Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony M. EsolenOut of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony M. Esolen

Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture

byAnthony M. Esolen

Hardcover | January 30, 2017

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What do you do when an entire civilization is crumbling around you? You do everything. This is a book about how to get started.

Providence College professor Anthony Esolen, blunt and prophetic, makes the case that the decay of Western civilization is alarmingly advanced. Our sickly, sub-pagan state resembles a bombed-out city.

We have to assess the damage, but merely lamenting it does no good. There is work to be done.

The first step is the restoration of truth. America’s most powerful institutions#151;including the government#151;are mass producers of deceit. We have to recognize the lies and clear our minds of cant.

Our culture produces only the drab or the garish. We must restore beauty#151;in art, architecture, music, and worship.

There are two things wrong with our schools#151;everything our children don’t learn in them, and everything they do learn. Public schools are beyond reform; we have to start over.

Our universities are as bad as our schools. A few can be saved, but for the most part, we must build new ones. In fact, this is already being done. We have to support these efforts as if our children’s souls depended on it.

Repudiating the Sexual Revolution, that prodigious engine of misery, requires more than zipping up. The modern world has made itself ignorant about sex#151;in particular that there are two of them and they’re profoundly different. We must restore manhood and womanhood.

In our servile economy, we raise bureaucrats not craftsmen. We must rediscover how to make things that are beautiful and lasting#151;the products of human work. And we must dispense with the "rent-seekers”#151;the proliferating middlemen whose own work contributes nothing.

We have turned sports into a job for our children. Instead of playing we "work out.” A genuine civilization is based on celebration. We must restore play to human life, seeing all the other days of the week in light of the Sabbath.

The gigantic scale of government has made us a nation of "idiots,” incapable of attending to public affairs and the common good. We must insist that the Constitution is not whatever judges say it is, complying with but not obeying their edicts while we reclaim our freedom of religion one outdoor procession, one public lecture, one parish picnic at a time.

We must love this world, but we have here no abiding city. The great division is between those who place all their hope in the present life and those who know that we are pilgrims. There is no retreat, but take courage#151;we have our map. Let us begin.
Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a senior editor ofTouchstonemagazine. He is the editor and translator of several epic poems, including the three volumes of Dante'sDivine Comedy.His published works includeLife Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child(2015) andThe Politically Inc...
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Title:Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American CultureFormat:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:January 30, 2017Publisher:Regnery PublishingLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1621575144

ISBN - 13:9781621575146

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Introduction:Let’s get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned. Temperance is for prigs, prudence for sticks in the mud who worry about people who don’t yet exist. A man who fathers six children upon three women and now wants to turn himself into a “woman” attracted to other women—he is praised for his courage. Justice means that a handful of narrowly educated and egotistical judges get to overturn human culture and biology, at their caprice.We are not in partibus infidelibus. We are in partibus insanibus.What shall we do now? The answer is both daunting and liberating. We do everything. That doesn’t mean that I do everything, or that you do everything. Suppose you find yourself in a bombed out city. There are all kinds of things to do, and all of them have to be done. Some needs are more pressing than others, and some things can be done only after other things are in order. But everywhere you turn, there’s work to do. You have to find clean water. You have to find food. You have to tend to the wounded and bury the dead. You have to erect shelters. You have to see which of the few buildings left standing are actually safe. You have to demolish those that are ruined beyond repair. You have to organize work teams. Someone has to prepare the meals. Someone has to keep the children out of trouble. In such a situation, it’s almost absurd to ask whether it’s more important to build a latrine than to gather together some undamaged books. All of it has to be done. So you do what you can do—the work that is ready to your hand.In no order, then, as I survey the ruins:Build new schools, reform old schools, and abandon irreformable ones.Are your children attending the sub-pagan schools? Get them the hell out of there. What are you waiting for? It’s not as if the sub-pagan schools actually teach children English grammar and give them facility with numbers and make them familiar with the lands and rivers and seas of our world, let alone introduce them to the great works of western civilization. If your children are in the sub-pagan schools, it will require almost a miracle of God to keep them from becoming sub-pagan themselves. They too will learn to worship the three-poisoned god of our times, self, sex, State. Take for granted that everything in their classes will be sexuality and politics; even in science classes. Shakespeare? Sexuality and politics and nothing else. Get them out. Begin, if necessary, with one room and one teacher and ten children. Begin.Restore your parish church and bring reverence back to the liturgy.Was your church denuded during the Decade that Taste Forgot? Bring art back in. Is there an ugly sculpture of Jesus the Helicopter, or a pseudo-primitive stained glass window of the Baptist dropping a rock on Jesus’ head? Replace them. Are you using hymnals filled with bad poetry expressing hippy-dippy theology to treacly or unsingable tunes? Why? If you know a little about sacred music, learn more. It’s never been easier to do that. Become more familiar with O Salutaris Hostia than with Table of Plenty. You don’t have to be allergic to the great Christian hymns arranged by Bach or written by the Wesleys. Accustom yourself to real poetry, to melodies that can be sung by a congregation, and to thoughtful meditation upon Scripture. Learn Gregorian chant. Will it take a while? It will take longer if you complain about how long it takes. Begin.Acquaint yourself with the proper use of the zipper.No pretending here. We’ve all been scorched by the sexual revolution. The ancient Christians knew they were living among hedonists, but plenty of the pagans, especially those who lived outside of the cities (Latin paganus = hayseed), were old-fashioned in their mores. The Christians could say that they honored the virtue of chastity, which the pagans recognized but often violated. We cannot say that now. We have to tell ourselves and our children the truth. There is no way to make it sound nice. “We are Christians, they are not. How God judges them is not ours to know. Our first task is to follow God’s law ourselves, before we can witness to them. We do not fornicate. We do not divorce. We do not engage in sodomy. We do not use porn. We do not flood women’s bodies with synthetic and carcinogenic hormones. We do not care for obscenities in film. We do believe in marriage according to the evident design of God, imprinted upon our bodies male and female. We encourage boys to be boys and girls to be girls.” And then—where are the chaperoned dances? Where are the concerts? Where are the matchmakers? Where are the healthy customs whereby the older generation made sure that the younger generation would, ahem, get on with the great and innocent business of new life? Establish them. Begin.Be social.Be human. I’ve heard all my life long that the Church, before Vatican II, had nothing at all for the laity. Really? What then were all those ecclesial fraternities and sororities? So laymen did not potter about the altar during Mass. They certainly pottered about everything else before and after Mass. They played basketball, they put on shows, they sang, they maintained the church grounds, they gathered for communal prayer, they fed the hungry, they taught the ignorant, they celebrated, they paraded down the main street. The official organs of public opinion hate us, and would like nothing better than to have us hang about empty churches like bats in a cave. Let them have more obvious opportunities for their hatred—or their embarrassment, perhaps their conversion. Saint Ignatius had for a long time only two or three followers. He persisted, and the Jesuits became the greatest force for education and human culture and the propagation of the faith that the world had ever known. Begin.Read good books.Our Lord has granted us one of the most precious blessings in war. Our enemies are ignorant. They are clever—they have brains, as all human beings do. But imagine a rickety fence against a cannon: that’s our contemporary journalist against Chesterton. Imagine a squirt gun against a battering ram: that’s our contemporary educator against Pope Benedict. Imagine a flea against an elephant: that’s our contemporary advertiser against the Catechism. Imagine a dented bugle against a cordon of trumpeters: that’s our contemporary artist against Dante. When Saint Paul said that he must be all things to all men, he did not mean that he would be stupid for the stupid. Put on the full panoply of God. Those arms may well include the weapons of natural law and natural wisdom that our sub-pagan neighbors have never mastered: Cicero, Aristotle, Plato, Confucius. Don’t know where to begin? It hardly matters where. Begin.Recover the human things.You remember them? The things that human beings used to do. They are not to be underestimated. Let’s not pretend here. We’ve all lost a great deal of what once made up whatever sweetness that human life had to offer. People used to dress becomingly, play cards, talk to others, take long walks, sing songs, play ball, grow peas and beans, strum on the guitar, drop in on friends, and have friends to drop in on. Boys used to ask girls to do innocent things with them, like go bowling, or attend a concert, or dance. There’s an idea—learn how to dance again. The world, besides being quite mad, is now an unspeakably drab, tawdry, and lonely place. Build outposts of normality. It will take time. Begin.Pray like the pilgrim you are.That goes without saying. If you pray for ten minutes a day, pray for fifteen. But pray with a clearer aim. Remember that you are going somewhere. Its name, in one sense, is the grave. The whole world is in mad denial of that plain fact. It turns to the garish and obscene, lest it have to consider the quiet grassy mound and the stone with a few words on it. Be different. You are on the way. Take heart, and don the hat of the pilgrim. Do not be like those who have no hope. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place. Will you have to repent of having sometimes gotten on the carousel of the world? Repent of it then. Begin.Whatever you do, do it as if everything depends on just that.It does, after all. Let no one say to you, “What difference does it make if you sing beautiful hymns at Mass?” That’s the way the world thinks. For the world, despite all its pretense of love for every individual, considers men to be mere stuff, an accumulation or amalgamation. Do not believe it. The next person you greet may be on the verge of sainthood or damnation. Every moral choice we make repeats the drama of Eden. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something. Begin.

Editorial Reviews

"Let me strongly encourage readers to buy, read, and thoroughly absorb two important new books: Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option and Anthony Esolen's Out of the Ashes. Dreher (Orthodox) is an articulate, provocative, and insightful social commentator. Esolen (Catholic) is a distinguished scholar and educator whose English translation of Dante Alighieri's majestic Divine Comedy ranks among the finest available anywhere.Neither man's book disappoints in the power of its arguments. Both men have the gift of combining erudition with common sense, and of making their ideas available and engaging to the harried ordinary reader. Both books offer a tough, frank, and true assessment of contemporary American culture. Both also share an adult Christian grasp of the virtue of hope and a deep trust in the goodness of God. Each offers practical steps forward in sustaining and rebuilding Christian life in confused times." —First Things Magazine"Out of the Ashes is a full-throated, stout-hearted call to arms—soul-stirring,uncompromising, and irresistible." —ROD DREHER, author of The Benedict Option"Reading Anthony Esolen is a bit like a ride on your favorite roller coaster. Out of the Ashes is an astonishing combination of energy, humor, insight, and exceptionalerudition, topped off by a vivid personal style and a special gift for tweaking thenose of secularist nonsense-peddlers. If you’re looking for a guide to our current cultural predicament (and how to fix it), one that’s sobering and invigorating at the same time, start with this book." —CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia"Anthony Esolen is one of our nation’s best writers because he’s one of our best thinkers. Out of the Ashes is vintage Esolen: eloquent, bold, insightful, profound." — RYAN T. ANDERSON, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, and author of Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and ReligiousFreedom"Our culture suffers from many debilitating diseases. Anthony Esolen’s voice is amuch-needed tonic. Here’s hoping America heeds his counsel." —R. R. RENO, editor of First Things and author of Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society