May 2003

MAY 12

 

Across Time and Space

 

In all of history there have been only two philosophies that can truly be called 'transnational' or 'supranational'; that is, they appeal to peoples across space and time, across national and racial and cultural and linguistic divides. These are communism and Catholicism, though many have claimed this mantle.

Islam certainly has. It sees the world as two entities: the world of Islam and the world of war. It admits to no barriers to the propagation of faith. Eventually all will be Islam. For this reason all competing ideas, such as communism and Catholicism---all of Christianity for that matter---must not be allowed in any Islamic nation that takes this presumption more than allegorically. But Islam has ceased to expand; indeed it ceased doing so almost 400 years ago. All growth now is merely among believers, and new converts are rare even in Africa, long hailed as an area ripe for Islamic penetration. Islam will never make inroads into the US or Japan or Latin America. It will exist where it is but in no other place. Indeed, it has been showing signs of decay for several centuries.

Another failure in the supranational arena is the United Nations. Its idea was based upon the death of nationalism, that all nations would be willing to subsume petty local interests into grand worldly ones. This idea works in families and small communities, only rarely in nations and even less so internationally. Quick: name something---anything---upon which all nations agree. Name something upon which the five permanent members of the Security Council agree. Take your time. 

Non-Catholic Christian denominations also pretend to be supranational; though however true their doctrines---and for all I know one of them might be 'the one true faith'---they have never exhibited much strength or appeal beyond their core geographic area.  So we have Pennsylvania pacifists as Quakers, residents of Utah as Mormons, Englanders as Anglicans, southerners as Fundamentalists, oddball cranks as Christian Scientists, pests as Jehovah's Witnesses, Greeks and Russians and Romanians for their respective Orthodox churches. And this principle applies to other faiths: Jews do not proselytize, Hindus live in India, Baha'is inhabit prisons in Iran. Imagine a tribe of Sikhs living around Hudson Bay or a Peruvian Anglican and you will see what I mean.

We are left with the doctrines of Marx and those of Catholicism. Avatars and acolytes of these two faiths are found in every country. Both competing faiths have been very successful in proselytizing and converting. 

Marxism, as I have written before, is a religion; or more precisely, a counterfeit religion.  It renders unto its believers all the promises of Catholicism except eternal life---which, being materialistic, it cannot admit at any rate. It survives only where religious belief is weak or non-existent, such as in Western European governments and college faculties in the US. Like Islam, but more effectively, it persecutes all rival ideas, especially Catholicism. Like Islam, it advances by the sword. Like Islam, no nation has ever voted such a regime into power. Much more so than Islam communism has found adherents everywhere. It promises not eternal but earthly salvation.

The word 'catholic' simply means 'universal,' as in something that is suited for all humanity in every place and time: Romans of the first century, Germans of the 4th, Africans and Franks of the 5th, Anglo-Saxons of the 6th, Vikings of the 10th, Aztecs and Japanese of the 16th, and so on. It advances not by violence but by martyrdom and invitation. (And please let us hear nothing of those conquistadors of the 16th century who converted 'at the point of a sword.' People forced into such belief abandon it at the first opportunity.) Everywhere it exists either openly or clandestinely, building churches, converting men and adding to its list of martyrs. It promises an eternity of joy, even if one's earthly life is a bit painful.

Communism appears very creaky at the opening of the 21st century. Its greatest redoubt, the USSR, has passed on, leaving only a few shabby tyrannies---Cuba and North Korea---and a bloated and corrupt thugocracy, China, to carry its torch. It is doubtful that any of these will exist in ten years.

Catholicism has taken some hits recently as well, as any look at the newspapers can show. But then, it has always suffered at the hands of the world. It is well used to suffering. Sometimes it revels in it. In fact it calls that part of the church it believes to be in Purgatory the 'Church Suffering.'  The earthly church is the 'Church Militant' and the Heavenly part is the 'Church Triumphant.' 

Communism likewise is so divided: suffering under capitalism; militant through the proletarian revolution; triumphant as the state 'withers away.' 

Both ideas exist simultaneously in the world, but they are mutually exclusive in the mind. Both ideas claim to have the true path to salvation and to lay claim to some sort of 'end of history.' But it needs to be said that Catholics who claim to be communists and communists who claim to be Catholics are confused, deluded or lying. 

If indeed there is coming an 'end of history' I will leave it to my reader to predict which of these two faiths will be there when it arrives.

 

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