A Christian Survey of World History
England 18th & 19th Century, II
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:02 As a result, the 19th century was the age of the greatest expansion of Christianity since the days of the early church. More over, the colonialism of Britain introduced an internationalism of ideas and men. It was a tremendous accomplishment. One of the most remarkable things if not perhaps the most remarkable thing in all of human history. However there were counter forces against this. In Britain, before the century was over, the old opposition never died out. One of the most effective persons in undercutting all this work that the middle classes were doing and that Prince Albert had been able to further was Charles Dickens.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:09 Charles Dickens was a snob. He was also a dandy. I don’t know how to describe a dandy. Beau Brummell was perhaps about a century earlier, the prince of dandies. Not a century earlier, at the beginning of the century. We had a brief flash of the dandy during World War II in the zoot suiter’s on the Negro and some white [inaudible 00:01:43]. And that legitimately was a last flash of the dandy mentality. Dickens was a dandy. Oscar Wilde by the way was another. Dickens hated the middle class and his perspective was that of the leisure class. The people who are above work. And as a result, through his novels, he popularized the idea of the oppressive middle classes. And Oliver Twist and many of his other works, the business man usually comes out as the monster. And the [inaudible 00:02:34] very kindly people and the lower class is the poor abused people who are kicked in the teeth as it were by the middle classes. On top of that the Fabian Society was organized towards the end of the century, systematically propagating socialism.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:02 But earlier there had even a more deadly enemy, Charles Darwin. 1859, The Origin Of Species. The book as I point out in my Mythology of Science, sold out the first edition on the day of publication. People were waiting for the book. Here was armor against Christianity, a weapon to use against these hated Evangelicals and middle class people with all their [inaudible 00:03:36]. So they bought it up the first day. It was an enormously popular book. The myth is propagated about how poor Darwin suffered and was persecuted. This is anything but the truth, it was an immensely popular work. Except for one Bishop, there was no real opposition to the idea of evolution until about the 1890’s when various people organized to combat the rising tide of unbelief that was sweeping the churches.
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:22 But there are other factors that began to contribute to the decline that was setting in. The secularization of education. Education was becoming a state affair and humanism was in command. More over the merchants and business man who were not all Christians by any mean at any time were beginning now to desert the faith. They began to imitate the leisure classes. They sought prestige. The idea was to marry their daughter off to someone in the leisure class and using as a bait a great deal of money will give so many hundred thousand pounds if Lord so and so’s son will marry our daughter. And then he’ll have money enough so that he doesn’t have a problem any more financially, and he won’t be a deadbeat with his tailor and so on. And we will be related to the Lord’s. And of course, about the same time the second half of the last century, especially in the latter part of the 80’s, you saw the same movement here in this country. As the wealthy American families began to seek alliances with the nobility of Europe. Let us marry our daughter off to the leisure classes of Europe. And many a noble family of Europe, of Italy, of Spain and France, Germany, Austria, England and elsewhere, was recharged financially with an American marriage. It is really incredible how many such marriages were contracted.
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:27 Thus the middle classes began to imitate the ways and the values of the upper classes. It became more important to be a gourmet and a connoisseur than to be Godly and productive. Good taste was no longer associated with what is in balance, but what is precious and extreme, far out. As a result, when the 20th century dawned, there was a new kind of man on the scene. A man who increasingly was aping the leisure class. The 20th century was seen as the age of coming world peace, brotherhood and prosperity. They were sure that man was going to solve all his problems in this century and it was going to be a time of unequaled bliss and peace. But the collapse of the middle classes and their desertion of Christianity turned the tide in the other direction.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:52 Sometime after World War I, a very interesting comic strip was produced by a man named Briggs to satirize this change. We still have it with us, but the point has been forgotten. It’s Maggie and Jiggs. What was it about in origin? It was about an Irish couple who had come to this country and had been on the lower level, had worked hard, and she had worked as a washer women, she had worked in factories, she had worked here, there, and everywhere at every kind of job. And he had gone into some kind of production work and little by little, succeeded and then gradually become a very wealthy and a powerful man. And what happened? From being production oriented, they became consumption oriented. And Maggie decided she wanted to forget everything about their past, so Jiggs could no longer go anywhere near dinty moore on his hangout and see his old friends who are common people and who had not risen as they had. She wanted to be associated with the upper classes. And Lord’s and Ladies to be invited to her home. And of course to go to the opera where she dragged her poor husband Jiggs who hated it. She was a social climber.
R.J. Rushdoony: 09:40 And the whole point of the comic strip was, Jiggs, a man who had forged his way to the top as a very productive, capable, competent man, was now a joke, why? Because his whole perspective was being shifted by his wife’s social ambition. And from being a producer he was being made a fool who was financing his wife’s ambitions to be a connoisseur, a gourmet, a society hanger on. What did the comic strip mean as it originally came out? That the entrepreneur, the man who was the backbone of the western world, was now becoming a joke. A world of the non-working elite was returning with everyone imitating them and what was happening.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:49 Now the elite have always despised the mob. There was a time when castoff clothing was given to servants. Now the standard became to give them their castoff back. That is to create new styles, new patterns of behavior. And to drop them the minute they became popular with ordinary people. And thereby to prove their superiority because they were setting the [inaudible 00:11:23] which everybody down to the lowest level would follow. So you would adopt a particular type of dress or a conduct. And the minute it caught on, you moved on to something else and always proved you are the elite. That you are still getting castoff things as it were, to the mob. The goal was to be demonstrably useless.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:55 A book was written at the beginning of the century about this by a socialist who was a very discerning man, [inaudible 00:12:02] of the leisure class. And he pointed out how this had been a pattern throughout history. How for example in Mandarin China the standard of being a gentleman and a lady … well to be a lady you had to have your feet bound so that you couldn’t really walk very much. You were helpless. And you had long finger nails that proved you could not work. So long that you couldn’t possibly do any work. And you thereby demonstrated that you were useless. And of course, this is the essence of the whole idea of the leisure class. To prove that you are useless, that you create things and cast them off for the mob. That you treat everything as a joke and [inaudible 00:13:03] standards. You express your contempt for the practical or the moral world. That you’re pleasure is to be seen in the best company and the best restaurants and the best home. On the best tours, the grand tour that began in the 18th century as one of the idle rich, to make an impression. Appearance instead of reality. But when men live in terms of appearance, reality does not go away. It has a habit of returning with a vengeance. Next week as we conclude our studies, we will see something of the return of reality. The Sleep Walkers, one of the great books written in Germany after World War I, was titled The Sleep Walkers. It was [inaudible 00:14:18] book. A very long, unpleasant book whose basic thesis was … and as a German who had seen defeat, he was one of the few who woke up to what the world was becoming. And his basic thesis is men are sleep walkers who are going around seeking their own advantage, their own pleasure, trying to get ahead and to make a bigger impression on other people. To experience the best pleasures, to have the best men or women to make love with. But by sleep walkers, unaware of the reality that is bearing down on them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:19 It was a fitting subject and a very timely thesis. We are in the age of the sleep walkers, who have forgotten reality for appearances. And we will next week, analyze precisely what the situation is and it’s meaning for us. Let us bow our heads in prayer. All mighty God, our heavenly father, we thank the that thou has called us out of the dream of sin, of the nightmare, the sleep walk of sin, into the reality of Jesus Christ. And we pray that thou would use us to walk up man, woman, and children to the reality of Christ. To the reality of a world lost in sin, to the reality of thy purposes for us and thy so great promises in Jesus Christ that we may be able in the days ahead to [inaudible 00:16:38] man, woman, and nations to the saving power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, Amen.
R.J. Rushdoony: 16:50 Now before I show you these two pictures, I’d like to comment briefly, next week is our last session and a few of you have expressed the desire for some other sessions perhaps a little later. And we can discuss next week what you’re interested in. So if you are interested in them, next week, we’ll have an opportunity to go into that and what you are interested in. But I’d like to say this, now, I am working on a very small paperback on the effect of neoplasticism on Christianity and this gets to the heart of many of these things that we’ve been discussing. What are the ideas that came in, what have they done to the faith. Now in two possibly three weeks I can sum up the essence of that, if you’re interested in continuing these sessions for two or three weeks. How many of you would be interested in that. Oh, very good we’ll continue with neoplasticism in Christianity after we finish our world history next week. So two weeks from now we will go into that.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:11 Now this is a picture of Jim Alley, and this is no exaggeration, in fact it is perhaps the … not realistic enough because you don’t get the smell and the sound of it in a picture. And that basement bar will say drunk for one pence, dead drunk for two pence, [crosstalk 00:18:39]. Now as I indicated because England was in a sense a center of the world stage for two or three hundred years, in a sense it became the center for every kind of [crosstalk 00:19:07]. And I just barely touched on the tremendous forces of good that came out of that era.
R.J. Rushdoony: 19:40 Oh, very good question. In a much earlier era, these Lords were futile Lords who really rule each particular area as a kingdom. They had a working relationship between themselves and the people, they were the protector and they were the Lord of a particular area, they ruled, say a county or something. And as time passed of course, they no longer had that function, the crown was providing the law and order for the commonwealth. And as a result, their role was basically parasitic. And so they worked to seize power and maintain it after the glorious revolution of 1688 and to prevent the middle classes whom they regarded as a threat from running the country. The real issue of course in the Puritan regime under Cromwell was that this is where the Lord’s [inaudible 00:20:54], some of the Lords were very perturbed and with reason at what Charles I was doing. But after a certain point they wanted no more of Cromwell because they were afraid the wrong people were going to run things.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:16 How many of you saw the picture, Cromwell? Just a few of you, that’s too bad, it was a very powerful and a moving picture. But in it, it very clearly shows how Lord Essex was very much against the king up to a point. But then changed sides the minute it became apparent what the direction of the whole thing was. He and others who are associated with him could not bear the thought of triumph for these Puritan merchants. And it was to a great extent the triumph of the merchant classes and the middle class people of England.
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:06 Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that’s Thomas. That’s a different Cromwell. Yes, several generations before. Now at that point, their following incidentally that series while it’s possible at different points, is the most accurate I’ve ever seen in movie or television on anything. However, Thomas Cromwell according to one of the finest English historians whose just written a book Henry the eighth, is one of the most maligned men of history. And he makes a good case for the fact that he was the most dedicated servant England had at the time. A man of tremendous insight and practical wisdom. A man who did much of permanent work for England. As a matter of fact, after his execution, Henry the eighth realized that the … some of the men around him had deliberately lied to him and misrepresented things. And so he accused them once of being liars who had destroyed Cromwell, who had been a good and faithful servant to him.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:40 Yes. The book of Jasher, there is no such existing book although there are people who claim they have it. These are all [inaudible 00:23:56]. The book of Jasher and other such books that are referred to in the Bible were not books of the Bible, they were simply chronicles of military affairs, you see. So they’re referred to a time, but they had no status as scripture. They were military chronicles.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:26 Yes. Well the things that divides men is not the class structure of society. But rather a lack of a unifying faith. Adam Smith who wrote The Wealth of Nations, was not Christian in his perspective. But he does bring out some very interesting things. How in bygone years, the Lord and the lowliest man on his estate were very close together. They had a great deal in common. First, they both shared the same faith. Second, they did many things together. It was a working relationship. You’re always going to have people who are so to speak Lords and people who are lackeys. You’re never going to escape that situation in the world. There are some people who are naturally superior and are going to go to the top. But without faith, they fall apart and they become in conflict. With faith, they become a working, cooperating, agency.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:36 Now it’s very interesting that I’ve referred to the fact that Japan is still semi-futile. America is too. But in Japan the futile relationship is a little closer in some respects, in other respects here, in the personal area, it’s a little closer. The last US News and World report had a very interesting account of Japanese labor and it pointed out they’re not under paid the way some people think. All the fringe benefits they have and so on, so that they are really very well paid. Why? Because among other things, executives feel personal concern for them and take care of them. Now Peter Drucker’s written in great length on this in Men, Ideas, and Politics. And he’s pointed out how in Japan, when anyone goes to work for a company, he can figure that if he’s there after the probation period, he’s there for life. He will be expected continually to improve himself. He gets all kinds of security provisions. When he is 55, he is retired, but he will probably be retained at better pay. Only now he can be dropped at any time. So he’s very much on his toes after 55, and instead of becoming stagnant he’s a much better employee because now he can be dropped with two years severance pay at any time.
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:17 On top of that, any young executive who goes to work for a company is assigned a Godfather. This Godfather as it were has to meet with him regularly. Now who is this Godfather? Well, he is somebody who has become an outstanding executive. He’s in his 40’s. However, he is not going to be a member of the board of directors on one of the top echelons. So he knows when he’s reached that point and he’s given people who are going to be his boys [inaudible 00:28:59], his son’s in the organization … that he’s not going to be the top drawer executive in the company. What he will be given after 55 is an executive position in a subsidiary, a department that he’s familiar with so that a smaller company here, he’ll run, but he’ll meet with these young executives who’ve just been taken out of college into the company or who have come up through the ranks regularly. And he’ll discuss their problems with him. They’ll come to him with their problems and their complaints and he’ll work them out. And then he’ll go to them with things that he’s heard, what they need to work out.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:51 And after a while, he’ll make a recommendation. And since he’s not going to be competing with these boys he’s going to be in a subsidiary company at 55, as the top man there, he’ll say, well, [inaudible 00:30:06] here is a good man for the elite leadership in our company or I don’t think he is and so on. And Drucker said that one of his pupils when he flew to Japan a few years ago, came to him and he said “I’m new here, and they think very highly of me but they don’t have any foster father, or God father in the organization whose known me long enough to be able to recommend me, and there’s a position coming up in South America that I very much want. So would you put in a good word for me in terms of your evaluation of me from seeing me at work in the states?” And Drucker said “Would they accept it?” And he said “Oh, they would welcome it.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 30:59 So he said he was conferring with the President of the corporation and he said would you mind if I say something about so and so, my former pupil. And the President’s face lit up and he said “Oh, I was hoping you’d be ready to say something. Tell us just what you think of him, candidly.” And he said, on his word, the fellow got the job. And he said this kind of thing makes everyone feel there’s a personal relationship you see. Now this had gone around the barn quite a bit but to give you an idea of what once existed, between Lords and commoners. And there was a working relationship them. When that ended, that was never ideal because there were many ugly periods in history then. But this was the kind of thing … there was this closeness. Now their wasn’t the corporate structure so you were working your way up, but there was closeness. Today there is no longer that closeness. Whether it’s in a small company of 50 people or a big corporation of thousands, they’re aliens to one another. In fact if there are five people working in some enterprises they can be strangers in a way that they are not in Japan and in a way that they were not in earlier centuries throughout the Western world.
R.J. Rushdoony: 32:25 And it’s this deep personalization that has created many tensions and resentments against upper class people, against middle class people, against workers because they’re at war with one another. This is why in the south, where there was this kind of personal relationship between black and white, there was possible a peaceful relationship that was not possible the minute the negro went north. The relationship was impersonal. No.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:11 Yes, one more question.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:12 What?
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:24 Well, of course this is a worldwide problem today. This is a worldwide problem and of course it isn’t that there aren’t good men, it’s when you don’t have the right kind of faith in the people. You cannot have them choose the right kind of leaders. This is the problem.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:49 Well I think that’s about all except that there is an announcement. The Calcetan prayer meeting will be meeting on January 22, at the home of Ken and Helen Thurston at 7:30 pm. And it will include a discussion on the five point of Calvinism. The address is 4837 [inaudible 00:34:13]. And contact Ken Thurston for directions.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder