Well, one benefit of excess time in airports and planes … is I’m getting some sleeping and a lot of reading done. I’ve finished the new uncensored In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and  The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century by Chantal Delsol. The latter of these books pointedly demonstrates that the political and moral philosophies which led to the great human tragedies of the 20th century have not been abandoned. The former highlights life in the maw of one of those tragedies, that being life the “first circle” in Stalin’s gulag hell. Ms Delsol writes (pg 165-6):

The equality of collectivism was a fetish, and now hman rights have been reinvented as a fetish. The twenty-first century wil have to destroy idolized images of the Good just as the ancient iconoclasts destroyed images of God — not that they stopped believing, but they rightly saw these descriptions of God as diminishments that threatened his transcendence. The idolaters in the book of Exodus (20:4-5) prefigure the modern ideologies in the sacralization of the immanent. The texts in the Old Testament on the prohibition of idols, and Kant’s writings on the human ignorance of the Good, stigmatize certain permanent temptations of human thinking, ones that returned in full force in the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century. We have yet to call them into question.


It is, however, difficult to see how the destruction of idols could be accomplished without openness toward the spiritual. The suppression of spiritual referents is precisely what conferred on secular referents their abusive status as absolutes. The return of spiritual referents alone would make possible the destruction of idols: idolatry cannot be avoided except through the recognition of transcendence.

It might be noted, that while Ms Delsol’s essay certainly indicates she is friendly to and appreciative of the Christian religious tradition, to my reading she does not present herself as a member of it. It is also interesting that I flagged this page to note … and with myself being an iconodule.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.PoliticsReligion

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