My apologies to my regular readers; I have been remiss in blogging lately. I have not been too thrilled about the state of the world after the election, and I have been, frankly, cocooning. As in burying myself in gardening and house cleaning type chores, with some early Christmas decorating thrown in on the excuse that my sister-in-law arrives Saturday, and this is “Christmas” for the in-law side of the family, since we’re all scattering for the real Christmas. So I have a whole lot of little Italian lights to check and hang and boxes of faux sugared fruit and stuff to get out. Not to mention the Nativity scene, which will definitely get at least one post all of its own.
In short, I’ve been looking to things that the election has not changed. The knowledge that we have just elected the most rabidly pro-abortion candidate ever to the Presidency casts a dark pall on everything. Instead of the number of abortions decreasing, as it has for almost every year of the last decade, the murders will increase. (Yes, abortions happened when it was illegal; so do rapes and murders, but nobody has ever seriously proposed to “solve” rape and murder by making them legal. When abortion became legal, it became “okay” in many individuals’ minds. If abortion also becomes free, as in “federally funded”, the numbers will jump again.) I feel like Lady MacBeth, staring at blood that has been physically washed away, but can never actually be removed. No amount of scrubbing our collective national conscience by lauding the “racial progress” of electing our first black president will remove that blood. No perfume of self-righteous welfare handouts and blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants will cover that stench.
But, as I said, there are things that remain unchanged. There are even points for hope within history, where a defeat became the seed of the victory. As J.R.R. Tolkien once explained, the greatest catastrophe, the death of God-made-Man on the Cross, was, in fact, the seed of the victory. (Tolkien called it a “eucatastrophe”, a happy, unforeseeable turn of events.)
In our own country’s history, abolitionists had achieved some state-level success in protecting fugitive slaves by preventing slave trackers from crossing into free states. Dominated by Southern legislators, Congress decreed that fugitive slaves could be tracked anywhere, anytime; the abolitionists’ hard-won successes were wiped out, and even free blacks were not safe from the fugitive slave hunters. The abolitionists worked harder to smuggle escaping slaves to freedom and pushed harder to elect truly anti-slavery people to Congress. Meanwhile, however, the slavery question had grown into a shooting war in Kansas, as debate raged as to whether Kansas should be a free or a slave state.
The debate in Congress heated up, including one incident in 1856 (which I’ve referred to in previous posts as a low point in Congressional debate) where abolitionist Congressman Charles Sumner called a pro-slavery Congressman a whoremonger for his position. Since the Congressman in question was not in attendance that day, his cousin, Preston Brooks, also a member of Congress, took it upon himself to clear the family honor. First, Brooks waited until all the women had left the public gallery (very dishonorable to do this in front of women) and then, taking his cane, he went up to Sumner, accused him of insulting his family, and proceeded to beat him with the cane (also a point of honor: one does not deign to duel a social inferior. Low-brow abolitionists and slaves only deserved a good caning.). The pro-slavery Brooks broke his walking stick while beating the abolitionist Sumner into unconciousness. Dozens of Southerners sent Brooks new gutta percha canes, many with encouragement to go beat a couple more abolitionists.
Things, to put it mildly, did not look good for the abolitionists. And, of course, it got worse: the Civil War was fought partially over slavery, partially over state rights, and partially over Southern ire at not being able to run Congress and the Presidency like it had done for decades (the final straw was the election of Lincoln, who wasn’t even on the ballot in the South; he was elected without a single Southern vote). Like it will be with abortion, it took years of work after the war to make the illegal (slavery) also unthinkable (ending the Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement). But the darkening skies of war in fact presaged the beginnig of the end of the stain of slavery in our country.
J.R.R. Tolkien fought in WWI, in the slogging, unending horror of the trenches. All of his closest friends died. There is a highly applicable lament by Sam, despairing of things being made right again, after so much had gone so horribly wrong (which I cannot, at this moment, find, and I will not further massacre Tolkien’s eloquence with my poor paraphrase). So, instead, I will refer you to the comment on transcendance. Towards the end of The Lord of the Rings, Sam, slogging through the ditches and wastes of Mordor with Frodo, looks up wearily and sees a star glinting through the foul clouds.
… peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
(J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, chapter 2)
I wonder if Tolkien is making a passing reference to Dante, or tapping into a deeper, Biblical sense of the metaphor of light in the darkness. Each of the three books of The Divine Comedy ends with the word “stars.” As the narrator finally stumbles out of Hell, the stars become something high, pure, and refreshing after the stifling madness of Hell.
We climbed [out of hell]… heedless of repose till on our view the beautiful lights of heaven dawned through a circular opening in the cave: thence issuing we again beheld the stars.
Dante, The Divine Comedy, “Hell,” lines 130-133
Which brings me back to the approach of Christmas.
Instead of a hope for the beginning of the end of the bloody stain of abortion on our nation, we face four years of agressive pro-abortion agendas in the White House (they’re already drooling over which presidential orders can be rescinded immediately to get the abortion money flowing, here and abroad). Instead of a saavy veteran of both the military and politics, we’ve got the over-confident, inexperienced Chicago politician just begging to be tested by some sort of terrorist crisis.
But, in the history of the world, things have been worse. The Christmas star shone on the fulfillment of God’s promise that we would not be left in our sins, in our broken world, in our repetitions of inhumanity century after century, forever. As God told Adam and Eve as they were expelled from Eden, redemption was coming. The Christmas star shone because the Light was coming into the world.
And I cling to the belief that everything, without exception, will somehow be redeemed by God in that Light. So, I will look to the stars and be reminded of my Hope.
Kathy Mattea has put out several absolutely wonderful Christmas albums, which I highly recommend (nary a reindeer or sleigh in sight!). The first is called Good News. Before the second one came out, her father died. The last song on Joy for Christmas Day is “There’s Still My Joy.”
One tiny Child can change the world
One shining light can show the way
Beyond these tears for what I’ve lost
There’s still my joy
There’s still my joy for Christmas Day.