Our Darkling Plain, by Robert Royal

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By Robert Royal, The Catholic Thing, Feb. 3, 2022

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.


Robert RoyalIn his poem “Dover Beach,” Matthew Arnold famously describes the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the “Sea of Faith.” And it concludes:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Many of us today believe that the ignorant armies began to clash by night only with the advent of the Internet and social media. And it’s true that these technology-enabled media allowed a vast expansion of our darkling plain. Who knew, for instance, that – even on television talk shows, where our expectations are rightly quite low – a celebrity like Whoopi Goldberg wouldn’t know that Nazism killed 6 million Jews on the basis of a racism rooted in then-current “science” of a sort? …

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