The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pious Pessimism

Most of my friends and acquaintances are unabashed optimists. Despite the evidence that their world is changing rapidly and in ways they can't possibly predict, they seem to believe it will all turn out okay. In their minds the current unpleasantness is merely a short-term societal blip, and if we only hang in there, the world will right itself and in a few years return to normalcy. They say things like, "Hey, the stock market's on the way back up. Things are looking better..." or "Did you see how the Germans re-elected that conservative woman?"

I, on the other hand, am not so confident. Indeed, I believe that what we are seeing, both in our country and throughout the world, is the inexorable movement of an unthinking and malleable population in the direction of 21st century liberalism.

This post-modern form of liberalism is quite different from that of the 18th and 19th century, the liberalism of our founding fathers, and that of Locke and Mill. These men all recognized that their liberalism could easily evolve into very un-liberal ideologies if politicians were allowed to function unchecked. That's why our founders created a system of government with built-in checks and balances. Of course, they can hardly be faulted for not anticipating the clever ways we have been able to rationalize our disregard for these brakes on runaway government. Encouraged by a supportive media, a compliant and creative judiciary, career-focused legislators, and a "bread and circuses" constituency, today's liberal has moved into completely uncharted territory. Not satisfied to take control of the economy, he also demands control of the way people live their daily lives, all done in the name of liberality.

Unborn babies can be murdered in the womb because...well, it's convenient to do so. If someone wants to do it, it must be okay. "Homosexual marriage" (now there's an oxymoron for you) is fine because there are people who think it's fine. The elderly, the ill, the handicapped -- all those non-productive folks -- can be freed from their low quality lives and sent mercifully into oblivion because doing so will just make it a whole lot better for the rest of us. Isn't the post-modern liberal mind a beautiful thing to behold?

Political correctness is enforced, not legally (yet), but in ways that can cost people their jobs and their reputations. Driven by what Pope Benedict calls a "dictatorship of relativism", truth is no longer acceptable if it bruises the ego of another. Speaking the truth, then, has become the mortal sin of today's liberal, a development easily rationalized by his belief that there is no such thing as objective truth...except, of course, for this very belief. In the same way, any sort of religious orthodoxy -- that is, anything that actually includes a religious creed and a moral code -- becomes a form of "fundamentalism" whose adherents must be ignored, re-educated or suppressed. Not long ago a Methodist minister, after I alluded to my strong support for the pope, jokingly (half-jokingly?) said, "Oh, so you're one of those fundamentalist Catholics?"

I view all of this, and so much more, as evidence that our new global society, if I can call it that, is moving rapidly in the direction of liberal totalitarianism. I cannot see how any political force, except perhaps another less subtle form of totalitarianism, can stop this movement. I believe that the only solution, the only way to escape this worse than Orwellian future, is for us as a people to return to piety and holiness, to return to Christ and the Church He founded, the Church that continues to be inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. The only answer, then, is Jesus Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And the task facing the Church is a task that all of us must accept. In the words of Pope Benedict at the Mass celebrated with the College of Cardinals before he was elected, "So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God."

Let us all go and pray and bear fruit...

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