The other day I had a thought:
If something is, it is that thing absolutely, because if it’s not, then it could be anything, which means it’s really nothing.
I might have been a little drunk at the time. But I stumbled on!
For something to mean anything, it has to be out of our reach, out of our control.
The Preacher had a sermon about this, about vanity / futility / meaninglessness. Russell Kirk wrote something about every generation having to re-express the timeless truths, or the truths die. I think that’s true, but why is that so? The Preacher had something to say about that, too, but not really the why. Somehow, it’s about how these truths are packaged, mainly by language but also shaped by personal experience which is shaped by cultural experiences. How a truth burrowed its way into your father’s heart won’t get as deep for you, his son. It has to be re-expressed, again and again and again. Truth is slippery that way. Put another way, some things we believe with our heads but not with our hearts. The best is when both believe, but if I have to choose, I’ll choose the heart, but it won’t be without pain.
1054 is given as the date of the Great Schism, when the Eastern portion of Christendom broke with the Western portion, centered in Rome. Of course, the Eastern portion says it’s the other way around, but shut up. The two primary causes of the Schism were Primus Inter Pares (First Among Equals, meaning Christendom is rightfully lead by the Patriarch of Rome, the Pope), and Filioque. The Filioque controversy had been brewing for some time, and it’s something that most people today, even Christians, find pretty silly. It refers to the relationship of the Son (Filioque) and the Father in the procession of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father, or from both the Father and Son? The Nicene Creed of 325 didn’t mention the procession of the Holy Spirit, but that procession was mentioned in the Council of Constantinople, and it’s been argued about ever since.
I say that most people find this silly, mainly because it seems like they could have come to an agreement about it at some point. Scripture is a little ambiguous about it, but seems to side with Filioque (if you care to look it up, here are some verses: John 14:16, 15:26, 16:7, 16:13-15, Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:9, and Philippians 1:19) but you also have to deal with language issues. The Greek word for “procession” has a different meaning than the Latin word, procedere. Still, over the course of half a millennium, it seems like they could come to some sort of agreement. It kind of seems like the argument over how many angels can break dance on the head of a pin.
I say it goes way deeper, though. This is about existence itself. For a Christian, there’s nothing more basic to existence than the Godhead, the fount of all existence. So, based on all we know, is the Godhead a hierarchy, or are they co-equal? In other words, hierarchy or equality? It’s ironic that the side arguing for hierarchy within the Godhead, the Eastern side, argued against hierarchy in the Church (they opposed Primus Inter Pares, and eventually broke away from the head of the Church, Rome), while the Western portion argued for the co-equality of the Father and Son, while defending Primus Inter Pares within Christendom.
In the West, was this the beginning? The little pebble on top of the mountain that toppled over and slid, causing more to slide, and eventually became the avalanche of Equality Uber Alles Gnostic Heretical Clown World that we’re buried under? Was this the nail?
Which brings me to another event in Church history, the schism of the Old Believers with the Russian Orthodox Church, starting in the middle of the 17th century. It began when Patriarch Nikon of Moscow made some small changes to the Russian Orthodox liturgy, in an effort to bring their worship in line with the worship of the Greek Orthodox churches. Here’s a few of the changes:
- Sign of the Cross – changed from two fingers to three
- Alleluia – changed from two to three
- Creed – changed from “And in the Holy Spirit, the True Lord and Giver of Life” to “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life”
Again, sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? The Old Believers were severely persecuted, shunned, excommunicated. Lives were lost, or destroyed. Did it have to come to that?
Again, the real issue is much deeper. The contention was over Tradition itself. The Old Believers maintained that Tradition, if it’s Tradition at all, is not to be changed on a whim, on the basis of the opinion of some guy (even if that some guy is the Patriarch, God’s representative for that particular patch of Earth). Tradition, to them, has more authority than any human authority, and can only be changed under dire circumstances for universally agreed upon reasons.
On the other side, the ROC held that human authority, the Patriarch, carries more weight than Tradition, because who else can ultimately establish, define, interpret, and alter any tradition except legitimate human authority?
My heart’s with the Old Believers on this one. If something is, it is that thing absolutely, because if it’s not, then it could be anything, which means it’s really nothing. For something to mean anything, it has to be out of our reach, out of our control.
Our Gnostics have robbed us of meaning. To arbitrarily change something is to eventually destroy it. Either they don’t know that in their arrogance, or they do know that in their malice. In every important aspect of our existence, they’ve changed it, all at the whim of some guy, and not even someone appointed as God’s representative. Just some guy.
Marriage – At the whim of some guy in a black robe, marriage now doesn’t mean what it has meant for all of man’s history. Now it doesn’t just mean a binding commitment between a man and a woman, but also homosexuals, which means that marriage can now mean anything, so increasingly it means nothing. Why get married if it doesn’t mean anything? Why can’t a man marry his goat, or a woman her cat, or a pedo his child-toy? All it would take is some guy in a black robe, apparently. Yes, I know there are nine Justices, but it came down to the tie-breaker, and Roberts was it. Like I said, some guy.
With due respect to Jim, reviving marriage and the fertility rate isn’t just about making it high status again, although that would certainly help, because how do you make something high status that has no meaning? You could prop it up with rewards, but it would never stand on its own.
Money – To have any meaning, money has to represent something real, like gold. Take that away, and it’s whatever some guy says it is, in this case some Bankster in New York or London or Paris. It could be a cabal, but someone’s always in charge. So, however much a dollar is worth is simply the opinion of some guy, which means it’s not real, and there’s way less incentive to save, be responsible, etc., which we’ve proven by being twenty trillion in debt, which we all know really doesn’t mean anything anyway. I think the existential damage is far greater than the economic damage, although time might prove me wrong on that one. Depends on how bad the coming catastrophe is.
Citizenship – If anyone can waltz across the border, squat and drop a baby on our magic dirt and now that child is a citizen… if America is a Proposition Nation and anyone who agrees with those propositions is an American… if our government claims to have no right to enforce its borders… then the meaning of Citizenship understood for all of man’s history has been changed, which means it could mean anything, and as we all know, now it means nothing. You get the drift.
I don’t see how we could get any more basic than marriage, money and citizenship. Those things are meaningless now. How many other age-old understandings have been altered and thereby rendered meaningless? This is our existential catastrophe. To live our whole lives without anything that sustains us being real, it’s spiritual torture.
Our Gnostics wanted control of these things, and we all know what happens when we snatch control of things that God alone has rightful ownership of. It dies.