What Shall We Serve?Friends and Compatriots and guests, thank you for allowing me to speak this morning. I consider it a particular honor.
Basil D. (Bazz) Childress
Adjutant, John C. Breckinridge Camp 100
Basil D. (Bazz) Childress
Adjutant, John C. Breckinridge Camp 100
I have wrestled more than usual with what I should say today. Of course, some of that has to do with the fact that our camp leadership asked me to limit myself to 20 minutes and those of you who know me well, know just how difficult I can find such a limit. (If I go over, please indulge me – I intend to speak of timeless things after all).
The real difficulty, though, has been in figuring out how to relate what is occurring here in the Confederate section of the Lexington Cemetery to the turmoil going on around us in the public space today.
We of course have to deal with the situation in our particular polity, those United States of America. And Lord knows, the divisions in American society are growing more loud, ominous and vehement as it becomes more and more apparent that both major political parties are as fractured as the country itself. But rather than manufactured crisis and political squabbling, the real crisis of our time of which crisis and squabbling are symptoms is a soul sickness that has now grown acute because our world has forgotten some basic truths.
In fact, to honor these men now lying about us in their graves but once alive and gray clad warriors properly we must again become familiar with our real past – and not the version presented to advance the madness and blood-thirst of the modern political arena.
So what did these men remember that our society seems to have forgotten? – and how did what they remembered prompt their actions? After all, honoring the dead requires that what they did meant something, was worth something – in order to be honored. If it meant nothing, or was evil – what is the point?
The attempt to gain that understanding might best be aided, by considering the example of the exemplar Confederate, Gen’l Robt E. Lee. At the Robert E. Lee Symposium in April of 2007 held across the Potomac River from Washington DC in Arlington, Virginia, one of the speakers was Prof Donald Livingston, Doctor of Philosophy who teaches at Emory University. Interestingly, during his presentation he associated the decision Lee made to turn down command of the United States Army under the Lincoln administration with the temptation scene in the 4th chapter of Matthew.
I have long believed, confirmed for me by Dr. Livingston, that scene, one of the most profound from the Bible, is why Lee turned down the command of US forces in the spring of 1861, instead, he resigned his commission in the US Army and returned to his native Virginia to share her fate.
To understand Lee’s decision it helps to recall that Lee was the man who said duty is the most sublime word in the language, and put that up against what Satan was offering to Christ and demanding in exchange in that story in Matthew chapter 4. What the evil one offered on that “High Mountain” were all the ‘things of this world’ and the power to have them as one pleased. In other words, the Deceiver offered the power - the means to satisfy - what the self wants absent responsibility, gratitude and a sense of duty toward the source of those things.
Perhaps it’s appropriate to be talking about these things this 1st of June 216 years to the day Kentucky ceased being Virginia’s largest county and started being one of the united States of America – and 2 days before the 200th anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis on 3 June – Confederate Memorial Day in our state. Kentucky owes its existence to Virginia as does the whole South, because Virginia is the South’s mother. Indeed, truly this country owes its existence to Virginia and the sons it produced in the 1700s. But what produced Virginia and how did she produce Lee’s decision? …and how have we become “re-founded” in the years since then?
This is what Clyde Wilson, emeritus professor in history at the University of South Carolina says in one of a collection of his essays titled “Recovering Southern History” written in 1982 included in a volume named Defending Dixie,
“…..Perhaps we now face the inevitable distortions of our Civil War “re-founding”, … [which] necessarily involved a shift from tradition to ideology, and from history as a search for antecedents to history to things as one might have wished them to be, from the living community and its real experiences to a hypothetical community and its fictitious past.”
In his essay, "The Legacy of the Civil War," Robert Penn Warren of Guthrie, Kentucky speaks of two great myths in the American consciousness - for the South "the Great Alibi" and for the North "the Treasury of Virtue." In that essay Warren wrote,
"Once the War was over, the Confederacy became a City of the Soul;.. or to state matters another way, in the moment of death the Confederacy entered upon its immortality."
"If the Southerner, with his Great Alibi, feels trapped by history, the Northerner, with his Treasury of Virtue, feels redeemed by history, automatically redeemed. He has in his pocket…a plenary indulgence, for all sins past, present, and future, freely given by the hand of history…[an absolution that produced]………Moral narcissism -- a peculiarly unlovely and unloveable trait ..Historians, and readers of history too, should look twice at themselves when the Civil War is mentioned.
[That War] means that we should seek to … try to learn what the contemplation of the past, conducted with psychological depth and humane breadth, can do for us….[such is] …a discipline, both humbling and enlarging, [which]….cannot give us a program for the future, but can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future."
We have trouble with Penn’s admonition because we thoroughly modern humans have been blinded through our lack of memory (a sense of history) and its replacement by a new faith that is ideological rather than historical – in other words, dogmatic rather than enlarging as suggested by Southerner and Kentuckian Penn.
And to push Penn’s comments a bit more it could be said that the ”American Civil War”, was in fact the pivotal event in world history as it has developed since what is known as the Enlightenment.”
Here is what Os Guiness, philosopher and religionist, says about that era and what produced the current ongoing ferment that began around 1500 AD,
“The Enlightenment has its own unmistakable identity, but both it and the Renaissance opposed Christianity and consequently accelerated the forces of modernity. …. If the legacy of the Renaissance is humanism, then the contribution of the Enlightenment is paganism.
The eighteenth century came in on a wave of irony and satire, exalting the trivial, ridiculing the noble and attacking anything which previous centuries had been taught to believe, revere or love. …...
As time went on the questions became more far-reaching and the criticisms more uncompromising…until the break between reason and revelation was finalized……[Little wonder then]…The eighteenth century went out amid wars of revolution and the nineteenth century was ushered in by the campaigns of Napoleon. ….Man was not only the measure of the world he knew but the measure of the world of which he dreamed. ….”
In the introduction to his book, published in 1948, Ideas Have Consequences, an important, but insufficiently known Southern philosopher named Richard Weaver [I say little known even though he was recently identified in a new NYT’s best seller as one of 3 writers (the other two were Robert Nisbet and Russell Kirk) responsible for the rise of the Old Right, an intellectual movement which eventually produced a political effect with the appearance of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and today Ron Paul in the last half century],
“Every man participating in a culture has three levels of conscious reflection: his specific ideas about things, his general beliefs or convictions, and his metaphysical dream of the world…[such] is the bond of spiritual community..... We have no authority to argue anything of a social or political nature unless … we approve some aspects of the existing world. …. It appears, then, that culture is originally a matter of yea saying, and ..a developed culture is a way of looking at the world through an aggregation of symbols, so that empirical facts take on significance…..There is no significance to the sound and fury of this life, as of a stage tragedy, unless something is being affirmed by the complete action…The darkling plain, swept by alarms, which threatens to be the world of our future, [and now 60 years later perhaps we should say our present] is an arena in which conflicting ideas, numerous after the accumulation of centuries, are freed from the discipline earlier imposed by ultimate conceptions. The decline is to confusion:…..and we accept contradiction because we no longer feel the necessity of relating thoughts to the metaphysical dream…..”
I would offer as example of the distortions and confusion in these matters that modern education has produced an email conversation I recently had with a West Texas student attending a Texas university named for a Confederate General! [of all things] who just to “stir things up” equated Hitler’s National Socialists, ( a tactic quite frequent these days) with the South.
Of his attempt to make such association I wrote, “I would suggest to you that your words demonstrate your unawareness of the dogmatic, ideological prison you occupy ..Let me say that if there was any emotion provoked in me it was in the form of a lament. The world you believe will last forever is passing away. It is passing away because we have cast aside some ancient wisdom.
This sense of mourning also has something to do with the narcissism, [the self-centeredness] to which you’ve already admitted, which is the natural and inevitable by-product of the new dogma. The source of that dogma – [is] the philosophizing that grew out of the Enlightenment – particularly the Naturalist Romantics, who encouraged the idea that Tradition and the governments that had come from long human experience had imprisoned humanity. The solution was to toss it all and begin to look inward – to what the human soul could create “on its own”.
The chief purveyor of the Naturalist Romantics, who massively rejected the world in which they found themselves, was Jean Jacque Rousseau. A man named Robert Nisbet, one of the those 3 inventers of the Old Right, called Rousseau, “the greatest single influence for evil in Western social thought – far more important than Marx.”
And following Rousseau has produced a loss of any moral sense that has a capacity to tap into the tragic elements of the human story. That capacity comes only by knowing what those before us have experienced [what they suffered] and being able to as Penn put it, “…learn what the contemplation of the past, conducted with psychological depth and humane breadth, can do…”
I just as did Richard Weaver obtained my bachelors degree from the University of Kentucky. There I was able to obtain a Classical Education of sorts. It was there for the first time I was confronted with the possibility that the story I had been taught was entirely wrong. Wrestling with that possibility is the un-ending task of seeking truth……..
Later, I had an opportunity to study Comparative Religions under Dr. Jesse deBoer (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky [he died in 1990], who was an internationally published authority in his field. [In that study…I learned that] every one of us is born into a prison called culture. The walls of culture [the bars of that prison] are formed by the stories that explain to us what humans are, what the world is, from whence it came and what we’re supposed to be doing in that world. That initial story is our first truth – and our first prison.
[The Naturalist Romantics inspired by Rousseau sought to “change the world” - open the doors of the human prison if you will - and thereby control the human future toward what they thought was its proper ends - and they have! but] control of course has to do with power – which has to do with claiming the right to mandate how the human story is told. To accomplish that requires a new authoritarianism whose new moralism is no less exclusionary than those ancient authoritarianisms founded on the slavery and mysticisms you decry.
You parrot that new moralism without any indication that you understand its source or purpose. Its source is quite simply that of Rebellion – the response of the narcissist seeking power for self and what such power can gain for self, because only “the self” knows the truth after all. All other ancient wisdom is worthless. Your repetition of this stance, with seemingly no reflection whatsoever is an arrogance (and an ignorant arrogance) that is the same spirit, which produced Hitler hundreds of years later and on which he would build his 3rd Reich).
What I have put forward in all the above is why you would accuse the South of everything it fought against –namely such consolidated power and the new [materialist] moralistic order divorced from the knowledge of tragedy and the core of all of humanity’s religious traditions that ‘there but for the Grace of God go I.’
It is the source of the propaganda you’ve been taught -that the self simply knows without any need to reference facts or take care in their interpretation. Why it’s perfectly acceptable to assign beliefs and opinions both to me and those long dead they never in fact held and indeed which they opposed to the point of death.
But why should you pay me any heed? After all I am the voice of the past as well, especially since I cite some of those ancient voices….For one who is convinced of the modern insistence that the explanations of the new age, grounded in what the self can know free of any voices of the past, which causes you to be blind to the fact that “the self” is the very foundation of the Nazism with which you’d like to equate the South’s society that opposed the new fascism from a culture of different provenance as Richard Weaver would have remarked…”
My west Texas correspondent, like the good narcissist he is, never again responded after that – after all, the rebellious child never wants to confront its own shortcomings.
That new rebellious provenance is the idea that salvation is a matter of appropriate political arrangements [and it] owes to the appearance into the human story of something called Modernity - the name of that new era. British historian Paul Johnson, in a book published in 1991 titled, The Birth of the Modern – World Society 1815 to 1830, argues that the modern world began after the battle of Jena in 1806, when French revolutionary arms crushed the Prussian Army.
The events of 1806 and Napoleon’s armies carrying the ‘rights of man’ at the point of French bayonets was presaged by three revolutions; England’s in 1688, England’s American colonies’ in 1776 and France (eventually to come under Napoleon’s sway) in 1792. Those revolutions came to exist because of the ferment that came within a few centuries after ancient texts, previously unavailable to Europe for a thousand years, brought the spirit of criticism from the classical Greeks into Western Europe and its progeny in the aftermath of the Crusades that by the time of the three revolutions just cited, would dominate the world. That period of ferment produced the Enlightenment. Now, two hundred some odd years later – those questions of authority and for what to dream have again become acute - and the attempts to answer them have greatly to do with these Confederate dead we’re here to honor.
England’s attempted answer to these questions grew out of its Civil War which saw a religious authoritarianism called Puritanism give England its first and last dictator Oliver Cromwell. The Revolution of 1688 returned England to its tradition and away from the new radical Puritanical variety). …Not quite one hundred years later, in 1775, when the England of that day would not give its American colonies due treatment under its own laws, those colonies, lead by Virginia when on 15 May 1776 she declared her independence, began an eventually successful attempt to secede from the British Empire.
Virginia inspired a Declaration 50 days later of the united colonies that held that governments derive their right to govern [their authority] from the consent of the governed … Indeed they viewed such principle as the only protection for liberty, by providing a way in law to prevent the consolidation of power into the hands of potential dictators such as the Puritan Oliver Cromwell [who demanded to tell the human story his way].
But the American Republic to be founded under that principle arose just as France’s Ancien Regime was in its death throes. France’s revolution would introduce a radicalism into the world never before seen as a product of the ferment of a lethal fight between camps of Enlightenment philosophers- a ferment with which we are still dealing and which is still shaping our world even as I speak to you. Indeed, such is true precisely because that early American Republic found itself caught between the aftermath of the worldviews of its fellow revolutions, the English and the French – and eventually was forced by Lincoln in the 1860s [as Bismarck worked his magic in Germany in those self same years] to become…the new “re-founded” entity, resting on the postulates of French Romantic Jacobin radicalism [that would] eventually dominate its own domestic politics and affect not only England and France, but today the whole world.
The Jacobin’s (the political faction that gained control of the French Revolution) ideals were embodied in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man -- The French Declaration introduced the new invention of the Sovereign through the third claim of the Declaration of the Rights of Man> to wit: “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body, or individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” That “nation” - the modern unitary state’s job was to exterminate the political orders founded on ancient superstitions and establish a new order based on reason and focused on humanity’s creating its own utopian material paradise.
The result of the rise of this radical, revolutionary mindset, with great irony has simply been a return to [that] modern form of paganism [of which Alexis DeTogueville warned], in his classic book, Democracy in America circa 1833 when he wrote of the American Republic that its final culmination would be to recreate the pagan order that men such as Machiavelli had sought from the moment Enlightenment philosophers began again to propound on political philosophy.
What today is called conservatism ….(however much that movement is now confused), opposed the Jacobin program. That opposition was founded by Edmund Burke's criticism of Rousseau's radical program in his 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke’s conception of liberty was founded in the English Common Law solutions to the political ferment of the age and involved the constraining of the arbitrary use of government power by preventing its consolidation, quite to the contrary of revolutionary France.
Burke’s style of liberty grew up in England in the aftermath of its Glorious Revolution of 1688 and Virginia, the mother of the South, invented this country initially on its basis.
This is what I wrote to my older daughter trying to explain some of all of this:
“…….Lincoln ignorantly inspired the events that brought the ideals of the French Revolution into the lead of the American experience….. New England’s own religious brand of this kind of spirit [Puritanism] morphed into the Jacobin secular version, in no small measure aided by America’s own romantic naturalist philosophers, Emerson and Thoreau of Walden Pond, Massachusetts fame (and came to be called American Progressivism, founded on …… what Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren called ‘the treasury of virtue’ stored up by fighting one of those traditional governments, The Southern Confederacy),
Indeed, I would argue that the South’s defeat opened the door to the entire world’s adopting or being forced to react to some version of a Jacobin inspired ism. After the northern victory in 1865 and the century between then and 1965, the world experienced the bloodiest 100 years known in all human history as all those isms began to fight one another. The world was fractured asunder between 1776 and 1918. Where we end up living among the fragments is still in process………
…And just how many Peoples Republics of this and that exist today? And in the name of a given political entity’s power, consolidated in the claim to act in its peoples’ will and for their benefit, just how many slaughters have occurred? The north’s piece of this story is daunting to see, because we’re blinded by New England’s explanation of the country’s founding and purpose in the world. We do not understand that our first experience with terrorism inspired by revolutionary fervor was John Brown’s raid into Virginia to affect the violent overthrow of Southern governments- funded and inspired by that cooperation between New England’s Puritans and Jacobins. It is significant that after many years of talking about separation, the South did so only after John Brown’s raid revealed the true nature of where matters were headed….
We know the end of that story- we’re living in it. And where have matters been brought? We have witnessed all over the globe as Lee put it governments “sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home” which claim to act in the name of their people to accomplish their particular vision of political perfection-…”
The soldiers of the Confederacy fought with every ounce of their being to prevent converting our founding from one where people worked out their future cooperatively and not out of the barrel of a gun for the purpose of overthrowing all that had come before, at the hands of governments given radical power to effect that overthrowing. They owed it to their family, both those long dead and those yet to be born, to fight such a revolutionary and dangerous development. And I would assert, the motive I just described is intimately bound up in the Confederacy’s choosing as its motto Deo Vindice – God Vindicates.
In the introduction to Richard Weaver’s The Southern Tradition at Bay, published in 1968 but written in the years surrounding 1945 you will find:
“In its battle for survival the South has lost ground, but it has kept from extinction some things [those things forgotten that should not have been lost] whose value is emphasized by the disintegration of the modern world.….
The precarious state of our civilization has grown with our control over nature….so that now it is a dogma with which the clever can exploit the unthinking [think global warming]…[but] it is easy to .. forget that the most difficult task is to train men to [control themselves] for their own good…
..We must confess that the highest sources of value in life are ethical and aesthetic conceptions with which our imagination invest the world…Civilized man carries a sense of restraint into his behavior both toward nature and his fellow beings. The first of these is piety, the second ethics.”
Continuing from the same work in the chapter The Testimony of the Soldier,
“…[this interpretation]…is of course a religious [one] which insists that ..people remain civilized by acknowledging bounds beyond which they must not go…..
…The alteration [which allowed no limits]…was modernism, with its urgency, impatience, truculence and its determination to strip aside all concealing veils and see what is behind them. When the men of the new order did strip aside these veils and found there was nothing behind them, but that the reality had existed somehow in the willed belief, or the myth [story], they marked the beginning of the modern frustration….”
The indictment of the northern revolution drawn up by Southern politicians, clerics and soldiers parallels in many interesting particulars Edmund Burke’s indictment of the French Revolution, of which, in truth, it was the continuation….
Thus a part of the tragedy which brought about the moral collapse of the twentieth century was acted on the stage of America… When the Second World War brought the barbarian into open conflict with civilization, it could no longer be doubted that the systematic destruction of ancient ideals and sentiments leads to the revolution of nihilism.”
America, being idealistic and almost completely uninterested in philosophy, even that which inspired its own creation, is blissfully ignorant of the history (that conflict of cultures) into which it dares step to rectify ancient error. ….. Indeed, ….cultural conflict is…. the crux of the matter. American history (which is largely Southern history before Lincoln injected French radical utopianism into our blood veins) is precisely a target (because the South knows humans are not capable of perfection) and it rejected the modern Utopians’ new totalitarian demand to enforce their new and improved “correct view of nature” which is to say the new and improved version of what humans are and how they ought to behave - through a 51% direct democratic vote.
A government created on that principle inevitably eventually becomes as totalitarian as what was to be overthrown. This result must pertain because the nation, as a democracy of French revolutionary character, puts morality up to that 51% vote, mandating for the other 49% coerced compliance with its new found dictates. That fact is why modern governments have such trouble with the issue of the proper ground of authority. This is why I say the modern materialists and the romantic utopians wish to and are on the verge of simply creating a modern paganism – democratic in method but all powerful in affect. Indeed, this is the very issue that caused Southerners to insist on the kind of Constitution we had – and is why folks such as South Carolinian John C. Calhoun in his A Disquisition on Government, discussed methods to protect such minorities in our post revolutionary government era. In fact, it is precisely why state sovereignty (or States Rights) was so strenuously defended. The north strayed from the founding American faith, seeking the idol of nationalism, but the South saw that founding faith through the prism of their historically rooted, more ancient societies, and considered therefore their state’s sovereignty as being the very heart of the system the founders north and South had created as a countervailing influence against consolidationists -- and the support for the practice of governing only at the consent of the governed.
The world [today] is dominated by the idea that humans can be saved through proper politics – so everything has become politicized. But there is really nothing modern or enlightened about that stance – it’s the same as has been asserted throughout the pagan ages – bow at the feet of Caesar or face some kind of destruction. Opposing that spirit of coercion is exactly why Jefferson Davis said the cause of the South was sacred and would ultimately recur. … and is why Lee turned down command of the northern armies.
Lee saw through the deception offered him (that good could come from the point of the sword), saying a union that had to be held together with bayonets held no charm for him and turned down the pinnacle of power for someone in his position as a professional soldier - command of what would become in that time one of the most powerful militaries in the history of the world. He refused to serve the government raising that army and said only in the defense of Virginia would he ever again raise his sword…….
In other words, Lee refused to become a utopian materialist revolutionary. To see such more clearly listen to the experience of Aleksndr Solzhenitsyn, one of the victims of one of those utopian Jacobin states produced by the defeat of the South, (the former Soviet Union) in the chapter in his masterwork The Gulag Archipelago called The Ascent,
“Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person. And since that time [in prison] I have come to understand the falsehood of all revolutions in history: They destroy only those carriers of evil contemporary with them (and also fail, out of haste, to discriminate the carriers of good as well). And they then take to themselves as their heritage the actual evil itself, magnified still more……
……It was granted to me to carry back from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxification of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel....In my most evil moments I was convinced I was doing good...and only when I lay rotting on prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good."
At the end of that chapter Solzhenitsyn, who was converted to the Russian Orthodox Christian church during his time in the Gulag says, “thank you, Prison!”
After the war, Lee said, despite all he and the South had suffered and lost that he could not see how he could have chosen any differently. Before the war, he had written to his children that they should strive to see the world as it really is, instead of how they might wish it to be.
Suffering teaches and with great paradox, so often comes from doing “right things.” Today the world is awash in facts and data. It believes they can reveal “how things really are” by their accumulation. What the new, materialist utopian view cannot see is that its way of looking at the world is also a faith. Experience it is said trumps dogma, but facts and experience depend on a filter for them to mean anything. We must choose between “mysticisms” – the choice is simply inescapable. We can follow the modern mysticism, which despite its “secular” claims for itself is in fact itself a faith – and a faith that has through that revolution of nothingness resurrected the ancient tyranny through the invention of the modern, utopian unitary state – or we can struggle to recover something of our spiritual heritage so that we can once again look behind the veil of the holy of holies and rather than find nothing – instead see Grace and hear the call to meaningful duty. We will always be on the edge of the next great calamity if we continue to believe that we can be saved or that we can save others by proper politics arranged at the point of the sword.
We must find a way to remember God’s grace does not coerce, it never seeks sacrifice on utopian altars, or burnt offerings to power; Grace asks, Grace pleads, Grace knocks, but Grace never drives a sword through a belly or delivers high explosives from high altitudes.
The world can only become what it should be, if we participants in it realize that our actions must be informed and imbued with God’s grace and purpose. What might that be? I offer Micah Chap. 6:8; He has showed you oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
In moving toward the close let me share another couple of excerpts. The first is another of Richard Weaver’s essays in which Weaver spoke of the “Twelve Southerners of Vanderbilt”, the Southern Agrarians among whom were two Kentuckians Robert Penn Warren whom I’ve already referenced and Allen Tate from just down the road in Winchester, both of whom contributed to a defense of the South around 1930 which was also a critique of the modern age, titled I'll Take My Stand
“...I’ll Take My Stand’s….principle target….was the theory of progress, and the embodiment of that theory was the north, victorious in war and equally victorious in trade, which [the Southern poet] Sydney Lanier…defined as ‘war grown miserly.’……..[the] ideological character of the Civil War which was perceived by only a handful of its contemporaries….We can no longer avoid seeing that this little upheaval [the war of the 1860s was] not a regional affair, or an American affair, but a particular instance of a movement which is taking place all over the world. ……The great contribution of the Agrarians has been .. compelling us to see the price that is paid for severance from nature and for ignoring final design, they have made us realize why we today are partial men….
…It is for similar reason that modern man is constantly being ridden by forces that he thinks he is riding. He cannot control them because he does not know ‘the carriage of his action, set and sprung.’ This knowledge, when it comes, brings a degree of humility;…Modernism is peculiarly vulnerable on this score and has to resist with all its might the thought that there is in man an essential defect….As soon as one begins to hint that the strain of wickedness in the human race…is still with us, he is called an obscurantist and is disqualified from further public hearing. Now the tables have turned and a realist who has been silenced by this Rousseauistic dogma [that formed the foundation of the French Revolution] will face his inquisitors from the social sciences and in the manner of Galileo after his forced recantation, will say, ‘But he is wicked.’
Finally, let me excerpt the Epilogue of a friend’s book, Yankee Babylon to be published this Fall. I discovered that during the very hours I was completing this presentation he was completing that Epilogue.
“…The Yankee Myth.. so overlies the definition of modernism—is modernism—that the Southerner finds himself in the curious position of arguing from a tradition not his, and a culture alien to him. …In rejecting Lincoln’s offer of supreme command over the Yankee armies, Robert E. Lee rejected not merely political or military opportunity, but the “this world” of which Jesus the Christ and his disciples
spoke and knew—and rejected. Because he could spurn the worldliness of the Yankee Myth, Lee represents .. the image of a human being who had direct access to the only world which mattered, and the only world which will ever matter: the Kingdom of God. .. The sterility of the Puritan remains stamped upon the Yankee…[in contrapose] The green hills of Ruffin’s Virginia remain fixed within the soul of the Southerner. The Southerner lost a war, but gained his God. The Yankee won his war, but lost his [Soul]. .. the Southerner need[s to] awake from the false nightmare of the Yankee Myth into the true dream of who and what he is: [A member of a particular tribe, among the many tribes of humankind into whom God breathed life – with particular sufferings and particular duties].
To understand the Southerner is …to refute the Puritan’s profoundly blind reading of God’s volition immanent in His creation. The elect are indeed the elect; but they are chosen not for any City upon a Hill, not for any Yankee Empire, and not as a “beacon of faith unto the world.” The Southerner is merely and simply called out for God’s purposes.”
That determination to serve God and not Caesar is never a lost cause indeed, the determination to serve the correct Master founded Lee’s decision and is what makes Southerners un-reconstructable – because, finally, in remembering Whose we are, we reject the false assumptions of the modern political arena [that the state can dispense freedom with its material favors - in favor of the Last (and only true) Cause – human liberty, given by God Himself. Jefferson Davis, John Hunt Morgan, Roger Hanson, Basil Duke, John C. Breckinridge, Ben Hardin Helm and R E Lee – as well as all these less famous dead among whom we are immediately gathered - remembered that. We must as well.
May God bless the South and her people. Thank you for your attention and allowing me to speak this afternoon.