After the second of two anni horribiles in a row, the Kalends of January is upon us once again. In the civil calendar this is New Year's Day and in the sacred Kalendar it is the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. When I began to write I borrowed a custom from one of my favourite writers, the late Charley Reese, a curmudgeonly, common-sense conservative, op-ed writer from the Orlando Sentinel with a thrice-weekly syndicated column. At the beginning or end of each year he would write a column in which he talked about himself, his positions, the causes he supported, and the organizations to which he belonged. He encouraged other writers to do the same because he felt they owed it to their readers to regularly disclose these things so their readers would know where the opinions they were reading were coming from. Reese's column would come out in late December or early January on a day his column was scheduled to appear. Since I self-publish my essays on a blog and can keep my own schedule I have always timed mine to come out on New Year's Day.
I am 45 years old. I have lived in the city of Winnipeg for almost a quarter of a century. I have lived in the province of Manitoba, of which Winnipeg is the capital, in the Dominion of Canada all my life. I grew up on a farm in southwestern Manitoba near the village of Oak River and the town of Rivers, and studied theology for five years at what is now Providence University College (at the time it was called Providence College and Theological Seminary) in Otterburne, about a half-hour south of Winnipeg.
There are two words that I regularly use to describe my general point of view in all of its aspects - political, theological, philosophical, cultural, etc. These are reactionary and Tory. The former has long been a term of abuse by progressives or leftists and I learned the habit of self-applying it from the late historian John Lukacs. When I do so, I use it more in the sense in which he used it, and in which Michael Warren Davis uses it in his just published The Reactionary Mind: Why "Conservative" Isn't Enough, than in the sense that in which Curtis Yarvin aka Mencius Moldbug, et al, use it, although by making this distinction I do not mean to disparage the latter who have written much that is worthy in criticism of the Modern and what has followed it. In this sense it means someone who looks back to the social, civil, and religious order of Christendom, the civilization that preceded Modern Western Civilization, and rather than finding there darkness from which he thanks Modernity for rescuing us, finds goodness and light and a solid place to cast his anchor so as to keep from being tossed adrift on the stormy seas of Modernity and Postmodernity. A reactionary then is very different from a conservative. The latter is usually someone who values Western Civilization only for the achievements of Modernity, distinguishing himself from progressives merely by the fact that the strain of Modernity he prefers, is the older, somewhat saner, form of liberalism, rather than that of the increasingly looney left.
From what I have just said about being a reactionary, it should already be clear that when I describe myself as a Tory I don't mean a small-c conservative, although I usually agree with small-c conservatives in their disputes with progressives, much less a big-C Conservative. I mean it in the sense of Dr. Johnson's famous definition as "one who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolic hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a whig" and of T. S. Eliot's description of himself, which reads like an update of Dr. Johnson's definition, and goes " an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature and a royalist in politics."
When it comes to the political aspect of being a Tory, the "royalist in politics", I have been one all my life. Although a subtle distinction can be made between a royalist and a monarchist - the former denotes loyalty to royal blood, the latter denotes loyalty to and belief in the institution and office of the monarch - I will use the word royalist to encompass both meanings. I have always been glad that my country is a parliamentary monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state and the head of the family of nations, the Commonwealth, to which we belong, rather than a republic. Like Anthony Burgess, one of my favourite novelists who had similar views, "I hate all republics", although I might make the long defunct Confederate States of America the exception that proves the rule, if only because the kind of people who would be most offended by my doing so are also the sort of people who irritate me the most. As I learned the history of my country, I was very pleased - I don't like to use the word proud because Pride is the worst of all sins and vices - to know that Canada's history diverged from that of our republican neighbour because we chose the way of the older virtues of Loyalty to the Crown and Honour, over that of rebellion and sedition in the name of new-fangled abstract ideals. I very much despise the way Modern man prefers abstract ideals over time -proven concrete institutions. I am very much the opposite of that in my thinking, which is why I will defend parliament, the time-honoured institution that legislates under the reign of the Crown, but not democracy, the abstract ideal, and insist that this distinction is crucial. It always infuriates me when certain small-c conservatives speak gushingly about democracy and disparagingly about the Crown. The Honourable Eugene Forsey was raised Conservative, but became a socialist, was one of the founders of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (predecessor to today's New Democratic Party), worked as research-director for the Canadian Labour Congress, and was appointed to the Senate as a Liberal by Pierre Eliot Trudeau. There were a great many issues on which his position was the polar opposite of mine. Nevertheless, he was a great defender of Canada's constitution, about which he knew more than any other Canadian in history except the Fathers of Confederation, and of the monarchy and always called himself a "Sir John A. Macdonald Conservative". I gladly acknowledge him to have been a brother Tory. I would not extend the same courtesy to such small-c conservatives as Anthony Furey, Lorne Gunter, J. J. McCullough and Spencer Fernando who have expressed their preference for the republican form of government, even though on a wide battery of other issues I would agree with them. I would recommend that they all read John Farthing's Freedom Wears a Crown. The most totalitarian governments in history have been republics, the freest have been headed by monarchs. The more I have read and reflected on political science over the years, the more confirmed I have become in a royalism that was at first instinctual. A country needs a hereditary, unelected, head of state who is above partisan politics, and so can truly fulfil the role of the office of head of state, which is to represent the country as a whole, including not just all the various factions of those living in the present, but those who have gone before and who are yet to come as well. Only a king or queen can do this.
I had what for Canadians of my generation was a fairly typical mainstream Protestant upbringing. My mother attended the United Church in Oak River, my grandmother on my father's side subscribed to the Anglican Journal and the newspaper of the Brandon diocese, we were read Bible stories and said the Lord's Prayer in school, and celebrated the two main Christian holidays. From the New Testament the Gideons gave me when I was twelve and Christian books I borrowed from the library, I gained a fuller understanding of Who Jesus Christ was, and why He died on the Cross and rose again. When I was 15 I placed my faith in Him as my Saviour. I was baptized in a Baptist church about a year and a half later and a couple of decades after that was confirmed as an adult in the Anglican Church. Several years ago, Michael Coren, a writer who had been a prominent social and religious conservative, left the Church of Rome and joined the Anglican Church in which he was later ordained. Nowadays, whenever he appears in print, he can be depended upon to consistently take the wrong position on whatever hot button topic he has been invited to address. For Coren the move from Romanism to Anglicanism was a move from conservatism to liberalism, a move that I had suspected that he would one day take ever since I had seen him take the republican side in a in-print debate about the monarchy in the National Post years earlier. My decision to join the Anglican Church was very different from this. For me, it was the outcome of a deepening of my theological conservatism from a mere Protestant fundamentalism to a High Anglican orthodoxy.
There was an instinctual element to my theological conservatism as there was to my political royalism. Even before my conversion theological liberalism had repulsed me. By theological liberalism I don't mean the making of theological arguments for politically liberal positions. I mean the approach to Christianity of those churchgoers who either pick and choose from the Creed what they want to believe and discard what they don't (keeping heaven and getting rid of hell is an obvious example of this) or profess a "belief" in the articles of the Creed that looks more like unbelief in disguise (think of the sort of person who says he believes in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ but means by it something that did not require Jesus' body to return to life and leave the tomb). This sort of thing disgusted me before I was a believer, and the disgust intensified when I became a believer. Over the years I have come to recognize in what I call hyper-Protestantism something that is akin to theological liberalism in attitude and spirit and arguably its immediate ancestor. Hyper-Protestantism goes beyond Protestantism's rejection of what can be clearly demonstrated from Scripture to be the errors of the Church of Rome and rejects everything it associates with the Church of Rome which is not absolutely required by Scripture even if it is genuinely Catholic, that is to say, held by all the ancient Churches that go back to the unbroken Communion of Churches of the early centuries, from those early centuries to this day. I have come to be as repulsed by this attitude as by liberalism and as a consequence my theological conservatism has deepened and matured.
I hold to the fundamental truths of the Reformation as much now as ever. The first of these is that the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, is the inspired written Word of God, and as such its authority is infallible. The Church, whether it be the actual Catholic Church - all Churches that were once part of the unbroken Communion - or a particular Church, such as the Roman, that falsely claims to be the entire Catholic Church, is not infallible. The Bible, therefore, is the infallible standard of truth, to which the Church is held accountable. Hyper-Protestantism, however, takes this way too far. Rather than merely saying the Church is not infallible, it assumes the Church - not just the Roman Church but the actual Catholic Church - to be wrong about everything, unless it is clearly, in the most literal way possible, proven by Scripture, and takes the position that it is better for the individual believer to ignore the Church and rely directly upon the Holy Spirit for understanding the truth of the Bible. This, however, in effect, treats the private interpretation of the individual believer as infallible, which is a far worse error than that of Rome. The promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit would guide to all truth, was not made to the individual believer but to the collective society of believers the Church, in the persons of the Apostles whom He had set as governors over the Church. This did not make the Church infallible, but it means that personal interpretation must be subject to the teaching of the actual Catholic Church, just as the latter must be subject to the corrective authority of the infallible Word of God.
The second fundamental truth of the Reformation is that salvation in its spiritual sense of the restoration of the sinner to God's favour, including such things as eternal life and bliss, pardon for sins, and righteousness in God's eyes, is something that is utterly beyond the reach of our own efforts - we cannot achieve it for ourselves, earn it, or exchange anything for it - and so it has been freely given to us in the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who in His Incarnation, life, suffering, and death did everything necessary to accomplish that salvation and in His Resurrection and Ascension demonstrated it to be complete. We merely receive our salvation as the gift it is in the only way a gift of this nature can be received - by faith, which is believing and trusting, believing the Gospel message that proclaims to us that God has given us a Saviour Who has taken away our sins, trusting Him to have accomplished for us what the Gospel says He has accomplished, which are, of course, the same thing stated two different ways. Our own works - our efforts to please God by what we think, say, and do - as important, essential and necessary, as they are, contribute nothing to our salvation, but rather flow out of our salvation as the effect of its liberating and transforming aspects and our way of thanking God for it. Our works cannot please God in any way, even the sense in which He graciously accepts the imperfect works of believers, if they are done with the intent of contributing to our salvation. The Reformers stressed this truth which is so central to the Johannine and Pauline writings of the New Testament against the the teachings of the Church of Rome which, by the sixteenth century, had fallen so far from the grace of God, that not only did its teachings make salvation resemble a carrot dangled in front of a horse from a stick, but its Patriarch even stooped to the sacrilege and blasphemy of trying to sell salvation as a fund-raiser. Hyper-Protestantism, however, in the name of this fundamental truth, rejects what the Scriptures and Catholic - not just Roman - doctrine clearly teach about the ordinary means God has appointed through which He works to bring the freely give grace (favour) Christ obtained for us on the Cross to us and to create in us the faith by which we receive it. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ establishes a religious society called the Church, which people became members of through the initiatory ritual of baptism, appointing His Apostles as governors over the Church and committing to them the ministry of the Gospel, which included both teaching and preaching and the administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the Gospel Sacraments. The Church, her Apostolic government, and her Gospel ministries of Word and Sacrament are the appointed ordinary means through which God works to bring the grace of Christ to us, and to create in us the faith by which we receive it. Hyper-Protestants reject this in the name of the Reformation truth of the freeness of God's saving grace, but place themselves in a quandary with regards to the New Testament verses that taken literally, as hyper-Protestants usually claim they prefer Scripture to be taken, tell us that baptism unites us with Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3-4, Col. 2:12) and that the food that sustains our spiritual life is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (John 6:53-58) which, of course, is offered us as food only in the Eucharist. Since they see baptism and the Lord's Supper as works, things we do in obedience to God in order to please Him, rather than Sacraments, things through which God works to bless us, they see works salvation in the literal meaning of these passages, and must twist them to fit their theology. Ironically, hyper-Protestants are themselves susceptible to the charge of works salvation. If they are Arminians, they make faith itself into a work by making it into an act of our will by which we meet God's condition for salvation. If they are Calvinists, they teach that God gave Christ to save only a limited few elect, and that we can only know we are of this elect by seeing the evidence of it in our holy lives, thus essentially telling us to place our faith in our works instead of Christ. By contrast, the Catholic doctrine based on the literal meaning of the above passages is entirely consistent with the freeness of God's saving grace if Sacraments are understand, as they have been since the Church Fathers - see St. Augustine especially - as a visible, tangible, way of preaching the Gospel, and if it is understood that God works through extraordinary as well as ordinary means.
In both of the above examples of hyper-Protestantism twisting fundamental Reformation truths to attack genuinely Catholic doctrine as well as Roman error it is obvious that hyper-Protestantism is fundamentally rebellion against the legitimate authority God has placed in His Church and not just the exaggerated claims of Rome. In rejecting the Patriarch of Rome's claim to supreme authority over the entire Catholic Church, the Reformers were actually taking the Catholic position for early attempts by said Patriarch to assert such supremacy were clearly rebuffed in the Ecumenical Councils. Hyper-Protestants, however, reject the entire Episcopal College's claim to authority over the Catholic Church. That claim, however, is founded in the Bible. Jesus Christ gave the government of His Church to the Apostles, which governing authority could only be passed on to others from those who had it before, which is precisely what we see the Apostles doing in the New Testament when they admitted others such as Timothy and Titus to their government over the lower Orders they, on their Christ-given authority had created, the Presbyters and Deacons. Dr. Luther taught the New Testament truth of the universal priesthood of all believers. Hyper-Protestants conclude from it that if all Christians are priests, then Christ could not have established a more specific priesthood and set it over His Church. This logic, however, would condemn the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament, because national Israel was also described as a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6). The accounts of the Last Supper, especially those of St. John and St. Luke taken together, make it quite clear that Christ established His Apostles as the new priesthood of His Church. Compare the ritual footwashing described by St John at the beginning of his account (13:3-18) with the ritual washing when the Aaronic priesthood was established (Ex 40:12, 30-31). Then note the institution of the Eucharist, the bread and wine of which clearly allude to the grain and drink offerings of the Levitical system, and which are proclaimed to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the One effective sacrifice to which the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed. If it were not already obvious that when the Lord told the Apostles to perform this rite He was telling them to do something only priests could do, note that the word St. Luke uses for "this do" in instituting the Sacrament while generally meaning "make this" or "do this" has a ceremonial meaning of "offer this". The hyper-Protestant position smacks of the rebellious attitude of Dathan, Korah and Abiram.
The more I studied this the more I came to see how hyper-Protestantism led to theological liberalism, because the rejection of the legitimate albeit not-infallible authority Christ had placed in those He set over His Church and not just the false supremacy claimed by the Roman Patriarch was a step towards rejecting the infallible authority God had placed in His written Word. Latitudinarianism paved the way for deism and rationalism, and Puritanism became the ancestor of both political liberalism (the Whigs began as the successors to the Puritan party in Parliament) and leftism (the French Revolution, the template of all subsequent Communist totalitarian revolutions, was itself inspired by the Puritan rebellion against the godly King Charles I). This led me to place a much higher value on the ancient Creeds, the teachings of the Fathers, and the Councils of the early Church than I had before, and my theological conservatism matured into High Anglican orthodoxy.
The last two years have put a strain on these theological convictions, as the leaders, not only of the Anglican Communion, but the other Communions with an Apostolic ministry, have with few exceptions, submitted to the tyranny of the new false religion of Antichrist that has made an idol out of physical health to which it has demanded that spiritual health and wellbeing as well as psychological health and the health of society, economy, and community all be sacrificed. Abusing the Keys Christ gave to the Apostles - not just St. Peter - they have locked people away from the Gospel Ministry of Word and Sacrament, not because of unrepentant open sin, but because a respiratory disease that resembles the flu far more than it does cholera, the Black Death, or any of the other far worse historical plagues that nobody ever behaved this stupidly over has been going around. When they opened the Churches again, they imposed all sorts of "safety protocols" such as capacity limitations, social distancing, wearing masks, and in some cases, mercifully much fewer, vaccine passports , all of which are completely contrary to the example set by Him Who healed the sick that were brought to Him, including the infectious lepers, rebuked His disciples for sending the little children away, and promised that whoever comes to Him He would in no wise cast out. Some of these, especially the masks and vaccine passports, are chillingly reminiscent of St. John's prophecy of the Mark of the Beast. Christ promised, however, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, and I pray that He will rescue her from this apostasy soon.
It is difficult to be a classicist in culture today in a practical rather than a merely theoretical sense because of the aforementioned false religion of Antichrist. The medical Beast has locked me out of museums, the Centennial Concert Hall where I used to attend the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Manitoba Opera, or anywhere else where edifying culture might be found, except libraries, because I refuse to be bullied into taking his vaccine. Even if I were fully persuaded that the vaccine was 100% safe and effective I would not take it because the bullying manner in which it is being imposed on people is behaviour that ought not to be either rewarded or even tolerated by the civilized. When I look at what the Winnipeg Art Gallery currently has on exhibition according to its website, and the current season of the Manitoba Opera, the loss becomes somewhat more bearable. Having to miss Beethoven's Fifth a little over a month ago and Haydn's final symphony later this month is rather stinging however. On the popular culture front I am also shut out of the movie theatres. That is perhaps something to be thankful for. Movies and television shows have been noticeably declining in quality for decades and this has recently accelerated. Look at everything that is now being released through the online streaming platforms. Or better yet don't. It is all trying to preach the message of "wokeness", i.e., the racial superiority of people of colour, the sexual superiority of women, the normality of homosexuality and transgender identity and abnormality of heterosexuality and cisgender identity, the impending doom from climate change unless we all stop burning fossil fuels and start eating vegan, and other nonsense of the sort. On the plus side, plenty of classic older films, Shakespeare plays , and the like are readily available to stream as well, although the habit of spending all of one's time watching a screen is not one that ought to be cultivated.
Happy New Year
God Save the Queen!