Reflections on the nature and functioning of culture: Conclusion

This is the conclusion of a series of Reflections on the nature and functioning of cultures. Here is part one, and here is part two.

 

  • Let me tell you what I will assume. Christopher Dawson once wrote that “[i]t is the religious force which supplies the cohesive force which unifies a society and a culture…a society which has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture.” Thus, religion is the foundation of a culture and during the lifetime of a culture its religion is assumed true. Some religions, in a way, are themselves cultures – for example, even if Orthodoxy has adapted to many national cultures, it is in itself a culture with practices and beliefs which are interdependent and change only organically (lex orandi, lex credendi), not simply an ideology with obliges us to practice X, allows Y and forbids Z.

 

Just as we can see in the natural, savage environment, a lot of repetition in the way man does it in ritual, so it is with government. Government is a religious institution of the nation, in the sense of being the authority based on a system of ideology (theory) and ritual or execution (practice) grounded on an already existing culture.

The national Church, on the other hand, is not the religion of the nation, in the sense of being an ideology with a practice, but the culture itself of the nation. It is the foundation of the religious/spiritual life of the nation. Its teachings are assumed to be true in all discourse. In this way, the Church is more than just the clergy, it is also the doctors in the hospitals, the teachers in the schools, the parents in homes, etc. The people are surrounded by doctrine in their everyday life, and while being submissive to the different established authorities, they are part of one of them – the Church.

The government is the body – it holds criminals responsible and neutralizes them, protects social roles, holds the upper class partly responsible for the lower class, censors heresy and revolution.

The Church is the soul – it is not the State, but the State is an agent of its spirit which protects it from heretical clergy and from outside cultural dangers. If the State becomes religion-neutral, it would contradict the whole society and culture that surround it and will, by force or not, have to go back to the ways of tradition which give it legitimacy.

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