Christianity and the Land—Vil
by Michael de la Bedoyere
"pEAC'E will be restored to the
world, but I shall not see that, and other Mings will come to pass of which I shall not see the end. When peace has been established in the world, many things will be changed. The greatest of all industries is war. The manufacture of aeroplunes, the exploitation of mines, iron works, all this will diminish. There will be no more of these great factories where morality suffers and dies. Workers will he obliged io go back to the land. Work on the land will receive a great impetus. Land will became very dear
again. When peace is restored to the world industry will be reduced to smaller proportions and it will remain so."
With all respects to the distinguished experts who have contributed to this series of articles, one may feel that this simply-stated prophecy of the saintly Pere Lamy, who died about ten years ego, sums up best Christian commonsense and Christian hope, in regard to ,he I am always surprised by the dogmatism of those who mock the " back-to-thelenders ••for being hopelessly impractical —just as I am sometimes shocked by the harshness of our rural Christians toward:, the industrial world and its people.
If ever there was a time when it was unsafe to rely on the permanence of the exisiing order it is to-day. Indeed, the obvious probabilities are thy we shall alt be glad enough before we die to lie on our bellies (metaphorically, I hope) and suck what little nourishment and comfort we may from mother earth. For to the disorder of superficial peace has been added for the second time in a quarter-of-a-century the wholesale destruction and confusion of war. And whatever the fortunes of war, our large population nourished and comforted for generations, largely by usury-bought imports from the four quarters of the globe, will be left to fend for itself with scarcely a penny (genuine or false) to its name.
P.M. Has Said So The Prime Ministei has said so, admitting in so many words that America, like God, has but to cease for a moment from conserving us for our island to be over-run by our enemies. For the time being we must indeed concentrate on the complex industrialised organisation or defence, while America supplies much of the raw material and much of our food, but the sheerest instinct of self-preservation should be forcing us to reorganise out agriculture so that it may become, as near as may be, self-sufficient and save us to-morrow from actual starvation. And what little credit we may still possess after the war will be sorely needed to help build up an agricultural economy which will demand at least ten years for its proper development.
And since we have a hose urbanised pbpulation, half of whom may well be out of work very shortly, it would seem to be equal commonsense to organise our agriculture in that intensive and natural fashion which will absorb the highest proportion possible of our people
Yet even now books by " experts " and the most reputable papers are still putting forward solutions of the agricultural problem conceived in terms of the nineteenthcentury free trade world that is even deader than Queen Anne. The only consideration in the mind of these writers is that aviculture should pay—not. ot course, in terms of human and national welfare, but in terms of a money market which has no sort of interest in quality hut only measures goods by the quantities of dollars or sterling they will fetch according to a supply and demand determined by the power of the greediest.
And this, despite the glaring truth that agriculture has been squeezed and martyred almost to death by this very philosophy.
They'd Better To complain Shut P will not go back
to the land, that you cannot expect them to do without the amenities of urban life, that we cannot maintain the same standard of life if the land comes first, that We' cannot put the clock bacic. . well, the only possible answer is, in the words of Carlyle: " By Gad, they'd better I" Nor do I see why Christians should be particularly perturbed by such a two of events, for disaster has long been written across the face of the modern world. If Christians in such numbers were not convinced that the basic dogma of Christianity is that the gates of hell will never prevail against the world. they wallet more easily read the signs of the times.
Let me say that I do not think that industrialism, as such, is evil and necessarily bound for a bad end, as some of our more fervent ruralists preach the trouble is surely that man has allowed himself to be mastered by industrialism and the temptations which it puts in his way, instead of mastering it.
Deification of Man I wonder whether our writers pay sufficient attention to the Coincidence of the industrial revolution with the deification of man They are, of course, connected, but man's self-adoration, to which the Reformation gave rise, might have gone a very long way even if scieece and invention had not revolutionised the techninue of social and economic life. In the same way man might have achieved a high degree of scientific
progress in a Christian age. But in fart loss of faith in God coincided with the attaining of immense powers over matter.
No wonder men completely lost •their heads throwing up every traditional decency in the struggle to achieve rapid and immense wealth, salving their consciences by the hope that all men could be given a ,.cushy " time in the new world of progress rind plenty.
It does not seem to me inconceivable that
11 society with a living faith in Christian values weld reap honest advantage from the machine. the division of labour, cen tralised control over a whnie people's economic organisation, because such a society would see to it that these technical powers (after all, God-given) were psed to make man a more profitable servant and not abused to make profits 'for those with the lightest fingers arid the lightest consciences.
Protection of the Person
But this Christian .control would set limits to industrial expansion in exactly the same way as Christian moderation sets limits to perfectly good appetites by insisting that they should remain in harmony with other needs and appetites. And certainly the first consideration of such a Christian industrialism would he the protec tion of the person and the family. No person can be a person, nor any family be a family, unless there is action and reaction between it and the material objects which God has put into the world for man to live through and by. Moreover, that action
and -eaction must form a continpous story from birth to death and even froni generation to generation, so that some security and permanence not only for the person, but for the material objects which the person uses must be presuppesed,
That is the meaning and importance of property. And a Christian society, however much it may insist upon social ownership of those industrial concerns which of their nature constitute monopolies, will even more strongly insist on the personal and family ownership of everything that is best divided and dependent upon personal care and interest Of these by far the most important is land. Therefore no Christian industrialism could evei go so far as to let the land be abused Ot neglected on the excuse of making it pay higher dividends or of nationalising the national economy.
The results both ot the abuse and the neglect of the land have been made very clear by previous writers, but this prostituting of God's greatest material gift to man is only one example of a universal disorder in which wealth, power and pleasure for the quickest grabber (with smss for the rest who can make themselves T nuisance) are the purpose of our economy. The only change that has come about in recent years is that the effective unit tends more and more to be the greedy and ambitious State rather than the greedy and ambitious individual (who now tends to hide behind the State) with the consequence that the struggle is raised from the plane of the haggling of market to that of international War. And nothing could serve these ends of modern economy better than an industrialism which so easily lends itself to the obliteration of the proper 'elation between natural wealth and wait's responsibility for his OMR *bin ft On here and hereafter, through the rightful use of that wealth.
Should we be surprised that this whole.salc abuse of man and God's gifts to man e crumbling under our very eyes? We may even count it a spiritual blessing that it is
too late io patch it up. Our chance has now come.
The post-war world, and this country in particular, will have the choice of three ways.
By a ruthless despotism backed by overwhelming force sonic sort of artificiat order can be enforced, and the methods familiar to us in war economy can be carried over to the post-war period in order to save Europe from
starvation and anarchy. If we lose the war, such a totalitarianism will be called a " Right " totalitarianism; if we win it, it may well become a •'left h' totalitarianism.
The second way is the way' of drift with sestesmen imagining that the old order can be patched. up It must lead to chaos or further wars.
The third way is our way, the Christian way. It is the way prophesied by Pere Lamy. Man, content to enjoy the first and essential gifts of God in the way of food and shelter and hard work because these alone are necessary, will once again make the land, together with the small entersuises necessary for the making and exchange of essential goods, the foundation of economy. He will not of course despise or reject the proper exploitation for the common advantage of modern inventions and modern • industrial technique which society as a whole will slowly build up again—but in subservience to man's first and most important needs, spiritual, intellectual and material.
Small Chance . . But
Is there any chance of this happening?
It certainly seems a small one, yet it is the sober truth that the only other choices are despotism or chaos This, it seems to me, gives the real measure of the importance of those Christian thinkers who are urging a return to Christian values again, and bf these not the least are those who are reminding us in season and out of it of the proper place of the land in a sane civilisation.
Are they impractical? Are they listing in a world of dreams? Are they cranks? Surely the plain truth is that they and they
alone are the hard-headed realists. They are not gifted with second sight, nor is their perspicacity greeter than that of others. They have simply stuck to the truth, the truth which the Church has always preached, the truth which sticks out a mile when we seriously ask ourselves how Christian values apply 1.0 work and economy.
All that has happened is that we are now on the eve of the disaster which must come sooner of later if there's a God in the Heavens, They have always spoken the truth, but to-day the truth is rushing at us like a mighty wind. Even so nine men out of ten, sheltered io their jerry-built houses that to-morrow must be swept away, remain unaware of it.
What Shall We Do?
What shall we do about it? What do men do when they hear of a prairie tire that threatens to devastate the country? They warn their neighbours, and they plead with them if they will not listen. And they hack down trees and clear spaces over which the fire inay not leap. In the same way we must warn and we must prepare.
Sonic of us want to go back to the land
and there is certainly no harm in that. Indeed, just as we might take a somewhat selfish pleasure in the notion that Catholics will increase proportionately in number because they refuse to practise birth-control, so we might watch with satisfaction the increasing settlement on the land of Catholics who will thus be much more securely fitted to stand up against the disasters to come. But this is essentially by the way, and for niost of us it is not practicable.
Our warnings and out preparations must go much deeper. We must preach and teach the Truth, the truth about God, man and the world as Christianity has revealed It to be and at. the near future will prove it to be, the truth about how these Christian values apply here and now to the crumbling world around us, and the truth about how
• .ve can yet be saved if only we are prepared to build again and to live according to God's design
IR pie long run, all Christian action, whether it be in the politickl ot cultural or social field, boils down to intelligent worship of God. We live in an age when the masses are carried oil their feet hy false propaganda appealing to half-education. With a shout oh exultation they follow theit leaders down thc precipice like the Gadarene swine I do not think that a small-holding on the edge will do much to stop the rush. One thing alone can, and that is the Spirit of God illuminating and regenerating ow people.
Unfortunately, most of us Cathohc, auein to be fur more strongly, illuminated Fr; the world than by God. What, then,
earl we expect of others? The plough and the Cross, the Jana and the Liturgy . . and then again, the Cross and the machine the Liturgy and the factory —when a sufficient number of people can see and live die circle cmnplete, there be hope again for the world. Not before.
Those who preach the truth to a world that will not listen must always be impractical in the eyes of that world. The tragedy is tleat they are only seen to have been the really practical people in the annals of his tory when it is much too late. Meanwhile they are condemned to the thankless, but in truth highly practical, work of warning and warning again, with a prayer in their heart that God may have mercy and enlighten men before they sutler the full consequences of their stupidity