Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

False Compassion = False Mercy

Compassion is at the core of Catholic ethical thought, precisely because it was at the core of the ethical teachings of Jesus. Yet, in today’s world, compassion is often emphasized at the expense of such things as theological orthodoxy, regular Mass attendance, obedience to Church authority (at least, whenever it suits you), and actually taking the time to read and understand the fullness of Scripture (that is, apart from the small handful of nice sounding verses floating around on the internet).

 

I’ve known people who exemplify this attitude to an extreme. There are people I have met who, while identifying as Christian, refuse to explicitly say that non-Christian religions are false, since they see it as somehow uncharitable. To condemn another person’s beliefs or way of life is unloving. Yet, these same individuals have also known some pretty shady or messed up people in their lives, and have a difficult time coming to forgive them.

 

Part of me understands this: it is difficult to forgive those who hurt you. There is a whole psychological process involved in being able to come to terms with the harm these people have caused. At the same time, with the notion of “love” or “compassion” being on the lips of most people today, you’d think that forgiving others, even our enemies, would be not too far behind. Scripture is even clear that forgiveness and compassion go hand-in-hand. St. John writes, “And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11) St. Paul speaks very similarly: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Through sinning, we make ourselves enemies of God. God is the Sovereign Lord of all, and thus is not obliged to forgive us. God is omnipotent, and thus is not in need of us. God has nothing to gain from creating and redeeming us, and nothing to lose from our non-existence. In fact, God has every reason to NOT forgive us, for all good things come from God, and yet we repay Him with sin. This is the ULTIMATE manifestation of ingratitude, for it is an offense against an All-Good God Who does nothing but love us. By our sin and ingratitude, we have made ourselves enemies of the All-Good God. God has NO reason to forgive us, and every reason to not to forgive us. Yet, God chose to forgive us anyway. What is more, we are only worthy of the things of God insofar as we remain pure of sin. When we are in a state of sin, we are worthy of God’s wrath, not His gifts. When God chooses to take us out of our sin, reconciling us to Himself and making us once more worthy of Him, at the time in which that happens, we are still in our sin. It is not until the moment God chooses to forgive us of our sins that reconcile us to Himself that we become worthy of union with God and all that results from that.

 

The fact that God could have mercy upon us, even though, through our sin, we have estranged ourselves from God and made ourselves deserving of His wrath, should overwhelm us. No love can be so great, so profound, as that of God having mercy upon sinners. And ALL of us were in need of God’s mercy at some point. And this is the point that John is very explicit about: once we realize that God has loved us in such a way, it should overwhelm us to such an extent, fill us with such a sense of gratitude, that we are moved to love others in a similar way.

 

Thise can be seen in the words of Jesus Himself: in Matthew 6:9-15, Jesus reveals the Our Father. The second to last line is, famously, “…and forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” (Matthew 6:12). After teaching His disciples this prayer, Jesus then comments on this verse: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others of their sins, your Father will not forgive you your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Being filled with God’s love moves us and strengthens us to love in a manner that imitates God’s love for us. If we fail to love others – say, by failing to forgive one another as God has forgiven us – we cannot be fully receptive to God’s love and forgiveness.

 

Jesus gets even more explicit. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus says that all people, even sinners, have the drive to love those who love them, to love those they get along with, and to hate their enemies. Yet, God loves all people. Perfect love, a love imitating the love God, thus involves transcending the desire to love our friends and hate our enemies, but to love ALL people, both enemies and friends, and it is only in THIS that we can be perfect as God is perfect.

 

To love or forgive your enemies doesn’t mean to approve of what they do, it doesn’t mean not holding them responsible for their sins, it doesn’t mean letting their negative influence enter into your life. In fact, if you love your enemies, you will hold them responsible for their sin, you will call out for their sinfulness, because only then is it possible that they may change, to grow closer to God and become a better person. And that’s what love us: the classical definition of love is to desire the good of the other. If you love your enemies, you desire that they change their ways, that they get right with God and stop acting like your enemies, because THAT’S what’s good for them.

 

Yet, when you push most people to speak about how they view love, or even examine how their views speak through their actions, it is this “I’m okay, you’re okay” sort of attitude. It is getting along with people, being friends with people, and of course living peaceably with others, being their friend, involves, to a big extent, being compatible with them, and thus, to some extent, not having a problem with their personality, with their views, with their way of life – or being so fond of that person that any personal differences don’t matter. And, of course, if this is love, then why would you love sinners? Why would you love those you don’t like, whose lifestyle or worldview may not only not be to your liking, but may also be intrinsically evil?

 

Yet, fondness and getting along with others is not love. This thus explains why so many people these days speak of compassion, but have a difficult time learning to forgive: they have an incomplete view of love. Love must be guided by the truth in order to fully express itself, but the view of compassion held by most people is an incomplete understanding of love, one rooted in denying the fullness of the truth.

 

This reminds me of a quote I once heard from the famous French theologian Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange: “The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are intolerant in principle because they do not believe, but they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.”

 

What this means is that faithful Catholics cannot accept, endorse, or even be open to every idea, because not every idea is the truth. We are committed to the truth, and one cannot claim to love the truth but also be open to falsehoods. But, because we are guided by the truth, we have a clear view of what constitutes true love. Adherence to the truth will, for the one open to God, lead to a growth in love. Yet, the enemies of the Church, the enemies of Christ, reject the Church as being close-minded. They have a single-minded devotion to be open-minded, to looking at things from multiple perspectives, to being nuances. Yet, this is just a means to an end; the purpose of these things is to actually figure out what the truth is. But, because they do not have a strong commitment to truth, they cannot properly know love.

 

When our love is not guided by the truth, it gives birth to false compassion. And false compassion cannot give birth to true mercy. False compassion leads one to be compassionate until or unless one is wronged, at which point one will hold a grudge, since false compassion could lead one to believe that love and compassion is ordered towards ones friends alone, rather than to friend and enemy alike. False compassion leads one to believe that mercy means excusing one’s behavior. To point out false beliefs or sinful behavior is not uncharitable or unmerciful, but is could be considered an expression of mercy par excellence. False compassion may lead one to desire to help others, to show mercy on the others, but not actually move beyond their comfort zone to do so.

 

Compassion, when not guided by the truth, is false compassion, and false compassion cannot lead to true mercy.

Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

On Abortion and Worldviews

There is a school of thought popular among some apologists, particularly in Evangelicalism and Calvinism. This school of thought, known as presuppositionalism, states that one cannot develop a rational worldview without presupposing the existence of God. One good example of presuppositionalism would be in a speech given by the Presbyterian minister and scholar of theology Greg Bahnsen. In that speech, he said that our fundamental presuppositions shape and shade our view of any given evidence, arguments or information we see in a debate. It is for this reason that a Christian – or anyone who believes in God – can look at the evidence for God’s existence and conclude that God exists. They already presuppose the existence of God, and thus are receptive to any evidence demonstrating His existence. Atheists and agnostics, on the other hand, presuppose that God does not exist, or that we can never know for sure that God exists, or that the existence of God is impossible. Because of this presupposition, they have a tendency to explain away any evidence for the existence of God as being either nothing more than an unexplained natural phenomena, a fraud, or as inconclusive. In order for arguments on God’s existence to move forward, we need to examine the underlying presuppositions of either side, and see which ones are the most sound, for is one’s underlying presuppositions are weak, so is the larger worldview built up around it. Bahnsen then goes on to demonstrate how presupposing the existence of God is a more rational starting point than atheism, particularly of a naturalist variety.

 

There is much debate on the validity of this method of apologetics. But, I believe that presuppositionalism points out an important truth: namely, that all people have presuppositions which they begin with, and the entirety of ones worldview is shaped by these underlying presuppositions. Conversion experiences, and even the mere act of changing ones mind on an issue, often includes changing ones fundamental presuppositions.

 

We see this in the abortion debate. Abortion seems to be on display a lot recently. On January 18, the March for Life took place in Washington, D.C. A few days later, on January 22, America commemorated the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. On that same day, New York state further expanded upon abortion rights. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into effect the Reproductive Health Act. Although the state of New York legalized abortion three years before Roe v. Wade [1], according to previous New York law, abortion was only allowable for the first two months of pregnancy. Yet, the new law states:

 

A healthcare practitioner licensed, certified or authorized under Title 8 of the education law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, may perform an abortion when, according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health. (Bill A-21 [Reproductive Health Act], §2599-BB, 1) [2]

 

What this means is that any medical professional with the competency and legal permission to perform an abortion may perform an abortion if someone asks for it in any of the three situations: (1)The mother is within two months (24 weeks) of pregnancy; (2)The child is not viable (incapable of surviving outside the womb); or (3)The pregnancy is a threat to the mother’s life. It is thus theoretically possible for an abortion to be procured up until the moment of birth.

 

Not only was this something that was publicly celebrated by many activists and politicians in New York – including Governor Cuomo himself – but Governor Cuomo is not satisfied with the Bill itself. Earlier this month, Cuomo said during a speech at Barnard College that he hopes to make the rights enshrined in this law a permanent part of New York law by adding an amendment to the New York state constitution allowing for abortion. [3]

 

Proponents of the Pro-Life movement may feel the initial desire to respond with shock and moral condemnation. This is 100% called for. Yet, vague moralizing will not move the conversation forward. To connect this debate to the larger point raised at the beginning of the post: all ideologies are based on a certain set of presumptions, and the strength of a worldview or ideology is based on the strength of the presuppositions, or how well you can apply them to this situation. In the Bill itself and in the immediate aftermath of its passing, the underlying presuppositions were on full display.

 

In the beginning of the Bill, when describing the legislative intent, the text says that “comprehensive reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, is a fundamental component of a woman’s health, privacy, and equality.” It repeats this again when introducing the actual content of the Bill itself: “The legislature finds that comprehensive reproductive health care is a fundamental component of every individual’s health, privacy and equality. Therefore, it is the policy of the State that: … [the text of the law is then described]” [2] Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, during a series of speeches given in celebration of the passing of the Bill, said, “We’re saying here in New York, women’s lives matter. We’re saying here in New York, women’s decisions matter.” [4]

 

For many Pro-Choice advocates, the push for abortion is a matter of “health, privacy and equality.”  Many Pro-Choicers want to avoid undo government regulation on one of the most intimate and private affairs for women as individuals, and, in many cases, for married couples as well. It is a matter of health as well. It is safe to assume here that Pro-Choicers are thinking not of a woman waking up one day and choosing to get an abortion because it is inconvenient to  be pregnant. They are thinking of the “hard cases” – instances where pregnancy is somehow connected to, either directly or indirectly, some sort of medical complications on the part of the mother. In these instances, the mother has the right to protect her health. Since reproduction is unique to women, and pregnancy and childbirth is a delicate process that could easily go awry, reproductive health is a fundamental part of women’s health. The right to deal with such a fundamental part of her health, and the right to be free from undue government regulation, is important to establishing women’s equality to men in society, since the intimate parts of men’s lives, and the right of men to deal with health issues unique to them, is something that society accepts and preserved.

 

Why is it that, as Steward-Cousins says, the mother’s life and the mother’s choice takes precedent over their unborn child? The reason why is explicitly stated in the text of the Bill itself:  in order to justify abortion, the definition of homicide is changed. The definition of homicide, according to New York state law, was any intentional action or inaction that resulted in the death of another person. New York state law, up until a few days ago, recognized an unborn child who is past the second month of development as being apart of the list of those who could be potentially subject to homicide. Therefore, first-degree abortion was placed in the same category as murder, first and second-degree manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide as one of the actions that fell under the definition of “homicide.” The definition of homicide was changed in the most recent law so that abortion was no longer considered a part of the definition of homicide. This was because the definition of “personhood” was changed in order to preclude unborn children from the definition of personhood. This is because homicide can only be considered homicide if it is against another person. This bill redefined personhood as such: “‘Person,’ when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive.”

 

Thus, for Pro-Choicers, the right to privacy and bodily autonomy are inviolable rights. The reason why these rights could be used in certain circumstances to justify abortion is because the unborn child is not a person, or only a quasi-person at best, without any rights. Therefore, the mother’s rights take precedent over the fetus’s right to live, which is non-existent.

 

This is the underlying set of presuppositions found in Pro-Choice ideology. It is evident, both from this law and from the general cultural ethos it was born out of, that the Pro-Choice movement is gaining traction quickly on a legal or political front. If Catholics, and Pro-Lifers in general, hope to stop this trend, one path to take is to demonstrate these presuppositions to be shaky. If one can demonstrate that these underlying assumptions about when life begins, about the nature of the human person, about the nature of how rights and personal bodily autonomy play a role in interpersonal relations, are not sound, then one can demonstrate that the whole ideology built up around this is unsound. This is not the only thing we need to do in order to bring about conversions, but this will play a role in convincing those who have thought through their Pro-Choice ideology.

 

The opposite is also true. To convince the vast majority of Pro-Lifers, Pro-Choicers must prove the invalidity of the following assumptions (which Pro-Lifers must defend in order to demonstrate the validity of their ideology): 1)Life beings at conception, and therefore a fetus is a person; 2)All persons have equal rights; 3)Women do have the right to bodily autonomy, a right to privacy, a right to chose when and with whom to have children, but since all persons have equal rights, one person does not have the right to exert their rights at the expense of another person. It is from this that Pro-Lifers conclude that abortion is never allowable or allowable only in extreme circumstances.

 

Debating these points, challenging Pro-Choicers on these fundamental concepts, is the main way to counteract the spread of the demonic ideology which threatens the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

 

 

Sources:

  1. “New York Dems Flex Muscles, Pass Reproductive Health Act.” Published on the website of CBS New York, January 22, 2019. Accessed on: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/01/22/reproductive-health-act-new-york-legislature-gov-andrew-cuomo-roe-v-wade/?fbclid=iwar2izklszfudxp1gs7r68iybhypywbta4f9eu_xxeux0qla0pzdswhhjobg
  2. Bill A-21 (“The Reproductive Health Act”), passed by the Legislature of the State of New York, January 22, 2019. Accessed on: https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/A21
  3. “Cuomo Pushing To Add Abortion Rights To NY Constitution.” Published on the website of CBS New York, January 7, 2019. Accessed on: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/01/07/cuomo-pushing-to-add-abortion-rights-to-ny-constitution/
  4. Caitlin O’Kane, “New York passes law allowing abortions if mother’s health is at risk.” Published on the website of CBS News, January 24, 2019. Accessed on https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-passes-abortion-bill-late-term-if-mothers-health-is-at-risk-today-2019-01-23/
Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

A Blog Post Made Up Of Three Unrelated Rants

Well, the topics are not completely unrelated. I will pull them together at the end.

 

The first thing I would like to talk about is how time is seemingly going by faster and faster. As cliched as it sounds, it seems like only yesterday that we were ringing in the new year, and the year we were all looking forward to was…2018. I’ve been speaking of this to friends and family because, over the course of the past few weeks – possibly even longer – not only have I noticed that the end of the year has approached quickly, but this is the first time in which it seemed or appeared to me as if time flew by. I’m beginning to understand why older people complain about how there is so much to do but too little time to do it.

 

This, for me, shows how much of what we see around us is limited, finite, and impermanent. All is passing. And this got me to thinking: people often neglect the things of this world because they act as if these things – and even they themselves – will last forever. Yet, when people are truly taken aback by just how finite, fragile and passing the things of this world are, it is possible become overly-sentimental, and overly-attached to the things of this world, to desire too much the things of this world or to be too sad about their loss. There are some things that we should be extremely sad at their loss, or have a great desire for their acquisition; yet, the amount we desire it, or the amount we mourn its loss, should be proportionate to the extent to which it has the nature of a good, or the extent to which its loss of an evil – no more, no less. A warped understanding of the nature and necessity of the things of this world could lead us to desire something or mourn its loss too much or too little.

 

Another thing I have been thinking about lately is a conversation that I had with some relatives on Christmas. One of my relatives spoke of a Christmas message from a local Catholic clergyman in which he placed much emphasis on Jesus’ lowliness, Jesus’ humanity. Another relative repudiated this, claiming that an over-emphasis on this point was, in essence, a failed attempt to make Jesus more relatable. Yes, Jesus was a man, but we should never forget what lie just out of view: namely, that Jesus was more than just a man, that He was also God.

 

To both views I say: YES! There are two sides to the Incarnation. Much to the chagrin of Ancient Greek thought, God is outside of the created world, and is thus unlimited and utterly transcendent, but God in no way remains unconnected or unconcerned with the created world; what is more, to the protestations of Jewish and Islamic thinkers, God is not only involved with His creation, He ENTERS INTO CREATION, without ceasing to be God. Even devout and pious ways of speaking of Christ found among Christians focus in on Jesus’ Divinity to such a degree that they fall into a quasi-Nestorian or quasi-Doceitist view – i.e., Jesus’ humanity was simply a puppet or a vessel for His Divinity, or we can just out-and-out ignore or severely water-down His humanity. Catholic spirituality demands of us that we take seriously the completely scandalous claim that the utterly transcendent, all-powerful, all-knowing God became like us in all things but sin. He looked no different than most humans; He acted no differently in His day-to-day life (other than not  sinning), and by that we mean He felt happiness, sorrow, pain, sleepiness, hunger, thirst, and distress, He had family members and friends, lived within a certain culture and historical period, and was even tempted by the devil himself, and subjected to religious laws (laws of which He Himself was the author) – as all other humans do. That God would take on such limitations is, for the lack of a better word, mind-blowing. But, what is more, Jesus became man without ceasing to be God, and this is asserted much to the chagrin of many non-Christians and atheists, who may be willing to acknowledge the existence of a historical figure named Jesus, but who are unwilling to acknowledge Him as God. There was more to Jesus than meets the eye. Yet, this feeds into our prior point: in opposition to the warped (though well-intentioned) piety of many Christians, the glory and majesty of God is found precisely where one would not expect it. It is found under the guise of its opposite. During the Christmas season, we acknowledge the lowliness within which God manifested Himself, and in doing so celebrate His majesty, without watering-down either.

 

On a similar but distinct note, in the days following Christmas, in my conversations with friends and coworkers, I’ve frequently asked them how their Christmas was, and how they chose to celebrate it. Some said that they had very low-key celebrations of Christmas, made up of little more than small get-togethers with a tiny group of family members and friends. One coworker said that she spent most of Christmas at work, and later returned home and spent the rest of the day doing a lot of nothing.

 

Part of me feels that it is not my place to tell people how to celebrate Christmas. Outside of Mass attendance, the Church mandates no specific way in which to celebrate Christmas. If one chooses to spend time with others or spend time alone, if one chooses to have large parties or smaller social gatherings, it doesn’t matter, so long as it provides an occasion to reflect upon the meaning of the birth of Christ in a spiritually meaningful and fruitful manner. Yet, there is a difference between having non-liturgical – i.e., family-based or folk – celebrations small and having no private celebrations and treating Christmas like any other day. It is easy to fall from the former to the latter. The giving of gifts and the holding of feasts on Christmas is a good thing, a tradition that should be continued; yet, in today’s materialist society, it is easy to take the attention away from Christ, and thus these traditions become less of a celebration of the Incarnation and more of a celebration of self-indulgence. Christmas has thus become, for many, a burden. This is because the feasts and the reminiscing and the gift-giving and the folk practices have been divorced from that which inspired them, and replaced it. It’s difficult, emotionally-draining, and costly to arrange or prepare celebrations, buy gifts, and deal with that one annoying relative. If one can have the day off from work and not have to deal with all the hard work and stress of hosting or preparing for a party, then one has hit the jackpot. One can have a true vacation. But, if you have to work on Christmas, well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

 

Albeit gift-giving and Christmas parties aren’t a bad thing, and there are some circumstances in which one can obtain a dispensation from one’s religious duties for reasons relating to work. Yet, people become obsessed with gifts, and most people are not working intense jobs that require round-the-clock labor (i.e., military personnel [who, by the way, still have military chaplains] or farmers [who, especially in the world of modern transportation, can often still find a way to get to Church or have a priest come to them]). Thus, if people are placed in situations where they are essentially threatened to lose their source of financial stability for taking time out of work for the sake of their obligations to God, or if they become obsessed with buying gifts (i.e., Black Friday), then is it any wonder that people have no strong sense of religion, or are spiritually lazy, or don’t understand the liturgy, or barely have time to read and study the Bible. People are reduced to workers and buyers, consumers and producers, not as spiritual agents who must foster a relationship with God.

 

What unites all of this. Either neglecting or clinging too much to the things of this world; allowing a consumerist mentality to distract us from our obligations to God; not seeing the glory of God shine through in the lowliness in which Jesus lived – all of this is a sign of thinking with the mind of man rather than the mind of God. Man, due to sin, has forgotten how to order the things of this world towards God; man thus fails to live out his obligations to God and His fellow man. To save us from this, God initiated His plan of salvation, which reached its epitome in the Incarnation. For those who remain in their sin, it is easy to either deny anything beyond the immediate here and now, the transcendent, especially if it is Divine in nature, or to say that such things have no connection to the things of this world. For the true Christian, though, God’s plan of salvation, the Christmas season in particular, is a sign of God lowing Himself to our level so that we may be taken up into the things of God. We are thus given the ability to use, order, and view the things of this world correctly, neither loving them more than God or allowing them to distract us from God, nor neglecting them, but rather ordering them towards God, so that they can be used by God to point towards Him.

 

 

Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

The Spirit of Christmas vs. The Spirit of Consumerism

We’ve just completed the first week of November. As of yet, I’ve heard no Christmas music, but I have seen at least 3 or 4 Christmas commercials, and my local mall seems to be experiencing an internal emotional conflict as to whether it still wants to decorate for Halloween (and fall more generally), or whether it wants to jump the gun and start decorating for Christmas.

 

One year, back a while ago (I believe I was in middle school or high school, possibly even earlier), I remember one radio station started to play Christmas music the week of Thanksgiving, and stopped playing Christmas music on Christmas day itself! For a while, I thought that was extreme; but, back a few years ago, that same radio station began to play Christmas music the day after Halloween, but stopped either later that day or the next day, before resuming to their normal schedule of delaying the Christmas music until late November/early December.

 

A lot of people get peeved by this. Probably because it makes it seem as if the Christmas season is too rushed, as in the case when they play Christmas music really early and stop it relatively early as well; for others, it makes the Christmas season drag out, and turns what should be a happy, joyous time of the year into overkill; or it may simply be that it is a lot of work to prepare for Christmas, and people don’t like being rushed into it before they’re ready.

 

All valid reasons. But, I think there is another reason to get angered at this: the battle between the spirit of consumerism and the spirit of Christianity. Now, this isn’t some anti-capitalist tirade, so just hear me out: if by “capitalism” you mean an economic system based on the private ownership of property and the free exchange of goods and services, then there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. It does not contradict the Bible or Church teaching, and several Magisterial documents have upheld the right of individuals and private groups to own property, and how all economic exchanges should be entered into freely and equitably. But, the problem is one we have seen dominating American culture since the middle of the 20th century – namely, consumerism. By consumerism I mean the reduction of people to merely consumers and producers. The ability to mass produce goods, or to create an ever increasing diversity of products, is not the issue: it’s rather the ethos it creates. “You just haven’t lived until you’ve bought this new product.” “How did you ever get by without this new gadget?” “Think about how much better your life will be with this new cheaply manufactured, ‘Made in China’ or ‘Hecho in Mexico’ waste of time!” Consumerism, intentionally or unintentionally, makes the production and accumulation of goods the highest good that man can attain. We allow proximate goods to take precedent over ultimate goods.

 

The liturgical life of the Church, too, has been subjected to this sort of logic. Christmas has been, to use a Marxist term, commodified. (Again, this is not meant to be Marxist propaganda; Communism, while criticizing some of the abuses of capitalism, itself fell into the same unsound spiritual and moral dilemma, namely of reducing man to the material realm, and even going as far expressly pushing aside religion as the tool of the bourgeoisie.)

 

Yes, people hold celebrations on Christmas, as they should. And they will need people to sell them decorations, food, presents, etc. There is nothing wrong with that. But, it has almost become a stereotype (a stereotype, unfortunately, employed by the same people who commodified Christmas in the first place to distract you even more from the meaning of Christmas) that people get so caught up in the craziness of preparing for Christmas, the awkward and uncomfortable feelings brought about by being with your in-laws, and being so consumed by the act of giving and receiving gifts, that we forget the real purpose of Christmas.

 

And what is the real purpose of Christmas? “It’s about family!” No, not really. Spending time with your family is a good way to celebrate Christmas, but it’s not the purpose of Christmas. You spend time with your family on the two major holidays surrounding Christmas (Thanksgiving and New Years’). If Christmas is only about spending time with your family, how is Christmas different than these other holidays? “It’s a celebration of giving!” Good, getting ever so slightly closer. But wrong. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you can begrudgingly force out of them a short, meek little, “It’s about Jesus, I guess.” That’s good, but there are a little over 50 Sundays in the year – that means, 50 different times of the year when we have to go to church and think about Jesus – plus feast days throughout the year specifically commemorating different aspects of Jesus’ life and identity, including feast days commemorating the Jesus’ circumcision, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, as well as the Last Supper, the Wise Men visiting Him on the first Epiphany, and feast days commemorating His Presence in the Eucharist and His Kingship.

You may then hear someone tepidly saying, “It’s about His birth.” DING DING DING!!! WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

 

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy spending time with family, getting gifts, and the food. While some of the secular Christmas music can be tacky, it still never ceases to get me in a good mood. So, on a subconscious level, I associate all of these things with Christmas, and that’s part of the joy I associate with Christmas. And I’m sure this is true with many of you, too. But, when was the last time you ever heard anyone discuss in depth, or seen anyone contemplate, the notion that Christ became man to save us from sin? When was the last time people centered the Christmas season around reading the infancy narratives, or the beautiful meditation upon the Incarnation found in John 1, or St. Athanasius’ statement that “God became man so that man could become god”? Is it commonplace to see Christians in the West use the Christmas season as a time to contemplate the newfound union between God and humanity that has been made possible by the coming together of human nature and the Divine nature in Jesus? Considering that only a little over one-third of Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, and only about half of Evangelicals go to church every week, and also considering that religious literacy tends to be low among Americans, including and especially among Christians – I doubt this is the case for anyone outside of certain devoutly religious circles.

 

And therein lies the problem: the Christmas season has been stripped of its very essence. It’s been deprived of much of its spiritual meaning. And, what more are we to expect from a culture that, for the most part, has a very sterile spirituality? Religion, particularly Christianity, as played a major role in American culture no doubt. But, over the course of the past few decades, we’ve seen the coming together of several different trends: the rise of consumerism, the decline in involvement in organized religion – which was only made worse by the rise of certain ideological trends which have certain anti-religious currents [feminism, relativism, secularism, the gay rights movement] or certain more general behavorial trends which have only fanned the flames of anti-religious sentiment [i.e., the increase in the use of contraception or out-of-wedlock sex]) – much of which is exacerbated by the fact that religious education programs have dropped the ball in teaching the past two or three generations, and the fact that religion has often attempted to appeal to the lowest common denominator to attract more followers. This has lead to the rise of a lot of shallow, feel-good theological and spiritual systems, and has made atheism – while still a tiny minority – much more influential than it once was.

 

What we see now is a culture made up of a lot of people who don’t know a lot about religion, and who don’t really care – or, more precisely, they care enough to, at some point, ask questions about religion and spirituality and to have some sort of opinion on this matter, but who are not really involved in religious organizations, who aren’t invested enough in religion to actually act upon their religious obligations on a regular basis, and who don’t like being told what to do or what to believe by institutions – but, for some reason they want to celebrate Christmas. Maybe it is because they have fond memories of it from childhood. Maybe it’s the result of living in a culture that still has some semblance of a Christian ethos. Maybe it’s just a matter of them being attracted to the general feel of that time of year. I don’t know. But what we are left with is a society of people who, for the most part, desire to celebrate Christmas, and have some understanding of why they celebrate Christmas. Due to their lack of proper education, what little they do know about the Christmas spirit is reduced mostly a vague, fuzzy set of ideas we call “the Christmas spirit.” This is then bogged down by the spirit of consumerism, which, seeing Christmas celebrations as an opportunity for profit, direct our attention away from the truth behind the Christmas spirit and towards the gift-giving, the food, the celebrations, which become an end unto themselves.

 

Let’s take, by contrast, the Jews. I don’t know how things are faring within the Jewish community when compared to the Christian Church, but there is some evidence that things aren’t much better: according to the survey linked above, only 19% of Jews as of 2014 attend weekly religious services, even though, like with Christianity, this is something that is mandated in their religion by virtue of Divinely-revealed precept.  Within Judaism, you also see shades of adherence to the traditional way of doing things: from the very liberal Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism to the more moderate Conservative Judaism to the traditionalist Orthodox Judaism, and even within the latter movement there exist degrees (from those with very traditional spirituality and worship but who otherwise are very assimilated into mainstream modern society, to the Hasidic movement, to fundamentalist or borderline-fundamentalist sects with separatist tendencies). Modernism has with Judaism, as with Christianity, plagued numerous and untold numbers of faith communities. (There is just as much of a “cultural Jewish” phenomenon as there is a “cultural Catholic” or “cultural Christian” phenomenon.) Nonetheless, go to any Jewish individual or family with even a modicum of involvement in or education about their faith, and they can tell you the reason why they celebrate the Passover, or Hanukkah, or any other major celebration. And there are certain mechanisms in place to ensure this: during Passover celebrations, it is a practice for families to engage in special meals, during which the head of the household recites a series of ritual prayers and, at some point, summarizes the Biblical stories surrounding that laid the basis for the Passover. Hanukkah, to provide another example, really makes no sense without understanding the larger historical events that laid the basis for it.

 

Now, part of the reason why Hanukkah or Passover has not been commodified, at least not to the same extent as Christmas, is because Jews are a tiny minority within the United States. But, could another reason possibly be because it is more difficult to commodify these holidays? Could it be that Jews have sufficiently kept their gaze on the deeper spiritual basis for these holidays, something which Christians have forgotten? This would require an in depth analysis of the current spiritual state of contemporary Judaism, as well as unfounded hypotheses concerning what the Jewish community would have been like had, let’ say, Judaism and Christianity swaped places. But, I think it’s a possibility.

 

And we as Christians need to do the same thing. We need to refocus our attention on that which lays the basis for our faith, lest our faith become merely a cultural phenomenon devoid of any spiritual meaning. The concept of the Eternally-Begotten Word of God assuming flesh in order to save us from sin so that we may be reconciled to God, and thereby spiritually renewing mankind so as to become by grace what the Son is by nature, namely sons and daughters of God, inheritors of the Kingdom, and partakers of the Divine life – that can’t easily be commodified. But, gift-giving and celebrations, when separated from their deeper spiritual meaning, can be more easily commodified. And this brings us farther and farther away from the true meaning of Christmas, and that which is meant to elevate our minds towards God and His salvific plan becomes nothing more than an opportunity to indulge the passions. Something meant to celebrate our salvation becomes an occasion for that which we were meant to be saved from.

Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

The Juvenilization of the Church of Church and Society

The Calvinist theologian and preacher John MacArthur once delivered a sermon in which he decried the what he called juvenilization of the Church. He noted that social media allows us to create our own world – deciding which music we listen to, which people to connect with, which information we see, and anything we don’t want to see, we can easily block. This creates a sense of selfishness and self-centeredness which in turn inculcates a child-like mentality. It is thus difficult to create a sense of fellowship which is all-too important for the life of the Church.

 

MacArthur, in spite of being a non-Catholic (and a proponent of diet anti-Catholicism), is on to something. Religion, in general, and Christianity (particularly Catholic Christianity as the true form of Christianity) in specific, is meant to elevate the human mind, the human soul, and, in a sense, the fullness of the human person. True religion is God-centered, not man-centered; nonetheless, this does not deny the human element, but rather directs its attention to a higher good, a greater reality – in fact, the source of all good and reality – and in so doing elevates the human mind.

 

Yet, with the crisis in the Church – the decline in Church attendance, the decline in ordinations, the PR nightmare caused by multiple scandals with deep-running roots – people within the Church are willing to do anything to draw people into the Church. Instead of focusing on God and using this to elevate man, the leaders in the Church, rather, focus on man, and this almost inevitably leads to appeals to lower and lower parts of man, all for the sake of seeming “cool” or “relevant.”

 

We saw this a few months ago when an Episcopalian cathedral in San Francisco hosted a “Beyonce Mass”. That’s right – a liturgy in which the music of Beyonce took center stage. Those who organized the event believe that her music contains an unique expression of certain Biblical truths which is all too necessary and relevant to today’s situation. The organizer of the event teaches a class in which the lyrics of Beyonce are used as a springboard to the analysis of the Old Testament.

 

There are multiple issues with this. One commentator described the event as a “bringing together of secular music and a religious message to tell a message of empowerment for particularly women of color, but anyone who happens to sing praises to the goddess herself, Beyonce.”

 

Christians are obliged, as a matter of conscience, to fight for justice, particularly in the name of those who are oppressed and marginalized. Yet, worship is not about “empowerment.” There is a saying, first coined in the Patristic era: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivandi – “The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief which is the Law of Life.” How we pray, how we worship, both influences and gives expression to what we believe, which in turn influences how we live our life. Liturgical worship, as the highest form of prayer, should thus inspire us to live as better Christians, including for our fight for justice. Yet, worship, in and of itself, is centered on God. Forget about how man has certain duties to God, which are fulfilled at least in part in the worship of God. Forget all that stuff about the Eucharist being a participation in and memorial of Christ’s death. It’s about empowerment, which seems here to be defined in the most generic manner, like something one would find in Women’s Studies 101 (but without all the added academic verbiage and with more religious pretense).

 

Further, the organizer of the event, for a living, teaches courses on how Beyonce reflects the message of the Bible. One song contains the lyrics, “I’m a train wreck in the morning, I’m a b**ch in the afternoon…I don’t know why you love me, and that’s why I love you.” Since the audience is ambiguous, this can be seen as a prayer between us and God: we frequently offend God, fail in our moral obligations, but God still loves us, and the infinite love of God should move us to love God in return.

 

I mean, it’s not like there are 2,000 years of Christian and Jewish commentaries on Scripture that make the same point in a more profound manner and with less cliches and vulgarities. It’s not like African-American Christianity has been producing hymns and cultivating a rich spirituality of its own for the past few hundred years. And, if you would prefer to adopt a black nationalist, “back-to-Africa” mentality, it’s not like there areas of Africa where Christianity has existed almost since the dawn of the Church which have their own unique and profound spirituality. (Cyprian who? What’s an Athanasius? Desert Fathers? No, too patriarchal-sounding. St. Augustine? Nah, was too uptight about sex for our taste.) Rather, we need to look to pop stars to find the “embodiment” of “black female spirituality.”

 

Beyonce is the embodiment of black female spirituality? Almost trivializes black female spirituality, doesn’t it? When man focuses in on himself above all else – which, by the way, is the very definition of pride – man falls deeper and deeper into sin, and instead of expressing his or her full potential as a child of God, they contaminate and bring down everything they do. Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Our connection with God is what is the center of our entire being. That’s what gives us our immeasurable dignity. What brings about the immense depravity that results from sin is when we ignore this fact and guide our gaze downward towards anything else but God, acting in accordance with our immediate wants and needs instead of ordering all things towards the highest good, God.

 

When God takes center stage, all that we are and everything we do is elevated by God’s grace. When this is not the case, everything we touch is brought down. It is one thing to examine how religious and culture intersect and influence one another. It is one thing to use the best of whatever culture or time period we live in as a means to evangelize. It is another thing to make some aspect of contemporary culture the center of worship. Hence, the worship was nothing more than a poor attempt to seem relevant to an ever secularized youth, and the spirituality that surrounds it nothing more than a parody of traditional African-American spirituality. Because God was not the center stage, everything else was brought down. Unlike traditional Christian worship, or even traditional African-American spirituality, there is no sense of the transcendent, no sense of God’s presence. When your worship looks more like a concert than a sacrament, your bound to bring about a passing, fleeting sense of joy or profundity at best, nothing that can truly bring us closer to God in the long-haul.

 

This happens when the subjective spiritual view of a small group of individuals is projected onto Divine Worship. Outside of a liturgical realm, you see this in a moral realm. In an article written by John Cornwell in Vanity Fair, the theological differences between Pope-emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis were discussed, and how these differences are causing division within the Church. Speaking of how Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI remained loyal to traditional Catholic views on sexuality. The author goes on to say, “Never mind that new generations of young Catholics were living together before marriage, coming out as gays and lesbians, divorcing and remarrying.” So, we should ignore dealing with whether or not the traditional views of the Church or the Bible are correct, and change Church teaching to get with the times? “Traditional Church teaching does not fit into our own personal way of life, so instead of changing our life to conform to the will of God, we should take the principles that lay the basis for this behavior as axiomatic and expect the Church to change.”

Again, a self-centered mindset brings down everything else, while a God-centered attitude elevates everything. When we conduct our sexual life on our own terms rather than on God’s terms, are we shocked when out-of-wedlock-births increase, so that, as of 2016, 39.8% of births were out-of-wedlock? Or when divorce rates rise (take, for example, how divorce increased in England in the period between 1970 and 1993 from 4.7 for 1,000 people to 14.1 for every 1,000 married people, and that even when it lowered in the period between 1993 and 2014, it was still significantly higher than what it had been 45 years earlier, at 9.3 for every 1,000 married people)? Take also the #MeToo movement. Some say that the #MeToo movement is a reaction to a legitimate issue, namely society’s underwhelming response against “rape culture.” On the other hand, some say that the #MeToo movement blows out of proportion the issue or rape, making it seem as if rape is more common than it is or is even tacitly approved by society, even though the West has more respect for women than any other part of the world. The fact that either of these two things are an option says a lot about the state of contemporary sexual mores.

 

All of these issues and similar ones – whether moral, social, or liturgical – stems from turning our gaze inwards towards ourselves at the expense of turning them towards God. We project ourselves onto the world, accepting what we like, rejecting what we don’t, remaking the world in our own image instead of conforming ourselves to God and ordering all things to HIM. This can only lead to decline, decay and disorder.

Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

Absurdity and the Decline of the West

I was recently speaking with someone on Facebook. This person, in real life, is an outspoken writer and commentator within the traditionalist movement. He spoke of how, in his view, Millenial Catholics are just as irritating as the Baby Boomer Catholics they enjoy mocking and looking down on. And this includes even Millenials within the traditionalist movement. Many of them are known for their snarky attitude and for, in his words, being something along the lines of, if my memory serves me right, “integralist LARPers”.

 

(Integralism is the traditional stance, endorsed by many Catholic theologians [and even many Popes] in the 19th and early 20th century which rejected the separation of Church and State in favor of social models that emphasized the close connection between the Church and the larger society; LARPing means “live action role playing,” and is when a person dresses as a character from a game, and acts out the personal traits of that character while interacting with other LARPers. It is essentially over-the-top cosplaying or war reenacting. His point is that some traditionalist Catholics, especially younger ones, act as if they come from an alternate dimension in which we currently live in an integralist society, or as if the establishing of an integralist society is right around the corner.)

 

This is something I have noticed as well. I’d say that the mindset of younger generations of traditionalists, and younger generations of Catholics in general, is determined by several different factors. The first is that they are shaped, in many ways, by internet culture. This should almost be a stereotype, given what we know about youth culture among any generation currently in their early 30’s and younger. This is significant for two reasons: 1)Concerning some of them being “integralist LARPers,” this may be shaped by the fact that, on the internet, you can find groups of people who think and act just like you. It is very easy to find or form echo chambers. Younger Catholics may desire these echo chambers for several reasons, not the least of which is because, first off, while there is room for debate and dialogue within the study of theology (look at how the De Auxiliis debate has never been resolved in the almost four and a quarter centuries since it began), the Word of God itself, and the infallibly defined magisterium of the Church, are not up for debate. In a world filled with moral relativism, people desire moral certitude, which they do by, unfortunately, giving in to that pack mentality (specifically looking for people who will reinforce their own personal beliefs and biases). Thankfully, some people are manifesting this in the form of traditionalist Catholicism rather than radical feminism on the one hand or the Alt-Right on the other. But further, many young Catholics seek the support of like-minded Catholics as they get attacked on all sides. There is a definite move among younger Catholics (well, at least those who still practice their faith and adhere to the traditional teachings of the Church) to be more theologically conservative and liturgically traditional than their parents or, especially, their grandparents. Even the more theologically moderate youngsters are not as far to the left as their parents. This does not mean that all youngsters are EWTN and ChurchMilitant watching, Latin Mass attending, closeted SSPX supporters, but traditionalism seems to be more of a formidable force among the younger generations. Unlike in the 1960’s and 1970’s, where the larger context was fairly traditional (or at least had the semblance of such), and thus the youth of that era were reacting against that in their crusade to implement “reform”, the context of today is one defined by that same generation running the Church. The secular world is a mess, and things within the Church are not much better. Some among the younger generations of Catholics may believe that the issues of the contemporary period arose when, in an attempt to reform the shortcomings or faults of the past, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. There is thus a desire for a certain element of tradition to be infused back into the Church. This is thus going to get them flack from those outside the Church – why would they of all people want an institution traditionally as powerful as the Church to go back to strongly emphasizing such doctrines as abstinence before marriage, abortion, contraception and gay sex are sins, etc.? – and even from those within the Church who feel that anything traditional is a call to return to the days when women were oppressed, heretics were burned at the stake, and people were not allowed to think for themselves. The internet thus provides a place for Catholics who take their faith seriously and realize that Catholic theology, spirituality and practice had a 19 and a half century-long history prior to Vatican II to seek out other like-minded people for the sake of forming some sense of community and the emotional and moral support that brings.

 

2)This is the nature of the beast. If younger traditionalists seem snarky, it is because humor on the internet is defined by sarcasm, irony, unexpected twists, parodying things from mainstream culture (particularly in counter-intuitive ways), and absurdities. This form of humor, best expressed in memes, has led to the rise of what could be called a “meme culture.” Now, before this sounds like some cliched social commentary from 2012, I think it is important to note a trend that is often ignored outside of religious circles: the rise of forms of humor that combine religious themes with recent trends in internet humor. A quick glance on Facebook will show at least three different Facebook pages titled “Catholic Memes,” a page titled “Roman Catholic Memes,” and others with such names as “TradCatholic Memes,” “Lit Catholic Memes,” “Phresh Catholic Memes from the Papal Meme Office,” and “Traditional Catholic Memes for Working Class Teens.” There are also a series of more general theology-based meme pages, such as “Tommy Aqua’s Summa Memeologica,” “Personal Memes for Theistic Teens,” “Classical Christian Theism Memes for Biblical Teens,” and “Reverend Phlox’s Meme Stash.” There are similar pages among specifically non-Catholic groups, such as “Reformed Memes Daily,” “Calvinist Memes,” “Episcopal Church Memes,” “Methodist Memes,” and “Jewish Memes.” Like every group or subgroup, technology-savvy religious people now have meme pages.

 

There is a part of me that hypothesizes that the appeal of this sort of mindset, even among the religious, is rooted in the fact that reactionary ideologies, polarized public discourse, and absurdism (particularly within the realm of art, music, literature and humor) seems to be an expression of existential angst concerning, or in some cases a coping mechanism (as in the case of absurdism) influenced by, a society in crisis. In some instances it is the final death rattle of a civilization.

 

The polarization of the larger society is reflected in the Church. In 2017, Matthew Schmitz wrote an article for the Catholic Herald on the popularity of more traditional forms of Catholicism among the youth. He spoke of a speech by Pope Francis in which he says that the vision of those who came of age during Vatican II needs to be passed on to the younger generations. Schmitz wrote in response: “Maybe so, but the youth don’t seem to want it.” The young, in my opinion, may be hesitant to walk in the way of their elders because they interpret it not as a variation of what the Church always taught, but as a rejection of or deviation from it. These generational differences take to a feverish pitch that which has already been occurring within the Church for the past 40-50 years.

 

The point I am trying to make is that for the past 50 years, there has been a rivalry between two competing visions of Church teaching, as well as attempts galore to reconcile these two views. We are now at a tipping point. The youth are acutely aware of this. And the quirky or erratic behavior of the youth today is, on some level, a reaction to the reality of this set of circumstances.

Random Polemical Musings, Uncategorized

Modernity, Morality and Disruptive Change: Who Could’ve Seen That Coming?

On October 25, 2018, Big Think published a video titled “The cult of disruptive innovation: Where America went wrong.” In it, they interviewed the American historian Jill Lepore. I will include a transcript to part of what she said, because I think it is particularly significant:

 

To my view, a lot of our contemporary crisis derives from an abandonment of the idea of moral progress. So, when the country was founded in the 18th century, its framers subscribed to the idea that progress is moral. And that idea of progress came from Christianity. The Pilgrim’s Progress is the journey from sin to salvation. Enlightenment philosophers, like the guys who drafted the founding documents of the United States, didn’t necessarily share that Christian notion of a journey from sin to salvation, but they understood progress in the United States and its founding as an experiment [that] would lead to political progress because it was designed to improve the lives of the most people, that people would act in the sense of a common endeavor, as a republic, that our obligations would be to one another in the form of community and that we should understand achievement as moral progress. That changed over the course of the 19th century when progress came to have a real technological caste – think about the railroad, the telegraph, the camera. People began to think of progress as advancing like a train on a linear track, and each machine would make the world better because things would go faster and goods would become cheaper. And very quickly that idea of moral progress was replaced by progress as prosperity. So, if you were to ask how things are going for the country, the country is prospering, we have made progress. And the slippage from “We’ve made a more just society” to “A lot of people are making a lot more money and goods are cheaper for people to buy,” that’s a real slippage. So then, in the 20th century, progress is even sort of less new forms of production and accelerated forms of production, but accelerated forms of consumption. So, the more people are buying, the more goods people have, [that means] “the standard of living is rising,” therefore we have progress. In the second half of the twentieth century, the idea that there even is progress, technologically-driving progress, begins to fall apart because of Hiroshima. So, people look at the world and [ask], “What’s technological progress gotten us in the middle of the century?” We have built a bomb that could destroy the whole planet, and by the 1950’s we’re destroying the environment, and it may be possible that human life cannot live on this planet indefinitely under these circumstances, or even for the next several centuries. So, there’s a real crisis in the idea of progress. By the time you get to the 1980’s and 1990’s, there’s a new generation of technological utopians, and they start talking about “innovation” as progress. Innovation, historically, as a word, means progress without any concern for morality. Innovation, in the 18th century sense, is bad. Innovation is novelty for its own sake – like, “Just invent it and who cares what the consequences are.” Innovation is historically actually a dreadful and damning thing to accuse someone of. … So, by the 1980’s, there’s such a kind of reckless heedlessness in American businesses. It’s the sort of mergers age, like Wall Street grubbiness…like “the greed is good” kind of thing, that this heedless innovation is fine because this “creative destruction”…this is the engine of economic growth. And nothing else manners – the public good, moral integrity, decency, goodness for more people, the health of the Republic. All that matters is innovation. And then, by the 1990’s, [the question asked is], “Is it disruptive innovation?” “Is it more radically innovative?” “Does it disrupt existing models of business and disrupt existing industries?” And so you get this real embrace of heedlessness as an American value or a corporate value, which is a complete abdication of the [true] spirit of progress.

 

 

So, let me see if I have this right: the Christian view saw progress as moral progress, that is, the transition from a state of sin to a state of holiness, and ultimately salvation. During the Enlightenment, the concept of morality was separated from its Judeo-Christian roots in an attempt to find an objective basis for morality without explicit recourse to God or the categories of traditional philosophy. Yet, at least then there was still some belief in objective morality, and a sense that true progress was growth in virtue (and on a societal level, a growth in justice). Yet, with the rise of the Industrial Revolution, progress became reduced merely to technological progress, which led to the spread of the most morally abhorrent iterations of capitalism. This, in turn, led to materialist and consumerist worldviews which then to the moral degradation of society.

 

Gee, I wish there had been someone who had warned us against this over the course of the past, oh, let’s say century to century and a half. Wouldn’t it have been great if there was someone who would fight against such forces as Communism, Fascism, racism, moral relativism, the oppression of the poor, extreme capitalism, and consumerism, all within the context of a rational defense of traditional values? Oh well.