“The sexual equivalent to the rejection of culture is a crass and mechanistic hedonism, seeking the pleasure of the day for its own sake… So one body preys upon another, and the last thing in the mind of either “partner” – note the business term – is that what they are doing should partake of time long past and time to come. The man is planting seed that contains within itself unnumbered generations, and the woman bears the egg, the haven for that seed, to be penetrated by it and fertilized, so that what begins from that moment is a new human life, a new instantiation of the divine image, a new dweller in time, oriented to eternity. That is in fact what is happening, but the hedonist denies it. He says that the child-making thing is not for making children.”
This is a truly superb article, to which I was pointed by a friend (you know who you are!); such that I almost cannot praise it strongly enough. Among the many excellent insights contained herein:
“After many years of awkward silence, the secular media is finally recognizing some of the most profound social problems facing American society… The Atlantic woke up to smell the coffee earlier this year, running an article arguing that America’s secularization has made the political climate less tolerant and more antagonistic…
To publications that often criticize religion, like The Atlantic, rising secularism breeding unrest is counterintuitive. But it makes perfect sense. Sociologists have long known about the link between religious observance and social stability. A devout person is more likely to be financially stable, avoid addiction, maintain a marriage, and generally healthier than a less observant person in the same socioeconomic profile.
“In other words, religious people perform better in key categories of social stability than their less religious peers living under the same conditions. That stability (or lack thereof) has serious political implications, and we see it playing out now with certain grassroots political organizations showing flashes of violence and demagoguery.”
As I read this, I cannot help but think of our first President (under the Constitution), the ever-wise George Washington, who warned us – literally centuries ago – in his Farewell Address (1796) of what could happen:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.”
Yet that is exactly what far too many people have been doing, for the last five or six decades. And we are surprised that things are going poorly? Continue reading “Does Modern Secularism Have a Memory Problem? | Word on Fire”
This recently came across my newsfeed:
10 Social Manners for Children
1. Say “please” when asking.
2. Say “thank you” when receiving.
3. Say “excuse me” when bumping into someone, or interrupting.
4. Put down your electronics when someone comes into the room.
5. Look people in the eye when speaking to them.
6. Let others finish speaking before you speak.
7. Shake hands firmly.
8. Say “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” when talking to grownups.
9. Greet people with “hi” or “hello” and “how are you?”
10. Open doors for others.
If just these ten concepts – which seem to be among the most basic and classic forms of politeness, with the modern addition of number 4 – were inculcated into children on a consistent basis, across the board, the world would be a much more pleasant place!
(It’s not on the list, but I would also add, if you’re seated and an older person or a pregnant woman has no place to sit, get up and offer them your seat; and I would append to number 6, if you must interrupt, say “excuse me, please,” and wait for them to acknowledge you. I did add “or interrupting” to number 3 – basically any time you bother or inconvenience someone – and “or hello,” which is a little more formal, to number 9.)
These rules instill basic courtesy and politeness, and they apply to adults no less than to children. But how can we expect adults to be courteous and polite, if they were not taught so when they were young? “Train up a child in the way in which he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” as the good Book says!
A female friend of mine – and one who has posted some things pretty critical of Judge Kavanaugh in the past – posted this on her Facebook timeline today:
“Here is my story, and here is my opinion.
“In this day where media makes sure everyone’s business is publicly aired, where police forces use lethal force in uncalled-for situations, we have lost sight of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’
“Then we have situations where men I revered in my youth have been revealed to be less-than-perfect (Paterno, who I feel must’ve known something despite having the best interest of most players at heart, and ‘America’s dad’ Bill Cosby), and it breaks my heart to admit that no one is wholly evil or wholly saintly.
“But we have been on a bit of a ‘witch hunt,’ haven’t we?
“I mean, if a young lady is going to a man’s hotel room, there is some understanding of what could happen, even if she says no. (I am thinking back to the show-business ‘auditions’ that led to many accusations a couple of years ago.) In the case of Cosby, indeed, she did not consent to having her drink drugged, although during the ’70s quaaludes were quite the norm. All incidents must be viewed in the historical context of the times in which they occurred.
“Women should be believed.
“Shame on any woman who is less than honest when revealing her story. False accusers should be prosecuted, and they open themselves to financial loss due to slander.
“When I was a freshman in high school I put myself in a compromised situation. I entered into it willingly, and it got out of hand. I did not know to stop the situation until it had progressed too far.
“Did he know he had pushed beyond my comfortable limit? No. Should he have been prosecuted? Surely not.
“Four years later, as a freshman in college, I received counseling. I had never felt myself a victim before then, and I surely could have bought into the victim persona … but I chose to recognize that my identification and labeling of the situation as an ‘assault’ afforded me the ability to address the negative emotions around the event, get the counseling I needed, and acknowledge that he had no intention of violating me. I forgave.
“Nearly every woman I know has been touched in a way that was an ‘assault,’ and they should get counseling as needed. Many of the men who have committed these assaults sincerely did not know they were violating the women. We must consider the context of the situation.
“If you have been assaulted, in any way … if you feel bad about a situation, even if you put yourself in it … get the counseling you need. And I encourage you to forgive, for carrying the anger will ultimately do you more harm than it ever will the person who assaulted you.
“I am here for you if I can help.
“And men, if you think, in light of the ‘redefinition’ of assault, that you may have violated a woman, consider reaching out to apologize. I am pretty sure she hasn’t ‘forgotten.’
“We are all in this together.”
The only thing I would add is this:
If we get to the point – and we are heading there at warp speed – where an as-yet-unsubstantiated allegation (I am not ruling out the possibility that it may be substantiated, at some point in the future, but that has not happened yet) can not only potentially derail a nomination, but ruin a person’s personal and professional reputation and put his family through the ringer, we as a society are heading for a very bad place.
Yes, we must believe women. We must believe them no less, but also no more, than we would believe a man.
As Alan Dershowtiz – certainly no member of the alt-right! – has put it, “neither men nor women were born with a gene to lie or tell the truth.” Men and women alike lie; men and women alike misunderstand one other’s intentions; men and women alike misremember facts and events.
Believe women? Yes, but: the idea that we should believe Christine Blasey Ford simply because she’s a woman is as absurd as it would be to suggest that we should believe Brett Kavanaugh simply because he’s a man.
One of the most basic and foundational principles of American jurisprudence is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Not until accused: until proven guilty. The burden of proof, rightly, rests on the accuser, to prove guilt; not on the accused, to prove innocence. But there are many striving, in the context of the Kavanaugh hearings, to turn this principle on its head.
If this becomes the “new normal” – if an accusation becomes seen as tantamount to proof – we are all at risk. And if not us, then our fathers, sons, husbands, nephews, friends: pick your relationship. As I say, we are well along that road already. Do we really want to go down it any further?
Actually, there is one more thing I want to say. As my friend noted, “it breaks my heart to admit that no one is wholly evil or wholly saintly.” Mine, too. But that is, sadly, the human condition.
As my dear late mother used to say, “There’s so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill-behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.” This does not mean that there should not be consequences for one’s actions, if indeed they are proven to have occurred. It does mean that, as the Christian faith has always understood, “there is none who is without sin; no, not one.” And that is not going to change, short of the Second Coming.
Again, that is not an excuse! It is, rather, an honest and open-eyed statement of fact. We are prone to say, in the aftermath of something we don’t like, “Shouldn’t people do (or not do) this…?” or “Shouldn’t there be (or not be) that…?” Yes, in a perfect world, they probably should, and there probably should be. But we are not perfect people, and we don’t live in a perfect world. In fact, we are so imperfect that we can’t even agree on what a perfect world would look like!
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves to the greatest extent possible. We should! (In fact, improving ourselves is probably the biggest single step any of us can take toward improving the world.) It does mean we should be cautious and realistic about the chances of improving everyone else… and cautious, also, about attempts to impose such improvement on others, according to our own vision of perfection.
Efforts to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, or a secular version of it, by our own efforts typically – historically – end badly, from the English Civil War to the French Revolution, from Stalin’s Russia to Hitler’s Germany, from Chairman Mao to Pol Pot, and beyond.
I say again: is this a road down which we want to go?
“In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops,” the Pope said.
I have said little about the sexual assault scandals that continue to rock the Mother Church of Western Christendom – that is, the Church of Rome – because I do not like to draw attention to scandals in other branches of Christendom. It rarely does any good, and frequently tends to result in more heat than light being generated.
It is also likely to cause additional scandal, in that it can lead some to judge the Roman Church as a whole in a bad light, when in fact the majority of its people, its clergy, and undoubtedly its bishops are (while being human like the rest of us, and so prone to faults, foibles, and failings) basically godly Christian folk, trying to do the best they can.
But when none other than Il Papa himself – the Holy Father, Pontifex Maximus, the Bishop of Rome, the Pope – goes so far as to all but defend scandal, as he does in this piece, or attempt to explain it away, appearing to care more for the reputations of bishops than the trauma to the victims, it becomes hard to completely ignore it.
In this case, I am aided by this very excellent response from a “trad” (traditional, orthodox) Catholic organization, The Order of Lepanto. I do not have to critique the Holy See, because some of its own people have done a better job of that than I could have – and it is far more appropriate coming from them than me, anyway.
Posting on Facebook, the Order writes,
“We had been hopeful with yesterday’s reports of answers coming from the Vatican on the abuse/cover-up scandal. However, the Pope’s homily today was an exercise in counter-attack and not one of pastoral care: “It seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people.”
Let’s look at the errors with this line of thinking –
1. Thinking that Satan wants to expose criminals to justice instead of continuing to hide them and destroy more young lives.
2. Punishing bishops who are guilty of crimes is not the work of Satan – it is the virtue of Justice and the work of the Holy Spirit.
3. Saying “we bishops are all sinners” falsely compares the smaller sins we all commit with truly heinous sins like rape, sacrilege, etc. which deserve severe punishment.
4. Uncovering sins is not the biggest scandal we face as a Church. It’s the scandal of the coverup, of being lied to by our shepherds.
It is unfortunate to receive the message from Pope Francis that he thinks his job is to “cover” the sins of the bishops so they don’t “scandalize” the laity.
We will continue to pray for the Pope and for the victims, but we also need to have full disclosure. Nothing else will suffice to begin the healing process.
As I say, I could not possibly have said it better – or even as well – and so I will let that stand without further comment. May God bless us all. Pray for me, a sinner.
Nota Bene – On the Order of Lepanto: “The Order of Lepanto is a lay apostolate dedicated to outreach to Catholic men through a unique combination of martial arts and faith” (from the website). The Order
“seeks to tap the masculine spirit that God has endowed men with, giving them a masculine activity to engage in together – learning the fighting styles of the Knights of the Medieval and Renaissance time periods. In much the same way as Asian martial arts tend to dovetail well into Eastern spirituality, these skills (Western Martial Arts or WMA) were honed by people who were committed Catholic or Christian men, which caused this fighting style to fit well with Catholic theology and practice.”
Definitely interesting! Sadly, they are (almost) exclusively in Texas, and I am in Maryland… also, I don’t know how they’d feel about an Anglican! But a most interesting and, I think, admirable project.
To most modern minds, freedom is a very detached concept; it is an abstraction of sorts, a free-floating power unmoored from any limits or defining standards.
“Freedom today is often viewed as personal and self-referential, with little consideration as to how one’s ‘freedom’ might affect that of someone else. A healthy sense of the common good suffers mightily in a world of deeply conflicting personal freedoms.”
Cogent thoughts on freedom, limitation, and the folly of trying to create (or maintain) culture without cultus.
“Obviously, the word cultus is at the heart of the word culture. In Latin, a cultus is something for which we care or about which we are concerned; it is something of worth, something considered valuable. It describes the most central, fundamental values of a group. In later Latin, cultus came to describe the worth or value we attribute to God, who is our truest goal.
“Remove the cultus from culture and you get the breakdown we are seeing today. While pluralism and diversity have value, they must exist within a framework that is shared and agreed upon. Otherwise pluralism and diversity are unmoored and become like ships crashing about in a stormy bay.
“In order for a culture to exist, there must be a shared cultus, a shared focus on what is good, true, beautiful, and sacred. Our modern experiment shows the failure of trying to have a culture without this.”
There are just a few excerpts; the entire article is well worth reading. Here is a bit more, a quote from (Roman Catholic) Bishop Robert Barron:
“The setting aside of God can take place both explicitly (as in the musings of the atheists) or implicitly (as in so much of the secular world where “practical” atheism holds sway). In either case the result is a shutting down of the natural human drive toward the transcendent and, even more dangerously, the elevation of self-determining freedom to a position of unchallenged primacy…
“On the typically modern reading, truth is construed as an enemy to freedom—which explains precisely why we find such a hostility to truth in the contemporary culture. Indeed, anyone who claims to have the truth—especially in regard to moral matters—is automatically accused of arrogance and intolerance.
“Society will be restored to balance and sanity, (Pope) Benedict (XVI) argued, only when the natural link between freedom and truth — especially the Truth which is God — is reestablished. … Behind all our arguments about particular moral and political issues is a fundamental argument about the centrality of God” [Vibrant Paradoxes, pp. 217-218].
Indeed. At root, much of the trouble we are facing today, as a society, can be traced to the Enlightenment project of topping God as the center and pinnacle of our musings, striving, and contemplation, and the Good, the True, and the Beautiful – the pursuit of which lead us to God, as their Source and culmination – as the desirable goals of a human life well-lived – and replacing both Him and them with the deification of unaided human reason (*), and later, emotion and self-gratification.
Lacking that solid anchor and reference point, is it any wonder that we have become “like ships crashing about in a stormy bay”?
* Human reason is indeed one of the most precious gifts of our benevolent Creator, an extremely valuable human faculty. But because we are finite, limited, mortal human beings, our human reason is also finite, limited, and mortal. It is not intended, nor is it possible, to function alone, unaided by what the Anglican tradition names as Scripture and Tradition.
That is to say, the revelation of God as revealed in Scripture, Nature, and Antiquity: the latter referring to the theological and philosophical insights of those who have come before, especially those which are clearly part of the Great Tradition of Christianity, into which certain of the great Classical philosophers – such as Plato and Aristotle – have been incorporated, because they have foreshadowed it, because their thought illuminates, explicates, or complements parts of it, or all of the above).
To function and flourish properly, human reason also requires the water and fertilizer of not only Divine revelation (as shown through the Scriptures), but prayer – both personal and extemporaneous, and liturgical, through what the Anglican tradition calls “Common Prayer” – and the sacraments. As this essay points out,
“Freedom can only exist in a healthy and productive way when it is in reference to the truth — and truth is rooted in God and what He has revealed in creation, Sacred Scripture, and Tradition. This is the cultus necessary for every culture. True and healthy freedom is the capacity to obey God. Anything that departs from this necessary framework is a deformed freedom, on its way to chaos and slavery.”
To be effective, therefore, and to be whole persons, in a right relationship to God and to one another – to be truly free, in other words, both personally and in the context of our social organization – we need not just reason, but sanctified reason. Even at that, we sometimes (often) fall short! Without it, we are indeed “ships crashing about in a stormy bay,” with little or no hope of reaching a safe harbor.
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