We like to think that we in the twenty-first century are a modern and advanced society. We may be technologically advanced, but I think what has been on display in the past few years is how much we have regressed as a people. Maybe it’s time to take example from the past.
Yesterday, I participated in a livestream for the launch party of our fifteenth issue of An Unexpected Journal on “The Ancients.” The issue contains pieces ranging from poems to explanatory essays highlighting writers from Homer to Boethius.
Each of the six segments highlighted a particular aspect of ancient values of perspective. I had read all of the pieces during the editing and proofing process for publishing the journal, but listening to the authors discuss their piece gave me a new perspective.
There were many things that I enjoyed about the articles in the issue, but my main takeaway from the livestream was how very lost we have become in our culture today. The (primarily) pagan writers highlighted in the issue had a clearer picture of goodness and virtue than many of us do in the “civilized” Western Church today. They understood the importance of community and that no society can stand when everyone is just in it for themselves. As Riz Crescini pointed out in the last segment on “The Virtue of the Ancients,” the events of the past year have shown us the dangers of “hyper individualism.”
Yesterday, I listened to Louis Markos talk about the importance of xenia or hospitality, and today I see a post on Twitter about anti-maskers barging into a waffle house in California, harassing the staff, refusing to leave until they were drug out by the scruff of their neck by security, all the while threatening security with legal action.
What is wrong with us as a society?
The sad thing is, there are many people who will see absolutely nothing wrong with the modern day Huns’ actions.
The ancients saw what virtue was, but they didn’t have a path to get there. They recognized humans were fallible and that you couldn’t depend on most. Cherish Nelson and I discussed our pieces in a segment on “Influences from the Past.” Cherish illustrates the problem of sin in a piece on the movie The Conjuring and Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. I discussed my essay, “The Power of the Storyteller: Jesus and Aesop.” Both Aesop and Aristotle saw the problems in their society. They recognized that fallen human nature, but didn’t have a solution.
They had the vision, but not the path to the solution.
When Christ came, he gave us a solution to the problem of sin. He broke the chains our fallen nature has on us, allowing us to be free, to start afresh, to be born again. He is the “chain breaker” for which the ancients were so desperately looking.
We have the solution … so why do we still have such a big problem?
Because we don’t recognize that we have a problem. That’s the real issue isn’t it.
The ancients saw a vision of something outside of themselves, outside of what they saw in the culture around them. That culture which is, as Donald William points out in book 95 Theses for a New Reformation, a product of humanity. Culture is just what we are. It is an expression of who we are. If we don’t like the culture around us, we have to change “us.”
This is exactly what Christ came to do, he came to change us. Not to leave us as we are, but to bring us out of the pit we’ve dug for ourselves.
But we first have to recognize that where we are is not where we need to be. We have to recognize that we are in the wrong and need to be turned right. We have to be willing to repent. However, when we are focused solely on ourselves, I don’t think we will ever come to that place of repentance because there is no outside check, either through other people or to God.
We have the solution, but we’ve lost the vision.
 Louis Markos, “In Defense of Hospitality and Storytelling,” An Unexpected Journal: The Ancients 4, no. 3. (Fall 2021), https://anunexpectedjournal.com/in-defense-of-hospitality-and-storytelling/
 Vishal P. Singh @VPS_Reports, “An Anti-Masker Rally Is Starting Outside Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’N Waffles in Anaheim. The Inciting Incident for This Was a Meltdown Video That Went Viral of Racist Right Winger Mary Henderson Complaining about Being Asked to Wear a Mask & Also Complaining about Black People. Https://T.Co/YYt7Inubut,” Twitter, last modified September 25, 2021, accessed September 26, 2021, https://twitter.com/VPS_Reports/status/1441901911079149569.
 Cherish Nelson, “The Nicomachean Ethics and the Enemy Within,” An Unexpected Journal 4, no. 3 (Fall 2021): https://anunexpectedjournal.com/nicomachean-ethics-and-the-enemy-within/
 C. M. Alvarez, “The Power of the Storyteller: Jesus and Aesop,” An Unexpected Journal 4, no. 3 (Fall 2021): https://anunexpectedjournal.com/the-power-of-the-storyteller-jesus-and-aesop/
 Donald W. Catchings, Jr, “Wisdom Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us: Pagan Dreams of the King of Kings,” An Unexpected Journal 4, no. 3 (Fall 2021): https://anunexpectedjournal.com/the-chain-breaker-in-platos-allegory/