Death of God, death of vows

When you give up on absolutes you give up on oaths and vows of fidelity.  To a large extent this is life in the West, though the logic of the position is still working itself out. Seeing one’s country as having an absolute value largely died off after World War I, and such a stance is now seen as naïve patriotism that the enlightened see as naked relations of power and a fairy tale told to rednecks so they’ll be willing to die in the army (until we eliminate armies altogether). Marriage vows are seen as contingent to any number of factors and can be dissolved for any or no reason, and the vows themselves are seen as ceremonial and exterior to the act of living together. It does not cross anyone’s mind that the oaths that doctors take to heal could be a conflict with State demands that they assist in or cause some deaths. What in the world does an oath have to do with the reality of suffering, patient freedom, and the vagaries and nuance of the real world?

Religious faith – and let’s just say it, the faith the West had in the absolute value of Jesus Christ and his Church of his saints – was the lynchpin and paradigm of a whole complex of absolute values which half the world is trying to undo and the other half wants to preserve without demanding faith in the paradigm. This is not a sermon – Nietzsche said exactly the same thing. One can’t critique his insight but we might critique his hope that the death of God was a great and exciting new opportunity. The Dionysian spirit, it turns out, needs oaths and vows if it will ever turn eros into something lofty, creative and transformative as opposed to collapsing into something dissipated, cynical, emasculated, and always open to the prospect of causing its own death.

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1 Comment

  1. TomD said,

    December 19, 2016 at 12:10 am

    As usual, Chesterton has an apt comment:

    The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words—’free-love’—as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-flavoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants. – The Defendant


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