Thursday, March 16, 2017

Does Our Culture have an Orientation?

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You can phrase this question in a variety of ways. It's a preoccupation of mine. What I am asking is if the orientation of our culture to a predominantly 'leftist' way of thinking is a result of extrinsic force (Marxist propaganda) or is it intrinsic (as a result of our way of life). Most conservatives tend to think that the leftist orientation of the educational system, the media, etc., is a result of propagandist intrusions. My default is that too. And yet, even though Marxism is a villainous thing, this surmise might not in fact be most accurate.

My argument is this: human nature + 21st century technology = leftist milieu.

Let me give a concrete example. Contraception is possible and inexpensive, human beings are libidinous and selfish, therefore marriage will be marginalized and abortion will be widely accepted.

I am not going to connect the dots above. The point is not how well I have connected these things; the point is to illustrate the main components of how our culture is formed the way it is.

Yes, I have spent most of my adult life charting the West's intellectual history, not it's technological profile, but for sake of my argument, I will subsume philosophy/ideology into technology. Of course, the old argument between idealists and Marxist materialists is whether ideas produce cultural states of consciousness or whether the means of production does (technological state of affairs). To avoid this digression, because it is not my preoccupation at present, I will simply refer to them both collectively as technology. We know through experience both that technology drives belief and that belief governs the use of technology. I consider myself justified in side-stepping this matter because, yes, that in order to provide a thorough account of the matter, it would be essential to know that the modern world would not be the way it is without Luther and Gutenberg, for instance, for sake of shorthand we can simply look at the 21st century as it is now with as few footnotes of this nature as possible. In other words, people in the world today recognize that there is such a thing as the subconscious but don't generally know anything at all about the man called Freud. Without ever having read a word of his they are quite willing to believe that their dreams are reflections of themselves and that their relationships with their mothers and fathers have significance for their psycho-sexuality. They know all of this, despite the fact that there is nothing transparently obvious about these ideas.

Are conservatives fighting a losing battle, then, if this culture is intrinsically left? I would say both yes and no. I find it interesting that conservatives are willing to accept so much today that conservatives were not in the past: gay 'marriage', the 'equality' of women, etc. They did not arrive there by conservatism. They arrived there because of my equation above. The same can be observed of liberals. Liberals are no longer liberals at all, they are leftists. Locke and Mill have basically nothing in common with Marx, but lo and behold we call the left liberal.

I grant that the liberal college student or professor, and the liberal journalist and millionaire Hollywood types are not the 19th century factory workers Marx had in mind. But what do such hybrids signify?

Ancient Christians were philosophers and slaves; Catholics were serfs and lords; Protestants were merchants; leftists today are urban white collars. Yes, we can scoff at the difference between the people Marx had in mind and these modern day dandies, but the fact remains, Locke and Mill would not recognize liberals today, nor would Augustine, Benedict and Bernard recognize Christians of today.

So what is to be done to stop the insidious doctrine of Marx today? I don't know. I noticed an article asserting that conservatives dominate YouTube (or the internet?) today. This is welcome to me, of course, even though I have just said that conservatives today are not conservatives of yesteryear, especially if conservative means Christian, which it generally has always implied. For although conservatives are rather poor at Christianity, or even Judaeo-Christianity, anything and everything is better than Marxism.

Yesterday's liberal is today's conservative. That's always true. These leftist profs and journalists have power and want to protect it. They will continue to try to use Marxism to do it: by race-baiting and class-bating, etc. But whether they will lose or not will to a great extent depend upon how technology changes. Will there be any gays when the next world war arrives? It is an urban phenomenon: what happens if there is an agrarian shift?

Again, back to the matter of sexual ethics, how will the decline of the white West effect how we look at contraception and abortion? I pay attention to the visions of the future that Hollywood presents. They are generally all rather shallow examinations of the human condition. I include things like, yes, my beloved Star Wars in this. Would human beings really act the way they are presented in Star Wars and Star Trek were those technologies available? No, because Hollywood is too preoccupied with telling us how we should act today to even begin to think about how we would really live in such circumstances. Would there really be so many (or any) women leaders in the world of The Walking Dead?

History is a great school master. Too bad so many are infected with the "history of right now" to learn from it.

The reference to women's rights which I made above can serve my point here. How often even conservatives grant that women have it better today than they did in the past, meaning that they are freer or treated more equally today. Gavin McInnes is one of the only conservatives to challenge this assertion, but he is so unserious that his point is not taken as seriously as it ought. I completely disagree with the narrative that women are freer, more equal, better treated today. Only someone with the most superficial knowledge of human history can say this. Is a vote really worth all the abortion, despair, purposelessness, and loneliness women have to endure today? Women, would you rather be loved by a Keats or by a rapper?

So, in summary, if you don't like the status quo, just wait a while, maybe something better will come along. Wait too long and something completely unfamiliar will.

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The Morlocks, circa. 800,000 AD.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

You Are Not a Good Person!

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Today wasn't the first time I was told this, nor, I imagine, will it be the last.

The fact that someone thinks enough about me to care to say this about me means - which I already knew, in fact - that I often make an impact when I pass by. One might consider that a grounds to boast, but I do not. I am not happy with the impacts I have made.

I wanted to say to this person, but was for a technical reason unable to,

Demon, I do not think I am a good person, and I do not think that I am trying to make that impression on people. To assert as much about me reveals that you know nothing about that upon which you wish to claim some insight. I am crushingly aware that I am not a good person. I wonder at myself that I had ever believed myself to be good. But that time has long passed by. I am a smart enough person now not to believe that the facts that I neither hurt puppies nor endorse Nazism entitle me to be called a good person. Nor - and this fact will likely bother you more than the previous two - do I yet believe that the wrongs I have done in the past disqualify me from the title. I am disqualified by the present. I don't know whether I shall always be disqualified, but in making this switch I pass outside of autobiography to theology, namely the theology of grace, with its axiom that the future is in God's hands and that He is ever able to turn Sauls into Pauls, and to even make stones cry out praise. 

But enough about me for the moment. Your problem, demon, lies in your interest in my unhappiness, in my deflation. Of course, you miscalculated when you concluded that I am anywhere close to happy, anywhere close to good, and that the little happiness I do have I draw out of a belief in my own goodness. No, I am far from either good or happy. You made a mistake when you reasoned from appearances - and that, says Thomas Aquinas, is how demons determine what they know about us - that I am happy, and if happy, I am happy because I believe I am good. No, I am not happy, but I try to be happy. I have a responsibility not to depress others nor to indulge my own dark humour. I cannot say I was born with a lot going for me. I have intelligence, but so very few of the chemicals that make happy men happy, naive men innocent, the self-content able to take pleasure in things near-at-hand, the prosaic uninterested in large questions. I quote Chesterton here since I have recently comes across it and it evokes something of what I am after, "Men of science offer us health, an obvious benefit; it is only afterwards that we discover that by health, they mean bodily slavery and spiritual tedium." In other words, knowledge does not make a man happy; it cannot stand as a substitute for other things, the most significant of which the right kind of brain. I can control my health to some extent. And I do. I am largely healthy. But I will not fall into the sort of slavery and tedium it demands of me. Nothing so far has made me give up my freedom to be miserable, and I am free to be miserable because I refuse tedium and slavery. 

It would be low psychoanalysis to say that your interest in my happiness is a sign of your own misery. I am too smart to be interested in the easy. That's easy. But I am sorry for you. But I'm only sorry, nothing more. I haven't the spiritual energy for my own happiness, so looking to me is like looking to a stone for refreshment. As I have said, there are people who have bothered to hate me. You hate me because I represent something to you: I think it is self-confidence, which you have mistaken for happiness. But make no mistake, my confidence is in my reason and store of knowledge, not in anything else. It makes me confident in my dealings with most other people, but it doesn't make me happy and has come no where near to convincing me that I am a good person. And even when I don't know something - like I know so very close to next to nothing about accounting, mathematics, electronics, chemistry, etc. - my certainty about  the exact parameters of my ignorance also gives me confidence. Ah, you can't win with me. No one can.

Demon, you make me think about something that I periodically muse over: what would I do were I confronted with a demon? I know demons like to throw sin in people's faces. They love to shame people. That much is clear from the records. But is that all? There are things in my life I would not want others to know about. That doesn't make me special. It makes me rather ordinary. I would hate to be caught naked and be plastered all over the internet in that form. But I am yet under no illusion that I have the worst body ever nor the most shameful record of sins. I think were either to occur - my secrets get out or my nakedness made public - that I would eventually get over it. Ultimately, this would likely be freeing, like the serial killer who is finally caught. 

So, demon, you have to do better than that, better than telling me what I already know - that I am a bad person - in order to bring me from sadness to greater sadness. But alas, you know, I suspect, that making me worse cannot make you better. You wanted to do battle with a man, but instead you have found a pacifist, to joust with a man of honour, but you have instead stumbled across but a miserable pick-pocket.

Chesterton also said that Christianity takes sin more seriously and yet grants mercy more easily. What a wonderful picture of human life! You should find some Christians. They sound nice.

Ever in Christ I wish to be,

Colin Kerr, as yet totally unreformed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

When Rome Doesn't Exist

A moment ago I did something I rarely do anymore: read something about the pope. As a good son, I do not uncover my father's nakedness. It was an easy virtue to have when I had in Benedict a pope who, in my estimation, was as near to perfect as a pope can be. It's darn near impossible for me now. So I don't comment on the papacy. I don't say anything about Amoris Laetitia, about the dubia, about 'mercy,' etc.

In terms of the institutional growth of the Church, in these few short years we have nearly lost everything we had gained since JPII and BXVI. The Church was being recognized, finally again after the horrible post-Vatican II years, as meaning what it says and saying what it means. Again, it took 30 years of two amazing popes to do this. This is one of the most important measures of effectiveness: is it known what you stand for and are you perceived as being serious about its importance? Do you live your convictions, whatever they are? Don't lecture me about global warming while jet-setting. The Church was finally on its way back to being taken seriously as meaning what it says. It wasn't liked for this, but it was respected.

And you may agree or disagree with my approach. I don't comment on Church politics online, I don't talk about them among my friends. I have nothing to say, and my choice to ignore it reinforces my decision not to talk about it. "I don't know anything about it," I say. Ask me about footnote 54 or whatever it is as much as you like. Don't know, don't care.

So, what's lost? I didn't become Catholic because of the papacy. A great man was pope at the time, yes, but it had nothing to do with my decision. The pope isn't explicitly mentioned in the Bible, nor in the Creed. The pope meant very little to Augustine, somewhat more to Athanasius, he meant a lot to Aquinas, but without, somehow, finding his way in the Summa Theologica, at least not prominently. (Go ahead and type 'pope' into the NewAdvent search engine, if you don't believe me.) I'm not saying you can have a Church without a pope, but I am saying you can have a Catholic without a pope. For most Catholics throughout history, the pope meant very little. After all, most Catholics have been uneducated farmers.

But unity is a wonderful thing in the Church.The pope is the centre-point of this unity. He holds the place the heavenly Father has in the earthly Church. That's what he does when everything is working as it ought. There have been times when it has not, like during the 14th century schisms. But he was a point of pride for the Medieval Latin Church when it compared itself to the craziness of the East.

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Knock off the verbal diarrhea!
Most of the saints in the history of the Church never met a pope. They barely concerned themselves with him. They likely prayed for him, but he probably wasn't much more real to them than their king was. Of course, that was then and this is now. We have the internet. The pope can be as close to us now as anything else. I have never been to Tolstoy's home in Yasnaya Polyana, but I could tell you a great deal about it. Thanks to modern technology, if I wanted to, I could read or listen to basically every word the pope speaks. Thanks to modern publishing, I can even know far more about Pope Gregory I than 99.9% of his contemporaries. All this being said, the pope can (should?) take on an importance in the spiritual life of Catholics that he never had in most of the history of the Church, at least for those 19 centuries that followed Peter's papacy, when all Christians basically knew each other by name, and certainly knew Peter by name and by sight. This is a great burden for a single individual to take on. Any given bishop cannot be everything to the 100,000 people of his diocese. Any given priest cannot be everything for the 2000 people of his parish. I cannot even be everything for the 7 other people in my house. That's not realistic, nor even good. I am not God, priests are not, bishops are not, the pope is not.

That being the case, I think that we need to (and this is why I have done so) calm down on our papocentrism. The pope needs to calm down on it too. The spiritual life is 99.999999999 about God. The pope fits into a small fragment of the remaining small fragment. Chesterton once wrote that being in the Church means that for us a Plato and a Shakespeare remains with us still to speak and to write to us. He meant that the Church was a living, revealing creature. I doubt he every thought that the Church in the person of the pope could ever develop verbal diarrhea and that so many of us Catholics could ever do anything else but feed off of it.

Every time I see a picture of a Catholic event with a cut-out of Pope Francis surrounded by a group of smiling young people, I ask myself, why? The unity and centrality of the Church is the Holy Eucharist that can never disappoint. The pope is supposed to be a sign of unity, but he can fail in that task. I think we Catholics are getting what we deserve for our idolization of the papacy under JPII.

Image result for hermitsIt's much harder to live an internal life, one devoid of external encouragements. The pope has been discouraging for people who think about the Church's mission to convert the world. He has been just one more thing to add to the 'cons' side in the list of reasons to think that the Gospel is doing its work in the world today. I am sure that even the saints were effected by good and bad news. I am sure they were encouraged when they heard that a great and arrogant prince had humbled himself and entered a severe monastery to do penance. I am sure they were disappointed when they heard about an adultery, about a failed crusade, the growth of a heresy. But they didn't make their spiritual lives about that, depend upon that.

The spiritual life is difficult precisely because it is about the intangible. You cannot take spiritual pleasure in matter, thus, you should not be able to be discouraged by it either. The character of the bishops, the quality of Catholic education, the mindset with which couples enter into marriage - none of it matters to you. What is it to you?

So, in the midst of this discouraging set of circumstances, I am reminded once more to think upon the transcendent God. Also, to remember that Catholicism is what Catholics do, and I can live it, and should live it, according to the resources that God has given me. I can and should continue living this Catholic life without worrying about what anyone else is up to.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Bigger God

I came to the Faith, as I understand it, for philosophical reasons - at least in part. I can't comment much upon my psychological reasons, because they are still as uncertain to me as they are as certain to others (Dunning-Kruger effect much?).

By 'philosophical reasons' I am referring to the kinds of things Plato was up in his discernment of the divine, and what Kant was up to, and what Tolstoy was up to. The basic question I asked myself was, if there were a God, He would have to be like this...

And my young mind came up with a number of things I still believe, but which I think I can reduce to two things in essence:

1) God is not partial
2) He is not limited to what is possible to our imagination

These two points were important to me. How important they are in your every day spiritual life is really what I want to talk about in this post, but there are some preambulatory things I need to say first.

The first is a primarily moral point, the second metaphysical, but they have a lot in common. You can say that (1) is and is not an instance of (2). It is not in that Aristotle thought (2) meant that God did not care about us. So, in other words, it is possible to believe (2) without believing (1). It is derivative of (2) in that (2) means that we need to expand our thinking about God in every way, and one way we really need to do this is in ethics. Kant thought that (2) implied (1), in other words, and so too did Tolstoy. Plato's position is a little more complex, but I think he would ultimately agree that (2) implies (1), but not for the reasons Christians suppose it does.

So, if anyone ever cared to write a history of my religious thought, he would have to refer to the importance of (1) and (2) to me from about 15 years of age on. I would be baptized in the Catholic Church by 17 because I say a direct and inescapable link between (1) and (2) and the Catholic Church. What I supposed that to be is rather too much for me to describe at this moment.

I want to talk about the role of the imminent and the transcendent in our imagination about God. We do not acknowledge God's immanence because of the Incarnation; we acknowledge it because of Genesis 1. God created the world out of nothing and therefore from out of Himself in some sense. We get this more plainly in the phrase "in His image and likeness" when He created man. Of course, the Incarnation is the ultimate instance of His imminence. The Catholic Church teaches all of this, therefore, it teaches (1), at least insofar as (1) implies that God is in relationship with all of creation and not only a privileged part of it, and, moreover, that man's essential character lies in His relationship to God, that you cannot have a man who is not in relationship with God, one whom, we add, God loves: to be a man, then, is to be loved by God (even if the opposite is not true).

Image result for st. augustine of hippo on the beachOf course, it is always important to keep in mind the tension between (1) and (2). This is the tension between our understanding of God's immanence and His transcendence. No person, I believe can have a true understanding of God (as true as is possible for us: true, not comprehensive), if we do not hold these two realities in mind always. It is the difference between the God who cannot care (Aristotle's vaporous God) and the God whose care doesn't amount to anything (the Canaanites' dead idol of wood or stone).

So here we are. Here am I. Sometimes I think/feel that God is so far away, because so great, that He doesn't care about me. Sometimes I think He is so close that He is only there to indulge my selfish feelings, that the sole reason for His existence is to make me feel good.

I would assume that I am not alone in this. Every mistake in my spiritual life consists in ending up at one of these two poles, and ignoring the truth of the other side.

It has always been my suspicion, however, that today Christians need to think more about God's transcendence.

For me, it is likely the opposite. Jesus is everything to me, but I am capable of an extraordinary dissonance in that I can hate the Father at times while still loving the Son. What uniquely human madness!

Psychoanalyze that. Better yet, pray for me!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Almost Old Enough to be Young Again

As I've intimated from time to time, I am a prisoner of those bad things that have happened to me in my life. That's probably true for most of us, at least to some degree; I am sure not everyone, but most thoughtful people.

Thoughtful people are not free by nature; they have to make themselves free, and it's a lot of hard work. It's working with grace to be as free from fear as we can be in this world.

Fear? Yes, fear. The fear of the bad things, those things that made the bad feelings, those things that made us disappointed in ourselves and in life as a whole.

It seems to me that children are the only ones free from these things. This is not to say that autism and certain other things can stack the deck against kids. But when I think of childhood, I think of optimism, imagination, a sort of planning that looks an awful lot like dreaming to an adult, and of the ability to actually enjoy the good experiences that come by.

I am thinking of Christmas and my kids. I am thinking about the good times I have had in the past and how I miss my father and could never really appreciate him.

But, no, it's not never. As I said, children can actually enjoy the good things that come their way. For instance, I appreciated my father (and mother) when I was a child. Yet with every year and every hardship and responsibility that came along this ability to enjoy becomes weaker and weaker. It can get weaker. It did in me. In fact, like the good in Darth Vader, my ability to really enjoy good things withered up like a wart that's been dry-iced.

I'm not saying I am typical - I am far and away from that, as any reader of this blog will clearly know. However, neither am I a rare, special breed. I see the sadness and pain in people's faces. Most hide it better than I do, but they still have it. But my pain, or fear of pain, has made me better able, I think, to appreciate how important it is to have positive experiences, even if I find myself not really able to enjoy them as I should. Bahhumbuggers are people of my sort. But it's a choice. Even if someone were to rise from death it wouldn't be enough to change a person who didn't want to change (Lk 16:31). Belief in the Resurrection - for as much as preachers would have it on Easter - doesn't do this as a mere and easily come by intellectual acknowledgement. Rejoice - that's easier said than done. But it does make a difference. How much of a difference is up to you, I guess.

Sadness can keep us apart. I think of my family first of all. I can't be another person, but I have a duty to be the best this person I can be. Of course, people who suffer this way can't be saddled with this further thought, that their inability to be happy is hurting the ones they love. They should focus on the positive: they are perhaps rather more given to sympathy and compassion than others. So that's something.

But what I cannot be is a prisoner of fear. The best dads are the ones who choose to move beyond fear. Note it and work on it. The first difficulty is noticing it. Are we even all that aware of what drives us? And just because we think we are aware of it doesn't mean we actually are. We tell stories about ourselves, that doesn't mean they are totally accurate, including the unflattering ones. What do you remember about your past and why? During the first ten years of our lives we had about 100,000 waking hours. The memories we can call on perhaps account for 100 of them. Are we being fair to ourselves through our memories? Many of us are too hard on ourselves:

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;

I am ashamed of many things, and proud of virtually nothing. That's kind of a bad sign. It's not only bad when people have no shame and only pride (narcissism). When we don't have a positive view of our selves, how can we appreciate the good that God's done in us? We see our lives as a mistake, rather than as graces. It is not as true that my life is a series of sins I have done as it is that it is a series of great graces despite all of that. Every human life is a miracle, whether we can see that or not, and we usually can't.

The problem is we cynically reduce all of the world's best experiences. We call Christmas a consumer-driven holiday. We call marriage just one of society's flawed institutions. We see babies as diapers to be changed, cries that keep us up at night, other mouths to feed, and virus-sponges. And so we choose against them. We call education useless, conformist or indoctrination. Patriotism is chauvinism and divisive. We call work pointless, unending and undignified. We say trips contribute to global-warming... We have a million ways to feel bad about ourselves, a million reasons not to celebrate life. Because we can poke holes in things, doesn't mean we should or that this negative take is a wise or a complete one.

We are both time-bound and boundless. Our limits and limitlessness impact those of our fellows. We do damage and yet provide blessings and healing. We impinge on the other's eternity and their time-bound memories. Onesies make me think of my childhood. So do bikes, Christmas trees, and 35 mm cameras. My parents made all of these things into blessings for me, channels of grace. And yet I caught my foreskin on my onesie's zipper (possibly more than once), fell off my bike, had to prop-up a tree or two with my frustrated father, and had to pose for annoying pictures upon occasion.

But when and why did I lose track of life's enchantment? My teenage years brought acne and insecurity. My twenties brought angst with love and financial and vocational crises, then worry about children. To the troubles that began in my twenties, my thirties added weariness and the near collapse of my moral constitution, that is to say, the near collapse of human perseverance. My forties, they seem to offer fresh opportunities - either to believe in a happiness in success that I always seemed to be denied, to lose hope and faith again in this promise, or to find a new way. But maybe the new way is the oldest way:

I feel at times that I can get back to enchantment. There are moments when I think that I can be healed of the scars that ruined me of this. I used to believe in the happiness that heroism could bring (up until about twenty), then that which genius could bring, then that which love could bring, then evangelization... then... and yet each day, or week, or month, or year, nothing but disappointment and the onset of the philosopher's skepticism.

When do we forgive ourselves our failures and finally accept that the world is a rather formidable thing?

Our life in this world is like that of the king who came up against an enemy with his ten thousand. (Lk 14:31) Initially, he was certain they'd be enough to give him victory. As time went by did any of his certainty remain? No. What remained - might it be called hope, doubt, wishful thinking, desperation? Does he sue for peace or does he redefine war itself?

What is the world? Can we believe that we had it right initially and that everything that led us away from that was a lie? Is the measure of truth the ability to enjoy a good thing? It's worth thinking about this over this nostalgic period that is Christmas. If I have been robbed of my good memories and my ability to enjoy the good, can I supply these things to others, namely, my children?  I want to. Really.

I have never met a child as happy as my two-year-old, Maria. I helped to create that. By the grace of God I created something like 1/7 of that. With Anne-Marie and the other kids supplying the other 6/7s.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Force

Yes, I mean that the Force.

Bear with me, Catholics. I haven't become a Gnostic.

Yes, I love Star Wars. I am into the novels and shows and all that. But - I think it is obvious, but perhaps I should say it anyway - I am still a Catholic theologian who understands the differences between the Star Wars world and the actual world God created and governs.

Nevertheless, there are occasional convergences between the two - that is what makes of SW good story-telling. One specific one that I have been thinking about recently is that indicated by the second trilogy about Anakin's birth as a result of a convergence of midichlorians (tiny organisms that indicate how much of the Force is present). In the movie, Phantom Menace, it is depicted as a sort of immaculate conception. In the novel, Darth Plagueis (reviewed by me in CRB Winter, 2015), it is indicated that this was a sort of reaction in the Force to the amassment of power by Darths Sidious and Plagueis. This, I think, ceteris paribus, is a point of convergence between SW and Catholicism. But I will have to explain.

Image result for unlimited power star wars

By 'Catholicism' I mean the actual world, not an explicitation of Catholic doctrine.

I have noticed that on both the level of individuals and of groups of people reactions like this are a common occurrence. I first noticed the social importance of this phenomenon a few years ago when I was on a committee and found that the more I pushed an idea the more resistance to it grew. What the precise reason for this was is important, of course, but secondary to the fact itself. Was this more because they resented me or resented a position being pushed upon them? Likely, it was a combination of the two, but the fact remains, I believe that, regardless of the person behind the position, there will be a reaction somewhere against a destabilization. I don't believe that the people on that committee hated me or hated the idea that I was championing. It doesn't have to be that strong. I don't believe they particularly liked me, but the fact that my idea was a good one means that some explanation for their voting against it is required.

That's just what got me to thinking. Experience in general has tended to reinforce this specific experience of mine. I once had the naive idea that I could make a difference in the Church / world. What I failed to really bear in mind (because I was too young to take it seriously enough), was that the world will always push back. When I jump in the air that is me pushing against the world. The world is effected, yes, but it is me who does the physical moving, not the world. All evangelistically-minded people need to bear this lesson in mind.

Let me give a concrete example of this. A young evangelist believes he will put ideas into a vacuum. He will first need to recognize that he will not speak into a vacuum, but a marketplace. Still, not even this recognition is good enough - after all, I studied philosophy and history at a secular university in order to equip myself for that context. It's not enough. It's not simply a marketplace where people will rationally chose the best buy - the best thing for lowest price. Economics itself, after all, recognizes the important place of psychology in its discipline. So too ought evangelists. There are very few rational consumers in the marketplace of ideas. There are some - like Justin Martyr, John Henry Newman, and even people like Sargon of Akkad (no equivocation implied here!), but these are the exceptions, not the rule.

Here's my concrete example: "God loves you," proclaims the evangelist.

  • To this the feminist says, "Your patriarchal god bent on subjecting women."
  • The Marxist says, "Fables to keep the poor down."
  • The atheist says, "Superstition soon to be superseded."
  • The social justice warrior says, "Euro-centric bigotry against Muslims."
  • The sociologist says, "Aha, just like the fertility cults of place and time X."

Aquinas' Five Ways are never referenced and the Christian idea of love is never explored so as to be appreciated so as to lead to conversion.

It doesn't matter that the first four reactions incorporate ad hominem errors and the fifth the genetic fallacy. It doesn't matter because, again, these people are not given to reason to any sufficient extent. I think that far more often than places are converted by rational persuasion by people like Newman in Oxford and Augustine in North Africa, they are converted by hospitals, soup kitchens and other instances of diaconia (service). It's hard for feeling people to argue against the good feelings these service elicit. Still, some will, as we have found out in the case of some of the secular assessment of Mother Teresa's life.

But let me get back now to my point about reaction / counter-reaction.

Racism in the US, some have observed, has never been more of a problem than after eight years of a half-black president. 99% of the so-called racism is a fiction brewed up by Marxists, BLM, the Democratic Party and the MSM. Of the actual 1% that exists now, 99% was not there before but was an effect of those groups having called conservatives, whites, and Christians racist for eight years now. Reaction / counter-reaction.

Christianity grows when you make it illegal; it shrinks when you leave it alone; it shrinks even faster when you force it on others. By shrinking, I am not concerned with the statistics about external profession, but with its power of influence in people's personal lives - stats can't measure that. Similarly, Marxism began to die the moment Lenin (and especially Stalin) began to make the people suffer on account of it, rather than in those 'exciting' days of the Revolution when it was viewed as a liberating force.

The fact is, the leftists went too far in the US and resentment against them grew; Canadians are slower, and so a reaction vs. Trudeau and Wynn will be slower in coming; it seems to be growing in Europe too. You can't mandate loyalty.

Dark Side users of the Force force things, Light Side users do not. Power is inevitably fleeting. The description of the Jedi philosophy is much more similar to our understanding of God's providence in the world.

The moral of the story (actually, a distortion of the moral of the story) is that if I wanted that committee to do what I wanted, I should have championed the opposite. But that's manipulation unworthy of a Christian, nay, unworthy of a Jedi.

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I should make one final point, I guess (the great thing about blogs is that they never end, and so there are no truly final, final points).

My non-final final point is this: because human interactions incorporate this action / reaction dynamic there is no end-point. At the heart of Marxism is their distorted Christian belief in progress and that we can attain a final state of excellence. Funny that relativists believe in such an objective state of affairs, but anyway, it is a state where everyone is financially equal and everyone approves of the life-style everyone else has chosen.

How would all men react to being equal with men they do not deem their equals? How would all men judge a world that taught them that things they find intrinsically obnoxious were as worthwhile as those they consider intrinsically superior? You can't be educated against believing that the things you like are not intrinsically better than the things you don't. 

When states of affairs are altered attitudes change, because attitudes are formed in part in light of how states of being are interpreted. For instance, recently, atheists have become warmer to Christians because the social status of Christians has noticeably declined. Not everyone likes a winner; not everyone loves a loser. 

Thus, there will never be an end to politics.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Immigration Frustration

I meant to add this thought in the previous post, but I will add it here, as it does lay some good groundwork for the discussion below:

I was talking about Millennials' nothing to believe in. What do they believe in? When they use words like 'love,' what do they mean? When a Christian uses it he is referring to God's nature, the nature He has employed in creating us. We love because that is us moving with the movement of God. Plato and Aristotle talked about this too, but it was more or less our inability to resist God's awesomeness. What is it to secular Millennials? I said it was about unreflectively approving of any sexual 'identity,' and, strangely, of Islam. This idea has no metaphysical foundation for them. But they unconsciously like Christianity's love idea. Marxists have always employed such nice sounding notions to extend their tyranny. Christianity understands that love is about caring enough to bring about another's good and happiness. Christianity understands that because we have a human nature, good and happiness are objective realities. Secularists believe it is simply a product of what one happens to identify as their happiness.

So what are these millennials being taught? That the world can be made perfect through viewing others positively. How do they know this? They are continually reminded about slavery in the US. They are taught that homosexuals used to be tortured and abused and now they are happy. Their frame of reference has often been referred to as the "history of now," which is a great term. They are taught that the only bad thing in the world is not thinking all others are good, that the only bad thing is thinking badly of others. But does this wash? What would have happened had the Romans not thought badly of the Huns, Goths, Vandals? What would have happened had the Spartans not thought badly of the Persians? How does positive thinking on England's behalf resolve the Nazi crisis? How will it resolve the crisis with Islam today? The problem is, it is bad anthropology, historical ignorance.

Their fame of reference is the 20th century, and is centred on the US. In Canada now it is much the same: we focus on the injustices of the past - our treatment of natives and of the Japanese during WWII. Much of this comes from Marxist indoctrination, in the US from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. I would imagine, and have some fleeting empirical evidence to back this up, that the history taught in Canada is much the same. Our understanding of history has a very powerful moral influence on us - that is why leftists don't tell us about Islam's and black African involvement in slavery, the horrible conduct of the Japanese Empire in WWII, which makes British Columbian internment look like summer camp. They approach Israel much in the same simplistic distorted sense today. (There is an interesting clip about the demoralizing policy of the Communists in Sargon of Akkad's latest video. I encourage you to watch the whole video it is great, but the part I am talking about begins at 42.42).

Eco-spiritualism. I mean, you can supply any number of prefixes, like femo, but in any case the conclusion is the same: this is immanentism, that is, politics devoid of metaphysics, that is, a higher, or ultimate frame of reference. Which is what Marxism believes: there is no higher meaning in the world than material, no other reality higher than power relations. And so these young people are preoccupied with identity politics. Their ultimate good consists in parity: an equal number of men and women, black and white, gay and straight people doing X. Of course, philosophy and religion is about evaluating what kind of X we should be doing, but secularists today stop at the power and the distribution. In this sense, for as much as we might talk about progress, it is a firm fact that what the primitive people were doing in the University of Paris talking about quiddity, esse and essentia and all that was intellectually light years beyond what students are doing today in their modern universities with their laptops. Aristotle, the much-maligned Aristotle, does far more for the human brain and soul than Zinn.

When a child I was exposed to a strange concoction of Christianity, humanism, new-ageism and so on. While the latter two could not offer ultimate explanations, Christianity could, though in the hands of my mentors, rarely in a satisfying manner. Ultimately I had to use what I was given as a sort of warn-out map, one missing some key sections, to begin to look for what I sought. Today, it seems, for so many even that much is missing. Now, of course, I don't think we should have everything handed down to us on a platter. The catechism is itself a sort of platter, but we are typically unable to digest it, so as to obtain its healthful substances. And besides, most of us are never given it. Parents deprive their children of nourishment because they are starving. Parents are starving but addicted to certain narcotics that conceal the fact from them. They have chosen stones instead of bread (Mt 7:9).

When I was a kid I was exposed to an unsatisfactory kind of religious education. But at least I was given that much. Parents attempt to inculcate lower-order politeness and civility as if it were religion or metaphysics. (I would prefer the writings of any Stoic to that!) This is why young people tend to identify lower-order things as the ultimate explanation of life - politics, social justice, equality, sexuality, pleasure. "You reign over us!" (Judges 8:9)

All we can do now is tell them to seek the higher things! No one tells them to seek the higher things. (Col 3:1-2)

Now, on to today's actual post, entitled "Immigration Frustration," which, I think, shows quite well the importance of critical thinking.

Image result for more equal than othersI was going to reserve this thought to a Facebook one-liner, but it deserves a bit more trudging out for Catholics.

Catholics (and all Christians) are torn by the idea of man's universal brotherhood. We know that there is no difference between Greek or Jew, slave or free. We know, thus, that no one has an absolute right to wealth by nature or by fact. Of course, the "preferential option for the poor" does not eradicate our belief in the right to private property. No one doubts that I have a right to my house, but I do not have a right to watch a man freeze to death outside of my house some winter night. On the other hand, if that person is a homicidal maniac, that might be justified; if he has a terribly contagious disease, it might be okay (or morally necessary) to keep him out of my house for sake of my innocent family. I usually say that I have a duty to risk my life, but I have no obligation to risk the lives of innocent others.

Okay, those are extremes. The immigration debate is not about extremes, even though sloganeering about 'love' and 'hate' make it appear that way.

How do I know that it is not about extremes? Because we are only talking about immigrants who show up at the Southern border of the United States, not the untold millions of people in South Saharan Africa who are in much worse shape than those Central Americans who are able to get themselves to the Texas border. Bishops have generally said Americans should let those immigrants in. But why not the even more desperate Africans? Everyone knows that the US does not have enough food/money to share with every poor person in the world. Are able-bodied Mexicans more deserving than Africans? Of course not. If the US has enough money for all those able-bodied Mexicans, should it let all them in... many of them in... some of them in... what?

In the US, as in most First World countries, conservatives are more generous than liberals, poor people more generous than the wealthy. This in not the view that the MSM presents, of course. But the fact is, the poor and conservatives are more Christian. Although he drives me nuts, Glenn Beck exemplifies this perfectly: he is generous and conservative, because he is Christian (well, Mormon, but close enough).

Motives are extremely important. I am talking about ad hominem stuff. Ad hominems are okay and even important because they help us get to the reality underlying often deceptive stances. People who talk about love and then physically beat people who disagree with them should not be listened to. But as leftists do all the time, there are problems with circular ad hominems:

1. people who vote for Trump are stupid

2. this person voted for Trump

conclusion: this person is stupid

Why did you vote for Trump - does that never really come up?

Why are you against more immigration from Mexico?

- Because my brother Jim, whom I love, has been out of work for six months and I am worried he will never get a job if more unskilled labour is imported.

- Because the US has a $20 trillion debt and will enter a depression if something is not done about this soon. Therefore, we cannot afford more welfare.

These are reasonable considerations that even the most well-meaning Christian must consider. The fact is, the most ardently pro-immigration person would not give up their job for person X, whether that person was Mexican, African or Alabaman, even if that person was needier and more deserving. They wouldn't want their mother, sister, son or friend to lose their job either for person X. Nor would they even want to split their salary 50-50 with person X.

The idea that there is enough money out there and there are enough jobs out there if we become socialist is foolish. The socialization of Russia and China led to the deaths of nearly 100 million people. That of Cuba and Venezuela has led to impoverishment, nothing anywhere close to the financial success of American capitalism. Socialism has proven bad for poor people. Smart people cannot chose to ignore these facts because they are 'not nice.'

In the end, what we have here is a case of ethics, for Christians, theological ethics. All men have an ultimate equal claim on the goods of the world, but how these are appropriated, preserved and distributed is quite another matter. In one sense, it would be wrong for me to acquire "in the name of the people" all the stuff that Walmart has because I haven't the means to preserve it and distribute it

In this sense, when people talk about selling all the priceless treasures of the Vatican to end world hunger, the same foolishness emerges: yes, the price these things would fetch would be enough to feed all the hungry for a day or perhaps even a week, but then what? The Marxist wanted to believe that man could live on bread alone.

But it is very interesting how many Catholics have these left wing economic views. They are confused by Catholic teaching. They make mistakes when they attempt to translate the absolute right of the poor into the practical. Leftists apply a specific interpretation of 'care for the poor' for cynical political ends - they are only interested in doing so insofar as it gives them power. So, well-meaning Catholics employ the framework these non-Christians have developed as the right and proper channel of Christian charity, which it is not. Christians do not define charity according to governmental definitions of place (i.e. my country) and agency (i.e. taxation and welfare programs). When they adopt that framework, they thereby assist the power grab of the Marxists. In other words, they concentrate on Mexicans (who are politically useful to the Marxists) rather than on any most needy person (such as, as I have said, Sub-Saharan Africans). They concentrate on political policies rather than on reaching out and actually meeting the poor.

There is a reason why the Church leaves much practical discretion to states. This always perplexed me, I admit, and I am still grappling with this. Read the catechism and note every time it mentions the discretionary power of the state with regard to taxation, education, etc. It's really quite remarkable. I would say that the best explanation for this is what I have been saying, the intrinsic difficulty of translating universal concepts into concrete solutions. In other words, to protect the rights of the poor in their own country, the state has a right to limit immigration. The Church cannot teach that there should be no borders because this can (and probably would) cause a great deal of suffering.

In the end, politicians and ideologue have their preferred victim classes. The Church cannot look on 
the needs of Mexicans above those of American poor and working class people, above the needs of Africans. Some are more equal than others to Marxists, not to Christians.

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