Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Joy in the Salacious

One thing I quickly noticed after I became a Catholic (22-years ago) was how much certain Catholics enjoyed talking about "the horrible new trend of X" - usually involving young people. I would almost say that it is a universal sign of a serious Catholic.

Recently I started to wonder what this horror-fascination means psychologically. I first simply thought it was the kind of enjoyment one feels watching the wreckage of a car accident, the kind of enjoyment Augustine talked about with respect to the amphitheater, the kind I feel while watching The Walking Dead. The difference in my case is that The Walking Dead involves actors and fake blood and no one has been hurt or is getting hurt. Contrarily, I don't watch things where people actually get hurt. I don't enjoy those parts of America's Funniest Home Videos where people actually get hurt. I call this discrepancy empathy.

But moral outrage is something different than beholding and enjoying physical gruesomeness. One can feel moral superiority with the former, but not with the latter - unless, that is, one enjoys watching videos of fat people falling down, because, after all, "they shouldn't be so fat, anyway," or videos of brides being struck down by waves at their stupid, idealistic beach weddings, because, after all, "I mock their false happiness, because it's not mine."

But there is even more to it than enjoying that feeling of moral superiority. But that feeling is a part of it. There is an eschatalogical element at play. "See how bad things have gotten: the end must be nigh!"

Moral Horror Junkies (MHJ) also always seem to be eschatologists. Come to think of it, they are also the people for whom the miraculous is quite important. Why - what links all of these things together? They seem to be really interested in signs and wonders, the people to whom Jesus effectively says, pay attention to more pressing matters, like love of God and neighbour. I think they are people who are bored, listless, people whose faith needs a boost, people for whom quotidian Christian duties all on their own are trying. They might have a resentment problem too: do they resent not being able to do all the fun things sinners get to do and so want to imagine these people getting their comeuppance sitting in a pool of boiling oil in hell?

Is it a vindicated for them of the correctness of their religion, because, after all, people who follow Christianity don't do such things!? Yes, we all grant that - it's obvious and thus unremarkable. But I believe in Christianity, so you are trying to prove something to me that I don't need proven to me.

I mean, there is a lot we can say about this phenomenon. But the bottom line is this: I don't care about the latest trend of depravity among today's young people! Don' tell me about, and even more, for your own sake, stop enjoying telling me about it so much.

Aztec kids out on a Friday night at 15th century
Mexico's equivalent of MacDonald's.
Here's why I am uninterested in it: I have studied history. Thus, I agree with the Preacher: there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc 1:9)

People have eaten people. In every land, in every culture. During the siege of Leningrad, during the Siege of Capua, at the Aztec pyramids. People will eat people again. In Toronto, perhaps.

Sexual depravity. What do you expect? The Romans. Nero. Caligula. Every society ever. Young people who have hit puberty often do sexual things, things that you and I would not approve of. Shocking!

I also don't want to hear about the latest trend among young people (involving the internet) because even though I have a low, that is to say, an Augustinian view of human nature, I know that these latest trend people like to talk about are not trends at all, but the constructs of the media and outraged soccer moms. Sexting. Yes, it happens. But it's not your problem. Your children are your problem. People do not raise their children well and so things like this happen. But you know what? It's not sweeping the nation, because I was a child once and I was too shy to do any thing like this ever and I know I am not alone in this! To a large extent children are still the same as they were thirty years ago: most have some moral and/or psychological restraint. Most would not be in pornographic movies for this simple reason. They have not all turned into the Children of the Corn, the kids from the Village of the Damned, Lord of the Flies or that episode of Star Trek, humorously depicted here:

The fear of the younger generation is, I suppose, a part of what fueled the myth of Saturn devouring his children, which seems to me to be the flip-side of the Oedipus Complex. Therefore, it might be quite natural to fear what the world is coming to, but it's also important for Christians not to fear that evil is more powerful than good, that the Gospel and the Holy Spirit given to the Church is not able to counter these bad trends. The fact is, there are good kids out there (I own a number of them myself) and you have to bear that fact in mind in all your prognosticating. Kids need direction, and that is all that is wrong with the younger generation: WE ARE NOT GIVING IT TO THEM. In other words, it is not they who are bad, it is we!

Please pray for this younger generation. In Renfrew County they are starting another year of school today. And stop your profitless fear-mongering. It does not dispense you from the hard work of raising them. And God's blessing upon my children's teachers. You are going to need it.

(And, I am okay with having alienating all of my friends with this post. Because you are all hereby indemnified. So read some history and take a chill pill, for "behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mt 28:20))


  1. Hello Colin. Happy SINE marking!

    A question and an agreement expanded:

    1) you mention about people wanting signs and wonders with the moral junkies. What if though I am wanting signs in my life from Christ, because my life in many aspects is stagnant, and I do not trust in my ability to make decisions nor my feelings, so I am asking God to show me where to go in my career and in my ministry to the church, wanting to make a good decision for a change to better myself?

    2) in agreement with today's parents being foolish enough not to direct their kids. I place heavy blame on today's parents, teachers, and clergy for allowing the church and Catholics to allow the younger generations to depreciate the way it has. such hypocrisy makes my generation and younger tune out of the Church, marriage, etc. due to hypocrisy. Enough I say, but no one wants to listen and if you challenge their false authority they debase you and yell at you (parents) or make some smart ass comment like "that's not relevant to the contemporary Catholic Church" (priests). And you wonder why we don't seem to care, and those who do (US) are a minority.

  2. 1) I think it is completely legitimate to ask for signs if you simply cannot figure out what God is calling you to. I almost thing you should.... But this is part and parcel of what I urged: MYOB, says the Lord. Your vocation is your business; the time of the end is not.

    2) We are discussing this right now in our town - what to do to protest the new health curriculum. Pray for us parents!

  3. Nice. In a way I think that it is good that our culture has become so depraved in as much as it provides such a stark counterpoint to the life of the Church. I think it would have been a lot harder to grow up in a time like the 50's when the culture of Catholicism was more prevalent but intertwined with perennial vice. When I was growing up I saw the practice of my faith as a kind of social rebellion. I was the only person I knew in my school who was practicing Christianity and so I saw myself as an outsider but also a witness. It made for a hard childhood but it also rooted my faith pretty deeply.

    1. I often think that I would never have been able to discover the truth of Christianity had I lived in an age of socially-enforced Christianity. I have your same rebellious spirit.

  4. Of course,I know immediately the conversation that spurred this - or, at least one of them. But, I will argue with you that my sense of outrage over the Tinder app was fueled by genuine pity and sadness, not boredom or looking for signs and wonders. I don't think that there is any use in burying one's head in the sand and saying that this has always been the way. Yes, I am the first to admit that history repeats itself and that the best antidote is to live one's vocation well, but that is no excuse for ignoring what's going on around us. Part of parenting is being aware of the prevailing culture and what it offers our kids. If tinder is part of that, I want to know. Don't forget that even the best- raised and best-directed kid can go horribly wrong. I think that part of the, "I don't know and I don't care" attitude expressed here is a bit like someone staring at the carnage of a disaster and, feeling overwhelmed, not rushing in to help. My outrage over tinder etc. inspires in me a strong desire to help, as well as to focus on raising my own children.

  5. this would have been written without you, but, as I said, all my friends are guilty. If your shock motivates you then, that is good. Yet I don't know if that's typically the case. Yap yap yap is all I have been hearing for 22 years - no action, just yapping.