Man now lives in a world turned wrong side out. He enjoys a little fitful ease when weariness rocks his brain to sleep, but when he rises from his bed, he rises to nightmares.
Oh, he has grown used to the creatures. Not all of them are of monstrous size, with metallic teeth. Bombs explode on an ordinary city street only once every few weeks, shards of metal tearing off a boy’s leg, or cutting a childbearing woman to the heart. Some nightmares are small, like a loathsome burrowing thing of flesh and ooze. A boy calls himself a girl and wants to shower with girls, and the grinning powers of the world usher him in, leering with that frisson of delight in the bizarre, the unnatural, the bent.
Some nightmares are like the pinpricks of a thousand lice, each one contemptible and petty—a kindergarten teacher who won’t let boys play with certain toys they like, a mother visited by police because she has let her child go outdoors without surveillance, the many millioned particles of itching powder spread by the Internet—buy, look, watch, spend, gape, grasp, snatch, scratch—but all of them forming a crawling and swarming world of perpetual unease.
And all the while, the demon of the modern whispers contradictions into your ear. “You shall believe that the world is better now than it ever was,” it says, and, just when you are about to doubt that first commandment of the age, “Ah, it has always been this way.” It has always been a world of relentless nightmare, with wisdom banished and common decency disintegrating before our eyes, as the rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.
I call to the Christian family now. Awake, be fools no more. The world that greets us every day does not merit the name of a fallen world. It is no world at all. It is an Unworld. Its principle is not a wrong principle. It has no principle: and in this sense it is the epitome of evil, of the hole where a heart should be, even if it is a hard heart. There is no limit to its madness, because man in the throes of the nightmare rejects the very notion of a limit and considers it brave merely to transgress, until finally there is no boundary left to cross, and he steps into emptiness.
Awake, then, and enter the world again, Christian families—this sweet and bitter world created by God. Enter it as sinners, but enter it, and leave the Unworld behind.
Easier said than done, you say, because it is all around us. But so is the world, and the world has this tremendous advantage over the Unworld. The world really does exist. It makes sense. It is beautiful. It draws us quietly to its Maker.
Let us drink deep draughts of tranquility, of peace, which is the tranquility of order.
The Unworld is mad with sex, which it actually hates, because it will not submit to sex’s beauty and its meaning. Let us consider this matter, Christian families.
I see a young man and a young woman, holding hands. What do I see?
A sight all too rare, for one. Why should that be so? Were young men and women always so suspicious of one another, so pallid with disillusionment, or so yellow with lust?
Think, Christian families. It is your task, and it should be delightful, to bring your children up in gratitude for the sexes, the one for the other. When until now has that ever been anything but one of the easiest tasks in the world? You want to raise a boy who will want to hold the hand of a girl he likes. You want to raise a girl who will hold the hand of the boy she likes.
We could talk about the virtue of chastity—but what about the far easier virtue of reality, of noticing a good thing and delighting in its goodness? That must be the preamble to chastity. People are not chaste with rags and slops. Before we teach boys and girls what they must not do with one another before they are married, we must bring them up in the strong daylight of reality. Most of their fellows will have eyes bleared with vile and unreal things. Ours must have eyes wide open—the wide-open eyes of innocent young people surprised by beauty.
In the Unworld, all is reduction, first to the mere bulk of a body, then to parts of the body, and then to phantasmagorical dreams of parts, some that have never existed since the world began. In the real world, fallen though it is, we raise boys to be men and girls to be women, not bodies of a certain fashion, but men and women meant one for the other, in gratitude and delight. We raise real men, real women.
So what do I see, when I look at the young man and woman holding hands? I see the first blossoms of genuine sexual awakening. I see a father-to-be and a mother-to-be, even if perhaps they will go on to marry others instead. I see families to be. This is no dream. The youth really does possess in his body the seeds of new life. That is what the coming-together of the sexes is for. The maiden really does possess in her body the ovum to be made fertile, and the haven for its germination. To recognize this requires no leap of the imagination. To deny it requires a willful refusal to see what is right before your eyes. All sins against sexual goodness are sins against the family. This is the real world.
In the Unworld, people persuade themselves that you can become pregnant by accident. If you are walking down a street with tall apartment buildings, and you are struck in the head by a piano falling from a great height, and you get a big bump, that is an accident and, though unlikely, is at least possible. It is impossible to for a man and woman to make a child in her womb without doing the child-making thing.
Some people say that you cannot make people wait for marriage before they do what married people do. It is as if they believed that there were invisible hands stripping them of their clothes, against which no one has the strength to fight.
That is the talk of the Unworld. In the real world—and there are people living now who can testify to it—men and women commonly went to the altar without having sinned against the family. Proof is easy to find. Children were conceived within wedlock.
And so we come to the children. In the Unworld, women are told that they should play Mozart for their unborn children to hear and that they should feed them from the breast, because that is best for their physical development, and then that these same children should be delivered over to the impersonal custody of strangers for most of the day—a new thing in the history of the world. For love is absolutely crucial, except when it is not.
Christian families, remember. Isn’t work, in the first instance, for the good of the family? Do we break the health of our bodies so that we can afford the best wheelchairs?
Raise your children, Christian families. You will hear that your children will “fall behind” if they are not given the best “educational opportunities” when they are three years old. Do not believe it. Do not be so foolish. Do not listen to the Unworld. Provide them with wisdom-cultivating memories of your presence, your quiet devotion.
But how can you raise your children, when for sixteen hours a day they are taught by the pornogogues, eight hours in school, and eight hours on the Internet? A good question. It is like asking, “How can we give them a healthy diet, when our cooks are feeding them sawdust with syrup of ipecac?”
Fire the cooks. Fire them. Most of them know not what they are doing. I am not speaking of morality only. Again, let us be fooled no more. Teachers of English do not know English grammar and do not love the great heritage of English literature. Teachers of “social studies,” which practically means “combing the daily picture-paper for ways to sever any remaining slender ties the children have to Reality,” do not actually know geography or history. Science has been narrowed to biology, and biology to political ideology and cuddles.
Fire the cooks. Cook your children their meals yourselves. Build real schools again, and in the meantime teach your children at home. If they learn nothing else—but they will learn a great deal—they will have a chance to love the real world.
What else? Christian families, look up. Remember. In the Unworld, there is no peace. It is disorder, noise, work without beauty, un-play without joy. What did people once do before the nightmares?
Many things. It is said that the family suffers because it is no longer the locus of economic activity. That’s strange. The household is no longer the locus of—the management of a household? It is true that there aren’t nearly as many family businesses as there used to be. But that is only one side of the matter of household management, the one that deals with earning money. The other side remains, and has greater potential than ever before for the expression of a family’s wisdom. What do we do with the resources we have?
Here again, Christian families, do not be fooled! You can do what your grandparents once did. You can turn the backyard into a ball field, or a kitchen garden. You can learn to tap maple trees for sap. You can build stone walls. You can dam up a running stream to make a fishpond. You can assist your neighbors. You can refuse to allow your relative wealth to train you up in helplessness.
But life is not for work. If home is not where you earn money, can’t it then all the more be where a family learns to play? Is it possible that good honest play is a preamble to prayer?
In the Unworld, play too has been conceded to “experts,” the makers of video games, or professional athletes; play is a product to be consumed. Christian families, learn again to do things together. Play the guitar, sing. Sing hymns, sing folk songs, sing love songs, sing merry songs. Take up the paintbrush. Take down the router. Swing the hammer, turn the lathe.
Meanwhile, there’s more of the Unworld indoors than outdoors. Madmen may mock, but the mockingbird is sane. The cardinal in the red hat may be mad, but not the cardinal on the fencepost. The woodpecker riddles the maple branch, and maybe also your eaves, in search of grubs; he is doing what God made him to do, crying out, What I do is me: for that I came.
The entire created world is on your side. Spend time then with sane creatures—rocks and streams and hills, geese and falcons, squirrels and foxes, deer, wild asters, muddy banks, dragonflies, bog cotton, mountain cranberries, everything that is real. Mud is good; filth is not; mud is outdoors; filth is in school and on television. A single blade of grass is a more legitimate object of wonder than is anything you will view in a month of gazing at a screen. Go where wonders are.
There is more of sounding truth in the silence of the woods than in the incessant speech of the Unworld. Christian families, never worry about what you will say when you are in the real world, the created world. Must we always be saying things?
The more you say, the less you hear. Perhaps that’s why Jesus warns us against setting a barrage of speech between our hearts and the voice of God. So, Christian families, it may be up to you, in an age of mad talk, to recover the simple art of prayer. Do not just go to church. Bring church back home with you. No need to bring it back with trumpets. Bring it back with peace and confidence and good cheer.
It’s been said that the family is a domestic church. Let it be so. That will not mark you out as odd. Remember that the Unworld is quite mad. Being a domestic church will mark you out as sane; it is what Christian families have always been.
Christian families, put not your trust in the princes of the Unworld. They will tell you that the family is old, the family is altogether different from what it used to be, any combination of well-meaning people can constitute a family, the family should be overseen by sociological experts, the family cannot be trusted with the raising of children, and on and on, droning, like lower-order demons bored with the same old lies and too sluggish to think of anything else.
Ignore them. Ignore all who chatter about the nuclear family or the extended family or the subatomic family; ignore them, because they fear the family and want it dead. Be a family, and let the rest be mad if they will.
Then may God who made the world and declared it good, God whose Son took on human flesh and was born a child in a family, bless you and clear your mind, and give you tall sons and lovely daughters, merry and pure of heart, and bring you at last to the great family reunion, the feast of the new Jerusalem, and the Lamb.