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    Further Explanation A...

I am familiar with Chesterton. Over the decades I've read a lot of his work and even attended meetings and conferences of the Chesterton society in an effort to learn more. At the end of it all I think Chesterton was a gifted writer, very appropriate (and popular) in his age but his time has passed. The kind of language, and attitude, he exhibited was appropriate in another age but it simply will not work today. Many, if not all of the ideas that Chesterton was exploring though do remain "appropriate" and transcend all ages and epochs. The same could be said of Cardinal Newman. Like Chesterton in an earlier epoch, he was a gifted and prolific user of the media of his time but the language he used simply does not communicate to many people today – and it probably would not have worked in Chesterton's time either.

The ideas and "truths" that these great communicators were seeking to explore and promote though transcend all time. The challenge each age faces is in finding the communicators who can explore these core ideas and "truths" which lie at the very core of our faith in language that is accessible to the broad constituency in any particular community at a particular time in history.

Coming back to your comments in this latest response...

I have already agreed with you that nihilism is bound to fail. I would also agree with your (presumed) analysis to a significiant degree that nihilism is one of the characteristics or "marks" of post-Christian secular culture. Probably differently to you though I also see in modern culture a deep yearning for the spiritual and one that is perhaps probably stronger than at any previous point in history and certainly within my own lifetime. I do also see that institutional religion does not seem to have the means to be able to respond to that yearning. I keep asking myself: "Why?"

Where I think I part company with yourself is that I do have a fundamentally different vision of what the core Truths are that we are responsible for, and endeavouring to, communicate to the world at large. This is also where I ended up parting company with all my friends in the various conservative organisations in the Church which I previously supported including the Chesterton Society which, incidentally in its contemporary form in Australia, had its beginnings in Western Australia. I was present at the first of the conferences held at New Norcia similar to the one you attended which voted to extend the organisation nationally.

So what are the differences? We could certainly write a book on that – and I've probably already done so several times over in what I've contributed to this discussion board over the last three or four years. I will try to summarise it beginning in the paragraph after next.

For the moment though, let me re-emphasize that where I am in agreement with you is that I do not see myself as trying to get Christianity, or Catholicism, to conform to popular culture. I would share with you, and with all my former mates who seem to have to incessantly analyse everything through a conservative political framework, that nihilism is doomed to failure and that there is no future in endeavouring to "water down" Christianity in the hope that it might be made more appealing to those who have been seduced by the attractions of nihilism, consumerism and all the other "me—NOW!" allures of modern secular culture.

Returning then to try and explain as simply as possibly what I see as the differences between what I see are the two principle alternatives competing within the Church today for "hearts and minds". (Like Cardinal Pell, I think so-called "liberalism" within the Church is a largely spent force. There might be many people around today who call themselves "liberals" or "progressives" but they are largely using that term today to differentiate themselves from the conservative alternative rather than in the sense of liberalism that was a real force some decades ago and which did have an agenda of trying to "water down" Catholicism or Christianity in order for it to better conform to the emergent modern secular culture.)

Within the Church today I do think there are two main intellectual visions that are in competition. One is a vision that tends to analyse everything in life in a "political" context. The other rejects the notion that things of the spirit can be analysed and understood in a "political" frame of reference. I do not see the two forces in competition then as "conservatives" versus "liberals" but rather as an overtly political frame of reference in competition with another that is constantly wanting to reject any political frame of reference. Obviously in such a dualism it is very difficult for those in the political frame of reference to understand their opponents. They analyse everything in a political frame of reference and it is next to impossible for them therefore to understand anything that is put forward that is specifically and very deliberately seeking to reject the political nature of the base understanding in the political frame of reference. Think about that last sentence.


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