Another Memorial Day has come and gone. Corporations offer “discounts to veterans” and uncritical well-wishers utter the words “thank you for your service”. Veterans that have seen real war know that dreadful day is not for the living. We that live are the fortunate ones, scarred as we may be, for we are allowed the privilege of seeing dreams become real and of making amends for wrongs that all humans do, some done under the authority of orders. Tolkien reminds us best, those of us willing to understand what he attempted through his sanctifying myth, but he understood the vices and potential virtues of the pagans. He understood their lust for war through their amplification of the notion of noble death. Victory or death, return with your shield or upon it, this was always the pagan way. Victory in war was a demonstration of the favor of the gods. To a pagan, might makes right. Tolkien demonstrated to any that will see the utter flaw in the pagan worldview. Their sheer will and bravery were virtues to be admired and sanctified through Christian teachings. The means are for the man, the end is to God. Victory does not always come to the righteous in a short view of history, it is in fact often the opposite.
We were not always such a pagan people as now. We certainly began as such, those of us not direct descendants of Abraham through Isaac. The Isle of Britain, the ancestral home of all of us that descend from English-speaking stock was no different. Pagan at the time of Christ, the southern portions partially converted from 43 AD to 597 AD and then Invaded and conquered again by pagans, the Anglo-Saxons. To the North, Christendom fared better. As Pagans reconquered what is now England and Wales missionaries from Ireland began converting the Scottish Highlands. The Presbyterian Church of Ireland called St Patrick the first Presbyterian in that land, and with good reason. We see a continual tension between Roman Christianity and Gaelic and Celtic Christianity playing out over the next several centuries, often in bloodshed. The Highland Scots adopted a form of Catholicism that was not exactly Roman Catholicism. The Anglo-Saxons in the south adopted a form of Roman Christianity but never sanctified their pagan ways, their blood lust and power love remained. We see this then play out in the history of the British Isles via the establishment of the pseudo–Roman Anglican Church, the adoption of Presbyterianism by lowland Scots, and before that the incessant desire of the English crown to remove the highlanders from the island, and from history altogether. We see it in the blood feud in Northern Ireland, that was something more than mere differences of opinion. I think it speaks to something of a deep truth there being contested – it is perhaps something ancient that the protagonist could not even name. Through all of that, the various cultures of the English-speaking West were blessed and partially sanctified, some more and some less(using the Tolkien notion of the term). Those cultures sanctified the greater portion felt the boot of retaliatory and resurgent paganism the most. First, the emerald isle, the land of Patrick’s work was placed under the heel, and her religion was Romanized. Then the attention of a succession of kings turned North. From the 1200s to 1860 English kings made war on the peoples of the Highlands and on Scots in general. Sometimes open war and always legal and economic war. For peat moss and grazing rights, we are to suppose. No, it is more foundational than that, something more ancient. Agrarian people practicing the True Religion are always the enemy of the pagan mind. A theme we will see English-speaking pagans return to.
Not all Englishmen were pagans, the culture remained so, unredeemed and unsanctified and still polluted by the vilest of human vices. Vices exported to the shores of America. In the North the bankers and industrialists. To the South flowed the exiles from pagan-minded conquests of Scotland. An ancient conflict merely removed to another continent to be fought again. These are of course broad generalities. Bad seems to diffuse among people more easily than good. The planter class in the South was definitely neo-platonic in their worldview and the only Unitarian churches to be found were in major cotton trading cities, where planters also kept a city residence. Many historians describe the backcountry yeoman in the South as unchurched before the Second Awakening but there is evidence enough for me to believe this did not make them apostates.
In the North, it was very different. Between struggles arising from the problems inherent in attempts a pietism. The First Awakening left its mark on the mind and spirit of the North in ways that would later manifest together with the latent pagan spirit of conquest in terrible ways. We see the introduction of ideas from Lutheran Pietism, a recipe for many ills in numerous lands across history, picked up and spread by Methodists, and then congregationalist and northern Presbyterians.
In broad and general terms, recognizing exceptions to rules and the fallacy of over-applying generalities I hold two things to be true. I loathe the northern culture, those people that so willingly embraced industrialization and commercialization. People that emerged from the Second Awakening perverted pietism into social do-goodism. Heirs to those that would burn others at the stake that disagreed with them. For my own people, I find pity and shame. Divorced from their traditional leaders in the wake of losing the last of a series of wars going back seven centuries they succumbed to sloth, envy, and nothingness. Content now to comprise a mere shadow of what was, equating NASCAR and fried chicken with culture, living in subdivisions, and consuming as much as their northern masters. I find sympathy for neither, I see a bastion of light and righteousness in neither. But I am of a kind, I am a southern man and a man that does not love his own kind is an irredeemable sort of man.
This takes us back to Memorial Day. A day we have perverted by sales and commercialism and conflated with service and honor. It is neo-platonic in origin, pagan at its core. The pagan aspect goes back to Pericles twenty-four centuries ago. Memorials to the brave dead are found in all pagan cultures. The remembrance should be for the thing lost, not the deeds done. The father, the artist, the carpenter – the potential of the man spent in a war he did not start and could not end. The memory should be of a man willing to lay aside his own dreams and die if need be, not for glory, but for duty. The difference is subtle but profound. Our memorializations tend much more toward pagan caricatures than the somber memories of a thankful nation.
And then there are the songs. In churches across the land undiscerning congregants very often sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” without a care or thought to the meaning and theology of that song. It was written by a unitarian, like all apostates she was capable of parsing some of the meaning of Scripture to compose her work, but also like all unregenerate souls she was incapable of fully understanding. This is evident in her blasphemy.
Howe equates what she terms as the South’s rebellion as a rebellion against God himself. The line “Mine eyes hath seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” is a claim she sees God’s hand at work, presumptuous for an apostate. “He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword” is from Deut. 32:41, Psalm 45:3-5 and Exe 21:28 but out of context, the wrath spoken of there is for the unregenerate, for apostates and supporters of literal terrorists (Howe had John Brown as a frequent guest and supported him financially- his murders are hers). And it goes on, she extracts imagery from Revelation in a way that Hal Lindsey might about Apache helicopters that most sane Christians would rebuke – and yet, they gaily sing this blasphemy at least once a year in God’s house.
The song is filled with religious imagery, all lies contain truth. But like almost everything Howe and her cohorts produced in the 1850s it was propaganda, a lie designed to force one group’s ideas upon another, through force if necessary. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe were jezebels, peddling lies, enabled by Ahabs. Do we honestly believe God judged the South because of the balance of power in the Senate and an economic system? An economic system present before and after Christ, one he did not speak out against? If we sing with glee the hateful lies of the Battle Hymn must we not wonder why God did not judge the Soviet Union or China for the millions they enslaved and murdered under communism? Surely Some grapes of wrath should have been trampled on there too. Surely Howe, seeing the coming of the Lord as she wrote must have had an answer for what to do with the poor that already lived in the North. What would happen to all the poor blacks soon to be homeless and unemployed after her murderous song had its intended effect?
There is nothing of God in that song, just some imagery appropriated by an apostate liar and sung by ignorant people, and a few people mired in the sin of holding to a lie. What is much more likely, just as the English had to get the agrarian nonconformist Scots out of the way and beholden to the beast system they built, so too the centralizers had to get the veto of the South out of the way in order to build the global American empire and usher in what is now becoming a more perfect beast system.
Sing that Godless song if you wish. You might as well sing an anthem to Lucifer himself right after it because that is ultimately what it was all about.