As with most First Things articles, David B. Hart's 2004 essay Freedom and Decency is intellectual, dense, long, and not easy going.  But—again like most First Things articles—it is well worth the effort.  (Hat tip to John C. Wright.  Who says science fiction writers can't be deep thinkers?)  What earns the article its own post rather than a brief mention in my "Casting the Net" series is the following extraordinary paragraph, which leaps from the somewhat dry erudition with the shock of a striking panther.

I am not convinced that we are in any very meaningful sense in the midst of a “culture war”; I think it might at best be described as a fracas. I do not say that such a war would not be worth waging. Yet most of us have already unconsciously surrendered to the more insidious aspects of modernity long before we even contemplate drawing our swords from their scabbards and inspecting them for rust. This is not to say that there are no practical measures for those who wish in earnest for the battle to be joined: homeschooling or private “trivium” academies; the disposal or locking away of televisions; prohibitions on video games and popular music; Greek and Latin; great books; remote places; archaic enthusiasms. It is generally wise to seek to be separate, to be in the world but not of it, to be no more engaged with modernity than were the ancient Christians with the culture of pagan antiquity; and wise also to cultivate in our hearts a generous hatred toward the secular order, and a charitable contempt. Probably the most subversive and effective strategy we might undertake would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing. Given the reluctance of modern men and women to be fruitful and multiply, it would not be difficult, surely, for the devout to accomplish — in no more than a generation or two — a demographic revolution. Such a course is quite radical, admittedly, and contrary to the spirit of the age, but that is rather the point, after all. It would mean often forgoing certain material advantages, and forfeiting a great deal of our leisure; it would often prove difficult to sustain a two-career family or to be certain of a lavish retirement. But if it is a war we want, we should not recoil from sacrifice.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Edit
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Hear, hear! Bring on the babies. (:

I do find as I go along, more things that I assume that are then challenged. The issue of how many children to have and how to plan them is one of them. I always said I wanted lots of kids, yet when I got engaged, I researched birth control methods. That's "what you do."

I will not be surprised to find many more of my "that's what you do"s challenged and turned upside down as time progresses.

Posted by joyful on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 8:41 pm

I thought you'd like the "abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing" part. :) As you know, my "that's what you do" revelation was sending one's children to school.

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

What struck me so about this paragraph was how much he described as radical that which seems to me to be an ideal life, one to which I have fitfully strived. "[H]omeschooling or private “trivium” academies; the disposal or locking away of televisions; prohibitions on video games and popular music; Greek and Latin; great books; remote places; archaic enthusiasms...[and] fecundity" sounds lovely to me, and he considers it arming for battle. Granted, I am allowing for some exaggeration on his part to make his point; perhaps he really does mean every word exactly and literally. I, myself, would not destroy our television and prohibit video games and popular music altogether, as there is value that can be obtained from each of those. (I'm not sure about popular music, but I acknowledge value might be there somewhere.) I would be that extreme in a heartbeat, if that were the only way to keep those activities severely limited and strictly controlled.

Overall, what he describes sounds to me more fun than sacrifice. Maybe even Greek and Latin, though those joys have thus far escaped me.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 8:09 am

Of course, my "remote place" would have to have Internet access....

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, March 01, 2009 at 6:40 am

I missed this post until Janet pointed it out to me just now, because we were in a remote place at the time of posting. A remote place with very limited internet access - and lordy, was that sweet: I actually read and talked to people... Sometimes the internet does feel like a tyrant.

Posted by Stephan on Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 6:56 am

The Internet is a good servant but a bad master; to o'ermaster it without banishing it altogether is no trivial battle.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 9:49 am

Thinking more about Stephan's comment: We have a friend who sailed around the world, with his wife, in a small boat. What I remember most about his amazing story is how much reading they accomplished on the trip. When the sea is calm and stretches from horizon to horizon, uninterrupted time is an abundant blessing.

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 1:35 pm
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