CULTURE: by Symeon J. ThompsonNews Weekly
The most dangerous idea in human history
, December 21, 2013
“THEY all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.”
— George MacDonald (1824-1905).
Here we are, at the end of another year, another year in the seemingly never-ending battle against the Other Side. We fight on many fronts, with limited forces and limited resources. We hold them back however we can; but we have to watch them as they take their victories, as they overrun our forces, as we are left wondering if there is any point in going on.
To which I cheekily reply: “Of course, for the War’s already been won, and it has been won by our side, and that just makes them more desperate. We need only hold our ground for as long as we can, as best we can, secure in the knowledge of the ultimate victory.”
I am a little more than a scout in the Culture Wars. Over the last few months I have recorded how atrocious things are in that regard. But what I have also pointed out is how the things that stand in our way are less the result of malice or political conniving, and how so many of them are the result of decisions made long ago, decisions made for good reasons, but whose consequences have echoed down and crippled our capacity to do lasting good.
One of my first reports was on the importance of appearances, of the way in which we dress and the way in which we hold ourselves. I argued that it might be shallow and superficial, but that the only way we know anything is through its appearance. Therefore we should strive to present ourselves well, with elegance and decorum. We should, in short, present ourselves as the people we wish to be.
My last column highlighted the importance of the imagination. To imagine is to see with the mind’s eye. We need to imagine what wonders there might be, for then we might more easily discern them in the world around us. In the same spirit of children playing some game of knights versus dragons, we must be able to see ourselves in the position we wish to be. Then, at least, we have some idea of what we need do to achieve that.
Our imagination also aids us with something crucial for our fight. For every child who plays the hero, there will be one who will play the villain, and they will often chop and change these roles at whim. For children know something that we often forget. We often forget that while there is a real Enemy who is Other, we are often our own worst enemies.
It is thus apt that we are approaching Christmas. In his recent appearance on ABC television’s Q&A program, Peter Hitchens declared that Jesus Christ was the most dangerous idea in human history. I would like to second that, and point to Christmas, as the beginning of the Story of Christ, as being the most pivotal event. Contained within Christmas are some of the most profound and rich notions ever to enter human consciousness, and some of the most difficult.
The plot is simple, but it re-orders every myth and legend. God is born as a man into the humblest of origins, into a life of suffering and difficulty. In His time on Earth He focuses on something that is difficult, but incredibly beautiful. He forgives all those who seek His mercy, without exception, without question. Even when He has been put to death He still forgives, He still understands. This is no ancient God-King vanquishing his foes with the sword. And then He rises from the dead, making clear that, despite our actions, if we seek to repent, then He will always be there for us.
Christmas is the beginning of this tale. It emphasises the need for generosity, for forgiving, for loving one another. It shows that fellowship and good cheer are the way we are meant to be. We are meant to rejoice, meant to delight in the gift of the sun, of the air, of life itself. We are meant to see things as they really are, not as the Enemy would have us see them.
The Enemy would have us see things as black and rotten, twisting-turning messes. The Enemy would have us see our adversaries as less-than-human, as incapable of redemption. And the Enemy would have us see ourselves the same, if ever we fall, if ever we fail. But that is not the point of Christmas.
The point of Christmas is that we are all beauty-full, all wonder-full. We are all created by God in His image.
We are all, those on our side and those on the other, frail human beings. We are all likely to fall. We need only pick ourselves up again and forgive ourselves and our fellows for their failures.
May God bless us — every one of us. Merry Christmas.
Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).