The Soft Tyranny of Sentimentalism
All of these arguments pit transcendent-if-challenging positions against less-exalted, unchallenging ideas that generally end in a splat of selfishness. The transcendent views—championing life, discipline, restraint, design, meaning, callings, union with God and eternity—belong to the Church. The other views—which focus on the self and what the self wants and what the self demands—tend to be the Sentimentalist's own views, soaked in from his peers and shared by the god of his making. On balance, they seem helplessly dull, short-sighted, stuck in time, and beholden to illusion. Instead of urging individuals to their greatest potential, they teach there is nothing toward which we may reach at all, beyond the satisfaction of our here-and-now.
I'm Not a Judgmental Person
This emphasis on gratification and validation is a spiritual slight-of-hand; it convinces the Sentimentalist that he is more tolerant, more compassionate, more interested in supporting humanity than is the Creator, and it undergirds that pretense by fomenting doubt. God may not celebrate the choices humans make with their gift of free will, but the Sentimentalist does! In fact, thinks the Sentimentalist, what sort of god would give people free will and then pass harsh judgment upon them when they use it? Only a very wicked, unloving god, or an illusion that is not a god at all.
In truth, the Sentimentalist does not know what to think about God, Whose invitation he has spurned, and Whose study is only permitted in deconstruction, but he has heard enough to form an opinion: no loving god (or god worth loving) he opines, could allow earthquakes and tsunamis, illness and grief, war and homelessness; he is unwilling to consider that a very loving (and praise-worthy) God inspires the sort of heroic rescue, relief, discovery, and responsive human aid that the Sentimentalist admires.
The Sentimentalist, who plays at positive thinking, is in fact a negativist. Instead of affirming the risks and sacrifices entailed in adult life, he holds his breath and tries to wish them all away.
The Power of Magical Thinking
Sentimentalism is the pretense of sophistication adopted by those who are so beholden to Cynicism (see Ch. 9), Relativism (see Ch. 2), or Hedonism (see Ch. 1) that they dare not risk a challenge to their worldview, and would rather die than be thought out-of-touch. They believe themselves invulnerable to the "magical thinking" of faith by dint of their intellect, but they are paradoxically quite vulnerable to their society, at whose every pronounced trend and fickle philosophy they must subdue their own reason and adjust their opinions or risk an expulsion as absolute as Eve's was from Eden. The "dictatorship of relativism," against which Pope Benedict XVI has warned, wholly owns them and keeps them in a perpetual infancy of reason; under its stringent illusions, they believe they are unencumbered, wise, and free. As then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in his homily at the Mass for the cardinals who were about to elect him pope:
. . . the Son of God, true man [is] is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith—only faith—which creates unity and takes form in love.