under the sun, unfortunately.
Some in our increasingly decaying society, especially quote-unqoute ‘traditionalists’ and the alt-Right, have recognized this disturbing parallel to ancient times. The odious Rod “I’m black” Dreher is one: he and his ilk enjoy droning on about the so-called ‘Benedict Option,’ supposedly a novel invention of his.
However, the very people who derive so much enjoyment from discussing, debating, and recommending this ‘Option’ to each other should make us want to avoid it at all possible costs: Russell Moore (the beneficent of Soros funds and architect of the Southern Baptists’ SJW convergence), Ross Douthat (the New York Times cuckservative who openly fantasized about assassinating President Trump), and the Catholic bishops (who consistently shill for illegal immigrants and cover up pedophile priests).
Instead of focusing on the pessimistic, narcissistic, maddeningly vague and SJW-converged ‘BenOp,’ perhaps it’s time we shift our focus to St. Augustine and his work. No one is talking about him and his oeuvre so far, which I find telling: despite Dreher’s womanish histrionics, and with no ill intent to St. Benedict, it seems Augustine is pertinent to our times in a way Benedict is not.
Augustine’s work is divided into two parts: the first is principally a refutation of pagan philosophy, and the second traces the idea of the ‘City of God’ versus the ‘City of Man’ throughout Biblical and secular history. (We should not confuse Martin Luther’s ‘doctrine of the two kingdoms’ with this sentiment, although Luther was likely influenced by Augustine’s notion: Luther’s doctrine is a bit of political philosophy grounded in Scripture, whereas Augustine’s concept, also grounded in Scripture, is principally a spiritual construct.)
It seemed to be a popular belief in Augustine’s day among the pagan population that the decline of Rome was a direct result of the acceptance of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine. Things were supposedly better in the old days, when the pagan gods still held sway over Roman hearts and minds.
Augustine goes to great lengths, citing an impressive array of ancient sources, to disprove this notion. Rome was indeed a victim of far worse natural disasters before the acceptance of Christianity than it was after, he argues. Wars, plagues, famines, civil unrest and a rather disturbing amount of demonic activity were all common in pre-Christian Rome; if anything, Christ had mediated these hardships upon His official acceptance by the authorities. When Augustine was living, the City of God, slowly but surely, was establishing its kingdom on where the City of Man once stood.
The bizarre and inconsistent notions of pagan theology, its vast array of redundant ‘gods,’ and multiplicity of philosophies are also all refuted (and mocked) by Augustine. If Christianity were to disappear entirely tomorrow, would we manage to come to the practice of a reasonable atheism or noble pre-Christian religion? I think not: the multiplication of ideologies, even among us on the alt-Right, appears to be a sign of a society in decay, where ‘each does what is right in his own eyes.’
Further, do we really think that our new religion would avoid such abominations as human sacrifice? This was, after all, practiced by the ancestors of all alive today; in some places it still continues. Even atheism demands human sacrifice: 100 million have been sacrificed on the altar of Communism, and who knows how many more have been, or will be, sacrificed on the altar of cultural Marxism?
The human spirit, as Augustine is fond of saying, is beset constantly by temptation, and it is only Christ who can save us from ourselves. It is the City of God – those who He has called and predestined from the beginning – who are called to create Heaven on Earth, and eventually join Him above: not through war, bloodshed, social engineering and nihilism like the Left, but through faith, and charity, and perseverance. This righteousness cannot be found in the darkness of man’s philosophy, or paganism, or atheism; but it is available to all who believe. This seems to be a most worthy foundation to build a society upon.