Friday, November 14, 2014

George Grant and the Anglican Church of Canada: A 20th Century Prophet - Ron Dart

But there are remnants left around me…very strange remnants…in this case the Anglican Church which has in it some of the ancient truth and therefore I will live within it. – George Grant

Liberalism was, in origin, criticism of the old established order. Today, it is the voice of the establishment. – George Grant

George Grant was Canada’s most significant public philosopher, meaning that his public was Canadian. – Graeme Nicholson

They are foolish and ill-educated men who don’t recognize that, when they get into bed with liberalism, it won’t be they who do the impregnating—but that they will be utterly seduced.  – Grant letter to Derek Bedson Sept. 21 1965                  
Part I

The inside flap on the recent book about George Grant, Athens and Jerusalem: George Grant’s Theology, Philosophy, and Politics (2006), says this: “George Grant (1918-1988) has been called Canada’s greatest political philosopher. To this day, his work continues to stimulate, challenge, and inspire Canadians to think more deeply about matters of social justice and individual responsibility. However, while there has been considerable discussion of Grant’s political theories, relatively little attention has been paid to their theological and philosophical underpinnings”. There is little doubt, in short, that Grant was the most important Christian public intellectual in Canada in the latter half of the 20th century, and for those who take their faith with some intellectual seriousness, much can be learned from George Grant the prophet, theologian, philosopher and engaged thinker.

Athens and Jerusalem walks the extra mile to highlight the deep theological well where Grant turned to slake a thirsty and parched soul. There is more to Grant, though, than the theological and philosophical underpinnings for his public vision. George Grant was an Anglican, and, sadly so, his Anglicanism has often been ignored. In the midst of the culture wars in the Anglican Church of Canada, Grant can offer us a way through and beyond the theological and ethical tribalism of left and right, liberal and conservative that so besets and divides us these days.

There is a form of Christianity, well lived and articulated by Grant, that might be called the Classical Christian tradition. Such a read of the Christian drama can come as a corrective to the liberal, conservative and fundamentalist versions of Christianity that often compete for dominance in the house of faith today. Grant’s classical understanding of the Christian and Anglican way can still teach us much about the esse of what we need to conserve.

The fact that Grant attended Upper Canada College (with Anglican roots and history), and the equally important reality that his father was principal of the school meant that Grant was exposed, when young, to the Anglican heritage from a variety of educational and liturgical levels. Grant did his BA at Queen’s University in Kingston (a strong Anglican and historic Loyalist stronghold) and he was offered a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford. It was at Oxford that Grant met, Sheila, his future wife (who had taken courses with J.R.R. Tolkien). George and Sheila moved to Halifax Nova Scotia after WW II where Grant was offered a position in the philosophy department at Dalhousie University. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

George Grant: Amnesty International and Edward Said - Ron Dart

George Grant (1918-1988) is considered by many to be one of the most significant Canadian public intellectuals in the latter half of the 20th century---Grant was also a High Tory of the highest calibre. Grant was a prolific writer and many have commented upon his wide ranging renaissance breadth. There has, of yet, been no essays on Grant and Amnesty International and Grant and Edward Said.
Amnesty International published The First Torturer’s Trial in 1975. Grant did a review of the book in the Globe and Mail (June 14 1977). 
The focus and reason for the publication of The First Torturer’s Trial was the trial in Greece in 1975 of 32 Greek police officers and military men who had tortured opponents in the junta from 1967-1974. The junta finally collapsed because of the courageous work of Archbishop Makarios (1913-1977) in Cyprus who had been elected as president in 1959, 1968 and 1973. Grant did a sustained commentary on the report, and, in many ways, Grant argued torture was the crudest form of the will to power of ideologues.
There are those on the political right that argue that it is the left that uses torture to inflict their will and way, and the left has argued that the right often uses torture to silence opposition. There can be no doubt that both totalitarian and authoritarian states of the left and right often use their wills to end meaningful civic and civil dialogue. Grant’s meditation on The First Torturer’s Trial brings this obstinate fact to the fore again and again.
Grant argues that “Torture is obviously the central crime against justice”. This means that central to Grant’s understanding of political thought and life is the quest for justice and the good—torture undermines both the good and justice. Grant makes it clear that to only focus on the 32 Greek military and police officers that did the torturing misses the deeper causes of those back of the torturers who justified and commanded the officers to engage, from 1967-1974, in torture as a state practice. The means was subverted for a dubious end and dissenters became disposable objects.