The Mind of Latin Christendom

The Mind of Latin Christendom

The Mind of Latin Christendom

The Mind of Latin Christendom

Excerpt

The winter of 1903 which I spent in Rome at the age of sixteen first awoke my love of history -- I remember pondering even then on how the Empire fell. During the fifteen years following, through college and the war, a variety of other interests absorbed me, but, as I reached maturity, as my experience took shape, I turned gradually back, for a further understanding, from the present to the past. It was then that Europe, both parent and teacher of our American world, caught my imagination again -- for Europe was Time, or at least our Time, and I, if I were ever to learn anything, was doomed to learn with Time as teacher.

So I set out, wandering for many years, avid but aimless. And when, after some time, I found a direction, it was a backward one, from the seventeenth century, to the eleventh, to the fourth. I know now that what led me back was Christianity. Whatever century I studied, whatever land, whatever subject, there was always before me the same gigantic phenomenon. To our Western history, at any rate, Christianity presented at once the tangible obstacle and the intangible solution.

But I had no passion, no gift, for religion. Brought up in the thin atmosphere of Unitarianism, faith died in me leaving no trace. How, then, was I to understand this history of ours? Must I become a Christian in order to be an historian? Was I otherwise doomed to view Christianity -- as Gibbon did -- in the guise of a superstition clogging the progress of mankind? Yet I also felt that an historian might possibly benefit as well as suffer from the absence of this Creed. For history deals with objective phenomena; therefore the historian is bound to perceive and respect their objectivity. Only too well do I know that I can never understand a faith I do not hold; but my consolation, and my excuse for proceeding in the face of this handicap, is that true Christians have so far failed to write histories that explain history: like writers of memoirs, they fall into anachronisms, invariably eluding the . . .

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