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Everyone agrees. The West has a problem. For good or for ill, what we used to call “Western civilization” is crumbling. The monuments of its past are being pulled down. Its heroes are being wiped from the public memory. Efforts at stemming the loss are vilified as “racist” and “white supremacist.” Nobody in polite society wants to be associated with its institutions and ideals anymore.

Particularly not with Christianity.

Even in so-called conservative circles, to call oneself “Christian”—as opposed to “Judeo-Christian”—is something of a faux pas. A bit gauche. Definitely lowbrow. Not particularly intellectual. Certainly not something a rational thinker would wholeheartedly embrace. Well, perhaps it is okay to be Christian in the circles I frequent online, but then I have never been invited to the right cocktail parties. Not that I would have any idea how to behave.

Then again, as they say, turnabout is fair play.

I’m a Christian, and Christianity has always been a bit embarrassing to the highly cultured.

Augustine of Hippo found Christianity’s lack of culture particularly painful before he became a Christian. He was, after all, a teacher of rhetoric, and the scriptures (at least in the translations in which he read them) could not hold a candle to the great literary works of the pagans. It was only when he heard Ambrose unlocking the mysteries contained in the Christian scriptures’ crude phrases that he was able to swallow his pride as a rhetorician and embrace the sermo humilis of Christ.

You could say that being embarrassing to the highly cultured was, is, and ever shall be Christianity’s defining USP.

Or, at least, it should be, if you understand the difference between “culture” and “praise.”

Culture is about how people live. What language they speak. What they wear, what they eat, whom they marry, how they interact with each other socially. How they raise their children. “High” culture issues in art, architecture, music, philosophy, and science, but it, too, is grounded in the ways in which people live. Culture has to do with the ways of the flesh: sex, food, bodily manners. It has to do with the way in which people manipulate the world around them materially, whether for the sake of physical necessity or for the sake of beauty.

Culture, in other words, is of this world. But Christ’s kingdom is not.

This is why it is so hard to spot Christians in a crowd. Christians eat everything. Christians wear the same clothes as everyone else. Christians sport piercings and tattoos—or not. Christians play all different kinds of music. Christians make all different kinds of art. Christians have no particular skin or hair color. Christians marry whom they please, not whom their families tell them to marry. Christians read all different kinds of stories. Christians speak every language on earth.

Christians, in other words, blend. But they do not mix.

It was ever thus, even in antiquity.

As one early Christian explained in a letter addressed to the tutor of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius:
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. 
The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. 
But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. 
As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.* They have a common table, but not a common bed. 
They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. 
They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
“Yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.” Our early Christian apologist is being disingenuous. Of course Christians are assailed as foreigners and persecuted as rubes. We do not belong in the world, everyone knows it, and it drives them crazy.

Culture is about marking oneself as belonging to a particular group.

What is infuriating about Christians is our refusal to worry about belonging or marking ourselves as in any way “cultured.” As Remi Brague notes in his Curing Mad Truths: Medieval Wisdom for the Modern World (2019), unlike with other religions, there is no such thing as “Christian culture,” only Christians who participate in the culture in which they find themselves. In Brague’s words:
For instance, there is in Judaism a Talmudic cuisine, based on the rules of Kashrut; there are Christian cooks, but there is no Christian cuisine. There is in Islam a so-called prophetic medicine, based on the pieces of advice given by Muhammed in some cases and summarized in some collections of hadith which have this name, prophetic medicine; there are Christian physicians, but there is no Christian medicine. There is in Islam an Islamic dress code, the Islamic veil for each grown-up female, the commandment that each adult male let his beard grow and trim his mustache; there are Christian tailors and hairdressers, but there is no Christian fashion. 
Are you starting to understand why “Western civilization” is under threat? Christians have no way to defend themselves against traditions grounded in culture, that is, in everybody adhering to certain cultural rules—and yet, without Christianity, cultures die.

This is the paradox on which Western civilization, insofar as it is Christian, depends: what makes a culture “Christian” is not its social institutions or material artifacts.

What a makes a culture “Christian” is its focus on God.

The monks of the Middle Ages understood this paradox. They worked and they prayed, but they did not do so for the sake of “culture.” They worked and prayed out of the desire to praise God as the Creator of heaven and earth, and in order to do so, they developed great art forms, particularly music, liturgical poetry, book-making, painting, metalworking, drama, and architecture.

Great art—or food or clothing or social institutions—does not make a culture great. What makes a culture great is the purpose for which the art is made.

This is why modern art sucks.

It is also why Western civilization is failing.

Without God, “culture” is simply “cult.” Idolatry. The worship of things that human beings have made. Things like statues and Constitutions. Things like flags and governments. Things like ideas about freedom of speech and equality before the law.

All artifacts of human invention.

All things of this world.

But Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

And yet, the world that God made is good—and worthy of praise as a creature of God.

Everything that we conservatives say we value about Western civilization has its ground in Christianity and the praise of God as Creator of heaven and earth. Paradoxically, the reason that we are at risk of losing those things—our institutions, our traditions of art, music, philosophy, literature, and architecture, our history as nations—is because they were never about “culture.”

Insofar as they were Christian, they were not about us and our desire to be “cultured.” They were about God and giving praise for his gifts.

If we are losing our culture, perhaps it is because we are no longer thankful enough for God’s gifts.

Perhaps it is because we have forgotten the ground of our being in God and are grasping at idols instead.

God as Creator
Bible moralisée, ca. 1220-1230
Vienna, Cod. Vindobonensis 1179, fol. 1v
References

Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, trans. Roberts-Donaldson

Rémi Brague, Curing Mad Truths: Medieval Wisdom for the Modern Age (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2019)

For further reflections on the importance of Christianity to Western culture, see MedievalGate and Medieval History 101: The Unauthorized Version.

*NB: Even in antiquity, Christians were remarkable for not aborting or killing their children.
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My colleagues in academia must be so jealous of me. I am friends with the most fabulous faggot on the planet.


You don’t believe me? Look, it says so, right here in The Chronicle of Higher Education!

Sorry, paywall. Let me quote the relevant passage for you (click on images to enlarge):



I like “cheeky paean” as an epithet for “Three Cheers for White Men.” And “journalist-turned-troll-turned-pariah” is amazingly mild as a description of Milo.

But my favorite line has got to be this one:
There’s enough of a mind-meld between the unlikely pair that some scholars suspect that Brown was essentially the co-author of Yiannopoulos’s thesis-length investigation/diatribe. In an email, Brown denied any ghostwriting: “Milo wrote it. He interviewed me. He is a talented journalist who knows his craft.”
Have you ever read anything hotter? I have a “mind-meld” with Milo?! I think I may need to lie down for a little bit.

It’s true, Milo and I have been in correspondence for almost three years now. Just ask Joe Bernstein. He knows all about the emails that I wrote to Milo back in autumn 2016—about Christianity and its role in Western civilization. Over the years, I have been suggesting books for Milo to read, and he and I have talked at length about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Milo thanked me in the acknowledgements to his first book Dangerous (published two years ago July 4th) for “constant intellectual nourishment.” In return, I have mentioned him and his role in my conversion to Catholicism in podcast after podcast over the past two years.

It is hardly a secret that Milo and I talk. Nor is it a secret that I have been blogging about him and that he has shared many of my blogposts on his social media. Do my colleagues think perhaps to shame me by suggesting that I might have *gasp* taught Milo something?

The reality is far sexier.

Milo is not just my student. He is also my teacher. As much as I have taught him about the history of Christianity, he has taught me about how to write more effectively, both here and in my more scholarly prose. That “constant intellectual nourishment” I have given him? It is returned in spades by the advice that Milo has given me about capturing an audience’s attention and turning an argument to have the greatest effect.

I was not kidding when I told Tom Bartlett that Milo is a talented journalist who knows his craft. Why do you think Milo has been banned from almost every social media platform there is other than Telegram and Gab? Nobody in the conservative media ecosystem can command an audience the way Milo can. And it isn’t just because he is so beautiful. Have you ever watched the way Milo uses his hands to make a point? Or how he knows just how long to pause before delivering a riposte? Not to mention the richness of his vocabulary. I myself had to look up three words he used in one recent piece*—and I am famous for using words nobody else has ever heard of.

Milo has also advised me on my hair—have you noticed how much better it looks in my more recent videos?!—and he helped me with designing my set for my new course on Unauthorized.tv. Did I mention that we were friends? Friends don’t let friends go on camera without proper preparation! And, no, Milo did not help me with my script—but with our “mind-meld,” who knows? Wait, I thought I was supposed to be ghostwriting for him.

What an adventure these past three years have been!

Testing testing July 2017
Just think. This time in 2016, I had only barely heard of Milo. A year later, I was mentioned in the acknowledgments to Dangerous. And a year after that Milo wrote Middle Rages about me. Meanwhile, I have somehow found myself—mirabile dictu—overcoming my hatred of seeing myself on camera. Two years ago at Summer Nationals, I was asking my friend Ed’s advice about being on camera. I even made a few test videos, thinking I wanted to start my own YouTube channel. And here now I am giving lectures about medieval history on my very own television show!

Past me would have died of embarrassment before going on camera. Milo has taught me to be beautiful in ways I never imagined I could be, and it isn’t just to do with my hair.


For Milo’s and my continuing adventures, see The Milo Chronicles.

For my version of the battle in medieval studies, see MedievalGate.

*hibernacle, ultracrepidarian, Kummerspeck. (You thought Middle Rages was scathing? Wait until you read Milo’s takedown of the klepto queens!)
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The first episode in my course on medieval history is up at Unauthorized.tv! The series will be for subscribers to the channel, but this episode is free to watch. Supporting materials will be posted on Medieval History 101: The Unauthorized Version. Come join me!


For my continuing adventures as a conservative in academia, see MedievalGate.

For a full list of my video, podcast, and radio appearances, see Bear On Air.
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I have been busy giving talks and doing videos and podcasts these past several weeks! A sampling from Bear On Air.

Nostalgia Over the Ages. Missing the Mark with Christopher Lansdown. June 20, 2019.


On Milo and Western Civilization. Unsafe Space with Carter and Keri. June 20, 2019.


Professing Mary. The Patrick McCormack Show on Relevant Radio. June 22, 2019 (Segment 1Segment 2).


I will also be starting my lectures for Medieval History 101: The Unauthorized Version on Unauthorized.tv this week. Watch this space for details!
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Classes starting soon! I am sure you all want to get started on some reading, right?! No worries, the Unauthorized Professor has put together a study guide with a few links... 

For my continuing adventures as a conservative in academia, see MedievalGate. Just wait til my colleagues get a load of this course!
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“Our students are going mad. We’ve brought them into a place where we systematically expose them to the terrors of existence,” so says Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown of the University of Chicago in this public presentation which took place in London, Ontario on May 3rd, 2019.
Prof. Fulton Brown makes the claim that many students do not fully comprehend that the purpose of a University is not to provide a ‘safe space’ for them to hide away from any idea which might make them feel offended but to provide a ‘sacred’ place for them to ponder the more substantive questions in life – a place to answer not just the questions of What and How but the more important question of Why. —JustRightMedia
Bonus: I tell the story of how I met Milo!
And I answer some tough questions.

Talk based on “Safe Spaces vs. Sacred Spaces,” September 29, 2016; and “A few words of advice to Trigglypuff—and her teachers,” September 30, 2016.

For my continuing adventures as a conservative in academia, see MedievalGate.

For my friendship with Milo, see The Milo Chronicles.

For more videos, podcasts, and radio appearances, see Bear On Air.
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Welcome to my Random Laypersons! Welcome to the VFM, welcome to the Dread Ilk, welcome to the Reprehensibles, welcome to the Unauthorized, and welcome to the Bears!

This is the History Course you have been waiting for! 

Or, rather, it will be, as soon as I get some feedback from you.


I was greatly encouraged when Vox asked you the other night about whether you would be interested in such a course and so many of you said, “Yes—as long as it is real history!”

As Fencing Bear would put it, “Three cheers!” 

We are thinking about having a video a week, starting this summer. 

The first question that I have is about format. What kind of format would make for a good course online? 

What I do not want is to have these videos simply be lectures, the canonical professor-talks-while-the-students-doze lectures you get in the movies before the professor starts encouraging the students to stand on their desks.  

I want, in fact, to make them real—in the sense of the kinds of discussion I would give my students at the University of Chicago. 

Which means you are going to have to do a bit of homework. 


Don’t worry, it will be fun!

Here’s the format I would like to try. I know that those of you who have been following Vox are familiar with his blog. Professor Fulton Brown is a great fan of blogs! You can see several that I have designed for courses I have taught on animals in the Middle Ages, Mary and Mariology, medieval Christian mythology, and Tolkien: Medieval and Modern

I use these course blogs as a place for students to talk about the readings they have done and the themes we have discussed in class. I am always encouraged at how much insight they are able to bring to our discussions, as well as stimulated by the questions they raise. 

This is how I would like to use the blog for our online course

I will post a short reading (about a page) a few days before our scheduled “class.” You will be invited to leave comments on the blog, whether asking questions about the text or suggesting themes you would like me to address. Your comments will help me gauge the level of familiarity that readers have with the text, as well as help me craft my comments on what I would like you to learn from it. Following the video “class,” you can return to the blog and leave additional comments. Our goal will be to build up a common understanding of how to study history beyond learning the relevant facts.

I will also post reading lists for those who want to delve further. There are thousands upon thousands of books already published on the history of Europe in the Middle Ages. My role as a teacher is to help you learn how to read and evaluate them. 

One week our text might be a portion of a medieval chronicle. Another week it could be an image from an illuminated manuscript. Another week it might be a cathedral. Another week it might be a poem. 

My goal would be to introduce you to the sources for medieval history as well as giving you practice interpreting them so that you know how to evaluate the narratives you find in the history books.
Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat the things that appear in history books but never actually happened. —Scott Adams, Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel (2002)
I am also looking forward to using the video portion of our “course” to have guests talk about their own research in the field.


Which brings me to my main request right now, as I am making lesson plans for the summer: What would you like most to learn about the Middle Ages? Please let me know in the comments to this post!

Clearly, the most important question:




Do you want to hear more about Milo?! He has some nice things to say about me

For my further adventures in fighting the culture war, see MedievalGate

For the New York Times coverage of my friendship with Milo and Vox, see “MedievalGate Makes the Headlines—and the Tweets!” 

On Vox’s support for Milo, see “How to Be God-Right.”


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My first solo podcast as a YouTuber! My guest is Joseph Dobrian, author of Willie Wilden, Ambitions, and Hard-Wired.


We talk about his new book Feldy’s Girl, a campus novel set in the late 1960s. Teresa Feldevert is the daughter of the football coach and a good Catholic girl who finds herself caught up in the campus politics of the late 1960s. How does she navigate being one of the boys in the midst of the sexual revolution, racial tensions, and campus protests against the Vietnam war?

My YouTube channel: Fencing Bear at Prayer.


Complete list of my podcast, radio, and video appearances: Bear On Air.
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Welcome! Please visit my homepage and let me know what you think!

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I say, no! It has a Christianity problem. Let me explain...



Listen here!

For a complete list of my podcast, radio, and YouTube appearances, go here.

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