Monday, September 17, 2012

The Language of War, What is it Good for?

On a topic touched upon by Mark Mitchell, Brian Phillips writes in Culture-Makers or Culture Warriors? about the purposes of a classical education:
Classical education, unlike forms of modern education, aims at the nurturing of the soul, the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. This stands in contrast to arming students with ready-made answers – the problem of “ideology,” according to Wolfe. We claim our desire is for students to know how to think, not just what to think; yet we seem to fall short of that reality.

For example, in many Christian classical schools, the teaching of logic and the growing emphasis on apologetics courses belies a truly defensive slant, the courses being taught as a way of protecting students from an ungodly culture. And, while there is nothing wrong with arming students for defense, it does not stop there. Even rhetoric has been reduced to the mere production of persuasive essays and speeches, rather than developing (as Aristotle said) the “faculty of discovering in any given case the available means of persuasion” – an art that could include story-telling, creative writing, poetry, and more.

The result is that classical educators are preparing culture warriors but not “culture-makers.” In holding up the works of Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton, et al, then, we hold up museum pieces because rather than stressing the need for great artists, musicians, songwriters, poets, and authors, we merely equip our students to argue. We have called them to uphold truth and, perhaps, goodness, but beauty has been left out of the equation.
Americans think too much in terms of the marketplace of ideas, or maybe a "battle of ideas," but maybe we should recognize conflict between individuals and groups for what it is, in so far as such conflict is irresolvable (without some sort of moral conversion) and involves at least one party trying to impose its "value system" on the other? We can talk about making culture in response to anti-culture and recognize the limits of dialogue, but if there is a struggle for power, we must be aware of that as well, and not be content to   be passive in response to such aggression in the name of false "charity"?

If the non-Christian Romans had been resolved to extirpate the Christian communities (rather than just persecuting them to a rather limited extent), would there be a Roman Christianity? (After all, with what sort of belief could the Romans counter the Christians? Contrast that with the domination of Christians by Muslims - how many Muslim countries have been converted through the persecution of Christians?)

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