Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:

Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.

Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d.

Old Christmas is kickt out of Town.Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

-From “The World Turned Upside-Down” Thomason Tracts (669. f. 10 (47)), dated 8 April 1646.

“The World Turned Upside-Down” is a ballad written during the English Civil War in the 1640s as a protest against laws passed by England’s Puritan-dominated Parliament banning traditional celebrations of Christmas .  The Puritans (as was their way) believed the Nativity of the Lord should be a solemn, serious occasion.  Making merry, decking the halls, hoisting steaming bowls of wassail, and so forth, simply smacked too much of paganism for the austere Roundheads.

“The Puritan Governor interrupting the Christmas Sports,” by Howard Pyle c. 1883

“The War on Christmas,” it seems, is nothing new. The writer of “The World Turned Upside-Down,” however, might be surprised at just how upside-down the order of battle has become in the modern version of the conflict.  The Puritans wanted to take all the joyful and celebratory elements out of the observance of Christmas on the grounds that they obscured the holiday’s religious significance.  21st century censors, on the other hand, want to take all the religion out of our celebrations of the Nativity (as is their way), leaving only things frivolous and indulgent. They are seeking, in short, to transform one of the holiest days of the Christian liturgical year into a sort of purposeless seasonal bacchanal.  Talk about the world turned upside-down!  

O Tempora, O Mores!

       Of course, the current War on Christmas is itself simply one example among many, just one illustration of the sorry reality that we are now living in a Neo-pagan culture.  Our society has largely abandoned God and Christianity, and given itself over to the indulgence of primal urges.  And if we are in fact Neo-pagans, then are in much sorrier shape than the Old Pagans ever were: they came by their heathenism honestly, since they had no access to the Revelation of Jesus Christ. We, on the other hand, are consciously rejecting the Good News of God-Become-Man.  Accordingly, our Neo-paganism, despite its veneer of scientism, is even more upside-down than the old variety: along with Supernatural Truth, we are also increasingly abandoning even natural truths in a way that would have horrified the heathens of old.  Consider, for instance, what the greatest orator of the pre–Christian world, the Roman politician, philosopher, and writer Marcus Tullius Cicero has to say about what we would call Natural Law:

There is a true law, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil.  Whether it enjoins or forbids, the Good respect its injunctions, and the Wicked treat them with indifference.  This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and it is not liable either to derogation or abrogation.  Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice.  It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience.  It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this eternal law must forever reign, eternal and imperishable.  It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings.  God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer.  He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man.  For his crime he must endure the severest penalties hereafter, even if he avoid the usual misfortunes of the present life.

“Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, latrinis femineis nostris?” Cicero Denouncing Catilina Before the Senate, by Hans Werner Schmidt, 1912

     We live in a culture that no longer believes in what Cicero is describing: today’s conventional wisdom is that we can make reality whatever we want it to be. We scoff at the pagan philosopher’s assertion that the natural law “cannot be contradicted by any other law”, and we are increasingly using the power of the state (the senate and the people, as Cicero would put it) to this impose this Brave New World on those who won’t accept it willingly. If a latter-day Cicero were to give utterance to what he says above, he would most likely find himself “cancelled” and needing to employ his prodigious rhetorical skills to defend himself from charges of “hate speech.”

Intolerance Won’t Be Tolerated

      The cutting edge of the new paganism (at least at the moment) is the question of what today is called “gender.”  This is no longer a function of one’s biological sex, but is an “identity” chosen by individuals that need not correspond to any external reality (which frees us from the tyranny of being either male or female, there now being dozens of genders from which we can choose).  Cicero never guessed how truly a man might fly from himself, and do “violence to the very nature of man.”

    It should be clear that those individuals who truly believe that they are somehow in the wrong body deserve our prayers and understanding. And if this were simply a matter of people calling themselves what they want, it would be sad and unfortunate. The real revolutionaries, however, are those whose goal is in fact to turn the whole world upside down in order to make the human will (which is to say, their own will) the undisputed master.  They exploit the gender-confused as a battering ram against the foundations of reality-based society.  Those who create their own reality cannot tolerate any opposition from the genuine article, not even the unspoken opposition of those who simply live in accord with a more traditional understanding of the nature of things. After all, give people the choice between a fake and the real thing, what are they more likely to choose?

As Maine Goes . . .

We have seen the intolerance of the new Masters of Reality with increasing frequency over the past decade. There used to be a saying in U.S. presidential elections, “as Maine goes, so goes the nation.”  That may no longer be true of elections for the nation’s chief executive, but it seems to have some validity for the question at hand. Eight years ago the highest court in the state of Maine ruled that “School officials violated state anti-discrimination law when they would not allow a transgender fifth-grader to use the girls’ bathroom.” The law has no interest, apparently, in the vast majority of girls who feel threatened by a biological boy in their bathroom.  Nor does it seem concerned about the opening the new freewheeling bathroom regime gives to good old-fashioned sexual predators, regardless of gender indentity, who see an opportunity too good to pass up.

Maine State Supreme Court (www.courts.maine.gov)

Despite the assurances of social revolutionaries, there have been plenty of intrusions by men with less than innocent motives into what had formerly been safe spaces for women. At about the same time as the Maine Supreme Court ruling, and just a day’s drive to the north, the Ontario’s human rights commission defended “the right of ‘transgendered’ men to use women’s changing rooms in response to a woman’s complaint that she was ogled” by a man who was not, shall we say, adhering to traditional norms of modesty in his attire or his behavior (link, for mature audiences only). Note that the bad guy here (the bad gal, actually) was the woman who objected to the suggestive behavior of a naked man in a space ostensibly set aside for women.

A Non-Intimidating, Welcoming Environment . . . For Some

  Not long after that a woman was banned from her local Planet Fitness gym because she complained about a man in her locker room who “identified as” a woman, but who was very evidently a biological male.  The woman thought that she was warning and protecting other women by complaining about the intruder. The gym, on the other hand, declared her behavior “inappropriate and disruptive to other members,” and so she was asked to leave, since “Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members.”  Except for female members who object to undressing in the presence of naked men. Apparently, there is nothing inappropriate or disruptive about a man (whatever he thinks of himself) invading an area where women are accustomed to changing and showering.

Notice that in all these cases, it is not enough to be tolerant of those who wish to turn their own world upside-down: all of us are required to assent to the triumph of human will over objective reality, even to the point of sacrificing our own safety.  The New Reality must be protected at all costs.

Things go South

As we have seen recently, those who stand up and declare publicly that the new emperor has no clothes can face consequences more severe than simply losing a gym membership.  At a school board meeting in Loudon County, Virginia, this past June [article here], the school superintendent confidently asserted that “the predator transgender student or person does not exist,” and furthermore that “we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.”  The problem was that just such a sexual assault on a 9th grade girl by “a boy wearing a skirt” had been reported less than a month earlier.  The victim’s father was present at the meeting, and was quite understandably upset at the official effort to cover up the crime against his daughter.  The father was arrested for his trouble, literally dragged out of the meeting, and sentenced to 10 days in jail (suspended provided he behaved more compliantly for the next twelve months).  He was banned from subsequent school board meetings.  The New Reality doesn’t take kindly to impertinent intrusions on the part of the Old.

Protesting parents at Loudon County School Board meeting (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

In case you’re wondering how the story ended, the school board was sufficiently aware of the predatory male to transfer him, quietly, to another school.  There he promptly found himself accused of a similar bathroom assault on a second girl. Last month a juvenile court judge found him guilty of the initial assault, with a hearing on the  second incident scheduled for this month.  The affair had at least enough of a bad odor about it to bring the Loudon County School Board into disrepute, and to contribute substantially to the upset victory of Republican Glen Youngkin in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election.  Whether it has any impact on long term trends, however, remains to be seen.

True North

Let me repeat that transgenderism itself is merely a useful tool for those who seek to mold the world according to their own design.  Once its usefulness is depleted it will be dropped, and those unfortunate individuals who have sacrificed their bodies and their happiness to its promises will be forgotten without a second thought.  Nor is this the first time we’ve been tempted by the promise of god-like powers: “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) It was a lie, of course, as such promises always are.  All the serpent could offer was death, estrangement, and a world turned upside-down.

Speaking of which, the title of the ballad with which we began this discussion appears to have drawn its inspiration from the Acts of the Apostles. It’s an instructive passage. St. Paul has been preaching in Thessalonica, where the preaching of the Gospel seems to have ruffled some feathers.  Then as now, the Truth is offensive to those who wish to pursue their own “truth”, and such people will often resort to force to silence the competing voice.  In Thessalonica Paul has been staying with a man named Jason, who receives a visit from a crowd of mostly peaceful protesters:

. . . and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:5-7)

We Christians continue to proclaim the Kingship of Jesus Christ: we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King just last month.  And just as was the case in St. Paul’s day, Caesars large and small can’t tolerate the competition, and so they try to shut it down. Is it any wonder that churches were shut down during the first wave of the COVID panic when bars and casinos were considered “essential services?”

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star” (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Gifts of the Magi, Artist: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Engraver: Z. Scheckel, 1860. Courtesy of Hathi Digital Trust Library and the Getty Library

In a world turned upside-down, who knows what way is up? If there’s no true point of reference, who’s to say what direction is north, and which is south? Of couse, we know that wise men don’t follow their own inclinations, they look for follow something reliable, something fixed. Consider these Wise Men:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star . . .” (Matthew 2:1-2)

We also have a star to follow, our own North Star to guide us: our King, Jesus Christ.

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