Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Roots of American Order Book Club

 Chapter VI - The Light of the Middle Ages 

Reading along with Cindy and others, I hope our conversation informs and inspires.  

Here's my *orderly* synopsis ~

Origins = 
Gallia est divisa in tres partes: Normans, Anglo-Saxons, and Franks.  Toss seafaring Norse/Vikings into the mix and we can all trace our roots.  These folks conquered the island, if you will, and established a town.

Situated on a large navigable river, London became The Center not only for the administration of Roman authority in faraway Britannia, but also for the development of commerce:  a "nation of shopkeepers" spawning sailors, soldiers, lawgivers, and poets.

Rule of Law = The law, which is no respecter of persons, stands supreme.  This legality cannot be overstated.  The rule was hard-won, but it illuminated the Dark Ages. The Roman Corpus Juris, the English De Legibus Angliae, and Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England are featured in this section.  Coupled with the development and refinement of common law, The Reign continues today, albeit encumbered.  Those who ignore the law harm society and themselves.  Sometime those who stand up for the law get hurt.

Declarations  = Documents like the Magna Carta and lesser writs addressing parliaments, impeachment, electors, contracts, and taxation gave birth to what is now known as representative government.  More Latin here - Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbetur - wise words with current application.  I hate to give Hollywood any credit for teaching history, but I have to mention the most recent Robin Hood movie (2010).  I really liked it because it dramatically drove home the plight of the people who sparked the signing of the Magna Carta.   Feudalism framed the vast canvas of this era.

Education = two English universities and three Scottish ones established during this period exist to this day.  Kirk's alma mater, St Andrew, boasts a small foundation writ large in America.  Providentially, I encountered Kirk at my alma mater, Hillsdale College.  The medieval university was an independent corporation unlike our modern ones whose hands are tied to government funding and whose policies promote diversity. Nowadays American institutions of higher learning do not resemble their origins.

Religious Crusaders = our squire-author is knight-errant himself in the fullest, most complimentary sense of both terms: a scholar and a gentleman engaged in adventure and tragedy (disappointment) whose object was to rescue his country and faith from invaders within and without.  Heroes from this era inspired American leaders like Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain John Smith, President George Washington, and General Robert E Lee.  These stories make interesting biographies.

We are at the halfway point, having read six of the twelve chapters.  Here's a link to our schedule.

Hope you will join the conversation (link).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Roots of American Order Book Club

 Chapter V - The Genius of Christianity

Nothing drove home the message of this chapter more than viewing  Passages  (link to website) this past weekend. 

Passages (link to newspaper review) is an exhibition honoring the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and is considered a 'tour de force' of the most-banned, most-debated, best-selling book of all time.

That's why I went twice and hope to go again.

Preserving the written revelation of God to man through human scribes is an arduous journey, as narrated by Kirk in this chapter and as demonstrated by  The Green Family of Hobby Lobby fame.

It's encouraging to see such concrete testimony to one of the roots of American order.

Furthermore, there is an associated speaker series  which may provide me the opportunity to hear culture-maker Andy Crouch on May 1st

Now for my acrostic ~ 

Origins = Jesus, The Incarnate God, is The Genius, if I can be so presumptious as to call Him such.  We (bookclubbers) all know He is incomparable, but Kirk relates how others came to know Him.  I always like reading about that, making this section particularly enjoyable.

Rebirth = Reordering the soul through the power of the Gospel created new beings with a fresh outlook on life.  It affected how they saw themselves and how they related to others in their society.  Because Kirk had explained previously how lack of order in citizens' souls contributes to the downfalls of civilizations, it was inspiring to read how the tap root of Christianity was planted; and to recognize how difficult it will be to uproot it.

Dogma  = confident Christian creed. Two were established during the time period:  the Nicene and the Apostles'.  Practically speaking, these helped codify the faith and cohere the followers.  Crucial!

Experience = eternal life - the promise of this immortality was the most appealing concept or powerful attraction for espousing the teachings of Christ.  Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, a product of old school, ancient philosophy and Roman high virtue wrote extensively.  His influential works, Confessions and City of God, excoriated the dilemma of how to live with one another and with the State.

Resurrection = Rome began to flourish again, to transcend the circumstances of time, mainly due to Christianity.  Church leaders (bishops/popes) came to this city eternalized by the martyrdoms of disciples Peter and Paul.  The classical world had a habit of referring to this city for direction.  Pope Gregory preached and pastored at the end of this time period.  Also known as Gregory the Great, his efforts built the bridge that allowed Christian patrimony to cross over, spreading faith and culture... all the way to America.

Reflecting on Kirk's efforts to preserve the roots of American order creates clearer vision for me.

I wonder if Scott Green has read Kirk.

Or Kirk Cameron?

Cameron's new film, Monumental, (movie link) scheduled for release next Tuesday, March 27th, appears to be another concrete testimony to American order.

Supporting these two cultural endeavors translates into watering our thirsty roots.

Let's do it!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Roots of American Order:Chapter V
Favorite Quote 

In light of the current political climate, that is, a presidential election year, I read and re-read the final paragraph of The Genius of Christianity, because it gives me hope.

Christianity prescribes no especial form of politics.  The Church has co-existed with monarchies, autocracies, aristocracies, oligarchies, republics, democracies, and even some of the 20th century totalist regimes.  Yet if Christian belief be general among a people, then any political domination is affected by Christian teachings about the moral order.  That moral order works upon the political order.  Christian concepts of justice, charity, community, and duty may transform a society without any abrupt alteration of governmental framework.  The worth of the person, the equality of all men before the judgment-seat of God, the limitations upon all earthly authority - such convictions as these would shape the American Republic.

Like author Eric Metaxas recently gave President Obama copies of two of his books, Bonhoeffer and Amazing Grace (about Wilberforce), and like Russell Kirk supplied reading material to several presidents and presidential candidates,  I want to give to Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Romney, Mrs. Gringrich, Mrs. Santorum, and Mrs. Paul copies of The Roots of American Order.

Think I would be wasting my time and money?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Roots of American Order Book Club

Chapter IV - Virtue and Power: The Roman Tension

This week's book club topic coincides with the Ides of March and I am entertained by that fact.  In celebration, I shall re-watch a recent film so named.*  As a former congressional staffer/campaigner, I can not only relate to the drama but also testify to its plausibility.

But first my acrostic of the assignment.

Origins = Etruscan kings whose subjects modeled high virtue, thereby conquering nations on 3 continents and establishing Pax Romana.

Republic = Cicero's famous writings that informed American Founders on juridical doctrine as they sought to write our American Constitution.  It was their required reading.

Divine mission was idealized by several Roman writers, especially Virgil whose key concepts of labor, pietas, and fatum sought to make Roman culture an ideal.  I struggled to read the Aeneid in high school Latin class, but my *sieve got wet.*

Exemplar = emperors, rulers and politicians who were examples, archetypes, of heroic leadership, especially Stoic Marcus Aurelius, a reforming conservative very familiar to our Founders.  The lists of suggested readings by chapter plus the footnotes and end notes alone make The Roots of American Order an invaluable resource.  Who knew Anthony Trollope wrote about Cicero?

Ruins =  reminders, beautiful and stately as they are, that failings in the order of the commonwealth coupled with certain deficiences in the inner order of the soul spell disintegration.  Kirk gives specifics in this final section that eerily correlate to current times.  May we not be doomed to repeat history.

Bonus photo is of my nephew and his beautiful wife who are stationed in Italy and had the chance to visit Rome.  

I'll bet those ruins are speaking loudly to this US Army soldier.


I wonder if he's read any of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations?

Perhaps watching Charlton Heston in Julius Caesar would be more fitting (instructive). 

Added Later:  I ended up watching the 1953 version with Marlon Brando.

And here's the link to our moderator's synopsis of The Roman Tension.

*warning-bad language

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Roots of American Order:Chapter IV
Favorite Quote 

Mankind can endure anything but boredom

Kirk's comment (pg 132) is very telling.

We all, especially mothers, should take note, and make sure to teach the fate of bores.

Bored, boring, bores, boredom ~ 

Here's a link to some of my *boring* thoughts.

Here's what Emily Post has to say about being bored.

There is no reason why you should be bored when you can be otherwise.

But if you find yourself sitting in the hedgerow with nothing but weeds,

there is no reason for shutting your eyes and seeing nothing,

instead of finding what beauty you may in the weeds. 

Last but not least, here's a link to Kirk's The Architecture of Servitude and Boredom from his book Redeeming the Time. 

It behooves us to understand the enemy called *Boredom*

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Roots of American Order Book Club

Chapter III - The Glory and The Ruin:The Greek World

Origins = Hellenes who at the height of their power had conquered and ruled much of the known world.  Not exactly Hollywood Elite, but establishes my theme.

Regimented = militaristic city/states (polis) requiring big budgets to maintain.  *Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous* comes to mind.

Deities = disorderly, raucous characters who really saved no one from any thing.  The residents of Mount Olympus could have staged a long-running soap opera/reality show.

Experience = cautionary tale:  American Founders learned *What Not to Wear* from the Greeks, like class conflict, internecine violence, private/public arrogance, imperial vainglory.

Recovery = litany of poet/philosophers all proposing better ways, all failing to save Greek culture/society/civilization.  Think of the credits at the end of a movie.  There really are too many to list, but I love pronouncing their names.

Of the five sections within Chapter III, I think the final one (Aristotle and Political Forms) might be the most instructive for us today because Kirk succinctly describes the Greeks' attempts at various forms of government, comparing and contrasting  their virtuous forms with their degenerate deviations.  

Whereas religious convictions undergird a society at the most fundamental level,  they play out differently when administered (manifested) by the civil authority, be it monarchy, oligarchy,  or democracy.  The Greeks never got the religion thing *right*.

"The Greek idea of political and social balance, as the Americans found it expressed by Aristotle and Polybius and Plutarch, was incorporated directly into the American Constitutions,"  says Kirk.

Unfortunately, we (inheritors of said document) are now way.out.of.balance.

On this Super Tuesday, I hope those exercising their right to vote have read some Russell Kirk.

His insight will help all of us understand the consequences of today's primaries.

Read how fellow book-clubbers are applying Kirk's advice.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Roots of American Order:Chapter III
Favorite Quote 

I'm still trying to decide which/what Greek trait to emulate most often.

In the meantime, my favorite quote comes from the section entitled The Cave and the Dust-Storm.

The wisdom and virtue necessary
 for contending successfully 
against a sea of troubles
 rarely are found united in one man.

Book club hostess Cindy's favorite topic seems to be  *moderation* aka The Golden Mean.  Dont miss reading her commentary.

Illustration ~
Alexander fighting Persian king Darius III. 
From Alexander Mosaic
Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Pompeii, Naples

Friday, March 02, 2012


This word *order* implies membership:  an order is something that one belongs to.

All American citizens are born into this American order, or else are formally naturalized into it.

Active participation in this order is both a right and an obligation, and whether this order improves or decays must depend upon the quality of that participation.

Russell Kirk
In God's Own Good Time:
Reflections Upon American Order
The Intercollegiate Review, Spring 1973