Sunday 6 November 2016

Anglo Saxon England's contribution to Western Christianity - Tolkien versus Belloc (by Joseph Pearce)

Belloc’s view of history, for the most part astute and penetrative, was always skewed by a less than balanced Francophilia and an almost shrill Germanophobia. This was evident in his dismissive disregard of the contribution to Christian culture of the Germanic tribes of England prior to the Norman Conquest and his lauding of the Conquest itself as having brought England into the fullness of Christendom which was always, for Belloc, synonymous with the influence of France.

In contrast, Tolkien considered Anglo-Saxon England to have been idyllically Christian...

He might have shown that Anglo-Saxon England was profoundly Catholic, to such a degree that the saintly Englishman, Boniface, had helped to evangelize Pagan Europe, while his contemporary, the truly venerable Bede, had exhibited the high culture that Saxon England enjoyed in abundance.

Whilst the former converted the Germans to Christ, the latter excelled in Latin and Greek, and classical and patristic literature, as well as Hebrew, medicine and astronomy. Bede also wrote homilies, lives of saints, hymns, epigrams, works on chronology and grammar, commentaries on the Old and New Testament, and, most famously, his seminal Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum which was translated into Anglo-Saxon by King Alfred the Great. At the time of his death in 735 Bede had just finished translating the Gospel of St John into Anglo-Saxon....

Tolkien might also have added a host of other Anglo-Saxon saints, from St. Edmund to St. Edward the Confessor, the latter of whom was eulogized by Shakespeare in Macbeth.

There’s no doubt that the historical question of whether the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 can be considered a good or a bad thing for England in particular or for Christendom in general is a question worth asking, perhaps even answering.

What is not in question is the Christian character of Anglo-Saxon England, in terms of the saints and the literature she produced. Pace Belloc, Tolkien could have shown that England, prior to the Conquest, was a beacon of Christian enlightenment which was not in need of the baptism of blood which the Normans unleashed at the battle of Hastings.

Edited from an article by Joseph Pearce writing at The Imaginative Conservative

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