Re-Post: Edgar Rice Burroughs and Masculine Narrative

[This is a much-revised version of an article that originally appeared some years ago at The Brussels Journal.]

Prologue: Contemporary popular culture is as jejune as contemporary politics, with which it is more or less indistinguishable: Strangled by political correctness and by contempt for form and etiquette, “pop” culture eats away like acid at what remains of courtesy and memory. But the past of popular culture – in literature, illustration, and the movies – has much nourishment to offer. One of the most widely read authors of the Twentieth Century, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 – 1950), had a penetrating insight concerning the health of the body politic and the positive relation of a vital culture to its founding traditions. The author of Tarzan (1912) and its many sequels, the inventor of the extraterrestrial sword-and-sandals romance, ex-cavalryman, admirer of the Apache and the Sioux, anti-Communist, anti-Nazi, self-publishing millionaire entrepreneur, religious skeptic, “Big-Stick” patriot, Southern California real-estate baron, sixty-year-old Pacific-Theater war correspondent, Burroughs has, with a few ups and downs, maintained an audience from his authorial debut in 1912 to the present day, nearly sixty-five years after his passing. Burroughs has a place in the culture wars, standing as he does for the opposite of almost everything advocated by the elites of the new liberal-totalitarian order. I offer, in what follows, a modest assessment of Burroughs’ work.

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The Abomination of Desolation of the Marital Altar

The Eucharist is a participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. But then likewise a true wedding is a participation in the Sacrifice at Golgotha.[1] The bed of marriage is properly an altar, where bride and groom offer their lives in a total sacrifice, joining and thereby engendering a new and larger organism.

When Paul says, “I beseech ye, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” [Romans 12:1], he refers to the whole and perfectly general motion of the Christian toward his Savior and Lord, howsoever expressed: whether in priesthood, or martyry, or marriage – or at Mass.

The rites of the altar – the bed, the table, the throne – are the basis of society: “Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.” And, vice versa: where there is no altar, there is no civilization; no cult, no culture; no culture, no polis.

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The pastoral exception, the Magisterium of the moment, and the end of Catholic marriage

Recently, I mentioned fighting other Catholics over gay “marriage” and similar issues. What is especially maddening about them is their tendency to affirm the doctrinal question in a technically minimal way, but then to articulate a pastoral exception so broad that it devours the doctrinal rule. Yes, of course gay “marriage” is a grave moral evil and a mockery of divinely-ordained matrimony; but we mustn’t say so out loud! We might offend someone, and it’s hardly very Christian to do that, now is it? And meanwhile you shouldn’t order your life or act in any way as if you believe gay “marriage” is evil, because Christ calls us to love one another in a way higher than mere doctrinal correctness, and –

Well, you can see the problem. Are there any limits to the “pastoral exception”? None that are typically spoken of, certainly none that are evident to me. The result of this line of thinking is a world where gay “marriage” in the abstract is accepted to be a moral evil, even if no particular gay “marriage” can be said to be.

We are seeing this already in anticipation of the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which certain elements in the Church (evidently with at least some sympathy on the part of the Holy Father) desire to make into an occasion to (very quietly) affirm the Church’s ancient teachings on the indissolubility of marriage while (very publicly and aggressively) relaxing the disciplines that support the lived reality of those teachings; in other words, to canonize the current arrangement of practical lawlessness in the administration of the Sacraments and to formalize the Church’s heretofore merely material complicity in adultery. It’s hard to say what direction the Synod will go in, of course, but the trend here is not encouraging. It is very possible that, by this time next year, the Church will have automated the American annulment factory and exported it to the entire world, and that divorce-for-any-reason-or-none-at-all will become, if not doctrinally acceptable, tolerated with a knowing wink and nudge.

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There’s No Such Thing as Women

Retortion is a beautiful thing.

A correspondent of our fellow orthospherean blogger and valued commenter Joseph of Arimathea has noticed that if latter-day feminism is correct in its assertion that sex is nothing but a social construct, like language – this being why feminists like to call it by the linguistic term, “gender,” rather than the proper biological term, “sex” – then *the female sex does not actually exist.* All appearances to the contrary, there is no such thing, really, as a female.

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Advice to the Single Young Man

Abstract

I argue here that most men should attempt to marry, for several basic reasons. First, marriage is necessary for the survival of a people. Second, men (and women) need to be a part of a good order if they are to live well and a good social order includes marriage. And three, men were designed for leadership, as they are more attuned to the practical application of truth and justice, and are more able to impose their will on a situation, than women are.

This essay does not refer much to Christianity. Of course, all men and women should be Christians. But that is a subject for other essays.

Introduction

Throughout our Western Civilization there is a crisis of marriage. Not enough marriages occur. Homosexual pseudo-marriage is causing (and reflecting) extreme moral confusion and devaluing real marriage. Many people marry later in life than is healthy for them and for their children. Many fewer babies are born per woman (married or not) than is healthy for our nation. And many children are no longer raised properly, that is, with a father to provide masculine order and authority and a mother at home most of the time to supervise the children.

So what can be done to make things better? And who’s at fault?

The basic answer to the less important question, the second question, is this. In the immediate sense, and with exceptions acknowledged, it’s more the fault of women than of men. Men, by nature, are always seeking relationships with women, but women do not always seek relationships with men. Therefore womankind is always the ultimate factor determining whether relationship occurs.

But in a broader sense, marriage is in crisis because our entire society is in crisis. America is not a basically healthy nation in which, for some mysterious reason, marriage is failing. No, American society is fundamentally and radically disordered, and one manifestation of this disorder is that marriage is generally no longer done correctly, or even adequately. The proper way to do marriage is rarely taught, and when it is, the teaching is often rejected. Continue reading

Sacraments: A Simple Explanation for Children

Well, for young people, anyway. In what follows, I visualized my daughter at about age 16.

Daughter:       Daddy? Can I ask you a question?

Father:            Sure, sweetie pea. What is it?

Daughter:       Well, you know the Baptism at Church this morning?

Father:            Yeah. That was a cute baby. Too bad about his mother’s dress. Good thing that baby spit up is such good clean stuff; it almost always comes out pretty well.

Daughter:       Yeah. I thought she handled it fairly well. I like Baptisms. Something always goes wrong, but they always turn out well in the end. They make everyone in the congregation so happy. And it’s not just because people like babies, although that’s part of it. I mean, it’s that plus the fact that they are always a bit spooky, even when the baby cries or the godparents don’t get the words right. Especially the bit about the baby joining in Christ’s eternal priesthood.

Father:            I love that part! It’s always so amazing to me; as if I can see a whole everlasting adventure, a mighty kingship in Heaven, exploding out into the future from such a tiny little body, with no end or limit. And it always reminds me of my own eternal priesthood, too.

Daughter:       Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you about.

Father:            What do you mean?

Daughter:       Well, how does the Baptism work? I mean, how do the water and the words make me a priestess? How do they change me, or make me immortal? I mean, I don’t even remember my Baptism.

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Why all the Self-Esteem Talk?

My area of the country has an FM music station that advertises itself as “family-friendly.” It plays nothing but the latest Christian rock songs and although it has no commercials, it intersperses the music with vaguely Christianoid happy talk. Apparently it is sponsored by a consortium of Evangelical churches. The rest of my family enjoys it to a certain extent, so I have no choice but to listen from time to time.

One day, I heard one of their station breaks say approximately the following:

Children love it when their parents tell them how great they are! Call us and record an affirmation of your child that we can broadcast, and don’t forget to build up your child today by telling him how great he is!

Certainly it is good to commend your child for a job well done. And parents should generally be positive toward their children. But there is no mention here of waiting for the child to do something praiseworthy. Just tell them they’re great, out of the blue.

Typical postmodern drivel, but it caused me to consider why self-esteem has caught on as one of the important concepts of our age. I think one reason is that modern life is officially nihilistic—albeit nihilism with a happy face painted on it—and naturally children respond with despair, at least when they grow old enough to notice the nihilism. Continue reading

Sex Matters

The modern instinct is to treat sex as a private matter that is of no real consequence to the body politic, and thus no legitimate concern of the sovereign, or of the public. Against this conservatives argue that sex has all sorts of important consequences for the health and welfare of the body politic, whether demographic, epidemiological, economic, pedagogical, or cultural, so that sexual morality matters to the polis a very great deal, and is therefore a fit concern both of the sovereign and the people.

These sorts of pragmatic objections to liberal social and sexual mores do tell, of course, and heavily. But they don’t begin to get at the immense importance of sex in the long run – the really, really long run, under which the whole history of the universe is like an evening gone.

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World without Men: A Novel of Totalitarian Lesbiocracy

When I teach my course on science fiction at SUNY Oswego, I concentrate on classic texts of the highest literary merit – those by Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, and Ray Bradbury.  When I pursue my lifelong hobby I am less selective.  When I discover an unknown paperback title in a second hand bookshop, I frankly judge the item by its cover while where content is concerned I hope for the best.  Most of the mouldering paperbacks fall short of memorability.  Occasionally, however, a jewel appears among the rubble, a short story or novel more or less forgotten that, for one reason or another, merits contemporary re-visitation.  One such, which I encountered again three or four years ago after a lapse of decades, is Charles Eric Maine’s World Without Men (1958), a novel about the long-term implications of birth control, abortion, and the so-called sexual revolution that treats these matters in a bold and prescient way.

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