Friday, July 1, 2016

Just a Reflection

It is supposed to be a truism in intellectual circles today that all someone can see, say, think and do is merely a reflection of their own bias. This is said all the time as an absolute indictment of other people's opinions and then simply ignored when I come to articulating my own. It indicts you, not me, because I am able to speak for the people, for the underdog, for minorities, etc.

Of course, that's all bologna. And it also affects Catholics. The simple fact is, though, if it is true, then I cannot know and bring about the good for the underdog, but only what I want that good to be. Here's an example: there are more people with internet access in NYC than in all of Africa. I care about the underdog, therefore, I want to spread internet access in Africa. Do Africans want it? Would it better their lives? I don't know, but I suppose it would. Why - because there are some things I take to be prima facie true. Why is internet access good? Did Jesus have it, any of the great saints of the past? For the great saints of the present, does it have anything to do with the sanctity? Let me take it one step further - education. Does it benefit people, really? You can ask the question in two ways - education per se and education as we know it. It is one thing to accept that education in whatever form in beneficial to Africans (or people in Detroit, or Westphalia, or Vladivostok) and another thing to accept that education is in its essence beneficial, but not the form in which we have it at present. You can probably arrive at the truth of the former deductively, but would need to involve other methods of analysis to resolve the latter question.

But if you really consider the questions here - is internet good for Africans, is education, is... You will find yourselves really examining the foundations of your own lifestyle and value system. I would suggest that a great deal of what you take for granted about your life as a good one would not remain untouched by a searching analysis from the Christian perspective.

But we generally only carry this out half-heartedly, as so we end up with leftism, even leftist Catholicism, which even a great number of orthodox Catholics profess. I think Pope would be a good example of this. I think he is thoroughly orthodox in terms of his commitment to the creed (some of you might not agree with me on this) but that he has a half-hearted view of Christian discipleship. As a point of reference, let us ask how concerned his pronouncements have been with the eschaton and how much have they been concerned with ethics. Obviously Jesus talked about both, but what was really striking to people was His concern with the eschaton, the reign of God. If you don't agree with me, compare him to Gandhi, Confucius, Socrates, Martin Luther King, Gutierrez. Contrarily, consider Popes Benedict and JPII, or many of the 'old-fashioned' popes.

One might frankly analyze how mundane and how spiritual a person's doctrine is. Sure, Christians may talk about equality, global warming, etc., but these are not Christian priorities, and it is not Christian to be preoccupied with them, just like it is not Christian to be overly concerned with politics, the weather, sports, technology, space exploration, literature. I included some things here that are rather more indicting of me than of anyone else. I don't really care about sports. I love literature and space exploration, though. These are not bad things to be interested in, but am interested in them as a Christian should be? Would I rather preach the Gospel and baptize in Africa or have more telescopes built there?

It is lazy to call this an indictment of bourgeois Catholicism. That is only one kind of hybrid monstrosity. I have had perhaps just as much exposure to "university Catholicism" and to "immanentist Catholicism." Leftist Catholicism dominates most of the Catholic airwaves, as in the case of many of the local Catholic papers, the Jesuit journal, America, The National Catholic Reporter, and so on. I have also had a fair exposure to clerical Catholicism. What is this? The middle class kind of priesthood practiced by our pastors - even our best ones. What's wrong with it? If there is anything wrong with it, there is something wrong with all of them - and there is something wrong with all of them!

Once and again, I return us to the Desert Fathers, in my opinion the best instantiation of Catholic life. Whatever falls short of this or them, falls short of Catholic life. Don't feel bad, or do feel bad - I don't care. In fact, if you feel bad, you should realize that feeling bad that I do not think you are the very best kind of Christian means you are not the very best kind of Christian.

Let me provide another example of the kind of half-heartedness I am talking about. I read a thing on Catholic education recently. It was pretty good, but what really stuck in my craw was its references to the fact that Catholic education must be international, must reflect Catholic social values, etc. What's wrong with that? Nothing. What is wrong with it is how we imagine that a nod toward these things means that we can keep the rest of what we are used to and comfortable with. This is a universal failing of Christians and secular leftists. If we give away 1% to the other we feel quite justified to our hold on the other 99%. But, to be honest, when it comes right down to it, there is so little difference between 99% and 100% that it doesn't even deserve comment. So, if that is what a individual or organization does, just keep quiet about it. It does not deserve comment.

Is this the model of the Desert Fathers? No, it is 98% off from theirs.

But we can't all live like them, right? So what's reasonable?

My point is, Christian life is not what's reasonable. Eschatology is not reasonable.

Just don't tell me that being concerned with global warming is Christian. Jut don't tell me that the welfare state is Christian. That's like me saying that I can have relations with the woman down the street because she is 'like' my wife.

The Jesus I see is me, only slightly better. And He is really quite fond of me.

In the end, this is why Christian politics is such a mess, with leftists calling conservatives unChristian because they want lower taxes, and conservatives calling leftists unChristian because they accept unChristian lifestyles. The fact is, they are all bad Christians, just some are even worse than the others.

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Leftists and Christians seem to have a lot in common, and that is why the former is as popular as it is. Indeed, this is how socialism got started in the first place - people saw enough parallels between Marxism and Christianity to think that Marxism was compatible with it (consider esp. Acts 2:44).

However, the argument I have been making in this post is that leftism is a religion of half-measures. Most people outgrow it when they leave university and the things they want become possible to them with their new salaries. And yet they still say that they are all about equality, and yet do the mere 1% to bring it about. The old lie that it's no good to give your own money, you have to wait until more far-reaching tax laws are passed. Michael Moore is famous for articulating this absurdity. Did Jesus say, wait until everyone else sells all they have and gives their money to the poor and then follows me and then you do likewise?

Christianity can look like leftist when Christians live in this world of half-measures too. That is the length and breadth of their resemblance.

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