As defenders of constitutional liberty and timeless verities, we understand that noble causes, such as defending the unborn and virtuous liberty, even though Roe’s overturned, echo T.S. Eliot’s stance, “We fight rather to keep something alive than the expectation that it will triumph.” For nearly fifty years, countless millions didn’t relent on the unborn, always praying, but never certain that, on June 24, 2022, the High Court would strike down that disastrous ruling in 1973. Like we, Eliot grasped that in every period of history, for those who endeavor to pull down “permanent things” others will defend them to the death. In his day, Eliot distrusted elites too, saying, “The elites, in consequence, will consist solely of individuals whose only common interest will be their professional interest.” Elitists still harbor disdain for we who contend that Liberty is not a novelty to be created, but a legacy to be preserved.
T.S. Eliot coined the term “permanent things” in 1939, although the principle is ancient. Briefly, it’s those verities that are timeless, immutable, not subject to material affirmation, or man’s whimsical approval. They’re impervious to trends, fads or convention. However, they are subject to moral decay. Unending knee-jerk reactions underscore the fatuity of our glaring generational loss of “permanent things.” For example, debate over gun violence in America, generates more heat than light, as the blame game persists among elites as how to end the violence in America. They refuse to look beyond the beguiling symptoms, espousing more restrictive gun laws. They refuse to explore the underpinnings that genuinely drive school massacres-the loss of “permanent things.”
The erosion of our dominant Judeo-Christian worldview, the linchpin of our Founder’s dream, that stood conspicuously as staunch defenders of values, bolstered our foundation’s religious liberty, civil and social order, and common ground of understanding that once permitted us to resolve issues that threatened to unravel the fiber that protected individuals, and ultimately institutions, is no happenstance. When “permanent things” are impoverished and supplanted by values inimical to that end, we’re left to battle symptoms, that are detached from those edifices, once the cornerstone of our Republic.
Symptomatic of this loss is cameoed across the airwaves when pundits and angry mobs rant, they no longer care to hear talk of “thoughts and prayers” expressed for those ravaged by natural and man-made tragedies. Must one conclude that prayer, offered in the public square for those experiencing inexplicable loss, be summarily dismissed as unnecessary or efficacious? On June 6, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt implored the nation, “And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join me in prayer to Almighty God.” Those who uphold “permanent things” know that a fervent prayer vigil, rightly directed, for the afflicted, has, for millennia, been a staple of nations who trust in the Lord in times of trial, tumult, and upheaval. Today’s mainstream media and social platforms are generally hostile to such notions.
T.S. Eliot, American born, Brit by choice, one of the 20th century major poets and essayists, in 1939, in “The Idea of a Christian Society,” wrote of “the struggle to uphold permanent things has no surcease.” Lamentably, recent generations haven’t a clue what they are, or that they ever existed. Those who know must act vicariously as their memory. Once these ideas are no longer inculcated into our national memory, we’ve discovered that osmosis is a miserable substitute for conscious assimilation of “permanent things.” Anglican Eliot stressed that those “permanent things” not be politicized, and their intellectual guardian is theological. He understood that a more secularized world was largely intolerant of a Christian worldview, or dismiss it altogether. He proved to be prophetic. He added, his pre-WWII culture,“appeared to be drunk on the politics of conservation of the wrong things.” America’s inebriated.
Permanence that once upheld these truths, can only be found in a theological realm. Exactly as our Founders stated, “Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.” Not any religion. When Founders spoke of Providence, most meant the God of the Old and New Testament. In the long debate over George Washington’s faith, letters from his adopted daughter, Eleanor Park Curtis Lewis, revealed that Washington was quiet in his public discourse about his faith, but that, according to her, “General Washington avowed himself to me a believer in Christianity, and his religion of Jesus Christ.”
Eliot and his contemporary, C.S. Lewis understood the sophistry of sociology, progressive education and economics may steer them to expediency, or Utopianism, with no claim on permanence, and no understanding of the theological realm. It’s apparent today that “permanent things” defy convention and transcend time. Both warned of the creeping destruction of values through progressive education, designed to eliminate traditional concepts of objectivity. Lewis noted in such combat, “For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” In his writings he demonstrated the pervasive flippancy that secularism has for serious subjects like “permanent things.”
In our time, one who’s solemn about issues that vex one’s soul, the dominant secular progressive culture has a default instinct to make light of anything virtuous. For example, when VP Mike Pence, discussed the lengths he established to guard his marriage; by not being alone with another women. The mainstream media had a field day with that “sappy notion.” Flippancy, Lewis insisted, is laughter at the expense of permanency. We who challenge issues like abortion, same sex unions, transgenderism, and individual liberty, must anticipate targeted flippancy and unbridled derision at our expense. One can ill afford to take it personally in this battle of ideas, in our public square. It will take a generation of bare knuckled Christians to fight toe to toe if necessary. Sensitivity is a luxury we can ill-afford.
Russel Kirk, in his seminal work, “The Conservative Mind,” identified “permanent things” as, “Belief in a transcendent order, or a body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.” Evangelicals might frame it as one’s resolute conviction and reliance on the Infinite-Personal God, who rules in the affairs of mankind. The “guiding hand” upon our lives. Another “permanent thing” though culturally repugnant, is the doctrine of Fallen Man, soiled to the soul, defined in Genesis, and undisguised in our quotidian existence. It explains man’s inhumanity to man. Our natural armor is perilously penetrable. That’s in stark contrast to the secular humanist view. Post WWI they insisted that man is perfectible through education, legislation or altered environments, and rejection of anything supernatural. “Good without God.” Little has changed in that circle. Despite unspeakable acts, our culture recoils at the hint of absolute evil, or man’s natural proclivity toward sin and violence. Depravity’s arcane.
Understand “permanent things” extol veracity, virtue and oppose evil. Nudges us toward heaven. Escorts joy to our being. Dispels fear. Illuminates a world still “East of Eden.” They embrace the sacred, and navigate through the fog of relativism and moral ambiguity. They distinguish between intellectual and sophistry. Looks down the corridor of time and eternity, beyond the temporal, and beckons us to enter. Soaring rhetoric, importune student marches and relentless calls for more illogical legislation can’t replace “permanent things.” Sadly, the loss is irreparable. Saying otherwise is sheer folly.
Our race is adept at finding temporal potions and solutions. Most have expiration dates. What’s the good news? With God as our Ally, we can remain indefatigable. Our cause is noble. The Gospel of Jesus Christ still transforms lives. His promises have no expiration date. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s email@example.com