Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “No, I was very anti-Christian, very anti-Catholic. I was agnostic. I was a Neo-Nazi. I was very involved in the anti-Catholic terrorist organizations in Northern Ireland. I went to prison twice. No, I have a past, as they say. You either hide the skeleton in the closet and lock the closet and hope no one finds the key. Then you can rest in peace because you haven’t got to worry about the past because it’s out there on the table. I’ve published a book fairly recently called Race With the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love, which basically puts the whole thing out there so people will know who I am.” Check out today’s transcript and Clip of The Day for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Joseph Pearce, who is the author of many books, but my favorite one is his bio about Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A Soul in Exile, is a senior contributor at The Imaginative Conservative website. You’ve heard me read his work here on the air many times. He also is one of the editors of the St. Austin Review. That’s at StAustinReview.com. We’re delighted to have Mr. Pearce with us today. Joseph, thanks for taking time out. It’s a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance. How are you, sir?
Joseph Pearce: I’m very well. It’s good to be on the show.
Mike: It is fantastic. I don’t know where to start. Let’s start with the story of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and A Soul in Exile. When did you decide that you were going to write about Solzhenitsyn? Had you been following his travails? Did you meet him? Were you at Harvard when he gave the address? Tell us the story.
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Pearce: “Well, I say first we have to understand what it is. We mustn’t succumb to relativism. In other words, we mustn’t succumb to what is the human construct, just something that we put together over the years, and they can be replaced by something else and big deal. No, this is ultimately what is Christendom? Basically Christendom is the unity of faith and reason, taking the inheritance of Judaism theologically and the ancient Greeks philosophically, bringing this faith and reason together, bringing God and man’s mind in harmony.” – Joseph Pearce
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Pearce: Well, I would love to have been at Harvard when he gave the address, but as you would have gathered by my accent, I’m actually an Englishman and I didn’t move to the states until 2001. I wasn’t there for that address, and I was also very young at the time, too young to be a Harvard undergrad even. Solzhenitsyn was a major influence on my upbringing. I read The Gulag Archipelago as a teenager. I was concerned that the books about him were not paying due attention to the centrality of his Christian faith. I wrote to him. I can’t remember how I got his address now. I wrote to him. He had returned to Russia by this stage. He agreed to give me an interview. I went out to his home just outside Moscow and spent a weekend in interviews with him. That, plus, obviously, a lot of other research, was the basis for my biography of Solzhenitsyn.
Mike: One of the things that I learned from your biography — I didn’t read any of the other ones, so I wouldn’t know if this was in it — but it was the story of how he became concerned early. He was a yes man for Stalin, correct?
Pearce: Oh, yes. He was brainwashed, as all of his generation were. He was born in 1918, so he was born a year after the revolution. He basically grew up as a member of the youth wing of the Communist Party. He was an atheist. He rejected his mother’s Christianity. Yes, he started out as a communist. Through a bit of experience of what communism was in reality, most of which was attained behind bars after he’d been imprisoned, brought him to his senses and also ultimately to Christianity.
Mike: There’s a story in the book about the trains. He keeps seeing these trains going and they’re full and come back empty. They’re full and then they come back empty. Stalin’s people are telling them: Nah, those people are going to work in the fields. Did he relay this story to you?
Pearce: No, he didn’t. When I went there, what I wanted to do when I was interviewing him was to cover the material that wasn’t already covered in his own work or in biographies of him. Obviously his witness against communism was very, very widely disseminated and published already, both in his own works and biographies of him. I wanted to get at the deepest aspects of his beliefs, what made him tick, why communism was wrong. Ultimately these are issues that work on a level of theology and philosophy and not merely politics. Of course, communism is atheistic, anti-Christian. It gets its roots in a philosophical rejection of Western civilization. I wanted to get at that aspect of what made Solzhenitsyn tick, so to speak. I didn’t cover ground that had already been covered elsewhere.
Mike: You just said what makes civilization tick. One of the essays that you recently posted at The Imaginative Conservative, is civilization worth saving? Is it?
Pearce: Absolutely. What we have to begin with, of course, is to know what it is. The problem is that the modern world, with its worship or progress, so-called, believes that the past is inferior to the present, and that the present will be inferior to the future. In other words, things are continually getting better. Anybody with a modicum of intelligence can see that that’s not the case. The only thing that can be seen perhaps as progressing is technology, but as it regards human society, it’s quite clearly crumbling and falling to pieces around us. In order for that social engineering to work, they have to obliterate the past. George Orwell said it all in 1984. Stalin tried it. You have to obliterate the past, make us ignorant of history, of who we are, what our roots are, the great works, the great books. That’s their agenda. That’s what you were talking about with Common Core earlier. I couldn’t agree more. Common Core is a further attack on Western civilization.
Mike: Common Core, this is just the latest manifestation. The despicable or diabolical part about Common Core is — most people don’t see this — it actually does have a very significant economic and financial component to it. The Gates Foundation, which is out there promoting this, stands to recoup all that it has invested in the endeavor simply by virtue of the fact that every school system in the land is going to be forced to adopt it. As the statists operate, they set up a paradigm wherein you have to go to them to get what it is that you allegedly need to forward civilization. When you go to them, they already have a hand-chosen vendor. This is how it works in real socialist countries, isn’t it?
Pearce: Right. What you find here, of course, is the unholy alliance between big business and big government. You have Bill Gates and the Microsoft Foundation working in cahoots with the federal government to actually force upon us a dumbed-down, very narrow-minded and blinkered vision of what it is to be civilized and what it is to be educated, and force feed us that inferior version of what most of us are already getting a better version of anyway. It’s diabolical. There’s not really any other adequate word for it.
Mike: Joseph Pearce is on the Dude Maker Hotline with us. He is an established and very prolific author, and a writer and essayist at The Imaginative Conservative. Joseph, one of the essays that I read on the show that you had written — by the way, thanks for keeping them brief. They work great on air. One was, “What is Beauty?” One was, “What is Love?” As I’m reading your work, I’m going, if I’m understanding as I read the progression here, what Joseph is trying to do is basically reacquaint us with what — we don’t have to use the word conservative if we don’t want to. I don’t know what word to use, Joseph, conservative, traditionalist, remnant, whatever the descriptive term is. What you’re trying to do is reacquaint the audience of things that used to matter, and not only did they used to matter, they were the building blocks upon which men based their other affairs, always looking for the beautiful, always looking for the good, what is civilization. Expound upon that for a moment with what you’ve recently written.
Pearce: I think the important thing here is that they certainly were once crucial to our understanding of ourselves and who we are and how we live together and what the purpose of life is. We need to insist here that it’s not that they were important. They are still important. These are perennial truths that ultimately are rooted in the very fabric of who we are as human beings. If we forget that, if we leave that knowledge behind, the people that suffer are ourselves. In other words, what we’re going to see is the crumbling of our society, a demographic of death, which we’re seeing already, a culture of death, and evading population, and ultimately the complete collapse of the world that we built for ourselves, which we have deserted these perennial, not only timely but timeless truths. We need to remember that. Everything which is timeless is always timely. It never goes out of date.
Mike: That is a fantastic and brilliant quote. Professor Claes Ryn was on the program just two days ago. When I asked him a question about Western civilization, he left it as an open-ended question. He didn’t know if it was going to make it, that it could be on its death throes, or it could be on the cusp of a revival. You say what?
Pearce: Well, I say first we have to understand what it is. We mustn’t succumb to relativism. In other words, we mustn’t succumb to what is the human construct, just something that we put together over the years, and they can be replaced by something else and big deal. No, this is ultimately what is Christendom? Basically Christendom is the unity of faith and reason, taking the inheritance of Judaism theologically and the ancient Greeks philosophically, bringing this faith and reason together, bringing God and man’s mind in harmony. This is what forged Western civilization. I don’t even like the word Western civilization in the sense that it’s not just applicable to the West. This is good, this is true, this is beautiful, and it’s applicable to everybody at all times. That, of course, can’t be destroyed because all that can happen — what he said about the church is that he who bites the rock breaks his teeth. Christendom is the rock. Civilization is the rock. When we turn against it, when we bite it, we break our teeth. The only people who lose are us. The point is, in the longer term, civilization will reassert itself because it’s the only sustainable way of human beings building a culture.
Mike: Fantastic. One of the things that I have seen that you have written a lot about recently, or since I have become acclimated with your works — I want you to explain to the audience — people ask me all the time, Joseph: Mike, what should I read? Which founder should I read? Which guy of the founding of the enlightenment should I read? Since I have seriously taken my study and faith in Catholicism and of the Church very seriously, my answers have changed, they have evolved. They’re not the same ones I would have given a couple years ago. One of the things I would say: The best place to start for me is go read Augustine’s Confessions. Once you get through that, the whole world is open to you. I notice that you write a lot — I know that G.K. Chesterton was a studier of Augustine; he wrote a lot about Augustine. Mix Augustine and Chesterton into why we should, as members of this civilization we just described — why are they important? Why should we read them?
Pearce: There’s a wonderful analogy which Chesterton used, and also J.R.R. Tolkien used, understanding civilization and truth itself as a tree, in other words, something that continues to grow, something organic. If you understand it in that sense, you can see the ideas of Augustine in the days of the early church and the ideas of Chesterton in just the last century as being part of the same organic fabric. The larger the tree gets, the deeper its roots have to go. If you like, the roots of who we are can be seen in Aristotle and Plato and subsequently in Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. It continues to live in great minds that are tapping into that inheritance, that heritage in our own time. In the last century, you mentioned Chesterton. C.S. Lewis would be another, of course. There are smaller people such as me trying to continue that heritage into our own time.
Mike: Another thing I find fascinating about your work is that you were not always a Christian, were you?
Pearce: No, I was very anti-Christian, very anti-Catholic. I was agnostic. I was a Neo-Nazi. I was very involved in the anti-Catholic terrorist organizations in Northern Ireland. I went to prison twice. No, I have a past, as they say. When you have a past — it seems there are only two things when you have a past. You either hide the skeleton in the closet and lock the closet and hope no one finds the key, or you take the skeleton out and rap it in front of everybody so they can see what it is. Then you can rest in peace because you haven’t got to worry about the past because it’s out there on the table. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve published a book fairly recently called Race With the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love, which basically puts the whole thing out there so people will know who I am and my past and my conversion and where I am now. [/private]
Mike: It’s amazing to me because you mention conversion. That’s exactly what it is. This is always available to us, folks. I can’t tell you the amount of mail and correspondence — since I kind of took a little turn in my journey here — that I have gotten from people who insist and demand, [mocking] “You need to stop all this Catholic crap. You need to get away from that cult that is the church. You need to stop with the recitation of the years, “In 1776, the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ anno domini, what is that?” I reply to them: Once you’ve been exposed to what truth is, and to continue to explore the truth, to not share the truth with someone else is to deny them of the blessing that I have received.
Pearce: Absolutely. It takes courage in this day and age of the rise in secularism and relativism and secular fundamentalism to speak out as a believing Christian. That’s what we’re called to do. We have no alternative but to do that. Quite frankly, if you want to see the roots of the modern problem, where we started going wrong, it goes back to the Enlightenment. It goes back before that to the late Renaissance and to the ideas that turned people away from God and the Church. In other words, the roots of the problem are the rejection of Catholic Christianity.
End Mike Church Show Transcript