A Christian Experiment

“A Christian Experiment” (as William Ferry), Enquiry, January 1943. (A review of The Seed Beneath the Snow by Ignazio Silone.)


To Thomas Mann’s dictum:  “In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms,” we may add the observation, drawn from current intellectual trends, that our political destiny is on the way to being formulated in religious terms. Which May be a more or less natural reversion. It is a  comparatively recent phenomenon, perhaps peculiar to our modem Western civilization, that masses of men should work, think, and agitate for a reconstruction of society according to some ideal of social perfection. It belongs to the order of religion rather than politics, as this latter was previously understood. It finds its parallel in extremist religious movements such as the Anabaptists in Luther’s Germany and the Levellers in Cromwell’s England. With the estrangement of religion from crucial social activities political ethics becomes secular in origin and intent. The revolutionists are driven by the recognition that actual society is an embodiment of force and fraud, organized for no ideal end. As remedy after remedy fails, the deeper grows the dissatisfaction. When disillusionment becomes complete, all that is most vital in the moral life of the time alienates itself from the political life of society and from the service of the state as something unworthy and unclean. Piecemeal reconstruction is deemed hopeless, and men return to the more enduring vision of universal pervasive principles which absorb all problems and solutions into a single expanded perspective.