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ROD DREHER, & CHRISTIAN RESISTANCE PART 2
The RE-ENCHANTMENT OF THE WEST –
Rod Dreher sounded the alarm over the dissolution of Christian culture in his book the Benedict Option. The culture wars are lost in his judgment. We can resist by following his prescription in ‘Live not By Lies’, where we refuse to endorse the counter-narrative of wokery andsecular equity.
But Christians are not Stoics. And so Dreher is working on his riposte to ‘wokery’, which concerns the project of the ‘re-enchantment’ of the West. In looking at the world in a mechanical, political and rationalistic way, we have given up our access to the journey of the heart, soul and imagination. Re-enchantment is the process of a rediscovery of the power of the spirit.
The beginnings of re-enchantment involve a fresh encounter with the longing of the heart for God as an antidote to the materialism and rationalism of our secular culture. We have been deprived of the confidence that the language of the spirit can offer us a more profound explanation of the mystery of the human condition, and socapitulated to materialism and raw political utopianism.
Dreher will suggest that we do not end with ‘resistance’but move to a more proactive cultural and spiritual counter-insurgency. He is in the process of writing the book. But he has already suggested that the place he wants to begin the process of re-enchantment ismonastery and life of St Galgano.
What is it about St Galgano’s life that might make him a figure of inspiration on this fight back?
Galgano Guidotti was born in 1148 near Siena. He was a well-connected and well-heeled thug, violent, arrogant and sensual. He was overwhelmed by an encounter with St Michael the Archangel, who called him to the spiritual instead of military knighthood. A series of stories fill out the impact of his encounter, including a narrative which has St Michael facilitating a vision of Jesus and his saints, where Galgano was commanded to become a hermit.
In a dramatic moment, as a sign of his renunciation of his old way of life, he plunged his sword into a stone,where it was, and still is, held immovably.
There are four elements of this story are particularly striking.
The first is the call to a life of secluded prayer, the second the intervention of St Michael, the third is the sourcing of the English narrative that surrounded the Arthurian legends; but the fourth is the astonishing scientific tests that were conducted on the original ‘sword in the stone’ which claimed this was not legend or trickery, but a real miracle.
To look at the latter first, the sword was considered a fake for years. But the recent scientific testing give dating results that place the metal and style of the sword within the late 1100s–early 1200s. There is no rational explanation for the saint’s sword in the stone in Galgano.
And so at the start of the 21st century, science is beginning to recognise the authenticity of the artefacts of faith.
The Turin shroud has been re-evaluated as authentic; the eucharistic miracles have been authenticated in laboratories, the miracle of St Galgano shows every sign of being what always claimed to be, a miracle. And it is this recognition of the call of the supernatural and miraculous that lies at the heart of the re-enchantment of our vision and the renewal of our civilisation.
We are saved not by controlling utopianism, thought-crime, and anti-racism measures, but by Christ, our Lady, St Michael and the angels; all the founding constituent elements that constructed the beauty and hope of Christendom in the first place.
To discover that behind the myth of Arthurian legendlies the actual life of St Galgano is to make a conceptual shift between myth and history. The recent history of the Church has seen it succumb to the pressure of Enlightenment culture. It has lost confidence and has not taken its history of spiritual encounter seriously enough. It has allowed faith to be treated like myth, and in so doing has weakened its claims to supernatural origin and character.
The legend of a sleeping King Arthur and his knight errant army has been an attractive nationalistic myth for many. It forms a kind of cultural wishful thinking that some kind of mystical solution may become available at times of national stress and duress. But myth is insufficient on its own to counter political and cultural totalitarianism.
By tracing what became the myth of the Arthurian sword in the stone back to Galgano in the twelfth century, and reclaiming miracle from myth, we also reclaim a symbolof the supernaturally infused spirituality that has always marked and defined the experience of the Church.
Refuge and inspiration are found not in a nationalistic epic shrouded in mystery and magic, but in the well-trodden world of Christian miracles and life-transforming spirituality.
The re-emergence of St Michael in the drama of re-enchantment creates a different paradigm from the political and secular narrative that have confined our imaginations since the enlightenment.
His interventions in the plague in Rome in 590, his commissioning of the house of prayer at Mont St Michel in 708, along with the list of abbeys dedicated to him throughout Europe, draw our attention back to the primacy of the spiritual over the intellectual and political.
He invites us to recalibrate a different metaphysical perspective. We see salvation history through a different epic – that of the cosmic conflict between Good and evil depicted in the Book of the Apocalypse. His interventions reminds is that Europe was converted to Christ by the creating of houses of prayer founded on monastic principles of renunciation and a revitalisation of the spiritual imagination.
The conversion of a playboy thug into a visionary saint of Galgano offers the pattern for a new paradigm for our culture and the revitalisation of the life of the Spirit in the Church.
Re-enchantment as an antidote to the ever -hardening totalitarian claims of wokeness, will spring from a re-birth of spiritual confidence in the miraculous and supernatural, born not of gullibility but of a rekindling of spiritual vision.