On Palm Sunday of this year Charles Martel, victor of Tours, could smile upon his descendants. A small band of Franks wielding hammers again rose in defense of the West. The action was local-scale and humble; there was no smashing of the Saracen horde. Four young men entered art mogul Yvon Lambert’s gallery in Avignon and destroyed the Piss Christ, a world-famous image of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine (It had previously been attacked in Australia; the coup de grace fell to the French). Their raid does nothing to shift the odds against traditionalists- it is rather an emblem of resistance, akin to stealing a general’s banner from the enemy camp. In such symbols the struggle endures.
The story of 20th-century art is one of subversion, the use of creative media for purely destructive ends. Painting, music, literature and sculpture were used as refined weapons in the avant-garde’s rebellion against Christendom. The enterprise was wildly successful- a witch’s brew of Freud and Marx prepared by the Frankfurt School would only accelerate the dominant liberal trajectory toward cultural dissolution. By 1987 an “artist” like Andres Serrano, with the patronage of collector-oligarch Charles Saatchi, could display his Piss Christ in America to the widespread approval of the elites. Its veneration in public as an object of beauty only highlights the Revolution’s progress.
Before the onset of post-modernity, art diverted from its original purpose, transcendence, still had the capacity to seduce. Escaping the boredom of late 19th-century bourgeois Europe, stockbroker Paul Gauguin could cast idyllic scenes of Tahiti’s primitive splendor and indulge himself with its native women. And the bored bourgeoisie back home were captivated, at least for a time. Under Gauguin’s influence Pablo Picasso would then paint the lascivious and animalistic Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, portending the rise of a cruel and inhuman spirit that would characterize the coming decades. Fedor Dostoevsky had already spoken of beauty’s elemental danger in The Brothers Karamazov:
Beauty! I can’t endure the thought that a man of lofty heart and mind begins with the ideal of Madonna and ends with the ideal of Sodom…Is there beauty in Sodom? Believe me, that for the immense mass of mankind, beauty is found in Sodom. Did you know that secret? What’s awful is that beauty is a thing mysterious and terrible. God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.
The battles won and lost in these dark recesses produce visible consequences. In our time Sodom would triumph; rejecting the Madonna, civilization proudly set its faith in reason while pursuing desire. Gauguin would die of syphilis, and within the generation Europe experienced a new phase of revolutionary politics and the savagery of mechanized war so well depicted in Picasso’s Guernica. Traditional culture and polity in the West, what Fr. Seraphim Rose termed the Old Order, recognized beauty as an expression of divine hierarchy. Yet the forces of the new era worked to annihilate any such notion. Sic transit gloria mundi– the glory of the modern was truly fleeting, and the false beauty of Sodom would be unmasked in spiritual alienation and death.
With today’s regime committed near-religiously to transgression, there is no further need for seduction in art. Refined weapons have become blunt instruments of demoralization. The repulsive and perverse are simply proclaimed beautiful, and all are expected to accede to the lie. Nobility is mocked, higher love altogether denied, and Eros grotesquely parodied in pornography. Art and its applications in mass entertainment are best identified as profit-driven psychological warfare. In concert with the machinery of political economy, contemporary culture robs the peoples of the West of their identity and denigrates their ancestral faith. In return it offers filth and fun. The alleged consummation of human development, the Open Society has descended to a condition of sub-humanity.
The Piss Christ was exhibited in the United States and Europe for years and served as a testament to the values of the new era. Calculated blasphemy became a holy relic of “our treasured freedoms” for leftists, and American conservatives did nothing besides run through well-rehearsed motions of hapless opposition to gain votes and raise campaign funds from gullible donors. Republicans would never violate the dogmata of secular pluralism in order to defend Christianity and the Western heritage. Their ultimate loyalty has always been to Mammon, the god of liberal democracy. One need only witness calls by U.S. senators to outlaw Koran-burning, as Washington’s trillion-dollar mission to transform Afghanistan into a Muslim Mayberry could be jeopardized by one such stunt! Meanwhile our finest art galleries maintain warehouses of sacrilege and obscenity, with similar content beamed daily to the proles via television.
It is not farcical elections and their attendant theatre that will save the West; it is the strength of will of a blessed few. The now-mangled Piss Christ confirms this. How heartening it is that the men of Avignon evinced not the least concern with sacrosanct rights of expression, the marketplace of ideas, or any other regime methods of division and control. They showed the courage to shatter a minor idol of the age and dent, however slightly, the liberal order’s myth of invincibility.
A genuine Counterrevolution in the Occident will be creative, and moved by the force of love- not just for beauty, Truth and the Good, but for their reflections in our brothers and friends, our kith and kin. In all its glamour and power, the regnant anti-culture will have wrought only its own negation; so it was attested on a Palm Sunday with the defiant swing of a hammer.