"Out of the Ashes is an astonishing combination of energy, humor, insight, and exceptional erudition, topped off by a vivid personal style and a special gift for tweaking the nose of secularist nonsense-peddlers. If you’re looking for a guide to our current cultural predicament (and how to fix it), one that’s sobering and invigorating at the same time, start with this book." —CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
"Anthony Esolen is one of our nation’s best writers because he’s one of our best thinkers. Out of the Ashes is vintage Esolen: eloquent, bold, insightful, profound." — RYAN T. ANDERSON, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, and author of Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and ReligiousFreedom
What do you do when an entire civilization is crumbling around you?
You do everything. This is a book about how to get started.
The Left’s culture war threatens America’s foundation and its very civilization, warns Esolen in his brand new book, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. They will tell you that babies in the womb are fetuses, that gender is a social construct, and that the backbone of society is government not the community.
In Out of the Ashes, Esolen outlines his surprisingly simple plan to take back American culture— start at home. Esolen urges us to demand a return to values in our homes, our schools, our churches, and our communities, and to reject political correctness.
“We must become tellers of truth again—and people who are willing to hear truths, especially when it hurts to hear them.”
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About the Author
Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a senior editor of Touchstone magazine. He is the editor and translator of several epic poems, including the three volumes of Dante's Divine Comedy. His published works include Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child (2015) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (2008). He lives in Rhode Island with his wife, Debra, and his two children.
Read an Excerpt
Out of the Ashes
Rebuilding American Culture
By Anthony Esolen
Regnery PublishingCopyright © 2017 Anthony Esolen
All rights reserved.
Let’s get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned. Temperance is for prigs, prudence for sticks in the mud who worry about people who don’t yet exist. A man who fathers six children upon three women and now wants to turn himself into a woman” attracted to other womenhe is praised for his courage. Justice means that a handful of narrowly educated and egotistical judges get to overturn human culture and biology, at their caprice.
We are not in partibus infidelibus. We are in partibus insanibus.
What shall we do now? The answer is both daunting and liberating. We do everything. That doesn’t mean that I do everything, or that you do everything. Suppose you find yourself in a bombed out city. There are all kinds of things to do, and all of them have to be done. Some needs are more pressing than others, and some things can be done only after other things are in order. But everywhere you turn, there’s work to do. You have to find clean water. You have to find food. You have to tend to the wounded and bury the dead. You have to erect shelters. You have to see which of the few buildings left standing are actually safe. You have to demolish those that are ruined beyond repair. You have to organize work teams. Someone has to prepare the meals. Someone has to keep the children out of trouble. In such a situation, it’s almost absurd to ask whether it’s more important to build a latrine than to gather together some undamaged books. All of it has to be done. So you do what you can dothe work that is ready to your hand.
In no order, then, as I survey the ruins:
Build new schools, reform old schools, and abandon irreformable ones.
Are your children attending the sub-pagan schools? Get them the hell out of there. What are you waiting for? It’s not as if the sub-pagan schools actually teach children English grammar and give them facility with numbers and make them familiar with the lands and rivers and seas of our world, let alone introduce them to the great works of western civilization. If your children are in the sub-pagan schools, it will require almost a miracle of God to keep them from becoming sub-pagan themselves. They too will learn to worship the three-poisoned god of our times, self, sex, State. Take for granted that everything in their classes will be sexuality and politics; even in science classes. Shakespeare? Sexuality and politics and nothing else. Get them out. Begin, if necessary, with one room and one teacher and ten children. Begin.
Restore your parish church and bring reverence back to the liturgy.
Was your church denuded during the Decade that Taste Forgot? Bring art back in. Is there an ugly sculpture of Jesus the Helicopter, or a pseudo-primitive stained glass window of the Baptist dropping a rock on Jesus’ head? Replace them. Are you using hymnals filled with bad poetry expressing hippy-dippy theology to treacly or unsingable tunes? Why? If you know a little about sacred music, learn more. It’s never been easier to do that. Become more familiar with O Salutaris Hostia than with Table of Plenty. You don’t have to be allergic to the great Christian hymns arranged by Bach or written by the Wesleys. Accustom yourself to real poetry, to melodies that can be sung by a congregation, and to thoughtful meditation upon Scripture. Learn Gregorian chant. Will it take a while? It will take longer if you complain about how long it takes. Begin.
Acquaint yourself with the proper use of the zipper.
No pretending here. We’ve all been scorched by the sexual revolution. The ancient Christians knew they were living among hedonists, but plenty of the pagans, especially those who lived outside of the cities (Latin paganus = hayseed), were old-fashioned in their mores. The Christians could say that they honored the virtue of chastity, which the pagans recognized but often violated. We cannot say that now. We have to tell ourselves and our children the truth. There is no way to make it sound nice. We are Christians, they are not. How God judges them is not ours to know. Our first task is to follow God’s law ourselves, before we can witness to them. We do not fornicate. We do not divorce. We do not engage in sodomy. We do not use porn. We do not flood women’s bodies with synthetic and carcinogenic hormones. We do not care for obscenities in film. We do believe in marriage according to the evident design of God, imprinted upon our bodies male and female. We encourage boys to be boys and girls to be girls.” And thenwhere are the chaperoned dances? Where are the concerts? Where are the matchmakers? Where are the healthy customs whereby the older generation made sure that the younger generation would, ahem, get on with the great and innocent business of new life? Establish them. Begin.
Be human. I’ve heard all my life long that the Church, before Vatican II, had nothing at all for the laity. Really? What then were all those ecclesial fraternities and sororities? So laymen did not potter about the altar during Mass. They certainly pottered about everything else before and after Mass. They played basketball, they put on shows, they sang, they maintained the church grounds, they gathered for communal prayer, they fed the hungry, they taught the ignorant, they celebrated, they paraded down the main street. The official organs of public opinion hate us, and would like nothing better than to have us hang about empty churches like bats in a cave. Let them have more obvious opportunities for their hatredor their embarrassment, perhaps their conversion. Saint Ignatius had for a long time only two or three followers. He persisted, and the Jesuits became the greatest force for education and human culture and the propagation of the faith that the world had ever known. Begin.
Read good books.
Our Lord has granted us one of the most precious blessings in war. Our enemies are ignorant. They are cleverthey have brains, as all human beings do. But imagine a rickety fence against a cannon: that’s our contemporary journalist against Chesterton. Imagine a squirt gun against a battering ram: that’s our contemporary educator against Pope Benedict. Imagine a flea against an elephant: that’s our contemporary advertiser against the Catechism. Imagine a dented bugle against a cordon of trumpeters: that’s our contemporary artist against Dante. When Saint Paul said that he must be all things to all men, he did not mean that he would be stupid for the stupid. Put on the full panoply of God. Those arms may well include the weapons of natural law and natural wisdom that our sub-pagan neighbors have never mastered: Cicero, Aristotle, Plato, Confucius. Don’t know where to begin? It hardly matters where. Begin.
Recover the human things.
You remember them? The things that human beings used to do. They are not to be underestimated. Let’s not pretend here. We’ve all lost a great deal of what once made up whatever sweetness that human life had to offer. People used to dress becomingly, play cards, talk to others, take long walks, sing songs, play ball, grow peas and beans, strum on the guitar, drop in on friends, and have friends to drop in on. Boys used to ask girls to do innocent things with them, like go bowling, or attend a concert, or dance. There’s an idealearn how to dance again. The world, besides being quite mad, is now an unspeakably drab, tawdry, and lonely place. Build outposts of normality. It will take time. Begin.
Pray like the pilgrim you are.
That goes without saying. If you pray for ten minutes a day, pray for fifteen. But pray with a clearer aim. Remember that you are going somewhere. Its name, in one sense, is the grave. The whole world is in mad denial of that plain fact. It turns to the garish and obscene, lest it have to consider the quiet grassy mound and the stone with a few words on it. Be different. You are on the way. Take heart, and don the hat of the pilgrim. Do not be like those who have no hope. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place. Will you have to repent of having sometimes gotten on the carousel of the world? Repent of it then. Begin.
Whatever you do, do it as if everything depends on just that.
It does, after all. Let no one say to you, What difference does it make if you sing beautiful hymns at Mass?” That’s the way the world thinks. For the world, despite all its pretense of love for every individual, considers men to be mere stuff, an accumulation or amalgamation. Do not believe it. The next person you greet may be on the verge of sainthood or damnation. Every moral choice we make repeats the drama of Eden. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something. Begin.
Excerpted from Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen. Copyright © 2017 Anthony Esolen. Excerpted by permission of Regnery Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: The Rubble 1
1 Giving Things Their Proper Names: The Restoration of Truth-Telling 13
2 Except the Lord Build the House: Restoring a Sense of Beauty 33
3 A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Baste: Restoring the School 49
4 Man by Nature Desires to Know: Rebuilding the College 71
5 Repudiating the Sexual Revolution: Restoring Manhood 89
6 Restoring Womanhood: Building Homes, Not Houses 113
7 Work While It Is Yet Day: Making Good Things Again 133
8 Playing Upon the Waters: Bringing Play Back to Life 153
9 Idiots No More: Recovering the Polis 167
10 Pilgrims, Returning Home 181
About the Author 195
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Without God, there is only darkness; with God, light is useless Americans are currently living in a dark age, an age when lies and lying is widespread, and where evil is promoted as good. Anthony Esolen’s book Out of the Ashes is a much-needed remedy as it promotes the restoration of truth, beauty and goodness. As Esolen states the problem: “The media and education system promote outlandish lies, such as the following: “Family structure doesn’t matter.” “Gender is just a social construct.” “The feminist movement is about equal opportunities for women.” “The Indians were a peace-loving people, close to nature, and benevolent to everyone.” “Religion is the cause of almost all wars.” “A million people were burnt at the stake in the Middle Ages. It isn’t just the sheer multitude of the lies, or their weight, like a mudslide rumbling down the side of a two-mile-high volcano. It is that we really do not expect people to do anything but lie. As I write these words, Hillary Clinton, probably the most vulgar, insecure, vindictive, and malevolent human being ever to be nominated by a major party for the presidency, seems to have a better than even chance of winning the presidency. That is despite a long career of lying in the most outrageous and pettiest ways. Her mendacity is not really in dispute. Her supporters know that she is a liar and they don’t care, because they want the things that her lies will secure for them. She is their liar.” Esolen offers solid backing for his claims that lies and decadence are widespread. He cites that rarely do those caught violating morality or the law admit that they were wrong, and do so without making excuses. Another gauge of the health of our society is how full churches are. One of the more interesting insights this book points out is that homeschoolers usually have children who beat the academic achievement of those in public schools – and using far less money and with tutors who are amateurs. When ordinary mothers can outperform public schools, you know public education is in deep trouble. As John F Kennedy noted, “God’s work on earth must truly be our own” and Out of the Ashes cogently and powerfully demonstrates that a lot of work needs to be done. Reading this book will help – a lot.