From Anthony Esolen:
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.
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