At one time you would occasionally see a man wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “I read it for the articles”. The “it”, in question was Hugh Hefner’s men’s magazine, Playboy. The statement was a joke, intended to provoke, whether spoken or not, the response of “yeah, right you do”. For the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the name of that magazine, or sees its familiar rabbit’s head logo, is the photographs of nude models and celebrity actresses that have been its selling point since Marilyn Monroe’s appeared in their premier issue just under sixty years ago.
It was an amusing joke but I found it funny for entirely different reasons than the ones intended by those telling the joke. The only reason anybody would feel compelled to offer such a lame excuse for buying a girlie mag is societal and cultural disapproval of such erotica, which disapproval more or less vanished within the same decade the magazine was launched. What I find downright hilarious about it all is that it was the articles all along which were the most disgusting and evil thing about the magazine. It was in the articles that Hef’s morally corrosive message of sheer, self-serving, pleasure-seeking hedonism, i.e., “The Playboy philosophy” was preached, poisoning the souls and minds of those who read it. By comparison, the pictures were considerably more wholesome. “I only look at the pictures” should have been the more respectable thing to say.
I mention all of this because a recent Playboy interview has made the news and, judging from the content of the interview, the angry response it has received and from whom, this would appear to be the first article they have ran that was actually worth reading since their interview with William F. Buckley Jr.
The interviewee was British actor Gary Oldman. He is a well-known actor with whom it is probably safe to say most people are familiar. He first became famous with his portrayal of Sid Vicious, the bass guitarist of the Sex Pistols in a 1986 biographical film. At one time he was best known for playing bad guys, like Count Dracula in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola version of the story or the madman in Hannibal (2001) who made Dr. Lecter look sane and sympathetic by comparison. More recently he played Commissioner Gordon in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy of Batman films, took on a more Sirius role in the film versions of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and put on a Smiley face to star in the film version of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He will next appear in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, scheduled to be released next month.
Towards the end of the interview, Oldman makes a remark about how he can understand why Mel Gibson would want to finance his own movies, leading the interviewer to prompt him further about this, at which point he goes off on a rant about political correctness, about how it is crap, and how people can’t take a joke anymore. Going back to Mel Gibson he says “I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things.” Expanding upon that last remark, he questions whether the policeman who arrested Gibson has never used racial epithets, and says “It’s the hypocrisy of it that drives me crazy.” He then defends Alec Baldwin over the incident where he called someone who was harassing him a “fag” before again returning to Mel Gibson and saying:
Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him—and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough. He’s like an outcast, a leper, you know? But some Jewish guy in his office somewhere hasn’t turned and said, “That fucking kraut” or “Fuck those Germans,” whatever it is? We all hide and try to be so politically correct. That’s what gets me. It’s just the sheer hypocrisy of everyone, that we all stand on this thing going, “Isn’t that shocking?”
Shortly after this he tells Playboy that the interview has gone badly and that “You have to edit and cut half of what I’ve said, because it’s going to make me sound like a bigot” which, of course, they did not do.
Well, there you have it. The Anti-Defamation League immediately denounced Oldman’s remarks as “anti-Semitic.” It’s notorious director Abraham H. Foxman said “it is disturbing that Mr. Oldman appears to have bought into Mr. Gibson's warped and prejudiced world view” and Oldman wrote a grovelling open letter of apology to the ADL. Foxman’s response, predictably, was to say that it was not good enough. “At this point, we are not satisfied with what we received. His apology is insufficient and not satisfactory.” On Wednesday, Oldman appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to apologize yet again.
Well, listen up Abe Foxman and you listen up good. You did not deserve a single word of apology from Mr. Oldman because he had every right to say what he said, and moreover he was right in saying it. We all remember the incident in which Mel Gibson was arrested for drunk driving and went into an anti-Semitic tirade. Some of us, remember what preceded that incident. Gibson’s arrest was in July of 2006. Two years previously he had released the movie The Passion of the Christ, a film that you, Foxman, had complained might spark “anti-Semitism” because its portrayal of events of Christ’s trial and crucifixion was true to the New Testament. Some of us also remember, Foxman, that your pogrom against Gibson began before you had ever seen the movie. The year before the film came out you went to Gibson expressing “concern” that the film might be anti-Semitic and then acted shocked when he turned down your request for an advanced viewing of the film. Oh, I am sure you were very polite and civil in your request. I’ve read your ex-post facto self-justifying account of how you “reached out” to Gibson. Look up the expression “concern troll” to see why I am not impressed. I also remember that at this same time Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, an ultra-traditionalist Catholic was being dragged through the mud in the press over his unconventional views of the Holocaust. Perhaps you expect us to believe you had nothing to do with that? Well I’m not about to buy your ocean front property in the middle of the desert either. Gibson, from his remarks to the press at the time, was clearly under the impression that somebody was putting pressure on him to denounce his father. It is not that difficult to put two and two together and come up with a pretty good idea as to who that might have been. To expect a man to turn on his own father to appease your wrath is the kind of arrogance for which I find the Greek word hubris to be insufficient. Lets call it chutzpah shall we?
When someone is put through all that nonsense it should not shock or surprise us if negative feelings towards the Jews start coming out when he gets drunk. Frankly, it would be more surprising if they didn’t. Oldman was absolutely right to come to Gibson’s defense and, rather than apologize, it would have been better if he had directed some of that colourful language he used in his interview in the direction of the Anti-Defamation League. For that is all that the ADL, which has for far too long gotten away with cloaking its bullying behaviour under the guise of “reaching out” and its Christophobia behind the mask of “tolerance”, deserves. As for what he said about who runs Hollywood, in its haste to evoke the old “old anti-Semitic canard” canard against Oldman, the ADL and its like-minded supporters perhaps failed to notice the lack of the definite article before “Jews.” Had Oldman said “in a town that’s run by the Jews” it might have been anti-Semitic, i.e., the idea that the ethnic group as a collective is in charge of Hollywood, but he said “in a town that’s run by Jews”, which merely suggests that the people in charge happen to be Jewish. In Hollywood, that is a basic and obvious fact. See Neal Gabler’s An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood which, according to Oldman’s grovelling letter he has just been reading, or Ben Stein’s article of a few years back entitled “Do Jews Run Hollywood? You Bet They Do…And What of It?”
What a pity that Oldman did not stick to his guns when he was right all along.
Once again it is Father’s Day and once again I am both pleased and moderately surprised that we are still allowed to celebrate it, that it has not been cancelled, banned, or renamed as outdated, sexist, and completely unacceptable to the progressive, forward thinking, spirit of the day. For the spirit of the day is nothing if it is not completely and utterly patriphobic.
You can see this patriphobia everywhere you look. It is there in the way television shows and movies routinely depict fathers as arrogant and incompetent buffoons who are constantly being shown up by their much wiser and humbler wives and children. It can be seen in the misandrist, vaginocentric, readings of literature, culture, and history to which our unfortunate students are subjected in the halls of higher learning and which are becoming more and more ubiquitous in primary and secondary education as well. It is clearly there in how we have been re-writing and re-interpreting our laws and administering our social programs in such a way so as to render fathers a superfluous and perhaps even unwanted appendage to the reduced nuclear family of mother and children.
Sadly, it can also be seen in much purportedly pro-fatherhood material put out by well-meaning Christian groups. Such groups, in response to the alarming increase in fatherless families over the last few decades, rightly wish to promote fatherhood. The problem is that they often uncritically accept the feminist narrative in which the blame for the fatherless family is placed entirely upon the failure of men to face up to their responsibilities as fathers.
To be sure this is a part of the problem. It is far from being the whole story, however. It is hardly fair to say that fathers who have been barred from having any contact with their children by vindictive mothers backed by sympathetic courts – and there are more than a few of these – are all “deadbeat dads” who refuse to grow up and face their responsibilities. Furthermore, while it would be wrong to excuse fathers who do shirk their responsibilities it must be pointed out that the hostility of the present cultural climate to fathers and fatherhood is a strong disincentive to assuming that role and those responsibilities. Yet more often than not it is the same individuals and groups that have done the most to generate this toxic patriphobic atmosphere who try to place the entire blame for the growing epidemic of children being raised without their fathers upon paternal abandonment.
This all started several decades ago when marriage law was rewritten to facilitate divorce. Marriages, in which a man and a woman solemnly vow to be forever loyal and faithful to one another, are traditionally alliances between families and sacred covenants blessed by the church. For everyone involved, couple, families, and church, marriage was intended to be a permanent union and the law of the land was expected to support and uphold that, rather than to provide an easy way out. Until very recently, to get a divorce you had to sue your spouse and prove that the marriage had been broken by infidelity and even then the culture strongly encouraged you to try and work things out rather than seek a divorce.
This changed after the Second World War when the civil authorities of Western countries came under pressure to streamline and expedite the divorce process. In the forefront of the various groups clamouring for easy divorce was the feminist movement. The feminists made their demand for easy divorce on the grounds that an escape route was necessary for women trapped in abusive relationships. Feminist ideology, however, would suggest that there was a deeper motivation. Feminism was and is strongly antagonistic towards marriage and family, its aversion being based upon a Marxist reading of the history of the relationship between the sexes as one of an oppressor class (men) and an oppressed class (women). Marriage and the family were regarded as instruments of this oppression, despite it being quite evident that if there was any oppression in these traditional family arrangements it went in the opposite direction, and it is telling that the feminists chose to call the societal structure and arrangements they opposed, the patriarchy, a term which denotes the authority and rule of fathers. The feminists did not think much of motherhood either, regarding domesticity as yet another tool of the male oppression which thwarted the clear intentions of destiny that all women be CEOs and cabinet ministers , and insisting that women be given unlimited access to abortion and state-funded daycare. There is one exception to feminism’s generally anti-mother attitude, however, and that is when the interests of the mother come in conflict with those of the father after divorce.
With the introduction of easy, no-fault, divorce, came the dilemma of what to do about the children of broken families. The feminists insisted that custody should be awarded to the mother, along with alimony and child support payments that were often not easy for the father, who now had to maintain himself in a separate home from his children and former wife, to pay. If the father failed to make the payments he would be cut off from all access to his children. The courts, in part motivated by the vestigial traces of chivalry, tended to agree with the feminists.
So many fathers now found themselves exiled from the lives of their children after their wives obtained easy divorces and full custody of the children with expenses that were more difficult to meet now that separate establishments were involved. If they failed to meet these costs their vindictive ex-wives would refuse to let them see their children and would often try to poison the relationship between the fathers and their children by badmouthing the former to the latter, telling them what a “loser” and a “deadbeat” their father is. To make matters worse, the feminists had also demanded that the authorities clamp down on domestic violence, which was and is certainly a real problem, but one of which the feminists painted an exaggerated, distorted, and extremely one-sided picture. Today, feminists continue to cling to the idea that domestic abuse is always or almost always male-on-female, despite the fact that this idea has been thoroughly debunked and women have been shown to be just as likely – some studies suggest more likely – to initiate violence as men. The courts, however, accepted the picture painted by the feminists and, again perhaps motivated by a vestigial chivalry that refuses to consider the possibility of manipulative deception or anything less than spotless purity on the part of a woman, developed a presumption of guilt against any man accused of violence towards his wife and children. Thus, if an ex-wife was feeling especially vindictive, she could accuse the father of her children of abuse and obtain a restraining order against him which would effectively ban the father from his children’s lives upon threat of jail time without having to provide any substantial evidence. The very threat of making such an accusation became a weapon in her hands.
The injustice of all of this has been challenged by the father’s rights movement since the 1980s and many corrections to it have been made. Unfortunately, the system towards which we are moving in which divorced parents have equal shared custody and equal access to their children, while better than the one in which children are pawns in a battle between warring exes is not a step back towards what we really need, a system where the culture and law again support marriage and the family. For children need both their father and their mother, and not separately, but together. Likewise our society needs a culture that honours and respects fathers, rather than alternating between mocking them as buffoons and preaching at them over their shortcomings.
In the Reformation of the sixteenth century, one of the key theological issues over which the Reformers and the papal hierarchy in Rome contended, was the doctrine of justification, God’s declaration of a man to be righteous in His eyes. The Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers agreed that justification was by grace on God’s part. Where they disagreed was over how man receives the grace of God. The Reformers insisted that man received the grace of God and was justified thereby through faith alone. At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church declared this view to be anathema and said that justification was by faith and works of love.
I believe that the Roman Catholic Church made a terrible mistake in pronouncing this anathema at Trent and that in doing so they failed to uphold the doctrine of the Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, explained by the Church Fathers, and traditionally held by the Church. In condemning the doctrine of justification by faith alone they pointed out that the New Testament does not qualify the word faith with the word alone in speaking of justification except to express disagreement in James 2:24. As true as this observation is it avoids the fact that when the Reformers spoke of “faith alone”, alone was shorthand for “and not by works.” It excludes works as a means along with faith of receiving grace. This is precisely what St. Paul the Apostle taught. It is the major theme of his epistles to the Romans and Galatians and is mentioned in one way or another in most of his other epistles. In Romans 4, where St. Paul answers James by asserting that the type of justification he wrote about, i.e., by works, was something to boast about and therefore not “before God” (v. 2) he declares that by faith God justifies the person who “worketh not” (v. 5), an extremely strong wording of this doctrine that approaches the border of antinomianism. The Roman Catholic argument that St. Paul was talking about “works of the law” rather than “works of love” defeats the very distinction it tries to make, because the difference between works of the law and works of love is precisely that the former are done with the motivation of earning justification from God for oneself whereas the latter are done with the motivation of pleasing the God one loves rather than obtaining something for oneself. Such works are impossible if they are also necessary alongside faith for receiving the grace of justification.
The error of Trent is one of confusing ends with means or, to use an analogy that was once common, putting the cart before the horse. Means are the methods and tools we utilize to achieve ends which in turn are the goals, goods, and purposes we seek to accomplish. Works are not the means whereby we either achieve or receive the end of our justification and salvation. Rather, salvation which includes justification, is the means whereby God takes us from our fallen, broken condition, and makes us into a new creation which responds to Him with works of love. To repeat, works are not our means for achieving the end of our salvation, rather our works are the end for which salvation is God’s means. St. Paul could not have stated this more clearly than he did in Ephesians 2:8-10.
This understanding is fundamental to the very idea of salvation by grace. For to say that salvation is by grace is to say that salvation is a gift, something that God bestows upon us freely rather than in exchange for something. Something that is a freely given gift can only be received, rather than worked for, because if it is worked for it is a reward or wage rather than a gift, a point St. Paul spells out for us in Romans 4. The understanding that salvation is the means and our works the ends is also vital to the realization that salvation entails more than a divine “fire insurance” policy, that it is a divine rescue mission in which we are lifted out of our fallen estate in which the image of God is broken and marred by sin and brought into a place where restored, we can once again reflect His goodness and grace, as we were created to do.
Rome was clearly in serious error on this point, although it needs to be said that their error was well-intentioned. They wished to guard against the danger of license, i.e., the idea that because one is saved by grace one can therefore feel free to sin without consequence. As good as that intention was it is no solution to the error rebuked by St. Paul in Romans 6 to fall into the error that the entire epistle argues against.
If Rome, to prevent against license, erred in adding works to faith as the means of receiving grace and salvation when in fact salvation is the means to the end of works, a tendency developed on the Protestant side of the Reformation divide to err by limiting the channels by which God’s grace comes to us that we might receive it by faith. I do not mean that they erred in saying that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour and that salvation is only found in Him. On this truth, Rome and the Reformers were in agreement. Jesus is Himself our salvation, and everything from His Incarnation through His Miraculous Conception by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, through His Life and Teachings, Passion, Death, Burial, Descent into Hell, and Resurrection to His Ascension back into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, is God’s loving, gracious, and merciful, gift of salvation to us. The channels of grace to which I refer are the means by which God’s gift to us in Jesus is brought to us that we may respond in faith and receive it..
I began my Christian walk with an evangelical conversion experience when I was fifteen. I began to attend and was baptized in a church in which the Word, written and spoken, was stressed as the channel by which God’s salvation in Christ comes to us that we might receive it by faith. This was how I had been brought to my conversion, having read the Gospel message about how God had given us His Son to suffer and die for our sins and then raised Him from the dead in Christian literature and heard it preached on Christian radio. Furthermore, this teaching is very much in accordance with St. Paul’s statement that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
St. Paul makes it clear in the context in which he says this that the role of the Word is essential. The Apostle does not say, however, that there are no other channels that supplement the spoken or written Word. That there were, in fact, other such channels was suggested to me early in my Christian walk by a story in one of L. M. Montgomery’s Chronicles of Avonlea anthologies, about a fallen woman on her deathbed who was unable to grasp the concept of God as a loving Father, freely forgiving her of her sins in Christ, no matter how the minister tried to explain it to her, until his nephew arrived and expressed the message in a language she could understand, that of the violin. A year or so after reading that story I read Johnny Cash’s autobiography Man in Black, in which he testified to more or less the same thing, that the Gospel message which spoke to his brother through preaching, had to come to him through the vessel of Gospel music. Perhaps the prominence of music in the services of virtually all Christian worship traditions also testifies to this.
The idea that the spoken or written Word is the sole means whereby Christ is brought to us that we might believe in Him is in conflict with St. John’s declaration in the first chapter of his Gospel that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). The Word of which the Apostle speaks is Jesus Himself, the Living Word of God. If the Living Word of God had to put on flesh and live amongst men as a Man in order to reveal His Father to us is it reasonable to expect the written Word, the testimony of His disciples to Who He was and what He did, to bring Him to us without also being “made flesh” in a sense? For this is precisely what the church has traditionally said its mysteries or sacraments do.
St. Augustine of Hippo said that a sacrament is formed by the combination of the Word with a physical element so that the physical element, the water of baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion becomes a vessel in which the Word and the grace it contains is conveyed. The sacraments are administered, of course, by the church which was established by Christ through His Apostles and said by St. Paul to be the body of Christ. In his first epistle to the Corinthians St. Paul elaborates on that concept, explaining that the church is an organic collective whole, the members of which, with their distinct gifts and offices, are like unto the organs in the body with Christ Himself as the head. Earlier in the same epistle, he says “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16) Note that the King James Version just quoted uses distinct forms for the singular and plural second person pronouns as does the original Greek, and that the plural is used here. As temple of God is in the singular, the second person plural is a collective plural and so the verse expresses, with a different metaphor, the same basic concept that the church is a collective whole, collectively indwelt by the Spirit of God sent upon the church at Pentecost. The clear implication of all of this is that the church was established as a continuation of what began in the Incarnation. In Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God was made flesh and after He ascended back into heaven, He sent His Spirit to indwell the church that it might continue His ministry as His physical presence here on earth, and in the mysteries or sacraments of the church the written Word of God is likewise “made flesh” so as to be brought to the believer in a tangible way, that supplements and complements the mere reading, speaking and preaching of the Word.
The versions of Protestantism that rejected this understanding – and not all did, of course – and made the reading and preaching of the Word the sole channel by which God’s gift of grace to us in Christ is to be brought to us to be believed, had good intentions in doing so, just as Rome had good intentions in declaring its anathema on sola fide. These Protestants wished to guard against the danger of misplaced faith, of putting one’s trust in the church and its sacraments rather than in God and the Saviour He has given us in His love, mercy, and grace. This is a real danger and when a person falls into this error, making the church and its sacraments into steps one must climb to approach Christ, they can actually become a wall that keeps him from Christ. This danger must be warned against like that of license which Rome sought to avoid, but just as it is a mistake to stick the cart of works before the horse of salvation, confusing means with ends, so it is a mistake to throw the baby of Incarnational and sacramental theology, out with the bathwater.
If Rome, by declaring anathema the Pauline doctrine that grace is received by faith and not by works and that works are the end to which salvation is the means and not the other way around, brought its own curse down upon its own head, advanced Protestantism impoverished itself, by making preaching and reading the Word the sole channel of grace. For grace is not something we need once and receive once but something in which we are in constant need of. Faith is not, as much of North American evangelicalism unfortunately seems to think, a single act or decision, but a heartfelt response of confidence and trust in God and His grace as given to us in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that is ongoing and continual. Faith is formed in us by the very grace it receives, and since faith can weaken and falter, it is in constant need of being replenished and strengthened. This, of course, means that the believer needs to continually read and hear the Word, which is why the liturgy of the Word is an important part of the traditional worship of the church but how much more is the believer’s faith strengthened and replenished when the ministry of the Word is supplemented and complemented by the sacraments in which the church “makes the Word” flesh?
All of this has been on my mind recently as I prepared for and received confirmation by our bishop, in the orthodox Anglican church I have been attending for several years now. This was not a repudiation for me, of the church in which I began my Christian walk for the ministry of which I will always be grateful, but an embracing of the multiple ways in which God’s grace in Christ has been made available to the believer in the wider tradition of Christianity.
Confirmation, the ancient rite in which the bishop lays his hands on the believer’s head and prays over him for strengthening by the Holy Spirit as the believer reaffirms his baptismal vows of repentance and faith, is not considered by the Anglican Church to be a sacrament in the same sense as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Anglican Church differs from the Greek and Latin Churches in this for it, rightly I believe, reserves the term sacrament in its strictest sense for the rites actually ordained by Christ Himself. It recognizes a sacramental quality to the rite, however, and if as we have been discussing, the purpose of a sacrament is to make the written Word flesh so that the believer can receive it in ways other than by hearing and reading, then all aspects of the life of the church have a sacramental quality in one way or another to them. The calendar of the Christian year makes the Gospel story flesh, by re-enacting and celebrating Christ’s life and ministry, from the anticipation of His coming in Advent to His reign as Christ the King. The Gospel is made flesh in the images and decorations of the church, and, as L. M. Montgomery’s fictional story and Johnny Cash’s actual testimony referred to earlier tell us, music can tell the story in a language which can reach those who could not otherwise understand it.
This points to the truth upon which I will conclude these reflections. Just as salvation, in its fullest sense, is much more than “fire insurance” but is the rescuing of people from the brokenness of sin and restoring them to a harmonious relationship with God out of which works of Christian love grow as fruit so grace, in its fullest sense, embraces more than the giving of salvation but every other gift that God gives us as well, from the gifts of what the Calvinist divines call “Common Grace”, such as the rain which Christ said His Father sends upon righteous and wicked alike, to the superabundant blessings of God for the believer (Rom. 8:32). “The heavens declare the glory of God”, the Psalmist says and according to St. Paul the invisible things of God have been clearly seen from creation, “being understood by the things that are made” (Rom. 1:20). There is a very real sense in which all of the world and life itself is a sacrament, making flesh the Word of God, and conveying the grace therein to all who will receive it by faith.
The Canadian High Tory Tradition: Raids on the Unspeakable, by Ron Dart, Dewdney B.C., Synaxis Press, 2004, 221 pp.
As someone who self-identifies as a “High Tory” I have on occasion been asked to explain what exactly a High Tory is. I usually respond by explaining what a Tory is first and then explaining what is suggested by the qualifying adjective High. While Tory can be simply a nickname for a member or supporter of the Conservative Party I use the term to mean someone who holds to a certain set of principles and convictions and a certain way of looking at life and the world. The expression “small c conservative” is also used by those who wish to identify themselves as being conservative other than in the partisan sense but I prefer the word Tory because it hearkens back to an older form of conservatism, that exemplified by the eighteenth century poet, biographer, essayist, and lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson. A Tory is someone who supports the traditions, institutions, and constitution of his country, especially against radical innovations mercilessly derived from absolute, abstract ideals. A Tory looks upon his country and society, not as an aggregation of individuals who happen to live in the same place and time, but as a corporate identity in which individuals and families are connected, in many different ways and at many different levels, to form communities, classes, and all sorts of other social layers that ultimately come together to make an organic whole that includes past and future generations along with the present. A Tory is someone who sees the institutions of church and state as existing to promote the common good of the organic whole of his society which he understands as a collective good rather than in the utilitarian terms of the greatest good for the greatest number.
Having established the meaning of the noun Tory, we now turn to the qualifier. In the writings of T. S. Eliot, who was to the twentieth century what Dr. Johnson was to the eighteenth, i.e., the definitive Tory, we find in his statement “I am an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature, and a royalist in politics” the key to understanding what the “High” in High Tory refers to. Anglo-Catholic is often used interchangeably with High Church and while both expressions usually denote a liturgical style today, both originally referred to a form of ecclesiology, i.e.,, the theology of the church, that correlates with the Tory’s organic view of society, by stressing the importance of Apostolic Succession as an organic and organizational link between the church in the present and the church founded by Christ through His Apostles. Classicism looks to Greco-Roman civilization as the font of the tradition of excellence in the humanities, i.e., arts, philosophy, literature, etc., which excellence is often called High Culture. Royalism is support for the high office of the king or queen and it is the sine qua non of what it means to be a Tory politically.
The High Tory tradition has been an important part of Canada since before Confederation, having inspired the United Empire Loyalists and ultimately, of course, going back to the United Kingdom. In Canada, the question has arisen of whether the High Tory is left-of-centre or right-of-centre. I would answer by saying that the High Tory is right-of-centre, being both a High Tory and very right-of-centre myself. One High Tory who is not so certain of that is Ron Dart.
Ron Dart is a professor at the University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia where he teaches in the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religious Studies. Professor Dart is a devout Anglican, a Canadian nationalist, and a prolific author who has written several books about the thought of such Canadian Tories as Stephen Leacock and George Grant. He identifies himself both as a High Tory and a Red Tory and indeed uses the terms more or less interchangeably. In 1999 he published a collection of essays under the title The Red Tory Tradition: Ancient Roots, New Routes. Most recently he published Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism. The book that I wish to discuss here, however, is one that he published ten years ago with the title The Canadian High Tory Tradition: Raids on the Unspeakable. Ten year ago, when this book first came out, the current Conservative Party had just been formed by the final merger of what was left of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance, which had itself been formed by an earlier attempt to merge the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party. The completion of the merger seems to have been the catalyst that prompted the writing of several of these essays and their compilation into this book.
Professor Dart took a very dim view of the movement to “unite the right” and the party that emerged from it describing it as a form of American colonization that was replacing Canada’s indigenous Tory tradition with American republicanism. This, I think, was a valid concern, and one which I shared to a large degree, but I do need to point out that my own scepticism towards the merger was based upon the expectation that it would combine the worst in both parties rather than the best. I need to point this out because many of the ideas that I would regard as the best in the Reform/Alliance party – in which I had a membership until a few months before the merger in 2003 – are ideas that Professor Dart would associate with American republicanism.
I say this because throughout the essays in this book, Professor Dart has stressed the differences between the High Tory tradition and the right-of-centre, small-c conservatism of the Canadian Alliance (which he calls the Alliance Party indicating his view of it as an American import), maximizing the distance between the two, while making the most of points of convergence between the High Tory tradition and the left-of-centre views of socialism and second-generation liberalism, minimizing the distance between these. In doing so, he says much that I would affirm and some things that I would question.
He begins his first essay by pointing to the American Revolution, in which the founders of the United States consciously broke away from the English tradition to build a republic on a foundation of liberalism. American conservatism, he is right to observe, has largely been an attempt to conserve the principles of an earlier form of liberalism whereas Canadian conservatism is directly derived from the English High Tory tradition of which it is a continuation. The High Tory, in England and Canada, has traditionally had a high view of the State and its “essential role in building and creating a good and just society” (p. 8), he writes, whereas it was the liberalism upon which the American Republic was built which spoke of a “lighter State” and “less taxes.”
This is all true and factual and this is the essence of both the chasm Dr. Dart sees as existing between the High Tory tradition and that of the Reform/Alliance/present Conservative Parties and the ties he sees between the High Tory tradition and socialism and welfare liberalism. The High Tory does indeed have a high view of the State, regarding it as a positive good rather than a necessary evil. I do not, however, see any necessary contradiction between this view of the State and the idea that the burden of regulations and taxes which the State lays upon the people it governs should be as light as is consistent with maintaining law and order.
It needs to be pointed out that there is a huge gulf between the rhetoric and reality of liberalism with regards to light government and taxation. The original English liberals, the Whigs, declared themselves to be on the side of liberty and against tyranny but the actual result of their campaign to transfer the power, privileges, and prerogatives of the Crown to the elected legislative assembly was to increase rather than to decrease the size and scope of the State and to cause taxes to go up rather than down. The American Revolution, fought with the same rhetoric, had the same results.
This is important because we do not want to make the mistake of thinking that freedom or liberty is a new idea or value that liberalism introduced into the world. This is liberalism’s own way of thinking about it and one of Dr. Dart’s most important and valuable insights, to which I will shortly return, is of the need to question liberalism at the level of its most basic ideas which are often taken for granted today. St. Paul the Apostle, in his epistle to the Romans asserted both the liberty of the believer and that the civil authority was the minister of God, clearly not seeing these as contradictory ideas and King Charles I, who is arguably the patron saint of the Tory, in his final speech before his martyrdom said that he had taken his stand for the true liberty of the people, consisting not of democracy but of laws which secure their lives and goods. The equation of liberty with democracy was, of course, the liberal position and the fact that the historical triumph of liberalism has led to the exponential multiplication of laws and taxes rather than their reduction shows the liberal view up for the lie that it is. Ironically this idea that freedom is a concept for which the world owes liberalism and/or the American revolutionaries is itself the idea that I found most objectionable in the Alliance Party where it tended to take the form of an obnoxious anti-patriotism and is a good part of the reason I let my membership drop.
I would argue that keeping the burdens of law and taxation as light as possible is actually essential to Tory support for the State as a positive institution necessary for the common good of society. Excessive laws and taxation have historically been one of the two biggest sources of popular discontent that demagogues have been able to exploit against the social and civil order and it is therefore in the State’s own interests not to err on the side of too much law and taxation or even to approach the line.. The other source of discontent is widespread misery throughout the populace. It was to combat this second potential threat to the civil order that Tories like Disraeli and Bismarck first devised a modest social safety net in the nineteenth century.
There is a paradox here in that while Disraeli and Bismarck introduced these social reforms to combat socialism it is because of these reforms that Dr. Dart can make a case for common ground between the High Tory and the socialist. It would have been interesting to see a discussion of how Toryism, liberalism, and socialism each separately moved towards support of a State social safety net for different reasons and to accomplish radically different ends. The only one of these changes Dr. Dart discusses as such is the evolution of “second generation” liberalism which he also calls “social liberalism” an expression which he uses to denote welfare liberalism rather than the moral permissiveness with which it is more commonly associated. Socialism too had to evolve before there could be any talk of common ground between the Tory and the socialist because in its original form socialism was the doctrine of levellers and revolutionaries, the very antithesis of the Tory, and it’s central concept was the common ownership of wealth, goods, and property, a doctrine explicitly rejected by the Anglican Church in the Thirty-Eighth of the Articles of Religion.
Even in its evolved form, I confess that I fail to see much in common between socialism and Toryism. It was George Grant, Canada’s finest conservative philosopher, who said that socialism was more conservative than capitalism, prompting Gad Horowitz to dub this view “Red Toryism”. I have always felt that Grant, whom Dr. Dart rightly gives a prominent place in this book and whom I, like Dr, Dart, hold in high esteem, was only half right on this. He was right to say that capitalism is the source of dynamic change and the uprooting of families, communities, and traditions, hence a revolutionary rather than a conservative force. He was wrong to say that socialism was any better. Second generation socialism, which harnesses the power of the State to accomplish progressive ends, if anything exacerbates what the conservative finds objectionable in capitalism.
Dr. Dart also gives a prominent place to Stephen Leacock, another traditional Tory for whom Dr. Dart and I share a high regard. Dr. Dart does an excellent job of showing Leacock, about whom he has written extensively, to have been much more than a humourist, but an economist and political and social scientist as well, but his reading of Leacock on the matter of socialism somewhat puzzles me. In his doctoral dissertation, to which Dr. Dart devotes one of the essays in this book, Leacock analyzed and was highly critical of the doctrine of laissez-faire, and rightly so as it takes the idea of private enterprise to an absurd, individualistic, extreme. This does not amount to a wholesale rejection of private enterprise, however, and Leacock’s take on socialism, in “The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice” was that it was an unworkable scheme, designed for a race of angels rather than men, life under which would be like life in a penitentiary, and which amounts to slavery. It seems to me that Leacock supported private enterprise but not in the extreme form of laissez-faire, and supported a social safety net for precisely the same reasons Disraeli and Bismarck did, i.e., as protection against the threat of socialism. These are my own prejudices, however, and I am not even remotely close to knowing as much about Leacock as Dr. Dart.
Although the evolution of socialism from the idea of collective ownership into the idea of an expansive social safety net is not discussed, Dr. Dart does discuss competing perspectives on the Left. Several essays in the first section of the book discuss American militarism and imperialism and two of these are devoted to the influence of American linguistics professor Noam Chomsky on the Canadian Left. Dr. Dart points out parallels between how the Alliance drew inspiration from the American Right and how the Canadian Left draws inspiration from Chomsky, lamenting that both Left and Right look so much outside their own country’s traditions to those of the United States, and further pointing out how the rhetoric of the self-declared anarchist Chomsky and that of the American Right have a common source is the liberal, republican, ideology of the American Revolution. Dr. Dart’s nationalist call to Canadians, Left and Right, to look to our own heritage and traditions is one which I loudly applaud.
Here, however, I feel compelled to point out that the High Tory tradition has long had an anarchist wing. This is paradoxical, of course, and quite deliberately so on the part of those involved, but it is made possible by distinguishing between two different States. The first, supported by all High Tories, is simply the Crown and Parliament as the governing institutions in the overall traditional order. The second, is a faceless collective, consisting of corrupt politicians and soulless bureaucrats, constantly interjecting itself into our everyday lives, throwing its weight around, bossing us around, burying us beneath a pile of useless and insipid regulations, and taking a huge chunk of our income as payment for its bullying behaviour. It is quite possible to love the first while hating and despising the second.
Novelists, for some reason or another make up a disproportionate part of this wing of the High Tory tradition, examples of which include Evelyn and Auberon Waugh and Anthony Burgess, who in the same breathe declared himself to be both a Jacobite and an anarchist, declaring his hatred of the State even as he recommended to the Americans that they find themselves a Stuart king. This is perhaps more common in Britain than in Canada but there is an obvious Canadian example, himself a novelist, who is even quoted by Dr. Dart in this book. I refer, of course, to Robertson Davies, who as a staunch monarchist, High Anglican and Canadian nationalist was clearly a High Tory despite his mild inclination to vote Liberal and who, in the introduction to The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks, put a most amusing justification of the synthesis of royalism and anarchism into the mouth of his well-known fictional alter-ego. Need I say that it is this wing of the High Tory tradition with which I myself would most identify?
I will make one final observation with regards to the State. Early in the book, Dr. Dart points out that American republicans and their counterparts in the Alliance emphasize the role of society in creating the common good at the expense of the State, a form of thought he traces back to Thomas Paine’s 1776 Common Sense. Paine depicted society, consisting of voluntary, intermediate, associations as good and the State as a necessary evil. The High Tory view, as Dr. Dart explains well, is that both society and State have a role to play in this. My observation is that there are pitfalls on both sides of the Tory position. If Paine exalted society at the expense of the State the other pitfall is to be found in the way second generation liberalism and socialism have expanded the State at the expense of society. First generation liberalism fought to transfer power from the Crown to the legislative assembly, expanding the State in the process, and second generation liberalism has sought to concentrate the authority and in many cases the roles of society’s other institutions and associations in the same legislative assembly, thus expanding the State further at the expense of society. Since both the modern liberal and the socialist seek to harness the power of the democratic assembly and its bureaucracy which they have vastly expanded at the expense of a weakened Crown and society to accomplish modern progressive ends this seems to me to be the more deadly of the two pitfalls.
This brings me back to Dr. Dart’s insight of which mention was made earlier about the need to question liberalism at the deeper level of its basic principles. As the institutions of society, including the Church and family, were weakened a number of debates over contentious issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and gay rights, to list but three examples, arose. Dr. Dart aptly calls these “culture wars” and astutely notes that it is pointless to engage in these debates if we are not willing to examine and understand the deeper principles that lie beneath these issues He further observes that “we live in an age dominated by liberalism” (p. 114), that it is a sort of “matrix” into which we are born, and that there is an ironically illiberal unwillingness to question liberalism’s own fundamental principles.
This is all just from the introduction to the first of the three essays which resonated with me the most in the entire book, all of which are found in the fourth and final section. This is not to slight the other sections in each of which one of Dr. Dart’s most impressive talents is on prominent display. I refer to his matchless ability to see connections between the lives and thoughts of various individuals, to point out where they intersect in ways that have often been overlooked by biographers, historians, and scholars who have made one of these individuals the focus of their study, drawing comparisons or contrasts. It is in this final section of the book, however, that he turns to deep thoughts, principles, and philosophical structures and I suspect that he consciously arranged the book in this way in order to illustrate his point about the importance of looking at the underlying ideas beneath the personalities, conflicts, and issues.
In the first of these three essays which is also the first in the section, Dr. Dart traces the history of the formation of the liberal matrix through seven phases, first identifying the basic principles of liberalism – “liberty (freedom), individualism, equality, fraternity (solidarity), conscience, historicism, and the quest for meaning, happiness or authenticity” (p. 114), observing that liberalism will take different forms depending upon how these principles are prioritized and showing how even deeper than these principles, lie the root of liberalism in its view of human nature as “open and weak on boundaries and limitations…a project in which we make ourselves.” (p. 115)
I was pleased to see that, despite a visible preference for Plato, he argues against the simplistic Plato v. Aristotle model that traces the origins of liberalism back to Aristotle, instead pointing, like Richard M. Weaver and the Radical Orthodoxy movement within Anglican theology (John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, et. al.), to the shift away from universals in the nominalism of Occam and Scotus as the source of liberalism. From nominalism, he traces the development of liberalism through the Reformation, the emerging individualism of the seventeenth century which saw the English Civil War, the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, the Victorian era, the early twentieth century, to the post-modern era, tracing how liberalism in each phase took the same basic principles one step further, turning them against the traditional Church in the Reformation, then against Christianity itself in the Enlightenment, until finally we arrived at the present where “the language of rights, diversity, process, tolerance, pluralism and openness is very much the sacred speech, script, and shibboleths of the liberal drama”. (p. 120) After giving us this outline of the advancement of liberal thought, he identifies the question -“What is the good in liberalism and what are its limitations” – which requires us to do what so many find difficult to do, or even to think of doing, which is to take a step back from the liberal worldview and to think outside its box. Indeed, in the conclusion to the essay, which comes after a critical examination of the attempt of one liberal, appropriately Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, to think outside the box and a brief discussion of the older alternatives to the liberal view of the self in the contemplative traditions within western and eastern religions, he says “If we have not learned to think outside this matrix, we probably have not yet learned to truly think.” (pp. 127-128).
The second of the three essays comes almost immediately after the first, with a short review of a Charles Taylor book in between. In this essay, Dr. Dart contrasts the High Tory way and the older Western tradition from which it is derived with eight “Marks of Modernity”. Where the modern world values the vita activa, i.e., the life of “labour, work and action” (p. 133) over the contemplative life, Martha over Mary to use Scriptural imagery, the older tradition valued the contemplative life higher. Perhaps value is not the right word, however, for the second mark of modernity is the shift away from the classical emphasis on virtues to an emphasis on values, to what is chosen by the self rather than what is fixed. These reversals have brought about a further shift from wisdom to knowledge, manifested in the abandonment of the classical understanding of education as to “awaken the soul to the good, true and beautiful” (p. 135) to the modern understanding of it as job training. The fourth mark of modernity is that the individual has come to “trump the rights of the community, nation, and commonweal” (p. 138) and the fifth is the shift away from memory and the past to a “preoccupation with the present and immediate” (p. 139) which Dr. Dart very accurately characterizes as a turning away from the humilitas to hubris. The sixth mark is a turn away from thinking of our relationships in terms of covenant built on loyalty to contract based upon mutual advantages and interests. Modern man, Dr. Dart then points out, has gone from thinking of self as a gift, “something we discover through being open to the grace and goodness of existence” to thinking of self as a project, something “that we make and write as an artist might write a drama, poem, or novel” (p. 141). Finally, he talks about how modern man has embraced equality to the point of rejecting hierarchy, the “notion of good, better, best and bad, worse, worst” that “resists the dumbing down of all things to the level of opinion” and means “that the self can aspire to higher things, greater and grander quality.” (p. 144)
In making these contrasts, Dr. Dart gives an outline of the High Tory way - the life of contemplation, the classical virtues, wisdom as the end of learning, the commonweal, memory of the past, relationships as covenants, self as gift and hierarchy – with which I would wholeheartedly agree, although as a High Tory of the Right, I would probably put much more emphasis on the last item. That Dr. Dart’s emphasis is on the first item is evident in the essays following this one, particularly the ones about C. S. Lewis and Thomas Merton (from whom he borrowed the subtitle for the book). This is a good emphasis too, and it brings us to the third of Dr. Dart’s essays that I wish to discuss, which apart from two book reviews is the last in the book.
In this essay Dr. Dart talks about the Anglican Church, at one time called “The Tory Party at prayer”, which I am pleased to see he traces back further than the break with Rome in the sixteenth century to the arrival of Christianity in Albion. Describing the tradition as “deeply Celtic, firmly Catholic, thoroughly Reformed, generously Liberal, eagerly Evangelical and openly Charismatic” (pp. 199-200). He identifies as the eleven foundation stones of the Anglican Tradition, the wisdom of Tradition, the Bible, “experience, spirituality, mysticism and the contemplative way” but not a spirituality that demonizes institutional religion, the magisterial Tradition (by which he means the speaking of the Church to political, economic and social issues), a high view of the arts and culture in which “the good, true and the beautiful are means of grace, and must be seen as such”, “a profound respect for Nature as a good”, a middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, education in which the heart and head are integrated, rejection of the “split between the sacred and the profane”, tension between a conservative respect for the wisdom of the past and the old ways and liberal concern for the matters of the present, and the localism of the parish. (pp. 200-204).
After this beautiful portrait of the breadth and depth of the Anglican tradition he discusses the contemporary situation in the Anglican Church – the way liberalism has come to dominate the leadership, the response of the conservatives in the conferences of the Essentials movement, the discussion (or lack thereof) between the two sides, how Bishop Ingham of New Westminster took liberalism to the next level with a reductionist form of pluralism in a book released in 1997, and the critical response it received the following year (modestly, Dr. Dart does not mention that he co-wrote the response).
There are obvious parallels between what is happening in the Church and what is happening in modern society as a whole, illustrating perhaps, both the wisdom of what Dr. Dart has to say about refusing to divide the world into the sacred and profane and how important it is that the Church speak prophetically into the whole of society rather than uncritically submitting to the spirit of the age. There are no easy solutions to the crisis in the Church, but just as with our country and with Western civilization as a whole, there is a clear need to think deeply and critically about modern principles that have gone unchallenged and to find refreshment from traditional wells and streams as we seek to walk the old paths anew. This is the High Tory way, and on that High Tories, Left and Right, can surely agree.
If I have not already said this in this review, I would like to conclude by giving my hearty recommendation that you read The Canadian High Tory Tradition but with the warning that you will not be able to stop at this book, which discusses so many other interesting writers and books that my reading list has not gone down by one with the reading of it, but expanded immensely. That, by the way, is what I consider the mark of a truly excellent book.
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca