Liberal idealism is an unsubstantiated shadow projected from Christianity. In its wake science created an ephemeral culture. So, today’s society has no hierarchy of values, no intellectual authority, no social or religious tradition, only fleeting feelings.
We should not forget the cities of the Roman Empire, which lived for the amphitheater and the circus; the only future for such a civilization is social disintegration. However, in such a time, even if religions cannot find a place within social life, the religious instinct of human beings does not disappear.
We have seen how the secularization of Europe was accompanied by social unrest and upheaval. This has always happened. But never before have we seen a complete re-modeling of society be envisaged as an ideal. This movement is a religious, rather than a political type. Examples from our history are the Anabaptists and the Levellers. Behind Marx’s interpretation of history there burns an apocalyptic vision; a Nineteenth Century version of the Day of the Lord, in which the rich and the powerful should be consumed, and the poor and disinherited should reign in a regenerated universe, according to that Eternal Cycle which human will and effort are powerless to change or stop.
What lies behind social movements is a religious impulse not a political one. Once its victory is gained and the phase of destruction is ended, its inspiration fades and realism steps in. Revolution is a symptom of the divorce between religion and social life.
We can see today how the great energies of life are being consumed by the ‘social’ movements, whereas, when aligned to Christ, those energies could build a wonderfully human society.
The revolutions of Nineteenth Century Europe (anarchists, socialists, liberals) were all driven by the sense that European society was the embodiment of ‘material force’. They were not then, based upon a genuine sense of justice, nor in the pursuit of an ideal. They came instead from a dis-illusionment with the structures of society, which caught the religious impulse and then attacked society itself.
In Russia this attitude is endemic, springing perhaps from the inheritance of Byzantine religious tradition; an attitude that does not seek to reform or improve things, but to escape. “To wreck the great guilty temple, and give us Rest”, wrote Francis Adams.
The First World War expressed the failure of mechanistic civilization, but the world view that inspired it has become more common. We are still therefore, in danger, because the root problem is the separation of social life from religious impulse.
The great example of this is the Roman Empire and its vehicle, Hellenistic civilization. Once the Religious basis of this Empire became separated, nothing else could maintain the reality of that civilization, and it became hateful in the eyes of its subjects; Babylon the great fell. But from within the catastrophe a new civilization was already growing, one that appeared as weak, poor and naked.
At that time, St Augustine summed up the Roman Empire in this way: “They have reached their reward; vain men, vain reward.”
Human beings become spiritually alienated when they lose their religious foundations and focus on purely material success. The religious impulse is the cement that unifies a society and a culture. Religion is not a by-product of civilization, but its foundation. A society that loses its religion will also, one day, loose its culture.