“Learn to despise the place where you were born, its customs, its glories and its shame. Then stick your head in a comic book. That done, you will be triple-armored against the threat of a real though or the call of the transcendent.”Ideology is a system of ideas and ideals formed upon the basis of economic or political theory and policy. Piety, on the other hand, is a belief that is accepted with ritual reverence. Patriotism reveres the things that ideology cannot touch: the small and the old, the vulnerable and the venerable. The place we are committed to, the people we honor don’t have to be grand and glorious to earn our love and loyalty. We are devoted simply because they are ours. But when children have been raised on the flashy, the simple pieties of hearth and home--a hot meal, the love of a good wife, the praise of God and songs sung for a country whether it deserves it or not--will be lost on them. A patriotism of piety can be heady alcohol for the young mind.
“Piety nurses the imagination because it places us in both greatness and smallness, in the stillness of a single moment and in the long sweep of the generations. Ideology digs many graves but tends not a single stone.”Without a love of past people hanker after what is supposed to be new and thus desirable without asking where it has come from or where it will take them. “A man with a past may be free; but a man without a past, never.” That is why, in 1984, Big Brother shreds any artifacts that might be a link to the past. In contrast, the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings have a rich history of great deeds--glorious and disastrous--that stretches all the way back to the dawn of the world. It is this very history that gives them the capacity to take part in their own chapter of the saga of Middle Earth.
The past never changes but that only makes it boring to those who grow up on the constant stream of unceasing movement in video games and movies. The past is like a secret room in an old house filled with ancient armor, antiquated odd tools, and books recalling words and deeds of men and women who now lie in their graves. We come into the presence of those who once were as we are and are now as we will someday be. When children go into such a room they will bring those people--larger than life--into their own lives. In fact, because the past is simply there, never to change, its constancy reflects the eternity of God. “It presents to the young mind a vast field of fascination, of war and peace, loyalty and treason, invention and folly, bitter twists of fate and sweet poetic justice.” When that past is of one’s own people or country or church, then it makes claims upon our honor and allegiance and fires the imagination all the more.
To honor the past is not to whitewash it, romanticizing those we admire and flattening those we don’t. Such caricatures do little to inspire. Neither do we need to expose the past, magnifying the tarnish and taking everything noble and making it small--like ourselves. That leaves us with nothing but cynicism and moral and intellectual superiority. When we do not gloss over the faults of our heroes we get to know them as men and women and we can admire and respect them all the more. Bring the past to life, not just on the pages of history, but also in the expanding heart and mind of the young.
“The imagination seeks out the ideal and beholds its beauty. In doing so it penetrates farther to the truth than does the sloth of cynicism. Anyone may see a wart or a mole--faults about in every man and the grime of life tarnishes us all. When we apply its wisdom to our country, whatever that country may be, we can grow to love her enough to wish to correct her.”Nowadays we have lost our love of past and place. Instead of patriotism we have multiculturalism which turns up its nose at our own local and national pastimes in favor of the fashionably foreign. This fascination with any other place but our own--kills patriotism. Pretending to love every place, you love none at all. Encouraging this will produce either the mildly interested tourist who collapses everything he sees into the two-dimensions of a brochure or the couch-potato who never ventures out because one place is as dull as the next.
Even some Christians (us included) tend to take an ideological outlook on our country because the economics and politics are not going in a direction we agree with. We, more than any other people, should be the ones to have a love that desires to reform, reshape, rebuild.