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Traditional Book Review: The Gentle Traditionalist by Roger Buck July 27, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Christendom, cultural marxism, General Catholic, history, Latin Mass, paganism, Restoration, Revolution, scandals, secularism, sickness, Society, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.
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Kind reader skeinster, who I know and value so much in real life for her perspectives as a longtime trad and observer of trads, gave me a copy of Roger Buck’s The Gentle Traditionalist to read.  Bucks two books – The Gentle Traditionalist and Cor Jesu Sacratissimum – have attracted rave reviews from the likes of Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Charles Coulombe, and Joseph Shaw.  Both books have received almost unanimous 5 star reviews on Amazon.  A few people gave it 4 stars.

I would probably have to fall into this latter camp as well, for while I appreciate the work – especially the first half – and find its lighthearted approach refreshing in a traditional Catholic tome, I felt the author missed the point on two key subjects – the “evils” of capitalism and the pernicious influence of the United States –  and glossed over the liturgical revolution in the Church and its effects a bit much.  I am no longer entirely certain that “the Mass is the Mass is the Mass” irrespective of how disordered, abusive, or downright heretical it is.  Having said that, I also know there are much more beautiful, uplifting, and reverent means of offering the Novus Ordo.  Call me a bit agnostic on this subject.

First, the good parts.  The author very skillfully exposes that the ultimate struggle ongoing in the West (and, through the Anglosphere’s overpowering influence, the world) is not one of politics, not even one of culture, but one of religion.  He adroitly reveals what has been obvious to this blog for years, but which took me other years to discover on my own – the modern left-libertine cultural-political-social agenda movement is not, as it likes to present itself, simply the natural product of a scientific inquiry and rationalist thought, but is in fact a highly organized, tightly controlled religion, and one that is inveterately hostile to it’s longtime nemesis and competitor, the Catholic Christian Faith.  Even more, the author notes that this religion – which he calls the New Secular Religion, and I, more clumsily, refer to as sexular paganism, creates enormous power and room to maneuver for itself by steadfastly denying its religious basis, even though we see the religious nature of sexular paganism exposed more and more everyday, with heresies declared, anathemas issued, and (un)holy wars proclaimed.  As author Buck notes, because it is the religion of the shapers of mass popular culture – the media, academia, virtually all corporate titans, and the vast majority of politicians – secularism literally gets away with murder.  And mass murder at that, given the ongoing genocide of abortion and the rising genocide of the old and infirm in so-called euthanasia.

All this is brilliantly conveyed and powerfully argued – but in a folksy, approachable way missing in many books related to the traditional Catholic – or, I should say, Catholic – critique of both the culture and the Church.  In fact, I found myself wishing at times this book had been available in, say, 2010 or so – it would have saved me 3 years or more of figuring this out for myself!

There author also touches on elements of Catholic history that have been deliberately glossed over, if not ignored entirely, in the propaganda machines cum education-industrial complexes in the West, and in particular in the Anglosphere.  When For Greater Glory came out in 2012, I was shocked to find how few Catholics had ever heard of the Cristiada or know that there had been a violent, bloody persecution of Catholics persist for decades literally right next door to the US.  Similar elements of Catholic reaction to the ongoing sexular pagan revolution – the Carlists, the Spanish Civil War, the War in the Vendee, various Irish uprisings against protestant English rule – receive mention.

I also found absolutely fantastic the distinction the author makes between being gentle, and being “nice.” I would be remiss in not mentioning this detail – the spiritual adviser, the “gentle traditionalist” of the book, is very much just that. I do appreciate his gentleness and think this is a great example of how to do evangelization, even proselytization, in a way that is probably very well suited to this era of easily hurt feelings and mass emasculation.  Nevertheless, Buck notes that very much of what is wrong with the culture, especially with regard to decaying moral (and ecclesiastical) norms stems from a fear of not being “nice,” which means, ever causing anyone to feel uncomfortable or have their feelings hurt.  The Gentle Traditionalist would be a terror on today’s college campuses among generation snowflake.  The author also, at least tacitly, exposed much of what is wrong within the Church herself these past several decades: the triumph of the feminized “Church of Nice” over the Church of the Apostles, Fathers, and Doctors.

Even more importantly, the author rightly notes that the original source of the New Secular Religion, as he calls it, is the protestant heresy and revolt.  How the author can then turn around and declare that protestantism merely represents an “imperfect confession” of the Faith was a bit puzzling, for protestantism is the seed bed of literally everything sexular paganism represents – rejection of authority, exaltation of human “reason” above God’s revealed Truth, tolerance (and eventual promotion of) sexual license, a wholly distorted understanding of virtue and the the nature of right piety and devotion, etc., etc.  I felt there was some unfortunate influence of the post-VII ecumenical movement, here.  But, in truth, this was a brief and unfortunate departure from the book’s fairly comprehensive attack on protestantism as the ultimate root of the assault on Christendom by the New Secular Religion (I will say, however, that I think the author also glosses over grave problems in the Orthodox Churches, as well, and the growing number of heresies stemming from those bodies, but, given what’s been emanating from Rom in the past few years and decades, who am I to judge?).

More systemic problems throughout the book are the author’s obvious lack of understanding of the United States and its people, and his wholesale attacks on capitalism.  Now, we all have baggage from our past. I quite frequently wonder the degree to which my lifelong conservatism/right wing nuttiness may be influencing my conception of the Church and Church belief.  It is probable I color various understandings on these weighty matters with my own preferences.

The author was a longtime liberal, even, it seems, a devoted member of the unchurch of sexular paganism himself.  He is also a Britisher, and seems to derive much of his understanding of both (what is represented as) capitalism and the United States from incredibly biased British media coverage (the author also seems to believe that climate change is real, caused by humans, and is largely the fault of what he calls capitalism.  But ever seen the environmental record of communist/hard socialist states?).  His numerous snide comments regarding the United States and our supposed embrace of “capitalism run riot” aside  (I really don’t think the author has much experience of the United States or Americans, and fails to note hugely important distinctions, such as the massive socialist welfare state that has existed in the US for decades, or the fact that Americans on average, and Christian Americans in particular, are far, far more generous in giving to charity than any European populace, which points up a hugely important distinction: the fact that the US has a relatively smaller welfare state than most Eurozone countries does not mean that the US is a hard-hearted, un-Christian place.  It means that many Americans would rather do their charity themselves, rather than have the government do it for them, all the while keeping a huge proportion for itself and gravely injuring civil liberties given by God in the process), the main weakness with his arguments, to me, are his constant denunciations of capitalism, or what he believes capitalism is.

Now, again, taking into account differing life experiences and preferences, when I repeatedly encounter phrases like “wage slavery,” lifted directly from Das Kapital, I take a bit of exception.

Without going into too much detail, or becoming overly critical, I would simply say that the author shares a very prevalent bias, one that is even more common in Europe in the United States, when it comes to understanding capitalism.  Capitalism is simply, at its essence, the free exchange of goods and services among private individuals at agreed upon rates.  Capitalism was not invented by Adam Smith.  It is the default economic system that has virtually always arisen among groups of men at all stages of history, whether it be based on barter, gold coins, or paper dollars.  This system has sometimes, naturally, had elements of collectivism, and at other times and places, been much more individualistic.

What we have today in the United States, and even more so in Europe (and have had for decades, even a century or more in some nations) is a capitalist-socialist hybrid, highly influenced and controlled by government, with government often picking winners and losers.  Those winners tend to be established players who already have great wealth and influence, and who, almost unanimously, adhere to the New Secular Religion.  The distortion of the free market, and government’s almost total dominance over it in many nations, is a huge factor both in the spread of the New Secular Religion and in the inability to fight back against it. In fact, many Americans, at least, view a free market as being a vital means to resist the spread of the New Secular Religion, just as many other Americans view socialistic policies as being vital to its continuing spread.  In brief, I think the historical evidence and that from the present day both strongly indicate that the New Secular Religion, as Buck calls it, is inseparable from the socialist state, and the more socialist the state, the more secularist it is, at least in the West.  (I won’t even go into the numerous mentions of the US’ lack of a government-forced single payer health care scheme, which is presently causing thousands of murders a  year in Holland and has moved Britain to ration health care to a draconian decree – no heart surgery for you if you are fat or smoke too much!  I doubt the author has any idea how terribly health services have declined, and costs increased, even with the semi-single payer Obamacare.  It’s been an unmitigated disaster for the vast majority of Americans who constitute the middle class).

At any rate, suffice it to say that we disagree on this rather substantial point.  I would also say that, politically, the New Secular Religion has always been primarily promoted by the political and economic Left, and that it is no accident that both the communist governments that have taken root, and the more socialist governments of the world, have all been profoundly anti-Christian and especially anti-Catholic. Meanwhile, capitalism happily coexisted with Catholicism from its founding up until about 150 years ago.  Distributism, which the author seems to promote (but doesn’t really flesh out to any degree), is a nice dream, but I have grave concerns that it is not simply another economic utopian fantasy that would wind up getting a whole lot of people dead, of necessity, in order to implement it.  But I won’t rehash those arguments now.

I would simply rebut with this: no economic system has lifted more people out of poverty more quickly than capitalism, even in its limited, distorted, and government-dominated form of today.  Professor Jordan Peterson claims that more people (300 million) have been lifted out of poverty in the last decade than at any time in human history, and the rate is actually increasing, with 35-40 million growing out of poverty every year now.

All of this is not unimportant.  As I noted, to me, there is far, far greater correlation between the rise of totalitarianism, religious persecution, and the advance of the “New Secular Religion” or sexular paganism,  with socialism/Leftism than there is between these terrible features of the modern world and capitalism.

Not that there are not serious problems with both capitalism and the United States. There are, and I have discussed them at length, especially regarding the latter.  Modern capitalism, with government encouragement, too often descends into usury. And the US – along with every other similar nation – is fundamentally disordered in not having Jesus Christ as its visible Head and the Catholic Faith as its state religion.

I should regroup here, and say that even with these points of disagreement, I still liked the book, I recommend it (with some caution regarding the points above), and would give it 3 1/2 to 4 stars out of 5. [On reconsideration, I would say more like 3 stars.  The anti-capitalist rants are really quite extensive and actually form a key part of the book’s argumentation, while socialism/Leftism as economic factors in the decline of Christendom (and inextricably linked with the rise of the New Secular Religion) are passed by virtually without comment. I have a serious problem with that] I will almost certainly purchase the author’s other book Cor Iesu Sacratisissimum, since it it much longer and, I believe, is supposed to explain his understanding of ecclesiology, theology, and related matters in much greater depth.

I did particularly enjoy the excerpt from The Deer’s Cry, or St. Patrick’s Breastplate, the author included.  This is an ancient Irish prayer attributed to St. Patrick, and I found it quite moving and beautiful.  I hope to find time to post that tomorrow or sometime soon.

Overall, there is much more good in the book than anything I can find fault with.  Many other readers, apparently, did not find nearly so much to be concerned over as I did, or they were willing to let those things pass by.  That’s fine.  I’m interested to know if any of you have read the book, and, if so, what you thought of it.  I went on at length in some of my criticisms, but that’s really more an indication of my inability to unpack and criticique thoughts efficiently, than it is of the amount of book that is devoted to the subjects I find less perfectly cogitated.  Really, the vast majority of the book is quite solid, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Whew, longest post I’ve done in a while.  If you’re still here, you deserve a beer or a cigarette or a gold star…..something.  How about a nice glass of Skittlebrau?

Kind of an inside joke if you haven’t read the book.

 

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Comments

1. Numbskull - July 28, 2017

If you really want to open your eyes about the sexular pagan left, read the brilliant Catholic scholar, E. Michael Jones. Consistently throughout history there has been a singular group of people that try to cause the destruction of Christian societies. And you’re right, the major problem with capitalism is usury, which this particular group also happens to excel in.

skeinster - July 28, 2017

Let me guess- it’s the Jooooos, right?

Don’t be coy, just come out with it.

Numbskull - July 28, 2017

typical brainwashed response.

Camper - July 29, 2017

Numbskull, I’m EXCEPTIONALLY angry too, but when you are this rude to people, it is counter productive. I guess Skeinster wasn’t so nice to you either, but consider how you appear to… ordinary Americans. Yes, those strange people – or even to really good trads. I’ve heard that Judaism has become quite the mockery of all that’s good, but there are plenty of good Jews out there too. Think of Michael Medved, Ben Shapiro, or Dennis Prager. All doing good things. Even though they’re going to Hell, they try to do the right thing.

Numbskull - July 30, 2017

My apologies for any rudeness. But how “good” can a person be if they are anti-Logos? Are there “good” Muslims, too? Like you say, they all are hell bound. We need to bring back the original Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the perfidious Jews, and the Judeo-Masonry influenced Nostra Aetate needs to thrown on the ash heap of history.

Camper - July 30, 2017

Fair enough Numbskull about how good anybody can be when they deny the Christ. I also agree about the Good Friday prayer and probably would agree about Nostra Aetate too if I knew the details. Even if there were no Jews or freemasons, there would still be more than enough machinery right now to destroy the Church and Western Civ. Please keep that in mind when arguing with trads, particularly those who don’t attend your parish. I agree that the Federal Reserve is a problem, but I don’t know too much about Judeo-Masonry. Democracy is the proximate cause of western decline. If bad guys in the shadows are behind it, they are only acting through something of which virtually all Americans (and Westerners) approve.
Maybe you could tell me the details about Nostra Aetate.

Camper - July 30, 2017

Have you thought of joining the SSPX? Maybe this sounds like a stupid question, but I think they still have the Good Friday prayer. Catholics aren’t required to commit suicide, which is what one does if one stays with Rome.

Numbskull - July 31, 2017

Camper,
Nostra Aetate is a VAt II document that was written in such an ambiguous way, that it can be interpreted that Jews and Muslims can be saved while still rejecting Christ. This is a good place to start:

Its interesting you bring up the SSPX, because both Jews and Muslims are trying to block their regularization because the SSPX openly denounces N.A. Although tempting, things having gotten as bad yet to join the SSPX.

Camper - July 31, 2017

Dear Numbskull (what humility you have!),
I really don’t understand what people have against the SSPX. It is a heresy that we are required to stay in communion with the Pope when he approves heresy in an ecumenical council, as Paul VI and the bishops did at Vatican II. Really. If everyone in the world joined the SSPX, the crisis in the Church would be over tomorrow. End of discussion. True, I’ve only been allied to the SSPX for more than a year. Still, we are not required to commit suicide.

Tim - July 30, 2017

E. Michael Jones…..argues that the SSPX is in schism……not so brilliant. Saw him speak once…..he wasn’t that impressive.

2. Julia Augusta - July 28, 2017

I read Buck’s other book where he explains this better. He is not criticizing capitalism per se, but the mutant “crony big-enterprise capitalism” developed in the US, which is now taking over Europe as well.

This type of capitalism doesn’t allow real competition and crushes small businesses and family-owned enterprises. Note that most of the food in supermarkets everywhere in the world now, is made by 5 giant conglomerates. Our lives are dominated by a tiny group of companies, controlled by a tiny group of rich people. Until recently in Europe, there were very many small groceries, pharmacies, restaurants, clothing boutiques, run by individuals or families. Now, what do you see: chain stores like Zara, Boots pharmacies (owned by Walgreens), Aldi, Carrefour.

Camper - July 29, 2017

Actually, highly concentrated wealth is part of a healthy society. If there isn’t a middle class, that is unhealthy, and if there aren’t some fabulously wealthy people after the invention of the steam engine and the Bessemer Process, there is also a problem. While cronyism is a problem in America, what is really wrong is the fact that the economy is tilted so heavily in favor of the poor right now. This is deforming America very badly and leads to society being dominated by porn stars, gangster rappers, actors, other low-class entertainers, professional athletes, and others.

3. Sally Brown Box - July 28, 2017

I have the other book, I will lend it to you, if you like.

Thanks for the review- we are in agreement on all the points you mention. I was wondering it I had picked up on those accurately.

skeinster - July 28, 2017

Testing

4. marykpkj - July 29, 2017

I read the book when it was first released. Pretty much for the problems you pointed out, I have not recommended it to anyone. My view is that the author has been very recently awakened to Catholicism and tradition, and hasn’t sorted out how it fits with anything else. Although much of the book was good, as you say, I think if he had waited to grow in the Faith a bit, he might have had a more balanced view. Anyway, I appreciate your comments, and also those by Julia Augusta.


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