As with all of Shakespeare's plays, Romeo and Juliet drips with memorable lines that have permeated the collective consciousness of our culture. For example, the line "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?" is familiar to nearly all and inspires a twinkle of familiarity and recognition even among the gruffly uncultured and functionally illiterate. People might not know or remember where the line comes from, but most will at least confirm having encountered it somewhere before.
Of all the notable lines Romeo and Juliet contains, "This shall determine that" remains the most memorable for me. They are the resolute words Romeo utters just before he commits himself to challenging Tybalt to avenge Mercutio's death.
ROMEO This day's black fate on more days doth depend;
This but begins the woe, others must end.
BENVOLIO Here comes the furious Tybalt back again.
ROMEO Alive, in triumph! and Mercutio slain!
Away to heaven, respective lenity,
And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!
Now, Tybalt, take the villain back again,
That late thou gavest me; for Mercutio's soul
Is but a little way above our heads,
Staying for thine to keep him company:
Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him.
TYBALT Thou, wretched boy, that didst consort him here,
Shalt with him hence.
ROMEO This shall determine that.
[They fight; TYBALT falls]
What makes this line so memorable for me is the fierce manner in which it presents a moment of decisiveness, unavoidability, and irrevocability. To borrow from two old clichés, this shall determine that represents an ultimate instance of gauntlet throwing and Rubicon crossing. A challenge has been issued and accepted and an irreversible step to a specific course of action has been taken.
In the pivotal scene Shakespeare pits two hot-headed, young, virile men against one another in a terminal showdown in Verona's dusty, sun-baked streets. The confrontation has three possible outcomes - either one or the other or both will die. A fourth outcome - both surviving the confrontation - is no longer on the table. This shall determine that reveals the naked moment when diplomacy fails and compromise recedes - that moment when making a final stand becomes the only way forward. All other feasible options have evaporated. One either fights and wins or dies trying.
I mention this line from Romeo and Juliet now because I believe we have arrived at a real this shall determine that juncture in history. Just as the fight between Romeo and Tybalt marks a turning point in Romeo and Juliet, I believe the events of the past three or four weeks have marked a turning point in the world.
The events to which I am referring cover the entire range of experience in this world. For the first time in a long time, it very much appears that everything within the scope of existence is being chiseled down to moments of decisiveness, unavoidability, and irrevocability. This shall determine that has become and will continue to become all encompassing. Everyone and everything will be forced into a veritable cascade of this shall determine that experiences - experiences in which diplomacy and compromise cease to be effective or viable options. Experiences in which confrontation will be the only choice. Experiences in which either one or the other or both must go.
The stage is already being overrun by teams of hotheaded Romeos and Tybalts all itching to seize the moment to propel their various agendas. The hotheaded understand the existential nature of what is transpiring at the moment, and they are rushing forward to ensure they fill any void the inevitable this shall determine that conflicts leave in their wake.
Within the framework of this shall determine that environment, the spiritual becomes glaringly predominant. Whatever happens in the material world is important, but the spiritual ramifications of these material events are even more so.
That is what I am focusing on personally. I am convinced that we have already faced and will continue to face many this shall determine that moments in the here and now - moments in which we will be forced to choose and act. Moments in which we must make decisive, unavoidable, and irrevocable decisions - decisions in which the outcome may very well be reduced to three options - either we or the challenge or both must go.
Unlike Romeo and Tybalt, we must not rush impetuously into these this shall determine that challenges when they confront us, for volatility and rashness will likely lead only to tragedy. And we must recognize that many of the challenges are beyond our scope of meaningful influence. We will be spectators rather than participants in many of the events that will surely transpire. Yet mere observation can teach us much provided we maintain the appropriate perspective and understand the underlying spiritual consequences of this determining that. But in other instances, we will be compelled onto the stage, forced to meet challenges head on - and we must remember to meet these challenges with faith, hope, and love.
How we respond to our own personal this shall determine that moments will resolve everything. If we respond correctly, the resolutions need not be tragic, even if we end up being the ones who go.
Bruce Charlton drew attention to a rather uncomfortable truth on his blog yesterday. The birdemic crisis has divided institutions into two stark categories: essential and inessential.
Essential institutions providing the basic necessities of life, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, etc., have been permitted to stay open.
Social-distancing measures have mandated that institutions that do not provide the basic necessities of life close their doors as part of the overall effort to reduce the spread of the birdemic virus.
This led Dr. Charlton to the following logical conclusion:
Ergo: Churches have been officially classified as inessential: declared so by the government; and their inessential nature is fully-agreed (without any peep of official resistance, or even reluctance, or demand for time-limit) by the church leadership.
In other words, churches around the West have basically declared that they place material considerations above spiritual considerations. They have also shown a perplexing willingness to bow down to and obey secular authority without the slightest protest.
As Dr. Charlton points out in his post, Christian churches have basically announced that for the duration of this virus lockdown, man can live by bread alone.
Of course not all Christians have a problem with the church closures. Most regard it is a prudent measure and are keeping the faith alive at home at the personal/family level. Put another way, the vast majority of Christians are looking to ride out the storm and will be more than happy to return to their respective churches when the birdemic blows over.
But here's a question - Is that the best course of action for a serious Christian to take?
This question started me thinking about the whole notion of the separation of church and state, that is the philosophic and legal tenets that designate the political distance between religion and the nation state. The principle of keeping an arm's length underpins the entire concept of separating church and state.
As I understand it, the idea is to keep the institutions separated from each other thereby ensuring a sense of political neutrality that allows for the functioning of various organized religious institutions with the underlying insistence that these religious institutions refrain from pushing whatever religious authority they possess onto the public sphere or, more specifically, onto the secular running of the state. By the same token, the state would refrain from encroaching upon the authority of the church within the religious sphere.
Although this sounds achievable in theory, the practice of church and state separation reveals some rather uncomfortable truths. The state had abandoned its position of neutrality long before the birdemic crisis erupted and has succeeded in encroaching upon the authority of the church in the religious sphere in many meaningful and fundamental ways. Christian churches, in turn, have tended to acquiesce to these secular and material encroachments, almost without fail. Conversely, they have rarely launched any religious encroachments against the state in return.
Simply put, the separation of church and state has more or less been a one-way street of the secular state impinging upon the church and the church capitulating to the secular state.
Rather than being neutral, the secular state has proven that it is fundamentally antithetical to the church. Conversely, the church has proven it is not fundamentally antithetical to the secular state.
At a higher level of analysis, the secular state is antithetical to God. If the church understands that the state is antithetical to it and does not respond to this opposition in an appropriate manner, then what is the church's real position on God?
Christian churches in the West were presented with a real and rare opportunity when the birdemic crisis broke out. After centuries of going along with and caving into the secular state, the churches were presented with a once-in-an-era opportunity to substantiate their legitimacy, validity, and authority. Put another way, they had a chance to prove themselves to their congregations and, most importantly, to God.
And they blew it.
The actions Christian churches have taken demonstrate one thing above all else - the separation between church and state is a sham. The church and the state are one - and in this most comfortable of unions, it is the religion of the state that rules.
State religion has decreed that man shall live on bread alone. By closing their doors to their congregations, churches have essentially confirmed the secular state's axiom.
Man shall indeed live on bread alone.
Serious Christians understand the opposite is true. Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Which is why all serious Christians need to question whether the mouth of God still resides within churches.
If not, then churches truly have become inessential.
Those who have been reading this blog for a while know I like to take long walks in the fields around the village in which I live. Though I encounter the odd dog-walker or cyclist every now and then, most of the time I am the only one walking the paths and tractor roads that carve up the parcels of wheat, corn, and canola.
Interestingly enough, this has changed over the past two weeks. Suddenly, the paths through the fields are teeming with people. Where I live, teeming means one or two dozen people, but still. Having no where else to go, my fellow villagers and those from neighboring settlements are discovering or rediscovering the simple pleasure of being out for a stroll on a cool, sunny, spring day.
I wonder if this will last after life returns to some semblance of 'normal', assuming it ever does.
That the Establishment and their crony governments around the world would be using the birdemic as a pretext for a massive power grab is a subject I addressed several times on this blog over the past few weeks (this post provides a good overall summary of what I perceived was happening the world over as the birdemic virus began to spread). The power grabs and soft totalitarian takeovers have been in full swing ever since I published that post nearly two weeks ago.
As far as I can tell, the most blatant power grab to date has happened in the country I now call home. A couple of days ago the Hungarian government voted to grant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the power to rule by decree with no end date.
Reactions to this ruling have been both revelatory and predictable. On the one hand, the EU and other liberal-globalist governments and organizations around the world are wailing about the death of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, fundamental values, and all the rest of it. On the other hand, those on the secular right are praising the news of Orbán's 'coronavirus coup' as a clear sign of globalism's decline in the face of rising nationalism.
The liberal/globalist reaction has been both foreseeable and hypocritical. Organizations like the UN and EU have lambasted Hungary and Orbán over backsliding on democracy, the rule of law, fundamental EU values, and human rights. These most recent protests essentially amount to little more than the liberal elite turning up the volume on the same song they have been singing about Hungary for nearly ten years. What makes the objections even more meaningless now is the uncomfortable fact that liberal/globalist governments all over the West are basically doing exactly what they are criticizing Orbán of doing. All countries in which the birdemic lockdowns have been imposed have become de facto dictatorships. The only difference between them and Hungary is this - the totalitarianism in Hungary is now de jure rather than de facto.
Secular rightists and secular nationalists appear to understand the de jure aspect of Hungary's liberal/globalist democracy-distancing and have been embracing it with open arms. Those on the secular right interpret Orbán's maneuver as a blow against the ruling progressive/liberal/globalist power structure. They also perceive it as a positive development against the Establishment, which has been using progressive, liberal, and democratic principles as a means through which to weaken nation states in order to usher in a one-world totalitarian government.
I share no accord with liberal/globalists. All liberals and globalists, whether secular or religious, are squarely rooted in Leftism; and since Leftism is so blatantly antithetical to Christianity, I cannot break bread with them.
The same holds true for secular rightists and secular nationalists. Though I am positively inclined to some of the tenets and beliefs the secular right promulgates, my affinity with them is limited by their own antithetical stance toward Christianity. To me, terms like right wing and left wing have become fundamentally meaningless.
In my view, only two realities exist here and now - you are either for God, or you are against God. Put another way, one is either religious or a Leftist. Secular rightists and secular nationalists are, obviously, not religious; hence, they are necessarily Leftitsts. Now people can pick on me all they want about faulty syllogisms and the like, but in the here and now, that is what Reality comes down to for me. Granted, rightists might be a great deal less Left than most Leftists, but at the most meaningful level they are still of the Left. At best they are the Reft or The Least Left.
This point is extremely crucial here and now, and will, in my opinion, become even more crucial in the coming weeks and months. Those who view the world from a religious perspective - more specifically from a Christian perspective - must not allow themselves to be tricked into regarding any possible secular rightist or secular nationalist gains in the coming weeks and months as being necessarily Good. Yes, secular gains on the right might include some good, but this does not immediately make them Good. We mustn't forget that secular nationalist advances are underpinned by purely material concerns. Put another way, they are prone to contain no foundation in the Divine, as Bruce Charlton points out in this must read post:
We should not be surprised if recent SJW/ Woke crusades - such as the Trans agenda, Global Warming, Western population replacement by mass migration - are simply thrown under the bus over the next few weeks and months.
The world may suddenly appear to be more (so-called) 'Right Wing'.
. . .
But this is not a good sign! - from any point of view. All it means is that the gloves are off, and the totalitarian agenda is being pursued under another and more effective justification: the Establishment posing as saviours from the masses gripped by abject fear of death.
[Establishment: You are all going to die horribly, unless you allow us to convert the world to North Korea. The Western Masses: Fine by us... Well, what are you waiting for? Get on with it already!]
The real agenda of the Establishment is not Leftism but evil . . .
This brings us back to the subject of Viktor Orbán's power to rule by decree. Well, I can tell you first hand that Hungary does suddenly appear to be more right wing, but as far as I can tell, this shift to the totalitarian right does not, as of yet, appear to be expressly rooted in the Divine.
Orbán's first official break with the liberal/globalist agenda began roughly six years ago and became rather glaring at the height of the 2015 migration crisis. At that time, Orbán touted illiberal democracy as an alternative to liberal/globalist world order epitomized by the EU. Though I supported Orbán's illiberal stance, I recognized the inherent limitations it contained.
A few years later, the Hungarian government made a rather dramatic shift in its rhetoric. Christian democracy replaced the term illiberal democracy. Orbán began to extol the virtue and necessity of Christianity and Christian culture, and indeed, many of his policies and laws - such as family support and childbirth programmes and a stance against Christian persecution - began to reflect Christian principles. It was at this time that I began to explore whether or not Viktor Orbán was in fact a real Christian leader.
Though I have found Orbán's initiatives impressive and, for the most part, Good, I also understand that purely secular governments had also enacted many of the same policies he was touting as Christian-inspired. Case in point, the former communist government in Hungary launched its own family support program and childbirth incentives in the 1970s. Yes, these too can be aligned with Christian principles, but it would be a stretch to claim that the communists were inspired to begin the programs in order to align themselves and their society with the Divine.
Secular nationalists welcome Orbán's sudden authoritarian power grab because it aligns perfectly with their own agenda. For them, there is no higher thing than nation. Any action that frees a nation from the tentacles of globalism and, thereby, ensures self-determination is viewed by secular nationalists as an ultimate good.
I accede - such actions do contain some good, but this in itself does not make them Good.
As of right now, I do not bemoan the loss of democracy because, for all intents and purposes, democracy has been hijacked and drained of all moral responsibility in nearly every place it is practiced. At best, democracy is little more than an abstraction - a cold, crushing system that offers little more than the illusion of participation in power and governance. One need look no farther than at what most Western democracies are currently doing with their trillion dollar bailout packages to understand who really runs democracy and what its real purpose is. I will go as far as to say that democracy itself is evil - that is, it has become, in every conceivable way, antithetical to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Thus, I shed no tears over the suspension of democracy.
Nonetheless, Orbán has used the current birdemic crisis to suspend democracy and grab power, just as nearly every other leader and government has used the birdemic to grab power. This in itself is certainly not Good. At the same time, this does not entail that leaders or governments that have not locked down their citizenry are Good by default. If that were the case, the country of Sweden - that bastion of progressiveness - is now one of the most virtuous countries on the planet.
That Orbán snatched the reigns of power on the flimsiest of excuses is inarguable - Hungary currently has fewer than 500 diagnosed coronavirus patients and a grand total of 16 deaths have been attributed to the virus. What Orbán intends to do with his newfound powers remains unclear.
I can nurture only one, faint hope at the moment - perhaps Orbán's moves have been guided by the Divine in some way. If they have, Hungary has a chance. Good can come of this.
However, if the Hungarian government's recent actions have been driven by nothing more than secular, material concerns . . . well . . .
For the time being, I am taking a guilty until proven innocent approach to the whole matter. That is, I am assuming the power grab was not Divinely inspired, which means I have become a citizen of a totalitarian, secular, right wing dream-come-true of a country.
And that, despite what secular nationalists may say, is definitely not Good.
Note added: One measure that was passed when Orbán was granted his decree was a stricter form of media regulation. The legislation allows up to five years of imprisonment for anyone who publishes false or distorted facts that alarm or agitate the public, or undermine the successful protection of the country. In light of this, I could theoretically face up to five years imprisonment for having written this post. I don't believe the government will come after me for this, but technically they could . . . but maybe that was always the case anyway.
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Blogs/Sites I Read
Bruce Charlton's Notions
Meeting the Masters
From The Narrow Desert
No Longer Reading
Fourth Gospel Blog
Synlogos ✞ Aggregator
New World Island