The Post-Christian Mind: Exposing its Destructive Agenda by Harry Blamires (Servant Publications, 1999 209 pages, $10.99)
“The emperor has no clothes on.” The high, child-voice of truth rings out in this book. There is angst — anguish — in the author's confrontation with the post-Christian mind, but there is also the hope of resolution. “We can always reply without any qualms to the person who asks us, ‘How can you believe in a good God in the face of the mess that the world is in?’ We can turn the question back on the questioner: ‘How can you expect the world to be other than in a mess when the good God and his laws are ignored?’” This exchange is a sampling of Harry Blamires’ approach.
Blamires, former head of the English department at King Alfred's College, Winchester, England, and a one time student and disciple of C.S. Lewis, follows up his earlier book, The Christian Mind, with a brilliant study of the post-Christian “mind,” or we might say mindlessness, flourishing at the end of the 20th century. The gap between the Christian outlook and the outlook of most of the people in our world today is both enormous and alarming.
Blamires likens the situation to an episode in Lewis’ final Narnia tale, The Last Battle. In the story, Shift the Ape, the villain of the piece, tries to convince all the beasts that Tash the Cat, Narnia's enemy, is the same as Aslan the Lion, Narnia's hero and defender. He insists that Tash is Aslan, and Aslan is Tash, even going so far as to invent the name “Tashlan” to compound the confusion. But when the two characters appear simultaneously, all the animals realize that they are distinct and utterly different, and pledge their allegiance definitively to Aslan.
Blamires sets out to expose the destructive agenda of the post-Christian mind. “In my previous ventures into this field,” the highly articulate Anglican author explains, “the logical approach has been to make the Christian faith the starting point and to survey the contemporary scene in the light of its doctrinal formulations. My intention now is to start from the other side of the fence … to pinpoint the preconceptions undergirding popular contemporary attitudes and show how they represent positions antagonistic to the Christian faith.
“Current secularist humanism — a mishmash of relativist notions negating traditional values and absolutes — infects the intellectual air we breathe. There is a campaign to undermine all human acknowledgment of the transcendent, to whittle away all human respect for objective restraint on the individualistic self.”
Developing his thesis, the author analyzes current attitudes in the areas of rights, marriage and family life, discrimination, democracy, first principles, relativity, freedom of expression, back-to-nature movements, charity, compassion, and many more. In the course of the analysis, his wit cuts through the confusion of modern secular positions like a two-edged sword. Drawing on a wide spectrum of British and American press clippings and media output, he paints a comprehensive picture of “the post-Christian mind.” Not only do the trends themselves give cause for deep concern, but also the manner in which they are reported is often misleading. The skill of the media's brainwashing tactics is all too familiar to the average consumer.
The common sense and good humor are refreshing.
Blamires discourses brilliantly on the use and abuse of words, in the business of disseminating post-Christian attitudes. “The post-Christian world is not a world of structures but a world of fluidity. … The universal language of reason and morality gives place to a wholly relativistic vocabulary of emotive predilections. … Virtues and vices give place to a strange amalgam of subjective concepts, such as self-esteem and self-realization. … On all sides people are prating about discovering their ‘identity,’ as though one could help having one. A figure famous in the eyes of the media's public will exclaim, ‘I found out who I really am!’ … Most of us acquire this knowledge before the nursery school age … and incidentally, the Christian call to lose oneself stands at the very opposite pole of experience to these meaningless assertions.”
There is much talk today about changing values. “But do values change in respect to human conduct?” asks Blamires. “Is it not wholly illogical? I am tempted, as a Christian, to picture a similar record [similar to that of the stock market]: ‘The Moral Market today: Chastity is down three points and Honesty is up two points. The chartists foresee a further surge in Honesty as the moral climate becomes increasingly indulgent toward admissions of conduct that would once have been regarded as disgraceful or shameful. By the same token, shares in Chastity, which today reached a new low, are expected to fall much further yet. All the experts agree that the bottom has fallen out of the Chastity market. Investors will be wise to rid their portfolios of this now discredited commodity before it is too late.’”
And so with “rights.” Have they lost all relationship to duties? Do we really have rights over our bodies? Our health? Or do we not rather serve their demands? “Discrimination”: Haven't we altered the meaning to be something pejorative, whereas it originally meant a sense of establishing distinctions? “If you ensure that there is a sloping ramp as well as a flight of steps at the entry to a building, so that disabled people in wheelchairs can move in and out just as unafflicted people do, that is an act of true discrimination. Only by the exercise of true discrimination can you put the two groups on a level footing in this respect.”
Refreshed with the common sense and good humor of our guide, we contemplate the topsy-turveydom of our world from wall to wall, and know that we have not only been informed, but also enlightened. The meaning of the meaninglessness comes clear. Faced with the total negativity of the post-Christian mind, and grieving for our utter nakedness, we reach instinctively for the mantle of Christian truth. There is still hope. Our world is ready, with the coming of the third millennium, it is desperately ready, to put on the mind of Christ.
Dominican Sister Mary Thomas Noble writes from Buffalo, New York.