Magazine article The American Conservative

Christmas Chronicling

Magazine article The American Conservative

Christmas Chronicling

Article excerpt

This being the Christmas issue-yes, in this magazine we are permitted to use the "C" word-I will tell you about a very religious man, a chronicler of change and decay, namely Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles, a monthly review of our culture, or lack thereof. Fleming recently spoke to Derek Turner, editor of Right Now, a conservative British publication. Tom is a former university teacher of classics who specialized in Greek tragedy and the technique of lyric poetry; he is also an Aristotelian by philosophy and a Southerner by conviction. In other words, a serious although very humorous man who thinks Paris is the French capital, rather than a talentless publicity-seeking Hollywood celebrity with an IQ lower than her age.

Fleming has often been told that his respectful views on Christianity, paganism, and Darwin are incompatible and that a good Catholic must detest ancient pagans and reject all that science teaches, and to that he answers with two words: "Prove it." He dislikes fanaticism and ideology. It is the one quality he has taken from the Anglo-American tradition, that of tolerance for other creeds, a very Christian thing in my opinion. "I quite understand why serious ancient pagans were reluctant to give up a tradition that included a richness of ritual and a high intellectual theology." He thinks Christianity took a wrong turn in the 18th century, when it attempted to reinvent the Church as a universal ideology. He calls Samuel Johnson the greatest conservative writer because "He was painfully aware of human suffering and inhumanity but firmly committed to social order which, however imperfect, improves the possibility of leading a good life."

He also points out the contradictions of our culture-for example, the Constitution of the United States, which so many Americans believe to be the answer to every problem in the world, including a place called Iraq. "When they founded Liberia with former American slaves they adopted the US constitution, but I have to say that the history of Liberia has been rather different from that of the United States." Social, moral, and cultural questions take precedence over political questions, according to Fleming. He no longer believes in political parties or movements in the United States because they are unreliable, and their leaders will say and do anything in order to be elected. "I make friends with individuals rather than groups."

Conservatism, according to him, used to have an emphasis on tradition, the nation, our common history, small government, free enterprise, and so on. …

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