The religion of traditionalism
On a group on Facebook I saw a discussion if the group is traditionalist conservative or of traditionalist religion. A Vatican II Catholic may be a traditionalist, though I have hard time seeing how he likes the changes the council made and in the same time supporting the things that Catholicism stood against for a long time – it stated clearly what it believes and never associated itself on a theological level with Protestants. The Tridentine Mass was abolished and replaced with one betraying the priest’s role in traditional liturgy and flirting with Calvinist liturgy. So most traditionalists are and should be traditionalist Catholics. There may be some (rural or older generations of) evangelicals, since it is very easy to associate a paleoconservative with traditionalism. High Church Protestantism is also encountered. About Orthodoxy, well, I think that it really depends on the individual Christian and his opinion on Western Christendom and passing worldly government. Really, one of the worst approaches to traditionalism (in the sence of appreciating “profane” tradition and thousands of times more Holy (or Sacred) Tradition) is traditionalism for traditionalism’s sake. In the sense – let’s change the system into a Christian one and then the world will become Christian. No! You have your vocations as a Christian, you must pray, fast, go to church, read Scripture, evangelize, and then take care of Christianization! That is the mistake of the so-called “Religious Right” in the USA – the world as an end in itself, not as a means to bringing people to salvation. That is Puritanism and chiliasm – let us bring Christian morality in the world, and then Christian faith! God’s Kingdom on earth, and we judge (in a Last Judgment) those who “believeth not … in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
Another point I wanted to raise is whether one can be an atheist and a traditionalist at the same time? I don’t think so, because it will be inconsistent. If an atheist wants society to have religious authorities, it will be inconsistent with his ideas that there is no God (and that therefore all people are to be atheists). If you think that not all people should be atheists, you can be a reactionary, but at the cost of living in a religious society, where you risk to have trouble developing or get persecuted (especially if you pass your atheism to your children, and if you refuse your children to be like you, you really must be a nihilist). We should also note that Reaction may lead you to religion – appreciating the religious art, like Bach’s Passions, reading religious literature, and so on, may convert you (and most probably than cold rational arguments). So the cost of being a traditionalist will be great, and you sometimes have to be a nihilist to do it, which will make you only a superficial traditionalist, who fights utopianism and yet forces himself to support religion.
While, if you don’t force yourself, and decide that society should, after all, be based on reason, you become just like the Enlightenment’s (political) rationalists – a Progressive, one of the original “heretics” of Modernity.
Inspirations for traditionalists
Atheism is part of the modern project of replacing God with man. In traditional society, too few people were atheists. We should not so much prepare a perfect political system (there is none except the Heavenly Kingdom of God) as piously make a system where people are not venerated for their physics (like top models and athletes) or for their money, but for their holiness.
Saint Constantine the Great is a very good example. He was a pious Christian, and he supported the church and made more humane the laws of his empire because of that, not because he adhered to an ideology. Just as we put classical music as the most valuable one, because it creates noble feelings in men, so he also was a pious Christian and did what he did out of noble feelings. If it wasn’t the case, he would have stayed a pagan and enjoyed being worshipped and having more power, he had no interest in being a Christian. So it is that traditionalists believe in objective values, or natural law. Piety is noble, courage is noble, justice is noble, love is noble, and it is on this that not only society, but also being human is based. And Christianity is the ultimate way to sanctity, because it has not much of a purpose if not to metamorphose people into little Christs.
So, what traditionalism advocates for is a society build on natural law. Liberals, in contrast, build law and values on society and its material interests. It is for this reason that I’m neither a liberal, nor a Marxist. I don’t believe in utopias, even those based on the reason of man. Just like Christianity – reason is good and we should not go against it, but it is not on it that we build neither. Christians built on what the risen Christ built – the Church.