Page 4, 29th August 1941

29th August 1941
Page 4
Page 4, 29th August 1941 — CIVILIZATION AND BARBARISM

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People: Hitler, Arnold Lunn


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Victory Over Hitler Will Not Suffice This Time

ST. IGNATIUS has laid it down that the Christian purpose of conversation is that the truth may appear and not that one side should get the better of the other. We should like to try to apply this excellent rule to the discussion which Mr. Arnold Lunn started some weeks ago in regard to the proper attitude of British Catholics to the war. Nothing indeed could be more unfortunate at the present time than that Catholics should appear to be seriously divided about the moral issues of the war, more especially—as we feel certain is the case in this instance—if those Catholics are at bottom in agreement.

MR. LUNN'S CASE LET us try to put Mr. Lunn's case as fairly as we can: Mr. Lunn sees the war as a struggle between civilization and barbarism. And he interprets that phrase thus. Great Britain and the Powers, parties and people associated with her, whatever their faults, are fighting to preserve freedom and the decent way of life, as between men and men and nations and nations. As a Catholic Mr. Lunn is especially concerned with the protection of religious freedom as enjoyed by Catholics under British and American institutions. Hitler, under two heads, constitutes a violent threat to all that Mr. Lunn, as a Catholic and an Englishman. holds dear. As a pan-German, Hitler wants German world-domination. As a Nazi dictator Hitler wants a tyrannic power .that is contrary to Christian teaching and which has been proved in fact to be bitterly hostile to Christianity. The combination of Hitler's pan-Germanism with his Nazism means that Christianity and civilization all over the world are threatened and that the cause of Britain today is coincident with the cause of Christianity.

Therefore, says Mr. Lunn, it is no use bothering our heads about anything else for the time being. Let us indeed"register our formal protests against anything that is grossly immoral or unpleasant in our own country or in the way in which it may wage war, for, after all, our country is very far from being a Christian country or a perfectly governed one (as is shown time and again in Mr. Lunn's own writings); but at the present time we must concentrate on waging the war against Hitlerism to the bitter end. Let us not risk weakening that cause by underlining its inevitable defects; let us Christians, above .all, do all we can to bring home to our countrymen the religioug and moral issues at stake; and let us persuade Christians all over the world as to the critical nature of the fight from the religious and moral points of view.

THE ROOTS OF THE WAR WE said that Mr. Lunn sees the war as a struggle between civilization and barbarism. Our suggestion is that unless it becomes this it will only prove to be the prelude to other and worse wars, international and civil, and Christian hope for the future will not lie in our victory. This time we cannot afford the luxury of supposing that because we are fighting a barbaric creed victory will automatically usher in a better age. That, it will be recalled, was the pious hope of H. G. Wells and his friends last time. If we want to beat what Hitler stands for, we must not only defeat Hitler but also destroy in ourselves the seeds of totalitarian tyrannies, whether of the Left or of the Right. Let us look at it in this way. Mr. Lunn will grant us that this war is of a different character from previous wars. His own claim that it is a war between barbarism and civilization implies this. Now we should contend—though it would be impossible to demonstrate the fact in so short a space—that the fundamental causes of the war are to be found ih the attempt of Western man in the last two hundred years or so to find a governing way of life, an idea, a faith. that can take the place of that Christian order which was smashed by the Renaissance and Reformation. Probably Mr. Lunn would admit that the dominant motives of this new substitute-faith could be described roughly as " wealth for the greedy, power for the ambitious and pleasure for the masses." Doubtless these have been dominant motives since the beginning of the world, but the loss of any effective belief in religion released the brake that normally keeps such motives in check. Without attempting to trace the long and complex sequence of causes, let us admit that a culture dominated by these postChristian ends will sooner or later cave-in and become involved in a terrible struggle between rival groups of self-seekers. Or if Mr. Lunn will not admit this, let him admit that a good Christian might believe this and find the best explanation of a world-war in this. (The encyclical Divini Redemptoris is largely concerned with these effects of the rejection by man of a " universal norm Of morality ".) HITLER'S CHALLENGE

IF all this be the case it does not, of course. follow that we can

simply take it that all parties in such a war are equally guilty, nor can we disregard the moral quality of the immediate causes, still less the immediate effects of the outcome of the war. Thus in the present case there is no getting away from the fact that recurrent unsatisfied Prussian nationalism—a special evil in itself—cleverly exploiting the social dissatisfaction of the people of Germany, has taken advantage of its opportunities to challenge the dominating wealth, power and high standard of life for which Britain and France have stood. Hitler seeks with his conception of a German order, built up on race, and with German discipline to take advantage of the relative weaknesses in this respect of the liberal-socialism of his enemies. Few people outside Germany would suppose that this is the sort of change needed. And, as Mr. Lunn has so often pointed out, one of its effects would be to destroy Christian liberty. under the pretence of saving the world from the effects of having disregarded the Christian order. The cure is clearly worse than the disease. But 'if, while agreeing that we are fighting and rightly fighting barbarism, we hold that the real explanation of the war is to be found in the general rebellion against the law of God, we cannot possibly be satisfied with the mere defeat of that barbarism. The reason is that this victory would leave the world in the same immoral state as before and that therefore, whatever superficial changes might be made in frontiers, distribution of armaments or economic wealth, a yet worse outbreak of barbarism must inevitably follow sooner or later.

The plain fact is—if we are right in attributing the war to these fundamental causes—that the very simplest motives of patriotism, self-preservation and the hope of a happier future for ourselves and our children demand that we should conquer, not only the aggressive barbarian, but the conditions under which he flourishes. And for the Christian there can be no two minds about the nature of those conditions. They exist when the false worldly values of wealth, power and pleasure, with all the lying, envy and selfishness in nations and people to which they lead are substituted for the moral values taught by Christianity. .

Indeed, the clearer we are about the issues underlying this conflict, the issues of civilization against barbarism, the more important and urgent it becomes to see that we fight all barbarism and that we strive to preserve all that is civilized. Another chance will not be given to us. And it is quite useless to put off the day when we go into retreat and search our souls. If we will not do it under pressure of danger and with the evidence of the results of our sins all around us. we most certainly shall not start when that danger is removed and some kind of temporary security is apparently patched up.

THE EXAMPLE OF FRANCE A S it is not easy to put this matter in a brief article, it will be well " if we give a concrete example of what we mean. We shall take an example about which Mr. Lunn has taken us to task, the question of Vichy France. Because Main is not on our side. Mr. Lunn considers it unpatriotic of us to sympathise with his position. Petain, he says, is helping to delay our victory and he is, therefore, endangering Christianity. We, on the other hand, point out that Main, whatever the rights and wrongs of the armistice, has sought to take advantage of France's tragedy to try to re-establish his country on sound religious, moral, social and economic lines. In doing this, at any rate, he has not served Germany, for the restoration of religious and moral values in France can scarcely be interpreted as a help for a Power which, we agree. is anti-Christian under its present leadership. Moreover, there is no reasonable doubt that Main has tried to foster a sound and traditional French patriotism based, not on the false values of revenge or economic domination, but on the sound values of love for the land. pride in his country's history and mission, the development of French culture. Nothing could be less pro-German or Nazi. And he has tried to do this in the face of prodigious difficulties. If then we believe, as we do, that a happier future for Europe depends upon a reversal of moral values, we cannot but ask our countrymen to study the experiment with interest and sympathy and to learn for themselves what might be done—in each according to the circumstances and national tradition—in other countries and in Europe generally. We cannot but think that we are making a more positive Christian contribution in drawing attention to this phenomenon than in simply echoing the usual vituperations of Main because he finds himself under the shadow of our enemy. And we believe that it is a much more patriotic contribution, because there is good reason to think that Petain could have held out much longer against Germany and false Frenchmen had he felt that Britain understood and sympathised with her old ally in her tragic position.


AND so it is with many other concrete questions upon which we are critical : pagan education, the pretences of democracy, universal toleration of evil as well as good, the strengthening of the revenge motif, increasing hatred. our unwillingness to disturb the present financial and social system, the unguarded Russian alliance and press adulation of the Soviet, lack of pledges about our use of victory, increasingly uncritical propaganda, neglect to preserve and foster the family unit and the imperilling of it by hasty wartime measures and the like. It is not that we think Britain worse than many other countries in these respects—very often she is much better. and infinitely better than the Prussian. But these and many other matters are linked up with the moral quality of our victory. It is because the defence of civilization—we might almost say the re-making of civilization—should be at stake in this struggle that everyone of these matters is every bit as urgent as victory over barbarism. If we overlook them, if as Christians we fear to press them lest we be called carping and cheerless critics, we are actually helping to lower the moral quality of our cause. By so doing we degrade that cause so that it ceases in fact to be what Mr. Lunn calls it, a struggle between barbarism and civilization, and becomes a mere international war between aggressor and aggressed, a war that must indeed be won lest worse befall, but a war that must sooner or later 'cad to another and worse war. And we do not hesitate to say that, fine as have been the achievements of our country and the wartime valour of our countrymen, there remains an immense amount to be done, before we can feel assured that victory itself will be truly fruitful. And surely the special job of a Christian paper is to underline this. .

Mr. Lunn appears to be content with the survival of negative tolerance for Christianity in a world that may be worse than the prewar world—and we agree that even this is better than the fate of Christianity under Nazi domination. But we really doubt whether in the long run it will prove much better. Our conviction is that Christianity and a great deal else that we value will be swept away from Western Europe if we prove unable to rise to the full implications of this struggle which, because it is the effect of false moral values throughout Europe for many generations, demands the beginnings of a spiritual and moral revolution back to the Christian roots of that civilization which, as Mr. Lunn so often says, is at stake. We cannot doubt that Mr. Lunn agrees with us in this.

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