The Danger Of Complacent Drifting
Only A Victory For Christianity Can Save Us
By Michael de la Bedoyere I
F are fighting to save our own necks and to prevent Britain or her Empire being broken up, and enslaved by Hitler & Co. That is about all there is to it at the moment! And quite enough. . . . Your paper has had a lot of chat about the iniquity of trading with Russia. But why is this morally wrong? In the present war Russia is not really Hitler's partner. Her war of aggression against Poland was pretty frightful, 1 admit. Still, if she behaves herself, I do not see why we cannot win her over to our side. . . . All decent French people are just_ hanging their heads with shame. . . . So with Belgium. . . . You seem to have a frightful grouse against our Capitalism.' . . . I think you want to come into the open much more plainly and let us really know what is biting you . . ."
These are' extracts from a letter written by an old friend, a convert of many years' standing. a scholar, writer and schoolmaster. They probably represent the feelings of a good many readers, and it is therefore our duty to comment on them.
WHAT IS "BITING" US?
E can at once answer the last question. What is " biting " us is, quite simply, the conviction that there is now only one possible solution to the world's troubles, and that is the restoration among civilized communities of the principles of Christian truth and Christian behaviour. This does not necessarily mean that all nations and peoples should recover the Faith—a matter that is in God's hands— but that Western society should recover a unity,of outlook, customs and morals springing from and in harmony with that Christian Faith whose religious beliefs and moral convictions enabled our civilization to develop. Why we hold this we explain below : For two very different reasons we are in agreement with our correspondent when he urges continued resistance to Germany. The first reason is that as Britishers we want to win and we believe that we can win. Not only does our natural love for our country prompt this resolution, but we are very well aware of the consequences to ourselves of defeat or even of any terms that could at the present stage be extracted from enemies who hold themselves to he victorious. And we have excellent reasons for believing that our position to-day is a good deal stronger than it was in the summer, that, in fact, Germany suffered a major defeat in August when she failed to gain the mastery of the air, a defeat that she is busily trying to repair by hectic diplomatic activity with Hitler himself racing about Europe in his armoured train.
But here we must state at once that in the present state of the world we do not consider that for Christians this reason by itself would justify the prolongation of the war. If we are earnest in our conviction that only the restoration among civilized communities of the principles of Christian truth and Christian behaviour can solve the troubles of the world, we also need the assurance that our victory will help to bring about this restoration and that a German victory will make such a restoration impossible. This, too, we believe, but with certain qualifications.
In the first place we believe—and here we are following directly the words of the Holy Father—that all nations. whether large or small. have a right to essential independence. Now, whatever may have been the deeper causes of the war, no one can deny that we took up arms in the end to save Poland, and that our cause automatically involves the emancipation of the Czechs, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch and the Belgians. A German victory, on the contrary, would almost certainly involve the maintenance of these peoples in a state of servitude or worse. Secondly, we believe that our victory would he a triumph for moral and political principles that, as far as they go, can enable Christianity to survive, whereas a German victory would mean the triumph of a political teaching, both within States and in their mutual relations, that is utterly inconsistent with Christianity.
Thus to merely patriotic and self-regarding reasons for continuing the fight there are added genuine Christian reasons, and these, we hold, are by far the more important.
THE LOSS OF FAITH BUT the matter does not end there. We repeat once more our conviction that it is the acceptance of Christian truth and Christian behaviour that will alone save us. What has really happened to the Western world is that a common faith has been lost. For a thousand years and more all Europeans were agreed about the meaning and the ends of human life. They believed in God, in the goodness of certain things and the rightness of a certain code of behaviour. So long as that unity of belief remained, there was, so to say, a limit to the power of evil and therefore to the consequences of evil. Men and peoples might and did fail to live up to their beliefs, but. whatever the consequences in human sufferings through wars, serfdom, cruelty, maladjustments of every kind, the mass weight of commonly accepted faith in certain values stood like a dam against the evil and restored again the equilibrium of civilization. Not that the failure to live up to the Faith was without its fatal results. Those results were, in fact, the gradual loss of the Faith so that over a long period Europe passed from belief in Christianity to indifference or disbelief.
At first men thought that disbelief did not matter. The new industrialism and scientific progress seemed to offer a paradise on earth to those who had transcended the superstitions of the past. But it did not work for long. The evils and sufferings which in the past fell on individuals and as a result of almost measurable infidelity now began to emerge as the necessary and willed by-products of the new age of liberalism and enlightenment. In violent reaction to this, men sought out new religions, and the masses in despair sought salvation in what we now call ideologies, in democracy, socialism, fascism, communism. But these religions, being false, their triumph, where it occurred, only led to even greater evils and to the mighty clash between them of which this war is a phase.
AGAINST THE CHRISTIAN BACKGROUND N°w if this be the case, it seems to us to be simply childish to attempt to understand the war without reference to the reality beneath the appearances, or to confine our attention to the immediate rights and wrongs analysed above. Against this background Nazism remains indeed one of the great evils of the days, but it is seen as an evil that cannot be exorcised by mere military defeat—for in some form or other it will recur again unless its causes are once and for all eradicated. Against this background, Bolshevism is at least as evil as Nazism — we would, had we the space, argue that it is in fact a much worse evil — and it is simply nonsensical for the Christian to suppose that things can really he made better by calling in Bolshevism to help in ousting Nazism, still more to use such utterly unmeaning words of Russia as " if she behaves herself." Bolshevism cannot behave itself, in any possible Christian meaning of the word " behave ": the very meaning of Bolshevism is " not to behave itself." And what about ourselves? Against this background it surely becomes clear that the mere survival of Britain and the Empire, as a world power, is, so to say, a neutral thing, neither good nor bad. It becomes good—as does the restoration of independence to Poland, Norway, etc.—in so far as it leads to Britain and other countries taking their place again within a society of nations wherein a unity of outlook, customs and morals springing from Christianity can be restored, and in so far as it becomes the means of effecting that internal revolution whereby the welfare of the human person becomes again the end of the social system; it becomes bad, if it simply means the maintenance of the negative philosophy of a terrestrial paradise through indifference or disbelief (for this must lead to another clash of false ideologies) or if it opens the way to the triumph of any one ideology, such as the anti-Christian democratic-socialism, associated with the names of prominent continental statesmen who are waiting for the defeat of Hitler and his Allies to restore themselves in European capitals, or of the open Communism which may well result from the post-war unsettlement of a community lacking Christian conviction.
A RADICAL CHRISTIAN PROGRAMME IT is true that Our country has retained a unity of outlook and a code that are derived from a Christian past. Better than any other perhaps it has succeeded in creating a certain fusion between religious belief and public behaviour. But we doubt whether this largely accidental survival will prove strong enough to influence the times that are coming, unless a spiritual regeneration takes place and a revolutionary Christian programme becomes acceptable to the people. It is impossible to shut one's eyes to the truth that the real influences at work are becoming more and more anti-Christian. The country's main effort is rightly directed to the practical work of winning the war, a work supported by a propaganda which pays little or no regard to Christian belief and forces in a continent largely under German dominion. a propaganda which cannot therefore be anything but indirectly anti-Catholic. This provides a magnificent opportunity to those anti-Christians at work in press, literature, political parties, is veoorkshrops, to ensure for themselves the leadership as soon as the war If we are not to be swept away, if victory itself is not to become a snare, the whole Christian community must be aroused at once to criticise the superficialities and hypocrisies of foreign policy and the failure to reorganise the whole country to carry the war through; and it must propound a radical Christian programme both for international relations and for social reform.
Not only do we happen to take seriously the British claim to be fighting for Christianity — a claim loudly denied in the House of Commons last week by an ex-Labour minister whose voice may well carry much more weight after the war—but we are determined that if this war is not going to end wars it will at least leave us and our children in some sort of peace, tranquillity, and equitable social system. Short of this we frankly acknowledge that we cannot see any sufficient reason for the sacrifice of our men, our women and our children, nor for the penury, the starvation, the break-up of families which this war will entail for us as well as for France. That is why we on this paper refuse to attend only to propaganda and the appearances; that is why we seek all the time, while joining in the common defence of our just cause, to further whatever may give hope in the end of establishing a constructive and juster peace against a Christian background, and to destroy whatever militates against this end no matter how specious its appearance may be--and Bolshevism, among other evils, does not even appear specious, except to those who know nothing of Christianity but the distorted facade.