Restoring the Ruins

“‘The West’ . . . was born from the telling of one sacred story — a garden, an apple, a fall, a redemption — which shaped every aspect of life: the organisation of the working week; the cycle of annual feast and rest days; the payment of taxes; the moral duties of individuals; the attitude to neighbours and strangers; the obligations of charity; the structure of families; and most of all, the wide picture of the universe — its structure and meaning, and our place within it.

The West, in short, was Christendom. But Christendom died. If you live in the West now, you are living among its ruins. Many of them are still beautiful — intact cathedrals, Bach concertos — but they are ruins nonetheless. And when an old culture built around a sacred order dies, there will be lasting upheaval at every level of society, from the level of politics to the level of the soul. The shape of everything — family, work, moral attitudes, the very existence of morals at all, notions of good and evil, sexual mores, perspectives on everything from money to rest to work to nature to the body to kin to duty — all of it will be up for grabs. Welcome to 2021.” Paul Kingsnorth~

It might be hard to find a portion of work that better sums up our part of the world at this place in time than the above two paragraphs. Kingsnorth hits a bullseye as he sums up what the West was, and what we are today.

We wonder how we got here, how we got here so fast, but the decline was subtle and slow. From my childhood, I remember dressing a certain way for church or school, having no trouble finding movies that reinforced the ideas of good and evil, watching evening newscasts that rejected ugly, slanted, or illogical discourse, hearing political commentary capable of reaching an audience of broad perspectives. Our milk cartons advised us to attend our church or synagogue this weekend.

We point to moments. It was that election. It was this event. But the starting point of decline is impossible to pinpoint. History moves from moment to moment as we plan what’s for dinner, what to do on Saturday evening, and where to go on vacation next summer.

Yet, here we are among the ruins of our previously Christian culture.

Where to begin to rebuild?

We begin by feeding souls.

The Gospel is the obvious place to start. But the foundations that once helped Americans easily comprehend God’s truth have crumbled away. That bridge needs rebuilding, restoring.

To begin that rebuilding, churches and individuals can help families, single parents, kids struggling to find their way, perhaps with no one showing them a functional way forward.

That way requires some training–us showing others how to do things. I don’t mean an education that leads to specific employment later on. But learning leading to a satisfying life of doing, of action.

Cultivating relationships, developing skills like cooking, playing a sport or a musical instrument–work of a sort that someone can point to and say: “I can do that.”

Some people can’t say that very often today. Being able to say that is important.

And what can we do to enhance literacy around us? And why does literacy matter?

John Wesley opined that “A reading people will always be a knowing people.” Henry Peter Brougham said, “Education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive.”

Knowing where we’ve come from helps us understand where our place and time will lead us. The past shows us how we got to our place today and how to get to a new place, a better one.

What can we do?

We can ask God to show us whom we can help, who wants to learn, who is searching for help. His answer may call me to help a neighbor and you to volunteer. He may call us both to donate books to a ministry that reaches out to those in need of soul-feeding–to donate food–to feed soul and body.

It’s up to us to show people “the wide picture of the universe — its structure and meaning, and our place within it.”

Civilizations build bridges–and rebuild them–one stone at a time.

Where will you place your piece of rock to rebuild the ruins around us?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Really Good Weird Story

“They were my bedtime stories,” my brother told me once of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

I imagine our Dad retelling the passage when Achilles dragged Hector’s body around the city of Troy for seven days and then saying, “Good night. Sleep well.”

Of course, there is much more to Homer’s works. For Western Civilization, Homer helped define what it means to be a hero.

But my favorite part of this remembrance is how Dad got the stories, to begin with.

Dad was 13 and one of 11 children recently orphaned. Some of the children were already grown. Others went to live with their grandmother. Dad found a home with two women who needed someone to do the man jobs around the house.

Division of labor by gender was big in the past.

One day he discovered his hostesses taking down curtains and washing windows. He asked what he could do to help and received this reply.

“This is women’s work, George. Go outside and play.”

But playmates were no longer around. He wandered off to the local library and inquired of the librarian for “some good books.”

She gave him Homer’s classics.

From Alan Jacobs: “To see the art of our ancestors can be an incredibly powerful thing; but we want also, we can’t help but want also, the human voice, to hear those who came before us speak to us.”

Jacobs points out that we hear those who speak our hearts, but we also learn from those who are different from us. The same in some ways but different from us is what we find in the writings of the past.

Even the story of dad’s guardians sending him away rather than inviting him into “women’s work” teaches us something of what the past was.

Learning about the past can lead us to ask how we got from there to here.

I’m finishing The Black Ships Before Troy with two groups of sixth- through eighth-graders.

I tell them that the Greeks didn’t marry the women they carried off after sacking a city. They didn’t settle into a life of domestic partnership.

And marriage wasn’t the primary life relationship for the ancients. The friendship between men was their top relational concern–as we see in the story of Achilles and Patroclus.

In class, I get to explain what the world was like before Christ–and how it changed for the better because He walked here on earth.

I explain that social groups become civilizations when they become writers. When oral traditions, stories, laws, and in the case of the Bible, inspiration take a written form.

Even so, we continue to pass stories down both orally and through writing.

My great-niece in Texas is teaching Homer’s works to her students. She is four generations removed from Dad.

And the story goes on from thousands of years ago.

But it won’t end here.

A seventh-grader last week couldn’t contain his enjoyment as we discussed Homer’s tales.

“This is a really good weird story,” he said.

Good enough to pass on to his own children someday?

And then he’ll tell them to sleep well.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”