This blog is dedicated to “progress with God”, as without Him, none is possible. We live in a time beset by the belief that progress without God is not only possible, but the only way it can happen. Anthony Esolen has written an article in the magazine Chronicle that refutes this mindset as completely as it does poetically.
One who is a pioneer on principle is the Christian soldier gone wrong. The man who will not let his neighbors rest, but who must always be “transgressive,” is one who doubles down on Sodom, tears down a statue here and an institution there, and who lives in ceaseless and unforgiving hatred of anything that can claim to be permanently good and deserving of our honor. He is what you get when sin is transferred from your own heart, where it has settled, to social structures, conveniently vague, and traditions, stolid and defenseless.
Satan is like many an environmentalist who hates man more than he loves trees. He cannot let even the natural world alone if it means that Adam and Eve may enjoy their lives in peace and harmony with God. Satan knows that the world is beautiful, but its beauty, the peaceful tranquility of its varied and sweetly interchanging orders, goads him on to hatred. “The more I see / Pleasures about me,” he says, grumbling, “so much more I feel / Torment within me.” And when Adam and Eve fall, condemning the world to fall with them, Death, Satan’s incestuous son and grandson, is not satisfied, because his essential emptiness and nihilism admit no fulfillment, no peace.
If art tells permanent truths about man, the progressive will not hear them, because he has set his face against anything permanent. It’s not that he produces bad art with drearily predictable political intent. The problem is worse than that. It is that the thing itself, art, suffocates. It needs air, it needs leisure, it needs vistas that span the ages. It needs a humble openness to the eternal. And to the extent that our minds are occupied territory, whether we oppose or cheer the occupiers, we too lose our humanity; we too can neither make nor receive good and great art. The progressive can say with Satan, “Only in destroying I find ease / To my relentless thoughts.” The rest of us can hardly remember what has been destroyed.