On Virtue

Rarely in history has virtue lost so much meaning, or been so incredibly misrepresented. Often, too much meaning has been placed in virtue, and things have gone wrong: Puritans thought more of Chastity than it meant, forgetting about Moderation. Those in the Crusades focused too much on Justice and Courage, and not enough on Grace. If nothing else, at least a sort of reverence was still reserved for some virtue, and there were still grand heroes and saints in those days, as well as the devils. But today, instead of disavowing virtue, as happened in the early 20th century, virtue has been infested by false thought like wood by termites. The hollow shell can’t support itself, let alone truly virtuous action. Instead, such simple actions are done in the name of virtue as to make a truly virtuous action near on impossible, and certainly completely unrecognizable. Modern man holds virtue in his hand today as a child holds a broken toy – only instead of fixing the bauble, he has proclaimed it better broken than whole.

It is perhaps best to tell it harshly, and then to speak more generally about the subject. Giving to the poor is not Charity – for Charity is giving to the undeserving. It is far more charitable to give to the factory owner than to the factory worker for the simple fact that the owner does not deserve it. It is no more charitable to give alms to the needy than it is graceful to forgive the deserving. It could be called Justice long before it can lie at the feet of Charity. Grace is not comforting a woman who has been cheated on by her husband; Grace is loving the adulterous partner. Similarly, Faith is not believing something you have reasoned to, nor is it believing in the impossible – it is simply believing in something rather unbelievable. And to attack it on the grounds of the former is to miss the point of the latter, which nearly everyone who denounces Faith does.

It is also impossible to have a virtuous State – for to have a charitable government would mean one could have a faithful government, and what that would entail is either quite scary or quite dull (or both, as dullness is a rather terrifying status). Virtue is an individual action, and a voluntary action. To be required to give is not giving at all – as to be required to play is not leisure, for if you wish not to play but to sit, you are not at leisure.

It seems obvious the point of watering down virtue – it is to make it possible to claim virtue without being virtuous, much like The Fountainhead’s Toohey watered down genius to make it possible to claim brilliance without being brilliant. It is the modern overindulgence of ego that rivals even Greek hubris, for at least hubris required too much trust in ones own virtue, and not trust in ones complete lack thereof. It is far too difficult to give to the undeserving, so we call Charity giving to those who have need; and so we play like saints. Loving the unlovable is an unimaginable difficulty to most humanity, so we call Grace an acceptance of the ones who are beaten; and then continue to throw the first stone at the beater. We confuse liking and loving, so that it seems natural to betray those we love; when betrayal precludes true love, but lends itself well to a sellable enjoyment of company. And Faith is mocked as unreasonable, when it should be embraced as such; and so reasonable men are called unreasonable due to Faith all too often.

It is probably too much to ask for the academics today to responsibly treat such a subject. Virtue has manifested itself throughout history so powerfully it seems near impossible to detach the two. Yet modern histories are written as if all decisions are economic decisions, or Machiavellian power plays. It is only a hop (no need for the skip or jump, really) to assuming even today all actions are done for money, or power, or lust. This is only because no one knows what virtue is anymore – it has faded away from public knowledge, and is banned from history, so that soon there will be no recovery of it. We are left with only vice – which is always easier to remember, as it is easier to perform.

If Christianity is to survive modernity, it is time to repossess the virtues. Wipe the webs from their broken bones, and breathe life back into their dusty forms. No one cares to be modernly charitable, for it is simply normality. There is no true satisfaction in modern Grace, only a hollow sense of the ordinary. Rarely has there been the confidence of true Faith, for Faith means not today what it once did. We must return to the orthodoxy of yesterday if we are to lead the revolution of tomorrow. For if ever there be reason to revolt, it is in the name of true Virtue.

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