One of my favourite prophets is Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. A bit pessimistic and gloomy at times, but if there was anyone who spoke the truth to power, it was he. In 1978, in exile in the United States, he gave a memorable address at Harvard University which probably infuriated his hosts. Its theme was the corruption of the Western intelligentsia, in particular its legalism:
"I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either … Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses."
Solzhenitsyn attended that harshest of schools, the Soviet Gulag, where he eventually became a Christian. Seeing the steadfastness of Christians in the camps, he realized the shortcomings of materialism, whether Communist or capitalist.
“To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die,” he said. “There is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time, and betrayal.”
All this is by way of introduction to a two-volume book reviewed below by Francis Phillips, The God of the Gulag, about Christians martyred in Russia and Eastern Europe. God knows how many there were – probably millions. But rather than numbers, what is striking is their steadfastness. Are we made of the same stuff?
|Soviet gulags revived the ancient tradition of Christian martyrs|
Francis Phillips | ABOVE | 2 August 2016
For eight decades persecuted Christians in Russia and Eastern Europe suffered unspeakable hardships
|Isn’t killing 19 disabled people a hate crime?|
Paul Russell | CAREFUL! | 2 August 2016
Why didn't Japan's biggest mass killing since World War II create more waves in the media?
|Sitting out this hand|
J. Budziszewski | FEATURES | 2 August 2016
A philosopher argues that it is not possible for him to vote for either candidate for president in the US election.
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