Feb 22, 2021

The Imprudence of Joining the Mob

I know of no Trump supporter who believes President Trump is a paragon of virtue, despite all the accusations of a Trumpist cult of personality. I'm sure there are people who love him for his Honey Badger ferocity toward the globalist, status quo swamp creatures and are therefore forgiving of much of his boorishness. I might even be one of them. Does that make me a cultist? I appreciate the man, but I don't worship him, so I think not. However, this post is not a defense of Trump from Trump critics Left and Right. It's a criticism of conservatives who foolishly feed the Left's narrative and are therefore a drag on the efforts against the corporate fascist takeover of the country, at best, or are complicit in it at worst.  

None of us like to have our actions described as foolish or a betrayal to the cause. But, conservatives, particularly religious ones, have a realistic take on broken human nature, and understand that we all have failings which mature and virtuous people have to fess up to at times. Three of the most important words strung together in the English language are, "I was wrong." This understanding of the human condition is the very ground of the separation of- and limitations on- the powers of government enshrined in the American Constitution that conservatives claim to love so dearly.

Which is why Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney, and Liz Cheney among others were so very wrong to align with Democrats on the impeachment and removal of former President Donald Trump. In fact, anytime a conservative finds himself in agreement with the Left on any issue, he should reconsider his position or finally admit he's changed his affiliation, a la Arianna Huffington and Joe Scarborough. I can think of nothing which leftists have gotten right, from solutions to racism (personal virtue) to social justice to immigration to abortion to the minimum wage to climate change to free speech to gun rights to foreign policy. . . There's nothing notable leftists and conservatives can or should agree on. 

There's nothing leftists have admitted as failures of their ideas nor is there any destructive policy for which they've suffered political consequences either, no matter how damaging to people they're ostensibly trying to help. Thomas Sowell identifies the root of this obstinate denial of reality as the enormous "ego-stakes" of intellectuals, whose "end product is ideas." And as Fr. Longenecker says, you know the People of the Lie by their refusal to ever admit they're wrong and by their masterful non-apology apologies. Think Andrew Cuomo's "I'm sorry people were lead to believe I did anything wrong" with regard to nursing home COVID deaths in New York. Shamelessness is a feature of the Left, not a bug. 

Now, I understand Decorum Conservatives' discomfort with Donald Trump's rude New York manner and his difficulty (ahem, understatement alert) in fitting into the "presidential" mold. I was one of them, too, when this whole thing began. And I know of the DC's distaste for MAGA Trump supporters' reluctance to ever criticize the man. But, I think we have reached the point where it must be acknowledged Donald Trump received a tsunami of criticism, repeatedly daily -- hourly, minutely! -- from the People of the Lie. You could even say the frenzy of criticism -- obscuring anything he ever accomplished, which was a lot -- was/is an ugly mob of sanctimony and deceit (Russia Hoax, Charlottesville, fascist dictator, Capitol "insurrection," . . .). And it's never wise to join a mob, even one with which you agree ideologically. Just ask the Capitol trespassers. 

Speaking of which, have you ever known an insurrection to take place within the velvet rope lines of a Capitol building? Did those "insurrectionists" look like your typical MAGA patriots? Did you see Viking Man occupying the dais and think to yourself, "Yep, there's yer standard Trump supporter in action?" My engineering background makes me a "show-me" skeptic about most things. But, witnessing the repeated lies about Donald Trump (plus "climate change," Bill and Hillary's innocence, "systemic" racism, failures of capitalism, America as a 1619 slave state, "peaceful" BLM/antifa protests . . .) leads me to believe nothing presented by the corporate fascists in media, academia, Big Tech, and government upon first (second or third. . .) inspection. After the last five plus years (decades) of leftwing lies aimed at grasping at power, and largely succeeding, I'm in agreement with Jesse Kelly that The First Step Towards Righting America is Refusing to Believe the Left About Anything.

It's finally coming out that the "five people murdered" at the Capitol on January 6 stemming from the "deadly insurrection" for which Donald Trump was impeached weren't actually "murdered." Surprise! Even the Capitol Hill cop who died (cause of death remains unannounced, suspiciously) was confirmed not to have died from blunt force trauma (the fire extinguisher lie). You would think it significant that he died the next day, after texting with his brother the night of the 6th. But, that little factoid has been obscured, too. 

I'm not defending what happened that day as a good thing or even morally acceptable. I am saying the reaction to it, like the whole of Trump's presidency, was hysterical and is being used as a cudgel to beat President Trump and his 74 million voters into submission. I'm also saying, given the events of the 2020 summer of lawlessness, and the corporate fascists' tacit if not outright support for it, the Capitol trespass was totally predictable. Whenever tens of thousands of "mostly peaceful" protestors take to the streets, there will always be a few lunatics who make everything worse. And I'll add, it could have been a lot worse (and would have been if it had been Antifa's protest). After all, it's not like four Puerto Rican separatists stormed the Capitol and shot up a bunch of congressmen, as happened in 1954. The only gun I know of that was discharged was the law enforcement officer's pistol that killed Ashli Babbitt, tragically, but not without justification. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Which brings me finally to the politics of prudence and Rand Paul, as discussed by Jeremy Carl's excellent, In Undermining Trump, GOP Senators Rejected the Politics of Prudence. Would you have guessed Senator Paul, who's been an outspoken supporter of the President at key moments and who has literally been attacked in the streets of DC for it, would have a lower "Trump Score" (538's measure) than Ben Sasse, based on his voting record? Have you considered also that Rand Paul got more of what he wanted from President Trump policy-wise (troops out of Afghanistan, tax and healthcare reform, . . .)? I'm libertarian-sympathetic, but not a Rand Paul libertarian (I don't think), in that I'm not a free-market fundamentalist and I don't think all wars are unjust, but rather I'm concerned with how they're conducted and what the end goal is. But, the wisdom of Rand Paul in knowing his enemy (the Left) and refusing to kneecap his party's leader makes me admire him and want to take a closer look at his positions. I have no use for the "Sanctimonious Seven." As Carl says,

Contra the NeverTrump Lilliputians, getting along with Trump required sacrificing neither one’s integrity nor one’s vote. It simply required using political intelligence and prudence—understanding where, and how, one could push on an issue without feeding the ravenous Anti-Trump media, which is always happy to trade a patina of temporary “respectability” (witness their recent fawning coverage of Cheney) to any politician willing to undermine the core interests of GOP voters.

Trump supporters should get a good laugh out of Liz Cheney being the new media darling.  We might if she and the other useful idiots weren't so damaging to the cause, pissing away our liberties for their sanctimonious virtue signaling. I repeat, it's never wise to join the mob -- particularly if it's a lefty one. 

Feb 5, 2021

'Immortal Combat' Addendum: Reflections on the Gospel of Mark

 A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark                                                      6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick -- no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them." So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. 

The Gospel of the Lord


The following is a meditation by Sister Ruth Burrows, O.C.D. She is a Carmelite nun at Quidenham in Norfolk, England. I found it well-aligned with Fr. Longenecker's book

Nothing for the Journey but Jesus

Deep in us all is the will to power, the will to control the world, to control people in order to serve our own ends. Our own ends may seem modest indeed, little more than self-preservation; nevertheless the ego standing behind this modest need has a rapacity far outstripping its claim. It is a mistake to think it is only powerful personalities that are involved. The drive may be more obvious in them but it is there every bit as much in the weak. . . The way to God for all of us requires on our part an unselfish generosity in the efforts we must make towards it in accepting the work of God, who reaches down to our entrails to wrest us from our selfish selves.

In reality these two aspects intertwine. God is always working to bring us to an awareness and acceptance of our poverty, which is the essential condition of our being able to receive him, and the petty frustrations, the restriction, the humiliations, the occasions when we are made to feel poignantly and distressingly hedged around, not in control of the world, not even in control of that tiny corner of it we are supposed to call our own, are his chosen channel into the soul. It is the one who has learned to bow his head, to accept the yoke, who knows what freedom is. 

No one who has read the Gospel seriously can think that this counsel of Jesus means a passive, cowardly "I'm-a-door-mat-walk-over-e" attitude. He always remains our example. He accepted as none other ever can the essential poverty of the human condition and the working out of that in everyday life. . . Only living faith can see this. It means really embracing Jesus, really believing in the Son of Man.


From the Magnificat magazine, Thursday, February 4, 2021

Why No One is Afraid of Joe Biden's "Catholicism" -- Except Faithful Catholics

Have you ever wondered why there's no outcry about Joe Biden's "Catholicism" by non-Catholics and, in fact, his administration touts his strong "faith" at the daily press briefing whenever a Catholic outlet asks about a deeply anti-Catholic policy? "He goes to Mass regularly with his family! Why, he even attended Mass this very morning!!" Right before he signed the EO to force every American to pay for abortions at home and overseas, including his fellow Catholics. Formal cooperation with evil much there Joe?

Kamala Harris had a big problem with Trump's nominee to the federal bench who was a member of the "extremist" Catholic group, Knights of Columbus. Of course, the Knights of Columbus is a global charitable organization founded to serve the working poor and immigrants. It is probably one of the largest, most genuinely beneficial charitable institutions in the world. But, it is anathema to VP Harris.

When Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court, Democrats characterized her as one of The Handmaids Tale's oppressed breeders, in addition to being a racial imperialist for adopting two black children from Haiti. Barrett's excellence as a wife and mother, a professor of law, and a jurist could not overcome her insufferable orthodox adherence to a faith that teaches the dignity and infinite preciousness of every human life from conception to natural death, the biological reality that He made them man and woman, the radical self-donation of man to woman and woman to man in holy matrimony (without withholding anything, including the God-given faculty of reproduction), and the Real Presence -- body, blood, soul, and divinity -- of Jesus Christ in Eucharist -- unlike Joe Biden's "Catholicism." 

I don't know Joe Biden's interior life; only God knows that. But, his public life would seem to indicate he's a modernist heretic -- by Catholic standards. What is modernism? It's the Mother of all Heresies. It is rooted in subjectivism. It's a close cousin of relativism and the postmodernism which absolutely denies the existence of absolute truth, unironically. And, like feminism (which is really leftism dressed up in a vulva costume), it finds its home in leftism. Its basic tenet is that there's no immutable truth. The one "ism" it assuredly isn't is Catholicism. No, the princes and principalities of this world aren't threatened by Joe Biden's "Catholicism" in the least.

But, Joe Biden isn't the modernist heretic that distresses me and other adherent Catholics the most. It's the modernist bishops and priests that make us want to rend our garments. And I have one in particular in mind: Joe Biden's bishop, Cardinal Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington DC.  

Even some Catholics might wish to believe our objection to Gregory is political in nature. He was an outspoken critic of President Trump and aligned himself with Joe Biden early and often. I'm not inclined to review the specifics, but I will say I object to his behaviors on these matters based on prudence and justice, it's true.

Others might believe we find Gregory repulsive because of his personal corruption and his association with the disgustingly wicked, now laicized former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was Gregory's mentor. I am disgusted by any prelate who would spend diocesan funds to build himself an extravagant palace and then have to sell it after the public outcry. [I'm equally disgusted that Pope Francis would elevate such a man to Cardinal after the facts were known to enhance his own "diversity" virtue by appointing the "first" African-American Cardinal, when Pope Francis overlooked the opportunity to elevate the eminently worthy (but too conservative?) "first" Native-American Archbishop Charles Chaput)].

But, what I find horrifying about Gregory is his unconcern with Joe Biden's soul as his appointed shepherd. It is literally a priest's vocation to guide souls to heaven. It should be his avocation, too. Something he enjoys doing. At best, Gregory appears to be indifferent to the state of Joe Biden's soul. He offers him Communion knowing that receiving Eucharist in a state of mortal sin (like formally cooperating in the grave evil of abortion) is eating judgment upon oneself. Gregory balances his supposed disagreement with Biden on abortion with his agreement with him on open borders immigration. As if denying people unfettered access to our country is in any way the moral equivalent of murdering nearly a million unborn babies every year. It's particularly repulsive that a black man would make light of abortion given that Planned Parenthood has killed more blacks than any other organization in American history. It's a genocide.

If Gregory were just lukewarm it would be bad enough, and worthy of him being spat out. But, it's much worse than that. He's bringing scandal to the Church:

Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to 'social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.' 

Cardinal Gregory not only refuses to counsel Joe Biden on the gravity of his scandalous behavior and formal cooperation with evil (with the implied risk of excommunication), he invites him to receive Eucharist -- the Source and Summit of the Faith. It's prelates like Gregory who will be the demise of the American Church (Christ promised the gates of hell would not prevail, but He didn't promise to preserve the Church in the West, and by all appearances, He isn't saving Christendom from itself). It's Cardinal Gregory who has succumbed to modernism and its lefty politics. Joe Biden's isn't the only soul Cardinal Gregory should be worried about. He should look to his own as well.

Jesus came with a dividing sword. There are those of the Kingdom and those of the world. Joe Biden and his "shepherd" have joined the world, and that's why no one of the world is afraid of Biden's "Catholicism." Only faithful Christians are scandalized by it. 

Feb 2, 2021

Why I Reject the Doctrine of Sustainability, and You and the Church Should Too

Back in May [2015], I noticed an article on CRISIS magazine’s website that I knew I wouldn’t have the
proper time to devote to reading. It was titled, What Does “Sustainability” Really Mean?, so I added it to my menu bar for later perusal. It was worth the wait.

“Sustainability” is one of those watchwords which has found common usage across the political spectrum. On the left, it typically raises concerns about the environmental impact of humans using limited natural resources like water and fossil fuels. On the right, there’s more worry over the sustainability of a government or economic system burdened by $18 trillion of debt. Having read William M. Briggs’s excellent article hasn’t changed my mind about the latter, but it has given me pause about the concept of sustainability generally. There’s just so much we simply don’t (and can’t) know.

What are the known unknowns? Well, for starters, how much of the finite resource is currently available? Then, what will be the demand for the currently desired effect in the future (somewhat population dependent — another unknown)? Finally, will there be a replacement technology developed or some other factor which changes the rate of usage? Here’s how Briggs puts it:
The calculation is complicated. To decide if a non-renewable resource is unsustainable depends on how much of it there is, the changing rate of its use, and the number of people expected in the future. It also hinges on whether the non-renewable will remain non-renewable, that a substitute for the non-renewable will not be discovered, and that the effect caused by use of the non-renewable will always be desired. We must know all these things, else the point at which we run out of the non-renewable will be unknown. If we do not know all these things, it is wrong to claim use of a resource is “unsustainable.”

Ah, problems with limited information and an inability to predict the future duly noted. But, how does this relate to the Catholic Church, you may ask?

People. The Church’s concern is with people and their relationship to the Divine — something any fair-minded observer of the environmental sustainability movement will admit is incompatible with its goal of “minimal impact” on Pure Nature. In the New Manicheanism of environmentalism, people are the problem of evil. All would be right with Nature if it weren’t for dirty, rotten, filthy, wasteful people. Ptui!

It’s somewhat shocking then to learn that the Pontifical Academy for Science (PAS) has used the term “sustainable population” unironically. By doing so, it accepts the false premise that people and nature are separate with opposing interests, and it calls into question the PAS’s dedication to the idea of just Who Is the Author of Life. Whose side are they on anyway?!

This is where Malthus is usually invoked. But Briggs is helpful in explaining how we get Malthus wrong:

It is not that more people are encroaching upon more food sources, it is that more food leads to more people. Plentiful, cheap, and nutritious food caused, or rather allowed, the increase. Think: if there is not enough food, there cannot be an increase in population! It follows there cannot be “too many” people.

Briggs further explains there cannot be too many people in either the scientific or eschatological sense. He quotes Father Schall:

The root of the “sustainability mission,” I suspect, is the practical denial of eternal life. “Sustainability” is an alternative to lost transcendence. It is what happens when suddenly no future but the present one exists. The only “future” of mankind is an on-going planet orbiting down the ages. It always does the exact same, boring thing. This view is actually a form of despair. Our end is the preservation of the race down the ages, not personal eternal life. 
“Sustainability” as it is commonly used by environmentalists is not just incompatible with the mission and ethic of the Church, it’s incompatible with the truth. Which is really a way of saying the same thing.

Pope Francis uses the word “sustainable” in its various forms over two dozen times in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si. This is a mistake. Sustainability is a false doctrine which should be rejected by the Church.

It will take me at least another six months to figure out if conservatives should also reject the idea of economic/fiscal sustainability. A little help?


Originally published on Ricochet on October 16, 2015 under the title, Why the Doctrine of Sustainability is Anti-Catholic and the Pope Should Reject It.

Feb 1, 2021

‘Immortal Combat,’ Triumph of the Secret Son: One Priest’s Insight into 2020 (Part 3)

Fr. Longenecker managed to give me a whole new perspective on the Gospel texts by explaining the frequently-told narrative of the secret son conquering evil by his hiddenness, his humility, and, ultimately, his self-sacrifice. Recall the many stories where the “secret son” triumphs in this way: Luke Skywalker, Clark Kent, Frodo Baggins, Peter Parker, . . .even Neo of The Matrix and Dorothy of Oz and Kansas. 

Of course, the comparisons with Jesus are limited since He is the Divine Son disguised as the son of man. Fr. Longecker explains that we so often get Jesus wrong because we look at what He did (and end up fashioning Him to look a lot like us with all our good intentions), rather than who He is. And as Fr. L says, if you really want to know who someone is, the question to ask is, “what would they die for?”

Jesus died to take away the Sin of the World described in the earlier chapters of Fr. Longenecker’s book (and in my previous posts). As John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The Sin of the World being our (misuse of) power, the resultant pride and prejudice, and Resentment, Rivalry, and Revenge. Fr. L says, “He was the One who was to come. The Suffering Servant. The scapegoat. The Passover Lamb. . . He was Isaac’s substituted ram. He came into this world to be the wounded warrior. . . .He came secretly and silently, and kept the secret silence of His mission right up until the final week of His life.”

Think of all the times in the Gospels when Jesus would heal the sick, cast out demons, and even undergo the Transfiguration, and would ask the witnesses not to tell anyone. He spoke often of His “hour” not yet come. Until reading this book, I was always mystified that He’d speak of this to His mother before performing His first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. What “hour” was He referring to if it wasn’t His public ministry and accompanying miracles? Why so secret about who He is (Is)? Well, as it turns out, when you’re fighting ultimate evil -- sin and death -- you’d best do it undercover until you’re ready for the Big Reveal. In Jesus’ case, it would occur in His Passion and Resurrection. But, He had to die in order to triumph over Death. It’s what He lived for. It’s who He Is.

Given who He Is, what should our imitation of Christ look like? Nothing like Antifa and BLM, that’s for sure! Think of the many great saints in their hidden labors: the hermits hiding in the desert or mountainside caves devoting their lives to prayer; the priests consumed with provision of the sacraments to poor sinners, and the nuns serving the materially poor and sick; the laborers in the field laying down their lives for the Kingdom -- “the harvest is great and the laborers are few.” Even Old Testament saints who became famous in salvation history started out in secret. Moses was hidden in the rushes of the Nile as an infant and, even though he became a Prince of Egypt, he ended up a shepherd whose real mission began with an encounter with the Burning Bush. Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by his brothers and was presumed dead until his family discovered he’d found favor with pharaoh (and more importantly, God) and was providentially positioned to save them from famine. 

The examples are too numerous to cite (and God’s greatest creation deserves a post of her own), but for us the message is clear:

“To engage in the battle, we will not trumpet our plans or complain about the evil in the world or the Church. We will not organize activists, publish papers, or plan a great campaign. To start, we will roll up our sleeves and do what we can with what we have, where we are. [Saint Theresa of Calcutta’s “do what’s in front of you."]

We will go incognito. We will be princes of the kingdom disguised as paupers -- God’s secret agents in the world. This is how we will fit into His battle plan.”

What does it mean to “walk in the Way of the Lamb?” In the faith in which the “central image” is of the “crucified man?” “Because the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus demolishes the Sin of the World from the inside out, the Church keeps the image of that profound and astounding victory as her central focus.” Living according to the Law of Self-giving means “giving our lives as a secret and small sacrifice.” When we live in, with, and through Christ, we can be assured that every authentic prayer and good work is part of His triumph over evil.

To engage effectively in Immortal Combat, our daily prayer should be, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Living Lamb of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! Here I am, standing before You. Just as I am, without one plea, O Lamb of God, I come.” 

And why is this effective? Because “faith” is ultimately more than trying hard to convince oneself of something incredible, or assenting intellectually to certain doctrines, or trusting in God’s protection and provision, although it’s those things, too. But, it is through repentance -- admitting our brokenness and need for redemption -- that power, pride, prejudice, Resentment, Rivalry, and Revenge are destroyed. It’s what Christ did on the Cross by becoming the Sin of the World in our place. We imitate Him by laying down our lives in repentance and love. 

Fr. L describes the ten Swords of the Spirit a Christian is given for the fight in this Immortal Combat, which I will briefly review:

  1. Sacraments: the seven Sacraments are “outward signs instituted by Christ for imparting grace.” Christ came to establish a Church and the ordained ministers of that Church have as their vocation the duty and the privilege of sacrificial service to the faithful. In the case of marriage, sacrificial service is to our spouses and families. This is how we participate in the Cross and resurrection of Christ.

  2. Sacred Scripture: Fr. L encourages us to read the Bible daily and memorize Scripture, “for the words of Sacred Scripture are powerful weapons in the spiritual battle." “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free. "

  3. Small: Be small and hidden, for only those like little children will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Be small as a mustard seed, because smallness makes us authentically who we are. And by becoming who God made us to be, we become powerful.

  4. Secret: Fr. L says the real action takes place in secret, even though the Church has a very visible, public presence. “This secret life is the true life of the Christian warrior. It is there, in secret, that we draw closer to the Lord Jesus. It is in contemplation and the mystery of the Mass that we come to identify with the Crucified and so become living conduits of Christ’s victory in the world.” This is a winning strategy because Satan doesn’t “do” secret. He can’t fathom humility.

  5. Sacrifice: Satan is also baffled by the Law of Self Sacrifice. “When we live out the Faith in a practical, sacrificial way we are living out the victory of the Cross, and each action of self-sacrifice, no matter how small is one more stroke of the sword of sacrifice in the everlasting battle."

  6. Simplicity: Fr. L says simplicity is a form of honesty. “Simplicity of speech allows no lies.” And, “simplicity of life is the art of loving all things according to their worth.” "The saint is not an extraordinary person, but an ordinary person who has become all that God created them to be.”

  7. Steadfast: “Nothing great was ever accomplished quickly.” “What is required of us is patience, hard work, and the ability to never give up. Ever.” “Being steadfast in the midst of hardship, disappointment, and failure is the mark of a saint. This is the sign of what the Church calls ‘heroic virtue.’” 

  8. Silence: The faculty of speech is given for expressing truth and reason. When no one is listening (for instance, in discourse with a committed leftist), the answer is silence. Silence is also the means of contemplative prayer and “abiding in the truth of Jesus Christ who went to the Cross mute as a lamb to the slaughter.”.

  9. Supernatural: Immortal Combat is supernatural by nature -- a fight with principalities and powers of the world. We need to keep this in mind. We should remember, therefore, that “we can do nothing by our own strength,” but only through grace."

  10. Suffering: One of my favorite stories of Pope Saint John Paul the Great was when he was working his way down a reception line of young priests, one of whom had a broken ankle in a cast. He asked the Holy Father to pray for him in his suffering, upon which JPII thunked him on the head and said, “Don’t waste your suffering.” Fr. L says, “it is in suffering that we are most fully unified with the Crucified.” It is only through Jesus that we find meaning in our suffering -- for the redemption of the whole world.

The central division between the secular humanist Left and the religious Right is this: the Left is full of self-righteousness (they are as gods, deciding right and wrong and imposing their "moral" authority on us) and is therefore undeterred in the exercise of raw power over others. The activism we saw in the streets in the summer of 2020 and the unapologetic hypocrisy of the Democrats now in power is because they're so very convinced they're right and it's up to them to fix the world -- to immanentize the eschaton. The religious Right believes the world is only improved when we fix ourselves first -- when we submit to a Higher Moral Authority. These two worldviews are utterly incompatible, and the Left is currently exercising all manner of power over us, which leftists simply are incapable of recognizing as persecution of innocents.

The good news is Truth and Charity win out in the end. The Light has come into the world, and darkness shall not overcome it. Keep the faith.

UPDATE: Adding this 8.5 minute video of Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager in which they agree with me about the right/left difference.

Jan 28, 2021

'Immortal Combat,' the Gorgons and Geryon: One Priest's Insight into 2020 (Part 2)

 I was reminded of Fr. Longenecker's book and my first crack at it in the post, Immortal Combat and Cerberus Unleashed: One Priest's Insight into 2020, after listening to Andrew Klavan answer a mailbag question yesterday. He addressed a secular Jew who was reading his book, The Great Good Thing, about his own conversion to Christianity, and who was questioning whether his experiences were really coincidences or were God-directed. Klavan answered at length, but he began by saying, "The narrative of materialism is so powerful that you can't talk about the supernatural without sounding like a lunatic, even to yourself." I know this is how I sound to non-believers, because I was one once, and Klavan is right: I sound nuts even to myself.

This is why I find Fr. Longenecker's book so valuable. As westerners, Madonna had it right when she said we live in a "material world," but it's also true that we accept that fiction and myth can teach us about reality. Novelist Andrew Klavan would agree. Fr. Longenecker uses this to great advantage by engaging our imaginations. 

In the first part of the book, Fr. L writes about the three-headed Hound of Hell, representing power, pride, and prejudice. In the middle chapters, he takes up the mythical figures of Medusa and her sisters, the Gorgons, to reveal the next unholy trinity of fallen human nature: Resentment, Rivalry, and Revenge.

He purposely capitalizes the three R's because he wants us to consider that Resentment isn't some temporary peevishness at some slight. It's a way of life. He writes, "It is the repeated reliving of a negative emotion. It is a deep-seated cycle of anger in a person's life. It is relentless restlessness and discontent that comes from our power, pride, and prejudice being frustrated." He calls it the "Resentment loop." And like looking into the face of Medusa, it hardens us and allows us to justify cruelty to others. 

Dennis Prager has long described this as the poisonous effect of the victim mentality. But, Fr. L goes even further and explains why we enjoy it: In the Resentment loop, "we are asserting ourselves over our rival. We feel powerful again. In our minds, we prove that we are right, and they are wrong. Our pride is fed. Our prejudices have been proven. We prevail. We are omnipotent again, and that feels good. Very good. . . Resentment becomes the motivating factor in our life." And If we're busy blaming others for our unhappiness -- which, even if accurate (there really are victims of mistreatment), resentment is self-destructive -- we aren't very adept at assessing our own culpability.

Sidebar: this is why the Christian notion that "we're all sinners" is so essential to civil society. A people who are preoccupied with putting their own house in order do not wish to assert dominance over others. They're practicing the conservative ideal of personal responsibility (through self-reflection, or what Catholics call the "examination of conscience") and are amenable to limited, separated powers of government, understanding that no one is qualified to tell others how to live. Drew Klavan describes this in his answer to his pen pal as acting "in humility," knowing that there's a (supernatural) reality beyond our ability to comprehend. Or, as I said in my first post, practicing self-doubt.

Now, once a powerless person enters the Resentment loop, he relieves his frustration by expanding both the target of his resentment and by gathering with others into a Resentment group. "His unhappiness isn't 'caused by 'that woman,' but by all women. Her problem was not caused by 'that rich white man,' but by all rich white men. Their problem was not caused by 'that Hispanic or African American or Jew or Catholic, or Muslim,' but by all Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, Catholics, or Muslims." And by forming a group of the resentful (BLM, Antifa), the Resentful has more power -- "stronger together," as a certain failed Democrat nominee for president declaimed. 

"The Resentment group is not satisfied with discussion and debate. They want action. They need to go to war against the enemy. They develop an identity and demand change -- and all of it fueled by Resentment." In other words, they become activists. I think Fr. L may be onto something, she says dryly.

When the resentful form into a collective mob, it is truly frightening to see. Their Resentment and rage render them irrational. There is no discussion with the slaves of Medusa. They are obsessed with their righteous crusade because it has become the source of their self-esteem. Unwilling to compromise, they are driven by an unholy energy. Like the living dead they stagger on, never stopping, never resting, always seeking Revenge. 

They can never be appeased because they do not want their problem solved. They do not want the problem to be solved because their Resentment has become the only source of meaning in their lives." [emphasis mine]


Before leaving the Gorgon sisters for even darker images, Fr. L makes one more important point: the religious zeal with which the Resentment group pursues their crusade makes them feel noble and heroic. And it is under the guise of good works -- "social justice" -- they act out on their Resentment. I have some personal experience with this in my interaction with what Fr. L calls a "religious Resentment" group called JustFaith (which is connected with Jim Wallis of lefty-evangelical Sojourners notoriety, who has been in the news recently for being canceled and removed from his own publication for not being anti-Catholic enough).  

Several other conservative Catholics and I joined a pilot program with JustFaith many years ago to discuss the moral implications of the federal budget. When I questioned if the "socialist" justice ideas the group had for the budget were actually doing good, the mask slipped from the leader's face. I contend this moment when the pious lefty Christian "shocks you with a snarl instead of the usual smile" and "his eyes flash" and "you are turned to stone," is the moment you've struck on a truth he doesn't "handle" well, as Colonel Jessup might say.

Which brings us to Geryon, the guardian of Dante's eighth circle of hell, where the fakers, the cons, and the hypocrites reside. Where the damned are so convinced of their righteousness, they perpetually question why their golden robes are lined with lead. These are the People of the Lie. And the horrifying part about them is their monstrous form is disguised with the face of an honest man or woman. "Indeed, they often have a respectable face of a member of the establishment. The 'honest' face is smiling and charming. The face has good manners. The face is courteous and polite. The face is well educated. The face is caring. The face is pious. The face is even prayerful and serene. . . Judas himself had the face of an honest man." Maybe even more terrifying is that we're all People of the Lie. We all want to be seen as righteous crusaders for truth or justice, no matter how distorted our view of reality is.

Fr. L says you can spot the People of the Lie because they never admit they're wrong (Nancy Pelosi's spa scandal comes to mind. -- she actually blamed the salon owner!), or they deflect from their errors, dismiss your attack, and "prove" their moral superiority with brazenness and skill (Democrats' failure to quell the violence of their voters is Trump's fault). It's always someone else's fault. There's always a scapegoat. 

Fr. L tells a couple of heartbreaking stories about kids of "respectable," churchgoing families who project their problems onto a "black sheep" child and ruin his or her life. The People of the Lie are capable of such cruelty because 1) they're self-deceiving 2) they project their own Resentment and rage onto others (Saul Alinsky's "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."), and 3) they are impervious to criticism. They are "experts at the fake apology" and "their failure cannot be their fault. Others must always be to blame." Wow, anyone else picking up on the resemblance to the left-wing movements Antifa and BLM?

But, it's even more common for the People of the Lie to "occupy the top jobs" rather than be rioting out in the streets. They are "the smooth, successful ones -- the media manipulators, the polite politicians, the urbane bankers, and the smiling socialites. They are the pastors with pleasant faces, the bishops and cardinals with slick diocesan systems, and the smooth prelates in scarlet robes. . . They are charming and sophisticated. They are suave and svelte, respectable and smooth. They are powerful and persuasive, but deep within they are the sons and daughters of perdition. Their father is the Father of Lies, and they are the People of the Lie, and there is no human cure for them."

I wanted to quote the former at length to contrast Obama and Trump. Does anyone really think Trump, the quintessential Ugly American, wears the mask of shape-shifting Geryon? How about Obama, whom Joe Biden called "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy?" I credit Trump with being an authentic sinner rather than a fraudulent saint.

Before getting to God's supernatural solution as explained by Fr. L in Part 3, we have to go all the way down into the pit of hell of human depravity with Geryon, because "the perceptions and behaviors of the People of the Lie are basic to our humanity. This is the Sin of the World" which Jesus came to take away.

Power, pride, and prejudice lead us to Resentment, Rivalry, and Revenge, which ultimately end in self-deception, projection, groupthink, scapegoating, and eventually, murderous tribal mobs. Activism in pursuit of "social justice" (never just "justice") becomes a religious crusade complete with warrior heroes and martyrs. War, whether metaphorical or literal, is a means of unifying and inspiring the Resentment group. However, there is no possibility of a perfect union based on lies, so those who stand out as unique -- whether because they're eccentrics or disabled, or even particularly talented or intelligent (think Socrates) -- must eventually be purged from the group. What we call "eating their own." And it must be done violently to appease the gods and as a deterrent to other non-conformists. 

Ironically, Fr. L says "we may not burn witches at the stake or wheel out the guillotine, . . ." But, he wrote this book last year (2019) and didn't anticipate the vicious hatred of the President, who was guillotined in effigy at one of the protests recently. Can the real executions of political opponents be far behind? I know. Don't answer that.

We become habituated to this cycle of sin and violence such that anytime a new crisis arises (Chinese flu), we "solve" our problem with blood sacrifices and scapegoats. Cain had no remorse for murdering Abel (out of resentment). In fact, he snarkily replied to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Remember Obama badly distorting this story to mean the opposite? Was that ignorance or a lie?

"Eventually the dynamic of lies reaches a climax. The dark cauldron boils over, and violence erupts. And the system of sacrifice is the way the society of lies channels the violence." Today, it's the police and whites (mostly white men) designated as the sacrificial victims -- the scapegoats. It's different from when the Jews would designate a literal scapegoat on the Day of Atonement and send it out into the desert with the people's sins attached to it. There is no admission of guilt in our society of lies. Only blame-shifting.

This is why the Baptist preached repentance -- "make straight the way of the Lord," and God Himself provided the blood sacrifice in Jesus. There is hope. Stay tuned for Part 3.


First published on September 11, 2020 on Ricochet. Reproduced here with some edits in anticipation of Part 3.

Jan 26, 2021

"Immortal Combat" and Cerberus Unleashed: One Priest's Insight into 2020

Fr. Dwight Longenecker dated the Introduction to his book, Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness, October 31, 2019. Was he divinely inspired, prophetic, or did he just have a foretaste of the societal crisis playing out in 2020 as indicated by the irrational hatred of President Trump and the bad behaviors of actors both Left and Right resulting from it?

Whatever the case, Immortal Combat is the best explanation for the position we find ourselves in I've read to date. As Fr. Longenecker says in his critique of therapeutic Christianity, "From the beginning to the end of time, the heart of the old, old story is not comfort, but conflict." He then proceeds to engage our imaginations to understand spiritual warfare using the Bible, Greek mythology, The Lord of the Rings, and other popular culture references. Even Fluffy -- Harry Potter's three-headed Cerberus in The Sorcerer's Stone -- merits a mention. He says, 

We must go into those swamps and caves, for if Christianity is true, then it is the most astounding and revolutionary message ever to take humanity by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake.

It is desperately important in our age to speak in these terms because our moral imagination, on the one hand, is weak, pale, and sickly, while ironically, in the realm of popular culture, the mythical imagination is healthier than ever. The academic world is a dry husk of learned articles filled with jargon and footnotes, while in the world of movies, television, gaming, and fantasy literature, the imagination roars and soars. 

We must, therefore, use the imagination to dive like a spelunker into the depths of the underworld, then surface spluttering with joy, clutching the pearl of great price -- which is to truly grasp the mysterious meaning of Christ's sacrifice.  

You might think the obvious place to start exploring the conflict between good and evil would be in the Garden with The Fall of Adam and Eve. But, Fr. Longenecker reminds us the story of Lucifer and his rebellion predates humanity. He says the Bible itself is a "chronicle of war. It is the record of brutal, seemingly endless cosmic combat taking place in the gritty reality of human history." He reminds us of the warriors' stories told there: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Jael, Samson, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Saul, David, and Elijah. . .

But immortal combat didn't end there either. It didn't even end with Christ's victory for those of us inhabiting Satan's domain here on earth. Even "the history of our religion is one of war:" the Crusades, the Albigensian purges, the Thirty Years' War, the battles of Lepanto and Vienna, the brutalization and murder of martyrs and suspected martyrs. Fr. Longenecker doesn't let anyone off the hook; in fact, he reserves his harshest critique for the religious who serve at the command of the Father of Lies. 

As for Jesus, he was no pacifist: "He recognized immediately who His real enemies were and called them out as a brood of vipers, hypocrites, sons of Satan, liars, and murderers. He said clearly that He did not come to bring peace but a sword, that He would baptize with fire, and following Him would mean separation from wife and children, mothers and fathers. To join Him is to join the forces of light against the powers of darkness." And no saint ever attained heroic virtue except by fighting the good fight. Even the Little Flower said on her deathbed, "I will die with my weapons in my hand!"

If you're convinced we're engaged in "total war," Fr. Longenecker helps us to get to know our enemy, and he does so by describing the Sin of the World that Jesus overcomes. He begins with Minotaur and the Labyrinth. "He has the virile power of the bull combined with the intelligence and pride of man. He blends the brute strength and malice of the bull with the cunning deception of a cruel and violent man. At once stubborn and aggressive, he is at the same time shrewd and brutally handsome. Most intriguing of all, Asterion the Minotaur is hidden in the dark." [emphasis mine]

This is key to understanding the Sin of the World (fallen human nature): we don't see it in ourselves. We think we're the hero, Theseus, sent in to rescue the innocents sacrificed to Asterion, but in actuality, we are the Minotaur lurking in the labyrinth with murderous intent. Do you doubt? Just wait, there's more.

Next Fr. L takes on the Dragon in the Garden. He heard from an exorcist, "A real exorcism. . is a knock-down, bare-knuckle, snarling, hand-to-hand combat with the devil. You fight amidst the stench of hell, and the worst of all is the fact that you lose track of where you are. You seem to be in a wilderness with no points of reference. There is no logic or reasoning. Nothing can be predicted and planned. You're wrestling on quicksand; everything slips and slides. There is no foothold. It is like grappling with an octopus in oil in the dark."

I wrote in the margin next to this paragraph, "Critical Theory." Sounds like it, doesn't it? No logic, no reason, disorienting in the extreme. I have said before that confronting a leftist with the truth is like having hold of an octopoidal creature that squirms and flails until it escapes. "There is no truth in him." It's horrifying.

We always have to remember the devil is a liar, first, foremost, and forever. "His realm is chaos and destruction." Does that sound like 2020 much?

Fr. L gives us a new way of understanding Original Sin. We often think it is Pride or disobedience, which it is. But, it comes because God has given us a share in His power -- the power to choose. He values our freedom to love so highly that he gives us the freedom (and the power) to sin. And the fallout from that power of choice is eternal. It was Adam and Eve's free will that made them believe they could be "as gods." To not just know what is good and evil, but to decide for themselves!

"Embedded in this power to choose is a little red spark called 'desire.' . . . Desire is the engine of choice." And desire is the wrench the devil throws into the works. He corrupts our innocent desire for the good, the true, and the beautiful into something selfish. Something covetous. Something murderous. God becomes our rival and we desire to displace him. This longing to be our own gods (Fr. L calls it "imitation desire") is the murderous impulse we hide from ourselves. As T. S. Eliot said, "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."  

Which brings us to Cerberus, the three-headed Hound of Hell. Fr. L describes the three heads of Cerberus as representing power, pride, and prejudice. We've seen how the corruption of desire leads to poor uses of our power to choose and that our being "as gods" convinces us our choices are justified, but what do we mean by "pride?"

Fr. L says pride is the "total conviction I am right." And here I want to segue into a personal story about the importance of self-doubt.

My sister, Trink, and I are separated by fifteen years and we've lived over a thousand miles apart for most of my adult life. But, we've developed a close relationship by phone --  many lengthy phone conversations. Probably twenty years ago, she and I were having a discussion about society or politics or something (I don't remember the specifics), and she asked me the question, "So you believe in social engineering?" It was a small thing. About the size of a mustard seed? But, it got me thinking -- "no, actually, I don't believe in social engineering" -- and doubting my long-held lefty, atheist convictions. The simple question had to come from someone I trusted and who I knew loves me, and it set my feet on the path to political and religious conversion some years later. Keep this story in mind when I get around to part three about how to engage in this immortal combat. Hint: it's going to depend on the imitation of Christ.

Back to Fr. L: "Pride is the total, complete, foundational assumption, before all else and above all else, that I am right, that my choices are right [after all, why would I choose to be wrong?], that my beliefs are right, that my decisions are right, that everything I do is right." And it is the hiddenness of this abuse of power and resultant pride that leads to the third head of Cerberus: prejudice.

"Furthermore, prejudice poisons our relationships because if my choices are right, then the people who choose differently must be wrong. Power and pride automatically demand that the person who is different from me and who has chosen differently must be wrong -- and if wrong, then bad." 

Now we've come to the heart of the current conflict in our society. Lacking all humility, we hate each other for our differences. And, I would say, the worst examples of the unleashing of Cerberus are out in the streets causing mayhem and murder. They are justified in their incivility because they are right (in their own minds), and if they are righteous (they decide what's right and wrong, remember) and we don't agree to defunding the police, or teaching the 1619 Project as authentic history to our elementary students, or kneeling for the anthem, or affirmative action, or universal healthcare, or, or, or . . . we are evil, and we deserve what's coming to us. After all, you have to break a few eggs. . .

In a healthier society, "we soon learn that to live together with others, power, pride, and prejudice must be suppressed. We have to keep Cerberus on a leash. Family, society, education, and religion all provide the leash we need [and we see now the results of degraded family, society, education, religion. . .]. We are taught self-control. We learn that it is unacceptable to exercise raw, selfish power. We come to understand that we cannot assert our instinct to be 'right' all the time." 

But, our fallen nature, and the devil's influence are so strong, we practice self-deception and dress up our aims as virtuous -- Black Lives Matter! Anti-fascism!! Anti-racism!! When in reality, we manipulate others to get our way, at best and, at worst, we form mobs and riot in the streets.

And it's not just the Left, but the religious Right does this, too: "In fact, too often we fall into the trap of asserting our power by using religion to control others. With endless rules and regulations and a hefty does of guilt we manipulate and control. With 'scholastic' debates about points of doctrine and morality, we assert our pride and prove ourselves not only right but righteous. We use religion to bolster our prejudices rather than challenge them. Furthermore, we do  all this believing God Himself approves."

There's so much more to this little book (144 pages), but it seems this is enough for now. Go buy a copy and read it, or you'll have to wait for me to get around to Parts Two and Three. And who knows how long that will take! 2020 will not wait. It's relentless.


First published on August 6, 2020 on Ricochet. Reproduced here in anticipation of Parts 2 and 3.

Jan 19, 2021

Good News You Can Use -- and Keep Your Peace

Welcome back to all my R> friends and especially to those who made comments! I forgot I had comment moderation turned on and needed to approve comments before they'd show up! I wasn't feelin' the love, but I am now. Thanks!

I hope to post links here periodically that I find uplifting and hopeful. I'll start with a podcast episode giving Catholic Answers to people living through the present turmoil called Living in Peace with Fr. Jeffrey Kirby. I particularly like his response to the woman who's always tried to live a faithful life, but her family is highly dysfunctional and she's questioning God's love for her amidst it all. He tells her, basically, God puts people like her just where she's needed most. I think that's a message we can all use in times of suffering -- it's not pointless. God brings good out of all things and He has us where we are for a reason. Keep the faith.

On a lighter note, but one I take as a very, very good sign of the times: Fr. Mike Schmitz's Bible in a Year podcast is #1 on the Apple Podcast charts, beating out popular secular fare like social commentary and true crime stories from NPR and NBC News. Fr. Mike was already a popular YouTube figure in the Catholic world, but now he's teamed up with noted Catholic convert and teacher, Jeff Cavins, and is using his Great Adventure Bible Timeline to read through the narrative books of the Bible to tell the story of salvation history. I've completed Cavins's study twice -- long and short version -- and have found this method of reading the Bible very helpful for getting the arc of the story in a memorable and coherent fashion. But, having Fr. Mike read it to us this way is a special treat. I highly recommend subscribing.

In other good news, South Dakota is growing! It turns out people prefer less draconian "safety" measures in favor of freedom. I know there's always a risk when Californians flee their state to take up residence in a "free" state, but I'm going to take this preference for a lighter government touch as good news.

And, finally, this is brushing up against political-talk, but I find these black voices commenting on events of the past year much more compelling than even some of my favorite Catholic authors (Fr. Longenecker) or the head of the USCCB, Archbishop Gomez:

Race, Faith, and Justice: An African Catholic's Perspective


How the Left Hijacked Civil Rights

I think you'll need a Wall Street Journal subscription to read that last one, but it's worth it if you're excited to run into truth-tellers. We're donating to the Woodsen Center.

Thanks for your patience while I work out the kinks of this long-neglected blog. 

Oh, and here are some pretty picture from my garden. Spring is coming!