Anthony Esolen

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There is no help from 'the culture,' because there is no longer any culture; only the rubble of what used to be a culture.


You can’t have a Culture of Life if you have no culture at all

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It should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a moment that it is always far easier to destroy than to create.  One bomb or wrecking ball can shatter in an instant the cathedral that it took human hands and minds fifty years to build. 

What is true of buildings is true of culture generally. 

During the early and dark days of World War II, when the British army at Dunkirk had the sea behind them and the Germans before them, they sent a message back home consisting of three words: But if not. 

It was a brilliant message, because even if the Germans managed to intercept it and decode it, it wouldn't have done them any good. "But if not"...what? 

But the army knew that their countrymen would understand. It was more than a message regarding strategy.  It captured the heart of the war itself, a battle for the survival of European culture and civilization against the diseased fantasies of the Third Reich.

The reference comes from the story of the Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in captivity in ancient Babylon, who refused to bow down in worship before the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The king summoned them before him in a fury and demanded their submission, lest he cast them into the fiery furnace.  Their reply was manly and direct:

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. BUT IF NOT be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

The British people then roused themselves to action – ordinary men, anyone with a boat and a heart that beat warmly for God and country.  They crossed the channel in defiance of the enemy and rescued more than three hundred thousand men.  
    

The incident reveals more than a common language.  It reveals a common way of life, and a common view of life.  The sterling words of the old King James Bible, a work of the highest culture, had long come to inform and vivify the ways of ordinary people. 

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That message could not now be sent, either to England or America. It would be incomprehensible.  That is not because the culture has changed.  It is because it has been destroyed, and the most energetic destroyers have been the very people whom we charge with its care: teachers, professors, statesmen, and artists.
    

Thomas Molnar had this to say about it:

Culture has come to mean . . . anything that happens to catch the fancy of a group: rock concerts, supposedly for the famished of the third world; the drug culture and other subcultures; sects and cults; sexual excess and aberration; blasphemy on stage and screen; frightening and obscene shapes; the plastic wrapping of Pont-Neuf or the California coast; to smashing of the family and other institutions; the display of the queer [that is, bizarre], abject, the sick.  These instant products, meant to provide instant gratification to a society itself unmoored from foundation and tradition, accordingly deny the work of mediation and maturation and favor the incoherent, the shapeless and the repulsive.

All in a day's work at your local school, CBS, the BBC, the CBC, The New York Times, the Guggenheim, Broadway, Harvard, Hollywood, your local school, Cosmopolitan, the Playboy Channel, Princeton, your local school, Young Adult Fiction, the halls of Congress, Planned Parenthood, the “Adult” bookstore with no windows, your local school.

We want to raise up young people in a culture of life. Well and good. But that means that we require a culture, and that doesn't happen by itself, especially not now, when all the forces of “education” and mass entertainment are ranged against the very possibility of a culture.  
    

Imagine a scene of wholesale destruction. Every old and venerable structure has been reduced to rubble. People relieve themselves in the street. Sometimes they copulate there, too. Their “music” is little more than grunting and groaning. Their rulers are on the take. There are hundreds of thousands of old books in the mountain of stone and mortar that used to be the library. Most of those books are far beyond the capacity of the people to read. They sneer and snort at Shakespeare, because they can't understand him. They've never even heard of Virgil. A lot of these people have taken to cannibalism. 

Now then – you have retained some vague memory of a more noble way of life.  You have therefore arrived at a great truth. It's perfectly obscure to most of your fellow rubble-pickers, who mock you and call you a prude, a Neanderthal, a medieval monk, a madman, a hater of the hungry, and so forth. Your precious truth is simply this: it is wrong to eat human flesh. 

Well, that is no great burst of enlightenment, but it is a beginning. So what do you do?  Will you be content to say, “My children will do everything that everyone else is doing, but they will not eat human flesh?” They will be subhuman and subcultural, but their taste in dining will be restricted just a little?  Is that all?  
    

Will you say, “Our family is not anthropophagous, but we will send our children to be taught by the same fellow that all the other parents use,” the one with the squalid leer, dabbling in excrement, contemptuous of any wisdom from the past?

That is where pro-life parents find themselves now.

Should we expect any help from places like Yale? Those places sponsor weeks for show-and-tell by whores and peddlers of sex toys. Any help from your local school? That would be like expecting Belial to lead you in prayer. There is no help from “the culture,” because there is no longer any culture; only the rubble of what used to be a culture.


What do you do, then?  Turn back, O man.  It's time to recover and rebuild. 

More to come.
     

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Take heart: Nature is on our side, and she does not change

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

Our opponents in the battle to form or deform the imagination of children have on their side, for the most part, the school, the airwaves, and mass culture.

That may seem an insuperable triad. But, even setting aside the power of prayer and the mighty grace of God, these three share several weaknesses we would do well to remember, lest we grow discouraged. And we have one formidable ally whereof they cannot avail themselves.

As for the weaknesses: the first is that they are often stupid and inept. For every one of my college freshmen who is dismayed to hear that his beloved childhood schools taught him things that were foolish or false, there are five who are gratified to hear it, and who feel vindicated. For every one of my college seniors who will try to persuade me that I should take a Leonardo Di Caprio seriously as an actor or an intellect, there are five who want me to give them a “viewing list” of classic movies made by men and women whose roots were set in the earth of a Jewish or Christian culture before the advent of mass entertainment. It is hard to listen to or even to look at a Justin Bieber when once you have encountered the far greater talents of George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, or Cole Porter, let alone Aaron Copeland or Antonin Dvorak.

I am persuaded that we could clear our heads of most of the unnatural evils we have come to accept if we would simply leave the Teaching Machine and the Entertainment Machine, and go out of doors, and stay there for a while, walking, listening, perhaps whistling, playing, working, thinking, or simply being.

The second is that they bring no joy. Sure, for as long as there have been schoolboys, they have been “creeping unwillingly to school,” as Shakespeare put it. But the very worst of schools in ages past were still bad in a human way and on a human scale. You might have a crabby old lady for your second grade teacher, or a sour-stomached schoolmaster who was quick with the ruler. They still taught ordinary things, and even ordinary virtues, by precept if not by example. You knew your fellow sufferers by name, all of them, and their families. The schoolhouse was, in distance and in being, not so far from home. And then there were schools that might press a tear from the eye of an old person walking past its venerable doors.

That's not true now. What joy is there in the long bus ride, the rushed lunch, the bustling from room to room, the general anonymity, the indoctrination in partisan politics, the mass-marketed slop for reading, the noise, the surveillance, the ever-looming standardized tests, the sexual chaos, the enmity of teacher against parent?

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None, as there is no joy in the boredom of the Internet, or in the twaddle for the ear and eye and soul that is sold and consumed like fast-food hamburgers, more plastic than meat.

The third is that they bring no peace. School is instruction in simultaneous sloth and busy-ness. The Internet delivers a jittery stasis. Mass entertainment is little more than an array of needles to prick people into handing over some of their cash. 

What then is the formidable ally I have alluded to? Gerard Manley Hopkins knew:

But for all this, nature is never spent:
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things,
And though the last lights off the black west went,
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs,
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with, ah! bright wings.

It is the world that God has made, waiting outside of our doors and windows.

It is not heaven, that I know well. But it is also not hell, or an unnatural cubicle, fitted out with fluorescent light and the drop-ceiling tiles with their prick-marks as numerous, alas, as the stars in the sky.

I am persuaded that we could clear our heads of most of the unnatural evils we have come to accept if we would simply leave the Teaching Machine and the Entertainment Machine, and go out of doors, and stay there for a while, walking, listening, perhaps whistling, playing, working, thinking, or simply being.

You walk past a field in autumn and there are the wild turkeys pecking away in the stubble. How they got there, you don't know; or where they roost, or how they are going to last through the coming winter. You know that turkeys have been living and hatching young and finding their food and dying, for thousands and thousands of years, and something of the permanence of nature strikes you. It is apart from you, but also within you; it warns you, and yet it sustains you. It is good that there are turkeys. The tom turkey you see with his brilliant red accoutrements, his thicker muscles, and his imperious ways among the females, and you smile, and you understand, for better and for worse, that maybe human beings and turkeys are not so far distant after all.

You walk on, and you see the dragonflies flitting about a muddy little pond, hardly more than the puddling of a creek, and you know that they will be laying their eggs soon, and they will die, though their wings are dazzling green and violet and indigo. And the life of man on earth is, in comparison with eternity, no more enduring than the brief glory of the dragonfly. Is there something in you that then that cries out, “This cannot be the final truth about man”?

Or you are in the field, working, wiping on your sleeve the sweat from your brow and brushing away the gnats. The hay has to be made. The silly feminist who declares that fairy tales are evil – she has never had to make the hay. Most things that most people fret about, and most of the unnatural states they imagine themselves into, vanish into the vanity they are when you have a field, mown grass everywhere, and hay to make. Your very muscles will rouse you back into reality.

Our opponents claim the unnatural. Let them. Nature is on our side, and she does not change.

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Michael Lorsch, the real-life gay stripper hired by Canadian children's charity, Free the Children.

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So, a gay stripper walks into a top children’s charity and asks for a job…

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

This week I'm taking a break from my essays on how to form in your children a wholesome moral imagination.  Instead I'd like to engage my readers in a fantasy of decadence.

Let's suppose that a prominent child-oriented charity in a once Christian nation hires somebody to meet with teenagers to encourage them to be “shameless idealists.”  Imagine that the pedagogue is a male stripper for a gay ho-down called Boylesque. 

At the Boylesque webpage, suppose you find a Mountie in a passionate kiss with a lumberjack, who is holding a bottle of beer foaming over. “Imagine your dearest Canadian icons,” say the Boylesque promoters, “stripped down and slathered in maple syrup for your viewing pleasure!”

Free the children? Teach them to blush. It's a good start.

The page features “Ray Gunn,” the Canadian “Mount-Me Police,” a rousing rendition of “O Canada” to make you “stand at attention,” an ad for a Valentine celebration of “debauch” at “our den of iniquity,” somebody named “Bruin Pounder,” somebody else named “Sigourney Beaver,” some stars of a “bisexual-athon,” and so forth. 

Imagine third-rate puns, puerile fascination with the parts down under, dopey titillation, debauchery, and “putting male nudity at center stage where it belongs.”

Now, let's see, what else can we add to this eye-rolling story? Suppose the boy-man who strips at Boylesque at night, after he works with girls and boys during the day, calls himself Mickey D Liscious. Let's give him an absurdly bogus education - a major in Sexuality Studies. Suppose the people who run the charity do more than look demurely aside from Mickey's mooning and lighting. They name him Rookie of the Year.

Now, to complicate the plot, suppose that people catch on to Mr. Liscious' nightly swinging, and complain to the charity. The directors say what cannot possibly be true.  They say they do not “discriminate” on the basis of what their employees do after hours. We presume that although whores and nudie wigglers may be welcome, people who write for conservative magazines would not be welcome, or embezzlers, pickpockets, bookies, loan sharks, dogfight promoters, or peddlers of contraband sealskin. The line has to be drawn somewhere. Prudence is a virtue. After all, we're dealing with boys and girls here. A priest who says, “Men and women are meant for one another, in marriage,” is to be shunned, but not somebody who simulates sex in front of hooting and howling strangers.

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Let's add the icing to the fantasy. We'll call the charity Free the Children, and we'll suppose that Free the Children encourages Mr. Mickey D Liscious to tell teenagers to be “shameless idealists.” 

Of course, everything in this tawdry and silly fantasy is fact. You can't make it up. No one would believe it.

You might suppose that I'd criticize Free the Children for its choice of Cool Child Companion, saying that he is the wrong boy to tell boys and girls to be “shameless idealists.” Mr. Liscious, for his part, believes that what he does at night and what he does during the day are of a piece, greasing the grooves and pistons of change. I take him at his word. He's right, and the directors of Free the Children agree. It's our turn to try to figure out what they mean.

By “idealist,” Mr. Liscious and his promoters do not mean “someone who believes that the immaterial is more real than the material.” Mickey is not giving lectures on Plato's Republic. They also do not mean, colloquially, “someone who believes in a high standard of personal virtue,” since such standards would deprive Boylesque of all those boys who like “a dirty flashmob” and “a Tim Horton's double-double served straight up.” They cannot mean that, because shame is what people with a strong sense of virtue often feel when they behave in a base or cowardly way.

The best they can mean is “unembarrassed promoters of some idea,” some fantasy of perfection upon earth, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the dictatorship of the proletariat, a “better world,” and other gauzy dreams that earn you points at a beauty contest, while you tilt your head like a poodle and modulate your voice for caring and sharing. 

And all I can say is that the last hundred years have been stuffed to the eyeballs with shameless idealists: shameless ideologues. They had an idea, or an idea had them, and shame on them for it. The more wicked among them had names like Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Khomeini. The more foolish had names like Harold Laski, who carried water for Lenin; Beatrice Webb, who carried water for Stalin; and Neville Chamberlain, who made a nice little pact with Hitler and proclaimed “Peace in our Time.”

Wilson was an idealist whose ideas got the better of his prudence and shame. We paid for that idealism in a crushed and belligerent Germany. The flower people of the sixties were idealists who scoffed at “hangups.” They could gaze upon the stars and sing about the Age of Aquarius, while their children looked to the empty place at table where Daddy or Mommy used to sit. Margaret Sanger was a shameless idealist. Hospital dumpsters are full of the result. 

We have had enough of shamelessness and foolish wars against reality.  

You cannot make “the world” a better place. The world is the world, old and stupid. Man is a sinner, and worst when he forgets that he is. That's not to say that you should sit and do nothing. Do the dishes. Read a good book. Be kind to your bothersome neighbor. Darken the church door and bend your knee in prayer.

Accept reality, and do the hard and unheralded work of cultivating virtue. Children are imprudent because they lack experience. Let them learn prudence from their elders. It takes no courage to follow the dreamy fad of the day, and children are suggestible. Let them learn the courage to resist the foolish and ephemeral. Children are often intemperate, because they're full of energy and so are given to hasty action and violent passions. Let them master and marshal their passions by subordinating them to right reason. Children see the world in stark oppositions of just and unjust. Let them keep their strong sense of justice, but let them temper it with the mercy that comes from acknowledgment of sin. Let shame instruct them in clemency.

Deny reality, dive deep into vice, and you will be a slave. Free the children? Teach them to blush. It's a good start.

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To play or sing real music, good music, not music to cut your throat or curdle your soul by, is like playing ball in the fresh air with friends, only better. Shutterstock

Why doesn’t anyone play music any more?

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

“I am never merry when I hear sweet music,” says the sprightly Jessica to her husband Lorenzo. They are young and wholly in love with one another. It is night, and they're waiting on a balcony for the return of their friends, including the noble lady of the house. Lorenzo has called for music to welcome her back.

Jessica doesn't mean that sweet music is a damper upon her soul. She means that when she hears it, she no longer feels like jesting; it is too moving for that. Lorenzo replies, “The reason is, your spirits are attentive.” Music in its “touches of sweet harmony” raises a sympathetic resonance within. But be wary, says Lorenzo, of “the man that hath no music in his soul,” because his imaginations are dark, and he is fit only for stratagems and spoils.    

For Shakespeare, music has a healing power. The doctor orders soft music to be played while Lear, the “child-changed king,” comes back to consciousness, his loving daughter Cordelia looking on in prayer. Paulina orders music to strike when she commands Hermione, or is it a statue of Hermione, to “be stone no more,” to descend, for dear life has redeemed her from death. The good old loyal servant Adam, dying of hunger in the forest of Arden, is restored to life with food and wistful music.  

I have seldom seen anything so lovely, and so normal and healthy, than a family of young children playing Celtic music together on their fiddles, enjoying one another's company, and for that time separated from, or elevated above, all the crass stupidities of the world about us.  

Shakespeare did not invent the notion that music helps to tune and order the soul. It's something we all know, deep down. Plato says that a true education for youths is a musical one, in the broadest sense: an education in harmony, decorum, and beauty. Bad music, at its most innocuous, is background noise that trains the ear in not hearing; the best you can say about it is that you learn to ignore it. At its most noxious, bad music corrupts the soul; its rhythms, not to mention its lyrics, may be those that submerge us in brutality. I see in my mind's eye a young man, lonely, angry, shooting pool at a drinking hole, listening to that dark genius Jim Morrison singing about a woman, not in love but in furious desire to possess and consume.

But if you wish to form a sweet and wholesome imagination in your children, music, good music, is one of the mightiest allies that nature and human ingenuity can provide. 

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This is especially true when children learn to play music. I've heard that 1961 was the first year in which sales of records in the United States outpaced sales of sheet music. I'm surprised it took that long; but if you rummage about in antique shops, you'll see that there used to be many companies whose sole business was to print sheet music, not usually in books, but rather by the song.

There's all kinds of indirect evidence to suggest that every family had somebody who played an instrument, in school, for a local band, in church, or for family gatherings. Perhaps a majority of these music-makers were self-taught and played by ear, as did Laura Ingalls Wilder's father, Charles. They played folk songs like “Old Dan Tucker” and “Loch Lomond,” the works of folk-style composers, like “I Dream of Jeannie” (Stephen Foster), and folk hymns, like “In the Sweet By and By.” They played hundreds of melodies, and people who didn't play might sing along. They often did so in harmony. For Protestants had long experience of singing harmony parts in their churches, since their hymnals were scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.  

Sometimes a whole community would come together to make music. I have in front of me a little book, by no means unusual for the time, called Twice 55 Community Songs, published in 1917 and probably reprinted fairly regularly; my copy, an edition especially for Canada, is no earlier than 1924. What's in it? Jaunty patriotic anthems: “The Maple Leaf Forever,” “Men of Harlech,” “Rule Britannia,” “The Marseillaise.” Sweet love songs: “Juanita,” “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,” “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,” “Annie Laurie.” Songs of faraway places: “Aloha Oe,” “The Volga Boatman.” Spirituals: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Steal Away.” Hymns: “Lead, Kindly Light,” “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Silly songs and rounds: “Reuben and Rachel,” “Alouette.” Dvorak and Mendelssohn are next to “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.”    

There's something for every sort of mood or whimsy, and every sort of love and loyalty for things dearly held or fondly remembered. The songs no more sound all alike than the steppes of Russia look like the hills of Scotland, or a lullaby sounds like a march to battle. They are songs meant for everyone, men and women, old people and young parents and small children.

Why do I write about this? To play or sing real music, good music, not music to cut your throat or curdle your soul by, is like playing ball in the fresh air with friends, only better, because it sends its roots far more deeply down into the memory. I have seldom seen anything so lovely, and so normal and healthy, than a family of young children playing Celtic music together on their fiddles, enjoying one another's company, and for that time separated from, or elevated above, all the crass stupidities of the world about us.  

Such music is more akin to the gentle silences of nature than to the noise of airports, television commercials, and mass-produced auditory jitters. It is more akin to laughter than to shouting, to the natural movement of an animal in its home than to the rattle and rasp of a machine. It is a prelude to love, not a lubricant for dispirited fornicators. When it is not at the threshold of the church, it is still within sight of the steeple.

It is our friend, because it is natural and therefore aims ultimately toward God Himself. Mark the music.

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The collapse of moral values is now shifting into a mad inversion where good is evil, and evil is good. Dickens provides the antidote.

Fight the moral madness: read Charles Dickens to your kids

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By Anthony Esolen

I recently observed that there must be something odd about someone who likes to play Naming of Parts with the children of strangers, whether it's a slobbering bachelor down the street who's friendly with one kid, or a minor governmental functionary who is friendly with two dozen. For suggesting that parents and not slobs or schoolteachers have the sole authority to teach their children about sex, I was called “bizarre.” 

Get used to it, comrades. The collapse of moral values is now shifting into a mad inversion. It used to be considered evil to deprive a child of a mother or a father. It will now be considered evil to insist that a child should have a mother and a father. It used to be considered evil to walk naked in front of children. It will now be considered evil to demand that people stay clothed in front of children. 

We will have to adapt to our inverted times that most powerful scene in the Gospels. “This woman,” say the crowds, “has been caught teaching her children that sex is for marriage! What shall we do with her?”

“Give her a dose of medicine,” says the Prince of this world, tossing a rock in one hand, and holding a hypodermic needle in the other.

It's not that Dickens salts his novels with sermons; nothing so superficial. The spirit of the gospels is the spirit of his works: he is always writing with the works and words of Jesus in his blood and bones.

No sane person before the day before yesterday believed what we are supposed to believe now, about men and women, marriage, the education of children, the role of the State, the insignificance of the church, and the cramped little corner left for faith. Call us crazy, but there are plenty of madmen in our asylum, and they have names like Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Johnson, Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Augustine, Pascal, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky. 

These are our allies. With only a few exceptions, all of the great western poets and novelists who wrote before the twentieth century, and a majority of the greatest of those who wrote in that strange time, are our allies. Most are Christian, some are not. They are not nihilists, which is another way of saying that they are not ideologues. They do not try to cram reality into the narrow prison of an Idea. They do not hate intractable mankind. They do not hate men for being men or women for being women. They do not have what Burke called the most purely evil thing in existence, the heart of a metaphysician – by which he meant the heart of an ideologue, such as those who would soon clot the drains of Paris with blood.

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So let me introduce you to an ally who was, as a dear friend of mine puts it, “in love with goodness.” He is the greatest of English novelists, bequeathing to us all manner of human beings who have ever graced or disgraced the earth. No novelist has his boundless reach: the good and evil, clever and muddled, wise and foolish and sometimes both; Mr. Micawber, Cap'n Cuttle, Fagin the Viper, Silas Wegg, Sam Weller, Mrs. Jellyby, Betsy Trotwood, Miss Havisham, characters so sharply drawn that they become our companions for life.

He writes with gusto; he captures the peculiarities of his characters in every possible way. “Shake me up, shake me up, Judy!” cries Grandfather Smallweed the loan shark, a crippled old man slumping in his chair. “I am 'umble, Master Copperfield,” says Uriah Heep in his soft, fawning, sinister voice. “Something – I daresay I feel it is inevitable – something will turn up,” says Mr. Micawber, amiable and utterly irresponsible. 

Dickens was steeped in the gospels, and sometimes a gospel verse becomes the touchstone for an entire novel. “I am the resurrection and the life,” saith the Lord; the whole of A Tale of Two Cities leads to that climactic moment, when Sydney Carton is “recalled to life,” finding his life by losing it for his friend.

“And he took a little child and set him in their midst,” reads Peter Cratchit to his brothers and sisters, as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come look on, with the crutch of Tiny Tim lovingly preserved in a corner. The same Scrooge, turning away from his deadly evil, wakes up on Christmas morning as it were born again, crying out, “I don't know anything at all. I am quite a baby!”

“Our Father, which art in Heaven,” says Doctor Woodcourt to the street boy Jo, doing the only thing he can do in the boy's last moments, teaching him to pray as he dies of smallpox and exposure. 

Whatsoever you do to the least of these, that you do unto me. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you. The Son of Man came to call sinners. Nothing is hidden but shall come to light. Not by bread alone doth man live, but by every word that cometh forth from the mouth of God. I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. 

It's not that Dickens salts his novels with sermons; nothing so superficial. The spirit of the gospels is the spirit of his works: he is always writing with the works and words of Jesus in his blood and bones. He gives us not only his memorable zanies, but the great of heart, so active and sensitive and human in doing good that they themselves are unaware of it: Sam Weller (the first among them, and an utterly new character in English literature), Mark Tapley, Esther Summerson, Mr. Boffin, Florence Dombey, Cissy Jupe, Mr. Peggotty, Lizzie Hexam . . . the list goes on. 

You can and should teach your children what it is to be clean, honest, gallant, modest, industrious, and gentle. All that will be abstraction, chaff blown away by one gust of a song from the gutter, unless it comes embodied, in flesh and blood, with a voice, a look in the eye, and a firm grasp of the hand. Charles Dickens gives us that good company.

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Anthony Esolen

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Anthony currently serves as professor of English at Providence College, and is perhaps best known for his widely acclaimed translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He has also authored several original works, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization and the satirically titled Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. He regularly writes for publications including The Catholic Thing and Crisis Magazine.

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