Why I Don’t Care pt. 2 or The Birth of Relativism

Thank you so much for the comments on my last post. They helped me realize two things:

1. The evil of the modern world is ripped out of the realm of abstraction and into reality by the fact of parenthood. Everyone who was truly concerned about the Culture Wars — and thus could not understand my quiz — spoke of concern for their children. Such an attitude makes complete sense: The fact of a child under your protection forces the abstraction (the pro-choice movement) to be realized at the level of the human person (this abstraction could harm my child) and thus it is made real.

2. I need to make it absolutely clear that I do not advocate the burning of cars. (Actually, if you want to burn your own car, I sincerely advocate it, if and only if I get a YouTube video of it immediately afterwards.) But the marvelous Mr. Wright was — well — right: We should not be burning cars “because and only because that would not accomplish the goal.”

But I only used the “burning cars” phrase to point out how the vast majority of us marching for life are only representing an abstraction. Regardless of whether it would be effective or not, surely real rebellion should be a temptation? Surely, if we are truly embodying the fact that thousands of innocents are being murdered every day, it should take everything within us to resist rushing the White House? We are some half a million strong, after all.

Mr. Wright claims that the only reason we don’t burn cars is because such an action wouldn’t help achieve The Goal. This seems to imply that we are suppressing our incendiary urges for the greater good. I’d hardly deny that it is better to work for the greater good — I simply deny that we are suppressing any urges.

And that’s the darkness of the modern age that we must brave, the Scary Thought that hitherto has been pushed aside in my mind.

I suppose it is possible that the remarkably good behavior of the Catholic — and the equally good behavior of his enemies — is the result of wise, effective reflection on the best way to achieve their respective goals. It is possible that the reason so many of us feel more nauseated than joyful with the idea of defending marriage, morality and all the rest, is that we know an excess of emotion will hinder our victory. It is possible that we are comfortable with our slogans, lobbies, merchandise, and the dichotomies of pro-life vs. pro-choice, pro-marriage vs. pro-equality, etc. because we know it’s the best way things are achieved in a functioning democracy.

But surely it is equally possible that we are following abstractions?

Surely it’s equally possible that what Kierkegaard said of his age is true of our own, that:

“the present age is one of understanding, of reflection, devoid of passion, an age which flies into enthusiasm for a moment only to decline back into indolence…”

(i.e. KONY2012)

“a Revolutionary Age is an age of action; the present age is an age of advertisement, or an age of publicity: nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it. A revolt in the present age is the most unthinkable act of all; such a display of strength would confuse the calculating cleverness of the times…”

and that

“no person wishes to abandon Christian terminology, but they can secretly change it so that it doesn’t require decision or action…”

(I can hardly count the number of times I’ve cleverly manipulated that St. Francis misquote, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary use words,” in order to not do anything at all; how many times I’ve read Christ’s words, “give away everything you own”, and happily abstracted his demand to some spiritual plane.)

I’m not claiming that there aren’t people truly living out there, men and women who have been saved from the age by the power of religion, as Kierkegaard said. I simply realize that I am not one of those people. Not yet, anyways.

I’ll close with this: Where did relativism come from? There is a tendency in the Catholic world to speak of it as the root source of all the modern age’s various evils, and there’s some truth to that. But relativism is the natural conclusion of a world that serves abstractions instead of the human person. The foolish but widely prevalent phrase, “What’s true for you isn’t true for me,” seems frightfully sensible if the you’re considering the pro-life and pro-choice movements as just that — movements, equal and opposite abstractions, badges to pin on our arms (you see good sirs, I am a Christian, and thus I have my pro-life badge, my pro-family badge, my support-of-traditional-values badge…) rather than authentic cries of the human heart. If support for assisted suicide becomes a lobby, it can be accepted as easily as any lobby. The argument “let people choose for themselves whether euthanasia is good, don’t force your morality on them” makes an insane sort of sense if the world is picking and choosing it’s abstractions.

Now don’t worry about sharing this, unless you think it’s worth it — I’m afraid to say I’m working this out as I go. Once I’ve come to something resembling a conclusion, I’ll write a big-super-fantastic post pulling everything together. And I understand that a lot of folks are upset by this idea. I am too. But don’t worry: The world is currently in the habit of using philosophy to justify pre-existing ideas, rather than letting philosophy kick their asses and force them to change. And, I promise you, the light at the end of this is brilliant. Suffer me to spend a little time getting to it.

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  • bearing

    Isn’t it true that we have another reason not to burn cars, namely, obedience to competent ecclesiastical authority? I understand that the bishops have unequivocally stated that violence is not an allowable means for us to serve the pro-life cause at this time.

    You could argue “But the bishops only say this because it won’t further our goals, and so that is ultimately the primary reason.”

    Still, even if it would somehow further the goals of the pro-life movement to burn cars, we can’t do it if the bishops order Catholics under their jurisdiction not to.

    • Steve N.

      It is far from clear that the bishops have any special charism to make prudential judgements regarding public order. Burning cars isn’t even violent (assuming no one is in them). Of course, burning cars won’t work, but burning down abortion mills certainly would help, and shooting abortion doctors. You don’t need to get them all or even a large fraction. Economic disincentives alone will kick in.

  • Dan Pacitti

    Isn’t the problem here the same as when we are sitting in the pew listening to the words of the Gospel or watching the priest elevate what looks to be simple bread and wine? The problem (by which I suppose I should say ‘temptation’) is to not make it personal. That is the brilliant paradox of the Catholic faith; it is both utterly universal and yet fundamentally intimate. The danger of relativism, stretching back from its roots in Descartes, is that it separated those two sides of the coin. But they go together, as I’m sure you well know.
    For instance, if I have personal experiences of having an intense (I don’t mean in a bad way) debate or discussion with someone who is pro-choice when I am pro-life, then I should remind myself of those personal and intimate instances when I march in the larger demonstration, just as I remind myself of personal experiences of faith when I read or hear about issues affecting the Church at large.
    It also seems, slightly, as an issue of personal responsibility. We feel guilty because we feel as if we SHOULD be doing more, that we SHOULD be yelling from the rooftops about what we believe to be horrible crimes and atrocities. The problem here is that we are restrained to work within the matrix of the society in which we live. We cannot use evil means to achieve our ends (such as anarchy or violent overthrow, etc). The consolation we must derive from this is that we do what we can, and more when the opportunity presents itself. The burden of culpability is not on our shoulders when we have done all we can. Justice will come for all us in the end; we must keep this mind, and continue to keep those personal instances fresh in our minds as reminders. Why did soldiers keep photos of loved ones (or pin-ups) in their helmets? So we must keep reminders of how intimately these issues touch our lives. This is just off the top of my head; I will see if I can think of a more fitting response later. (And I have a test to study for.) But Godspeed in the meantime!

  • Milhon1

    “But relativism is the natural conclusion of a world that serves abstractions instead of the human person.”

    I would substitute ‘human person’ for ‘God’ in this formulation. The full implication of the original statement would still naturally conclude in relativism. If God is not the starting point as well as that at which all things are ordered you ultimately still find yourself defining truth as ‘that which best serves man’ which as you can see is a wholly utilitarian maxim. Kierkegaard would agree with this, I think, as you see in his treatment of the ethics of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son.

  • Rose

    Let’s get back to parenthood for the answers (maybe); this discussion reminds me of those who reject “spanking” because it is violent and we must work within reason to accomplish our goals. Right, try reasoning with a hard-headed, rebellious 3 year old who insists on running out into traffic. The choices are not two extremes (sit back and display bumper stickers or burn cars in the street)..but, as Jesus said, a middle way that is gentle as doves and clever as a serpent. So we don’t have to pull the kid’s pants down and draw blood, but neither do we accept his selfish/ dangerous behavior. We BLOCK his way with whatever means we can that will reach his head and heart. As God does with us. We DO use force, people. As Jesus did in the temple. And that may mean something as drastic as … stayin your room, don’t come out and no dinner. Ahh,but you CAN’t deprive a child of food! Cruelty! Really? WATCH ME. (Yes, I’ve done this and the results were wonderful). There’s a much greater good at stake here. So maybe a drastic move would be not paying taxes and being willing to go to jail. Crowding the jails, in fact. No physical violence, just something very gentle. very clever and very drastic. Where do we have our power? That’s where we need to take action.

    • MattheW

      “Where do we have our power? That’s where we need to take action”

      This is what we, as Americans, have forgotten. I recently visited Boston and was dumbstruck at the risks and actions taken by the founders of our country – boycotts, the Boston Tea Party, speeches/slogans against the British – and how those actions were so severe and so deliberate. They were done to be noticed! I think today’s people (and the government) no longer believe that the government is ‘of, by, and for the people’ and no longer believe that the people can make a difference. Even before this trip I have wondered if Samuel Adams or Thomas Jefferson ever had the thought that ‘I am only one person, what can I do to make a difference?’ (which I’m assuming they didn’t, or at least ignored) and how the PASSION for Truth and Good has diminished over our country’s history.

      • Beccolina

        I am guilty of falling into that mindset myself: My vote, my voice, my opinion doesn’t count. What can I do but pray, when even my prayer feels insignificant?

  • Jay E.

    I appreciate the remarkable intellectual honesty that you’re putting forth in these posts.

    This has been something I’ve been coming to terms with for a while. We’re not really convicted about reality, we’re simply playing for a “side” (and thus only play-acting, not fighting). If every person who marched in the march for life were convicted of the reality of abortion, abortion would be over.

    I think the best justification I’ve found for non-violence is Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, when Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant’s ear. This whole reality of abortion is the reality of the Passion. As Caryll Houselander put it “this war is the passion”. Or like the great line in the movie On the Waterfront… “that’s a crucifixion!!”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDH3wvlC9pY

  • Gail Finke

    Marc I think you have nailed the symptoms but not the cause. Read a couple more philosophers, if you can stomach them, from around SK’s time. What you’re saying isn’t wrong, it’s just only partly right.

  • Amy

    “(I can hardly count…how many times I’ve read Christ’s words, “give away everything you own”, and happily abstracted his demand to some spiritual plane.)”

    I am reading an awesome book about this right now, Happy Are You Poor by Fr. Thomas Dubay. It’s a good read if you have the time!

  • Craig

    Great post, we are so watered down, the world seems completely dizzy and I’m not sure if it knows what to think of itself… and good speech at flipdaddy’s yesterday. Yes. Avengers is good. Yes. Loki had a point.

  • Emily

    I feel as though these musings are a result of your college atmosphere. Seeing all the “sides” of all the issues and no apparent movement or favorable progess in the direction we favor can become quite depressing and cause a philosophy major as yourself to question the whole situation as worthless. I try to keep a positive outlook on these situations. For one, I don’t listen to too much news, it angers me in a sickening way. But I also take the position of our pastor priest that the prolife movement will win. Abortion will be illegal once again. It might happen in my lifetime or my children’s but it will happen for the very reason that those who are in favor of abortion will have LESS children than those against abortion. Simply by population size we will outnumber them and outvote them.

    So I don’t believe that all my beliefs, or the teachings of the church (for these beliefs are founded in the teachings) are mere abstractions that are dismissed. They are dismissed by those who can’t accept them as truths. My beliefs form my character and, you are right, they also will form the character of my children as my husband and I strive to form them with these same beliefs because they are founded in truth.

    I really like your blog. My husband and I have become big fans since January. Please get back to the “this is why Catholicism is right, beeeoches” kind of posts

    • MattheW

      You have a point Emily, in the fact that Catholic beliefs are not abstractions to Catholics. However, when a Catholic tries to convey those beliefs, the person (not the belief) becomes an abstraction, an outlier if you will.

      Also, a quote that makes me NOT want to wait until the population demographics change: “…complacency is the greatest enemy of success.”

    • Edge

      Emily – just one question – If you were told right now that the young lady down the street is about to murder her child (let’s say he is three). I do not mean spank the stuffing out of him, but has a chainsaw and is just about to chop him to pieces. What do you do? Call the cops? Run down the street and stop her? Ignore it and continue reading a novel? As a Catholic we are called to always do the right thing, no matter the personal cost. The three year old about to be sliced and diced by a chainsaw by a delusional mother is no more or less human and loved by God than the child being shredded by the abortionist.

      I think this is what BadCatholic is referring to – there is a real child being murdered, and we “march” or put a bumper sticker on our daily driver. As two guys kiss on tv – we shrug and change the channel.

      I fear the time this generation stands before God, as those who do not try to stop evil are also guilty of that very same evil.

      • Sophias_Favorite


        We knew Saddam Hussein actually did have people killed with chainsaws and sausage machines (and taped it, then showed it to their relatives—they were generally the relatives of dissidents). He also routinely used the gang-rape of female relatives as a weapon against dissidents.

        Should we have gone to war with him merely over that?

        See, personally I say yes—removing a tyrant like that, imminent threat to us or no, can be (according to Aquinas among others) sufficient grounds for war. But a lot of Catholics oppose the Iraq War…mostly, from what I can see, from a lame-brained reflexive hatred of Republicans, which Marc himself exhibits from time to time (to me, it seems like a pathetic bid to look above it all, as if being the only party that a faithful Catholic can vote for—third parties are political masturbation—still weren’t enough to earn at least conditional acceptance).

        If you say we shouldn’t have gone to war, because of the possible negative consequences, are you guilty of a sin of omission? Of course not. There is no duty to act in such a case, since one has no way of knowing one won’t make it worse.

        • Kristen indallas

          Third party candidates do have some validity… no they won’t win this year, but it’s a step towards a future system that supports more than 2 (awful) candidates. In locked-in states (given the electoral college and all) individual votes don’t really mean much anyway. Plus, voting for a candidate that has admirable qualities (if not an ability to win) has spiritual effects as well. If I cast a vote for an admirable man or woman, I am publicly aligning myself with those values, and more likely to act on them myself. If I vote for someone who’s “not as bad as the worst” I am more likely to internalize the idea that I’m okay because I’m not behaving as bad as the next guy…

  • Emily C. A. Snyder

    I think part of the difficulty here is that we’re trying to fight an immediate war with a war of attrition.

  • Katarinula

    I’m not sure if I have processed what you are saying to the fullest extent yet, but you do seem to be raising some pretty serious and legitimate questions or at least one REALLY BIG question. What I’m hearing is: Does relativism come from rationalism’s (or indeed any form of separatism’s ) nihilistic denaturing of man? If so, how do we regain, in our larger culture, a restored understanding of what man is per se and consequently an ability to effectively root out evil with proportionate passion while still following the law of charity (sine burning cars)? This is a HUGE question. The current culture’s understanding of what man is is so warped it will be very difficult nigh impossible to fix. (From a natural point of view anyway. Nature+grace, however, can do anything. Incarnation anyone? I think so.) I am looking forward to seeing how these posts develop.

  • http://youngandcatholic.net Mary Lane

    Great posts, Marc! Don’t worry about working it out as you go. I think those are where the most honest and relatable posts come from. Keep up the good work; you are in my prayers :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mr.alexanderson Alexander S Anderson

    hinking heavily about your last two posts. I remember thinking along related lines on the topic of social justice. I got rather angry at a self-described “social justice” catholic because, well, his entire system depended on abstractions. He, and others like him, often talk about “poverty” and “the poor”, but it’s always an abstraction, and the rhetoric often sounds good, but all it does is obscure. Thinking about it later, I realized that God doesn’t care about “poverty” or “the poor”. He cares about each individual poor person.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mr.alexanderson Alexander S Anderson

      Also, I thought about how much I can’t stand Hegel. I can’t help but think that he’s somewhat to blame for this. He spends most of his books abstracting from reality, and then he granted more reality to his abstractions than to the reality they came from. He is also, regrettably, far more influential than he should be.

  • JRG
  • James_Locke

    I think I know why we are like this and you will have to bear with me, because you will not like the explanation. We are like this because being in a democracy makes us like this.

    • Steve N.

      This. Democracy is the central problem.

  • RA

    Book suggestion: The Ball and the Cross, by Chesterton. Turns out this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon; big surprise :-)

  • Neal M.

    Marc you’re hitting, indirectly, something I’ve been kicking around for a few years. Abstractions…and the death of thought and Charity. There are a lot of liberals out there who love “the poor”, or say they do, personally I don’t see them going out to the streets and holding a homeless guys hand. When someone says “help the poor” what they typically mean is “institute government programs that distribute tax payers money to agencies t hat do things for the poor.” Now I’m not saying this to debate rather or not individual programs have merit, I’m sure some of them do, but my point here is that poor people have become an abstraction.

    We tend to compartmentalize people and turn everything into a shadow. Many love “the poor” but snicker at “People of Walmart” and tense up when they get into an elevator with a black man. I guess this is why holy priests preach to us to love our immediate neighbor, it’s a lot harder to love a flesh and blood person who annoys us than it is some abstract group of people. How many, including me, love their abstract neighbor and gossip about their colleges? Don’t agree with someone? Well, it’s okay, because they are X and we don’t have to take X seriously, all X is crazy and stupid. Likewise, dead abstract babies is a tragedy, albeit a comfortable one, one that is removed from me as an abstraction. My wife is pregnant with our first child, and we are pro-life, and we want this child, but doing a little thought exercise here. Suppose we weren’t trying to have a baby, suppose it happened and my wife wanted it to unhappen? Or lets say we lived in Communist China and this was our second child? I damn well wouldn’t be content to say a rosary outside PP and hope for the best! I know the humanity of my child, I’ve felt her move, I’ve seen her heart beat, she is REAL dammit. Not an abstract idea, but my own flesh and blood. I would never take any violent action against PP or it’s employees…not only is it immoral to do so, but I don’t care enough to do so, it’s not real to me, not really. But if it were MY child being pulled apart or burned from the inside out….well that’s another story.

    We can break out of this walking death of abstraction in two ways, a philosophical understanding of the unique personhood of each and every human being (a virtual impossibly for fallen man), or by becoming a saint and doing the same thing by Grace.

    Mother Theresa did not love the poor. She loved thousands, hundreds of thousands, of poor people. She didn’t look at poor people as an abstraction, she saw each poor person as a child of God. Maximilian Kolbe didn’t care about “the Jews”, he cared about each and every Jew in Auschwitz, as he saw them for what they were, Children of God. While trying to force pornographic images out of my head in times of temptation, I often try to imagine the women wearing crowns and dressed in white gowns, for they are children of God, the King of Heaven, and that makes them princesses of Heaven. I think this is how saints view everyone, I wish I could as well. Then I would not see abstractions, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, liberals and conservatives, but Children of God, all lost to some degree in the woods, waiting for a shepherd to bring them home.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      Mother Theresa did not love the poor. She loved thousands, hundreds of thousands, of poor people.

      Which is why she refused to give the palliative care, and used the vast fortune donated to her to build convents instead.


      • Fabius

        she sure did, also fulfilling the Christian duty to give to God and to make fine things for God. Which incidentally serve as great long-term investments for the good of the church, and ultimately the poor that the Church will continue to serve.

        As Chesterton put it, the Medieval Cathedrals still stand in Europe even as Europe is less and less Christian, thus fulfilling Christ’s words that “even if they were silent, the very stones would cry out for me.” (off the top of my head).

      • Alexandra

        Timothy, I’m an atheist but I grew up Catholic. I was always so confused as to why the secular world seemed to adore Mother Teresa so much. Catholics knew what she was doing and admired her for it, but I mean objectively it’s pretty awful and I couldn’t get why non-Catholics liked her. She was a true Catholic, and it wasn’t until Hitchen’s told atheists that they really realized how sick her really Catholic mission was.

        That was one of my biggest surprises in starting to read atheist literature. I found out that non-Catholics didn’t actually know what it was that Mother Teresa did. It all suddenly made so much sense.

        • lakingscrzy

          All of your posts make so much sense to me now.

          • Alexandra

            How’s that? Did you not realize I was an atheist? Or that I was a cradle Catholic?

          • lakingscrzy

            Atheist I knew no doubt, cradle catholic does add a lot of context to your posts as well. Can’t say I haven’t seen it before.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            I assume you mean “I understand your motives now” because Alexandra never makes sense.

            Being that holier-than-thou is complete insanity when one believes nothing is holy.

          • Alexandra

            Oh Sophie, you make me laugh.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            Get my name right, Alexander, it’s Sophia’s Favorite.

        • Sophias_Favorite

          You are aware that pretty much every one of Hitchens’ accusations against Mother Teresa has been debunked, right?

      • musiciangirl591

        her and her sisters served the poor…

        • lakingscrzy

          But they didn’t serve them the way other people retrospectively wanted, so apparently everything they did is moot. I guess relativism only counts when somebody is trying to justify their own convictions.

          • Tally Marx

            Am I the only one who has found that those who criticize her most never serve the poor, either?

          • Musiciangirl591

            i know a couple of priests who met her, they said that she was so full of joy and happiness, along with her sisters, no sadness going about their missions, just joy for serving Calcutta’s poorest of the poor

      • Tally Marx

        Yep, she and her sisters are total fakes and the people of Calcutta despised her. That’s why countless Indian girls ask if Hinduus can become nuns…

      • Maryann

        Christopher Hitchens strikes again. I do hope he somehow had converted and repented before he died and God he had been so ready to offend had mercy on him. This argument, though, pre-dates Hitchens, as it originated with Judas, when he questioned why the money spent on fragrant oil with which Mary was anointing Jesus’ feet was not given to the poor, instead. (John, 12:4-6) (Bishop Sheen spoke on that at
        Conference # 10 for the Priests of the Archdiocese of Washington). Have you read anything of what Mother Theresa wrote? Or anything more reliable then Hitchens about her?

        • Alexandra

          It’s not just Hitchens. I had a class in high school called “Women of Faith” and we spent a month reading and talking about her. It was a fantastic class actually. We talked about Sr. Helen Prejean, Rigoberta Menchu, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa. The first two I still admire as amazing women, the second two not so much.

          For me, learning about Mother Teresa in that depth and learning about how much she was a true Catholic was part of what really solidified for me that the Church was not something I was proud to be associated with.

          You can dislike Mother Teresa without Hitchens help.

          • Musiciangirl591

            true Catholic? compared to false Catholic? she was an amazing woman who didn’t feel the presence of God for 50 years (dark night of the soul) but still served Him in her daily life

          • Alexandra

            I’m impressed by your awareness of the importance of word choice. You’re correct, it is important to consider the way that people will interpret, and be affected by your words.

            I apologize, I didn’t mean to imply there are false Catholics. I meant that she was a true model I what it is to be a Catholic.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            Whereas Nietzsche is the only true model of what it is to be an atheist.

            Seriously, why are you bitching about (Hitchens’ lies about) Mother Teresa’s morals? There are no morals.

          • Alexandra

            I learned about Mother Teresa at a Catholic school. I disliked the work that Mother Teresa did before I’d even heard of Hitchens.

            Also what lies? I’ve never actually read any of Hitchens’s work about Mother Teresa, but you don’t have to lie about what it was she did to be really confused as to why people hold her up as a symbol of what it is to be compassionate.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            “Bathing lepers” isn’t compassionate?

            Are you actually familiar with what she did in Calcutta? Some other commenter accused her of not providing “palliative” care—that is, care to ease the suffering of the terminally ill. Which, uh, no, is pretty much all she did.

            What work did you dislike? Teaching Untouchables to read? Taking in girl babies that were abandoned in the jungle? Having the money for her Nobel Peace Prize party donated to the poor?

      • Sophias_Favorite

        What in shit are you talking about? They gave lots and lots of palliative care.

        Meanwhile, we have a huge dearth of nurses to do it. Maybe we should’ve built some convents.

        • Phil Marmen

          You know, Sophias_Favorite, I’m embarrassed to be associated with you. You might be the least charitable “practicing Catholic” I’ve ever encountered. I’ve read a lot of your posts and your attitude, tone, choice of words and insulting mentality all contribute to building an image of the kind of person who gives the rest of us damage control to do. I understand that you’re opinionated and may feel gratification by being oustpoken, but your maturity is roughly that of a 14 year old bully who thinks that insults add weight to statements. What I’m saying is that you’re a bloody mess. You would do well to deactivate your account, grow up a bit and learn to speak like an adult before considering representing Christianity as a whole, the Church and Jesus Christ.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            And you come off like a decrepit maiden aunt who faints away with a case of the vapors when people raise their voices a little.

            You would do well to mind your own damn business. “Charitable” does not mean “courteous to people who have no right to it”. It means “willing the good of the other party”, and correction of the ignorant, possibly by harsh means, is a part of that. At the very least, the open affronts these trolls offer do not go without rebuttal.

            I concede I sometimes go too far, and if you’d actually been reading my posts, you’d have seen me apologizing for it. But I will stop treating atheists like the idiots they are when they stop condescending to people who not only know more science than they do (I write hard science fiction), I (unlike them) also know philosophy.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sean.flynn.90663 Sean Flynn

            If you’re talking to the Phil Marmen that I know, I assure you he does not suffer from the vapors. He’s a quite joyful and philosophically sound Catholic young man who converted to our beloved faith in his late teens from protestantism. We would be much better off with a lot more Phil Marmen’s out there. I don’t know you, Sophia’s Favorite, but I’m pretty sure we don’t need more people going on the internet and telling atheists to “shove it up your ass and die.” Although I am subject to the same temptation, I have received the grace not to say it.

      • Sophias_Favorite

        Mother Teresa and her order gave more palliative care, and helped more poor people, than you or Hitchens combined, so…

        Shove it up your ass and die, really, I guess.

    • Escalonn

      Thank you for this comment.

    • lakingscrzy
  • Clare Marie Joyce

    I understand what you’re saying here, and yet, it still scares me to read you articulate it. I’ve experienced that apathy that you speak of, though I am by nature, a very passionate person. However, being in a large university setting, I am surrounded by my apathetic peers who cannot understand why they should care about these issues. It frightens me, because I do honestly care so much, to see those who could not be bothered to step outside of their superficial bubbles they create for their lives.

    As for you working this out, that’s ok. Aren’t we all?

  • Edge

    The problem is that we as Catholics, Pro-lifers, one man/one woman=marriage supporters have fallen into the trap of using the enemy’s language – and words have meaning. Lets look at the terms we use like Pro-life, pro-choice, anti-choice, anti-life, etc. All of these terms accomplish the same goal of the enemy – they make it a disenfranchised “thing” that is always just out of touch or reach.

    Ask any one if they support Murder – and (unless the person you asked is a psychopath) the answer will be “NO”. So why do we call the cause a Pro-life cause? Let’s call it what it is – an attempt to stop MURDER – the MURDER of innocent children. We need to call everything what it is, not what the enemy wants us to call it. If all Catholics started to say they get bread and wine at communion, then NO-ONE within a generation would believe it was truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, even though it really is. (As you know many started to use those terms after VII and look around and one has to wonder how few still believe it today.) We call it the body and blood of our lord and savior because that is what it is (even if it has the appearance of bread and wine.)

    For thousands of years, those folks who displayed mental issues such as same sex attraction and cross dressers as having a disorder and therefore they could be treated for that disorder. Unfortunately for those suffering from this disorder today, the patients took over running the asylum and took those off the books as a disorder. The worst thing that society can do is to glorify a disordered behavior and call it normal. No one can fight this using the language of the enemy. We, like them call it same sex marriage or same sex unions when we attempt to state our disapproval or defend traditional marriage. We need to call it what it is the REAL terms of what it is, not use their terms – it is a mental disorder and needs to be called as such.

    We treat all kinds of disorders – kleptomania, alcoholism, attention deficit disorder, and so many more. Society is failing those who are suffering from the same sex disorder, and we are part of society. A disorder needs to be treated. We would not let a kleptomaniac celebrate his or her disorder of stealing. We treat attention deficit disorders, and all other types of disorders. It would be un-Christian to NOT help those who are suffering from a disorder. It would be cruel and sinful to let someone who has a drinking problem or drug addition to go unaided. Same sex attraction is just as deadly to the soul of the one whom suffers from it and harmful to those around them and also needs treated.

    History proves that every civilization that embraced these disorders as normal soon ceased to exist. Society needs to call this what it is – WE need to call it what it is – a mental disorder and those who suffer from it need love and help if they have any chance at overcoming it, living with the cross they must bear. When we use the language of the enemy, those suffering have no reason overcome their disorder because they have been told (and are reaffirmed by EVERYONE using the wrong term) because they are led to believe that their disorder is not a disorder – that it is something that is normal. Even if 90 percent of the population calls it normal (and they do by not calling it a disorder) it does not change how God views it.

    The issue is that we have accepted the terms society has laid out for us. We walk on egg shells using the language that we are told we can use, failing to call things what they are. Speak loud (but respectfully), speak often (in person, in blogs, in com-boxes, in emails, etc) calling things what they are – just like Christ did – we need to stop pulling the punches – speaking the TRUTH – or we have already lost.

    • Alexandra

      If you keep calling homosexuality a disorder, no one in the opposition is going to listen to you. It reveals your ignorance of what a psychiatric disorder is and makes you sounds like you are clinging to archaic understandings that have been shown to be incorrect and discriminatory. It’s an immediate turn off.

      • Edge

        Keep saying it is not and those suffering from it will not ever get the help they need. I know the truth can be hard to accept when it goes against what a person “desires”. Those “Cured” of the disorder have sided with the TRUTH and now live happy and fulfilled lives according to God’s Plan, not their own or Satan’s. The disorder can be seen in the action of those who suffer from it by the child like and violent temper tantrums they throw when they are faced with the truth. (Much like many of those who support the murder of innocent babies attack, spit on and scream at those at the pro-life demonstrations.) Remember, the atheist will say to a believer in Christ “you are clinging to archaic understandings that have been shown to be incorrect and discriminatory”. Sadly, the atheist is just as wrong as you are in “your” understanding. The church, History, and Natural Law all state that homosexuality a disorder.

        • Alexandra

          Yeah, but Church and the Catholic version of Natural Law aren’t science, and you have to recognize that science trumps faith in the secular world.

          You call it a disorder and people immediately stop listening. When you say that homosexuality is a disorder and that they only reason that we don’t believe it is anymore is because we no longer classify it as so medically, it just brings to mind the fact that female sexuality used to be classified as a mental disorder. They called it hysteria.

          There’s a subtle difference between calling it a disorder and calling it disordered as Belle mentioned above. Secular folks tend to find both abhorrent, but disordered is at least an opinion, and one that the Church teachers, while disorder is a flat out lie.

        • Korou

          Well, psychologists all agree that homosexuality is not a disorder, and they can give very good reasons for why they say that.

          The Church is worth listening to if it says reasonable things.

          Saying that History says homosexuality is a disorder only means that people thought it was wrong for a very long time, but that’s only a good argument if they had good reasons for thinking it.

          And Natural Law doesn’t say that homosexuality is a disorder; many scientists believe that it actually serves a useful evolutionary function, which would explain why there are plenty of examples of homosexuality in other animals.

      • Belle

        Actually I partly agree with that, calling homosexuality a disorder without explaining further can turn people off. When typing you have to keep in mind how people will perceive your words, especially online where you don’t have tone, voice, or a face to speak for you.

        (I’m not completely agreeing though, because homosexuality is disordered.)

        • Alexandra

          I agree Belle. The difference between being a disorder vs being disordered is subtle but important. I disagree with both of them, but one I can have some tolerance for, the other is just a lie.

          • Sullymom13

            You are a science girl! Awesome. So lets go, survival of the fittest…would it be GOOD for a species if it stopped procreating naturally because they figured out that coupling with the same sex was just better? Would it be GOOD for a species if it aborted it’s own young? Were all just animals RIGHT? So what is wrong with our Species? We have the “advanced” brain…don’t we? We could really learn from Science…nature…OR, we could embrace the FACT that the “Religion” you so detest, has those very same “natural laws” spelled out quite clearly. I would like for you to take a look at the commandments, the beatitudes, and tell me how if WE ALL followed them we would not be living in a better world.

      • Sophias_Favorite

        The guy responsible for having it removed from the list of psychological disorders (there is no such thing as a psychiatric disorder) now thinks it is a disorder, a maladaptive coping method for childhood sexual abuse.

        You’re revealing your ignorance.

    • Sam

      Same sex attraction is NOT a mental disorder you like you seem to be indicating. It is disordered like any other sexual act outside of the sexual union of man and wife. It is not a mental illness to be attracted to the same sex just like it is not a mental illness to be attracted to someone you are not married to. We are all at least somewhat broken sexually because of Original Sin, doesn’t mean we are all mentally ill.

      • Viterbo Fangirl

        With respect, Sam, regarding your statement “[SSA] is disordered like any other sexual act outside of the sexual union of man and wife”, I believe a clarification of terms might be helpful. Spiritually speaking, it might be described as “disordered” as it is a display of concupiscence common to all after the fall of Adam. However, on the natural level, the term “disordered” cannot be so universally applied.

        Being attracted to someone you are not married to might be a display of post-fall concupiscence, but it is still compatible with the natural necessity of continuing the human race. Same-sex attraction is to be considered a disorder because unlike heterosexual attraction (even in the latter’s post-fall form) it cannot be compatible with human reproduction, a.k.a. the primary physical purpose of intercourse. Homosexual actions and activities not only violate chastity and the sanctity of the marital act but also violate natural law due to the incompatibility of the action with the purpose of the human anatomy. Therefore homosexual activity is both illicit and fundamentally disordered.

        • Sam

          Thank you Viterbo for the clarification. After writing that I thought, “Er, that didn’t come out right.” My point was that homosexuality is not the only way that human sexuality can be disordered. Wouldn’t masturbation and contraceptive sex be considered disordered because they violate the function of human anatomy? I accept that homosexuality is fundamentally disordered and heterosexuality is not (again, thanks for clarifying that because I didn’t intentionally want to say that), but we are all capable of sinning against our God given sexuality. Regardless, neither homosexuality nor the sins of heterosexuals (with exception) are mental disorders and should not be dealt with in the same way.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      Murder is a legal term, not a moral one. Abortion is not murder. This is a simple fact. Calling abortion murder is quite simply factually wrong.

      You might say that abortion is morally equivalent to murder. There I would disagree with you, but that’s a moral question.


      • Edge

        Timothy, you say abortion is NOT murder???, and calling abortion murder is factually wrong??? Here is the definition of murder:

        murder |ˈmərdər|
        the premeditated killing of one human being by another

        Murder is both a legal and a moral term – (think “Thou shall not kill” – as the true translation from the original text is rendered as “Thou shall not murder”). Our nations laws are originally based on the moral laws.

        So lets see – a mother and doctor conspire (premeditate) the end of the life of a child (killing it and stopping the beating of the child’s heart) – YUP Abortion meets the VERY definition of Murder.

        Don’t get me wrong, the poor mother is also a victim, but the MURDER of the child is still a FACT!!

      • Gigalith

        By this same standard, no tyrant in history has ever been a mass murderer, for being the source of law in his country broke none.

        Words do not exist on a perfectly neutral spectrum that mean exactly what they mean and nothing else, nor would we use such a empty language if we had one. Murder means murder, and there is no more point in trying to returning to some pure, original legal term, for such a term never existed, and never will, not even in a court of law. Language is for communication, and words ought to be judged by their success in doing so, and their truth, not in scoring points on some arbitrary standard. To do so twists the use of language beyond anything actually used in day-to-day life, and reduces communication to a pointless game.

      • Sullymom13

        It saddens me that you are so jaded. I encourage you to volunteer at your local Planned Parenthood and be the one who has to “reassemble” the “Abortion” to make sure all the pieces came out. Then go home and kiss your mother and thank her for “choosing life”.

      • Ceitagh

        So, by the same reason it wasn’t assault when slave owners whipped their slaves, it wasn’t infanticide when romans exposed their children to the elements, it wasn’t murder when the nazis gassed jewish men, women and children, and it isn’t child exploitation or sexual assault when children are married to older men in nations where that is legal?

        I’m glad I don’t have to live in your head.

        That’s a pretty great illustration of the problem with abstractions that Marc is trying to address though – it is inherently dehumanizing. All playing with words, and no heart.

  • Elmtree01

    There was a powerful scene in the Passion, when Mary was trying to follow Christ and just was overwhelmed. She stopped, almost disoriented and stunned by the great injustice and violence very personally before her, and said “I can’t.” And John tried to convince her to go on– then Jesus fell and she ran to him, because he was her little boy.

    I think some of us feel as ” she did” in that scene. There is so much horror, and we’re stunned. As we should be, if we have hearts.

    • Corita

      That is a powerful scene. It also illustrates the humanity of Jesus, and how that relationship between them is something we can easily understand. Remember after she rushes to his side, He looks up at her and says, “See, Mother, I make all things new!” Just like a child showing an accomplishment to Mom, and wanting her to show her pride in him.

  • Alena

    These past two posts really hit home for me. I’ve been active in the pro-life movement for over a year, and most of the time I just feel apathetic. I have to guilt-trip myself into sidewalk counseling, running events, etc. Most of the time I just want to quit. I constantly wonder what’s wrong with me – I should care, but deep down, I don’t. I don’t really know how to change this; I suppose I’m working this out right now too.

    I wish I could be more like St. Paul, uncontrollable in his zeal for souls, for the true, the good, the beautiful. But I’d rather stay at home and pretend the world doesn’t need changing.

    At any rate, thanks for your insight, and I look forward to following your thoughts on this.

    • Drina

      Alena -

      You may not FEEL like you care, but I think that the very fact that you keep working is evidence that you do care.

  • Denise

    Marc, thanks for the posts. As always never boring and very thought provoking.

    I am Catholic. I am a homeschooling mom of 8 children and I work outside the home simply because I like to have the bills paid. I am a graduate of Franciscan University. I am neither bored nor indifferent. I am passionate about these issues, but not merely because I am a homeschooling mom who had, in my humble opinion, the privilege of being educated by some of the best professors in the country if not the world. I am passionate because I know the stories of girls who sought abortions, were sexually mistreated, lied to, not protected or cared for by the adults in society, and therefore do not know their own self worth and continue to look for love in all the wrong places. This is where the abstraction becomes a reality. In nice words I am angry about this; I won’t say what is really on my mind. And I am disgusted that this is the result of a very sick and wrong culture that claims to know everything about sex and the rights of people. A culture that is oblivious that there even is a malaise to begin with, and therefore can’t even begin looking for the cure. I do not want any girl to have this kind of life and I sure as hell don’t want my kids to get caught up in the abstractions and slogans of the other side that our culture is immersed in. I want my children to be happy (as happy as a person can be in a world they are not made for), well adjusted, and ultimately to go to heaven. So everything I do I try to keep that goal in mind, and no matter how small or insignificant it may be it is definitely not done with boredom or indifference but with passion.

    It seems to me, those who are passionate about the culture wars have some experience in the reality of the other side. I am thinking of the Alveda Kings and Abby Johnsons who have seen the reality of abortion. Although, I certainly do not share their same experiences I do understand them, and I tend to be more interested in what they have to say than some other very good and well intentioned people who are pro-life.

    • Denise

      I should have been clear in saying this comment wasn’t directed at Marc’s post as much as it was an affirmation of Mary’s post in response to part 1. I understand her and doubt her anger stems from boredom with her family which can be satisfied with some kind of intellectualism.
      As long as the pro-life movement remains just ideas and slogans it will not be effective. It must be personal for persons to relate, and for mothers things like the HHS mandate, gay marriage in the schools, attacks on the church and do on are all personal.

      • Denise

        I meant so on

    • new momma

      Thank you for your comment. However, I’m interested to know, how do you manage to homeschool 8 children and work outside the home as well? I ask simply because I am a newlywed with my first child on the way and my husband and I are interested in homeschooling, but there is a need for me to have a job outside the home. Just curious how other mom’s manage to work and raise their families and do a great job when so many people seem to be telling me that I can’t work and it would be bad for my family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501021941 Hannah Russell

    I appreciate your willingness to accept the fact that you might not have hit the nail on the head with this. Something about it seems off… but I’m not sure what. If I understand you right, you want to explain two things. First, you want to explain why people on one side of an argument cannot seem to sway the people on the other side of the argument to their point of view. And two, you want to explain why no one seems to care that much about their own point of view. Your answer for both is that we have come to see our points of view as mere abstractions. You also seem to use the second problem (no one cares) to answer the first, i.e. no one can sway anyone to their side because they don’t care enough.

    Those are two separate but related problems. As for the first, I think there are many reasons why people can’t persuade others to their point of view. Two of those reasons might be the ones you propose: because they don’t care enough and because all the various sides are only viewed as abstractions now. But I think there may be other reasons. For instance, people have real reasons for the choices they make and it’s not always easy to talk people out of those reasons. I’ve been in debates where neither side wants to budge. That can be discouraging. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like it’s worth the fight. I think there are other reasons, too. It might have to do with tone of voice and choice of words. Sometimes the other person needs to convert first. I think it also has to do with the way we traditionally resolve problems in America. We tend to rely on legislation and long, slow debates instead of physical, public displays of disagreement. In the Middle East, burning cars in the streets is considered normal because it’s become a part of their culture. Here, we smile at our neighbors and vote against them at election time. It’s a matter of custom.

    As for the second problem of not caring, I don’t think everyone is apathetic. Some people don’t care, but those people don’t tend to take sides. I think the people who take sides do care deeply. However, there are many reasons, again, why they either don’t fight as hard as they could/should and don’t always win people to their side when they do fight. Many of those reasons are the ones I’ve already listed.

    In short, I think the problems you see are real, but the explanation you propose doesn’t quite cover it.

  • Gwenny

    Thanks for posting this. I probably could have more easily identified with your original post three years ago. Now, I truly am terrified for my children and the world into which they have been born. My husband and I have been given an incredible burden – how do we raise Christians in this America? I’m very afraid. Pray for young families, Marc.

  • John

    Isn’t some degree of relativism necessary in order to live peaceably in a diverse society?

    • Gigalith

      Is this actually true, or only relatively true?

      • John

        I think that what I mean is that this kind of moral detachment may be somewhat necessary for Americans. How else does a vegan live next door to a man with a barbecue grill without killing him, or a Catholic next door to an atheist rotor begging him to join him at Mass each week? It may be much less pronounced in other countries.

        Also, I think the amount of the we spend indoors contributes to dissociation.

        • John

          *without, not rotor. :P

  • Mary

    You are right that having kids makes this fight very REAL. This is true, especially when I witness my brother, sister, & my young nieces & nephews being led astray by dangerous feel good relativism. People in this age are addicted to being emotionaly entertained. They leave the Catholic church for a more “exciting” way to “find God”, where they can worship while they drink their favorite latte & listen to covers of Mumford & Sons (my nephew was very psyched by that). I mean, what’s more attractive, honestly confessing your uncomfortable sins & listening to the same prayers over and over, or kickin’ back rockin to music & sipping on your fav caramel latte?When I asked my 46 yr old bro, “But don’t you miss recieving the Holy Eucharist??”His answer was, “A little…but not that much.” Yes, in this “what’s in it for me?” culture, something is terribly, terribly wrong.

    I think that for some, these noble causes can’t not be abstactions. Many have not had the life experiences to understand fully what it is they are really fighting for. But, that doesn’t mean the goal is any less worthy. Some may not know how ( or are afraid) to counsel a young scared pregnant teen girl or write eloquent essays, but they know how to hold a sign, shout, & pray. Some join a cause because it gives them an identity, & they can finally say they are something & worthy to make a difference.

    When my 3 friends and our 9 small children marched & prayed at the new state of the art (largest in country, I think) 14 million dollar Planned Parenthood this Good Friday, I wanted to believe that those so called “health care” workers looking down out their windows saw us loving mothers & precious children & thought twice about what they are doing. But in reality, I know most probably had discusted mocking thoughts like, “look at those poor misinformed ignorant women indoctrinating their innocent young children.” (or something similar).

    Despite the challenges, it helps to know that no prayer is EVER wasted by our merciful & compassionate Lord. I may never know if any one’s heart was changed for the better that day, but God knows. And my job is to trust that He knows what he is doing. I think of Abby Johnson & of how what ultimately changed her heart was watching those committed, loving, humble sidewalk prayer warriors come year after year. That story & others like it give me courage to remember that God changes darkened souls one heart at a time & that His time is nothing at all like our time.

    “And let us run with perseverance the race marked for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” ~Hebrews 12 1-2

  • http://www.2catholicmen.blogspot.com/ Ben of Two Men

    “All truth is relative”: For this to be true, it must also be something relative, which by definition, cannot be universally true. Right?

    • Cal-J

      All truth is absolutely relative. Duh.

  • Fabius

    I’m noticing an interesting breakdown of commentators from people who seem to be young (often unattached) and agree with Marc, while older or married commentators (with children) avow their passionate attachment to things. Which makes a ton of sense.

    Walker Percy has this as a pretty strong theme, his protagonists struggle with malaise and detachment from reality, passion, caring, the “real” world. Often they practically “need” to sin, just to feel something human. They generally find what they’re looking for through family and finding something they need outside of themselves, even if that doesn’t mean any sort of immediate happiness, but contenting purpose.

    Us younger folks who haven’t rooted ourselves yet are going to struggle more with the atomistic individualism and abstraction of the world.

    • Rachel

      Agreed. This is why Binx is so much better off at the end of The Moviegoer, when he’s married.

      • Fabius

        Just finished reading it last week actually. It was on my mind.

        In response to Corita, I agree as well, especially the problem with fewer local community associations to bond around. I do some work with the Right to Life Movement, the whole chapter structure is basically a throwback (still very very effective) to that whole notion.

    • Corita

      As an “older, married” person I look back on my life and on history and agree as well. Furthermore, I see a lack of opportunities to be attached, to act meaningfully, in this age (not just your generation but for many now, at least from the children of the Baby Boomers onward?).

      There are fewer communities of meaning and belonging (Jody Bottum has written a lot about this) with few-to-no younger members. Think Kiwanis, Neighborhood Improvement Societies and the like. Even the Boy Scouts or 4H are becoming something strange that “those” people do– if they even exist anywhere outside of the Heartland.

      Since young people do not marry until ten or more years later than they used to, the problem persists much longer, too.

      Is the solution to make meaningful work and integrity the focus of *all* our lives, not just “adulthood”?

  • Jmsteve4

    I felt really stupid for not getting the last one,. but now I thi k I do. It’s Like Brothers Karamazov (forgive me I don’t have it on me to quote): It’s so easy to love thy neighbors, but individual people can just be so hard to love!

    • Jmsteve4

      Alas my sleep deprivation… I apologize for errors in punctuation and grammar.

    • RTB

      One of my favorite passages from that book: “I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

  • Votipkaa

    This sounds oddly like Chesterton’s Heretics

  • Bg4190

    Wow, there is a lot going on here that I am still trying to wrap my brain around. I’m looking forward to this “light” at the end of which you speak. Also, I hope you’re still studying philosophy. The world needs more good thinkers.

  • musiciangirl591

    marc, write a book please :)

    • Cal-J

      Heck, just collect and publish a couple dozen of these posts.

      • Musiciangirl591

        i’d buy it, to support a fellow college student

  • MrsF

    My husband is retraining himself for the greater good of a cause that he feels very strongly–or he would be marching to the rescue. I think he gets it, but in restraining his desire, he does settle back a little into relativism. Oh, what are we to do?

  • http://www.facebook.com/balf11 Brian Formica

    I may agree with another commenter that we’re only looking at part of the problem, hence we’re striving with great difficulty for a conclusion. Someone else brought up the power of words, and I think the abundance of misnomers is contributing heavily to the devaluing of beliefs/ideas/causes (hm, which word is most right) that Marc is writing about.

    I don’t claim to have THE answer. But I’d like to throw my part in, in hopes that maybe amidst the multitude of comments someone may find it.

    This age may be trying to empty everything of meaning (so speaketh SK), but that doesn’t mean these things actually are without meaning. As others have said already, the “pro-life movement” is not without meaning or results. The going may be slow, but it is still going.

    We talk too much (guess I’m a bad Catholic too, call me a hypocrite and convict me of talking too much). Lives of action have so much more meaning. Please, not the burning cars action. More like the Mother Theresa or JPII action. As one of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly, writes: “Live the authentic life”. Don’t be afraid to suffer and bleed for what you believe in. Live the truth, no matter the cost.

  • finishstrongdoc

    To me, it’s a matter of Barbarism v. Civilization. Barbarism produces nothing; it vandalizes civilizations and moves on….progressively. Civilization stabilizes and grows, it produces and consumes its own produce.

    It is often noted in history that civilizations will pay tribute to Barbarians, in hopes they will move on to vandalize weaker civilizations. The tribute to Barbarism has a moral hazard attached to it, one that progressively eats up the humanity of humankind.

    We are our either brother’s keeper or we are ruled by Barbarians. Only by the conversion of Barbarians to the civilizing notions of the Gospel can the world be saved from being ruled by Barbarians.

    There is no expiration date on the Commission of the Twelve Apostles.

  • Call_mart1

    I just wanted to say how I love this line: “The world is currently in the habit of using philosophy to justify pre-existing ideas, rather than letting philosophy kick their asses and force them to change.” I am reminded of Diogenes. We should be like him, not to imitate his ways (otherwise we’d be in a moral-pickle) but the way in which he used philosophy in order to flog society and its norms, its abstractions as it were. The way he fought against the world, was not in abstraction but by abstracting from abstractions and making them a reality. He lived what he believed.

    If Diogenes was a tip-top Catholic living today, and he was fighting in opposition of abortion; he wouldn’t be arguing for a right- the right to life over choice. He’d draw people in by way of witty, symbolic action complimented by words. What would that be? I don’t exactly know to be quite honest. Yet I think of Jesus and ask if the issue of abortion was presented to Him 2000yrs ago, what would he do about it? Surely he’d use abstraction, but he’d bring such abstraction down from the whimsical clouds and give it real almost tangible meaning.

  • Anna Ahlbin

    What intrigues me about you, is that you manage to wrestle ideas into something seemingly concrete. These things you write about, they’re things that I “think” somewhere deep inside me – somewhere “abstract” (as you so eloquently put it). I recognize that these ideas make me feel inadequate as a Christian or an activist, yet they are abstract enough to keep me from real change or action. I think I am going to read these posts 4 or 5 more times, and pray that the fire lights under my arse.

  • Bugd

    Note this was originally a reply @Alena but thought it would serve a better purpose as a separate post.

    Maybe you could consider that as a human with a fallen human nature that we are indifferent to good and inclined to evil? That faith in itself isn’t a feeling of uncontrollable zeal (though I’m sure you will roll out of bed and feel that way, and the opposite is true).

    Since previous posts spoke of Blessed Mother Teresa…would it interest anyone that she experienced what is known as the ‘dark night of the soul’? Often she questioned her motives, sometimes even forced herself to continue on without feelings of zeal and enthusiasm…it was an ardent Faith that kept her going. It was said that in her final week upon this earth that her character changed…she was bubbly and full of vitality…maybe a slice of joy that we will experience in heaven.

    For the time being we should be content with the Faith we have as it truly is a gift from God. Fight the good fight! It is not only against evil that we fight but a war rages on within our very bodies (sloth, indfference, pride etc…the path is narrow and treacherous…but what lies at the end is beyond anything we can comprehend). Let us not relate feeling to any sort of yard stick to measure our progress. We have further our Blessed Mother who had ardent Faith (the greatest of us!) but she experienced sorrow at the foot of the Cross. Our Lord fighting the fight for us and bursting the gates of hell went through Agony insurmountable to our own comprehension as they are mysteries, though of course we can attain some understanding. Our earthly lives will be filled with all of this, it is not until we reach heaven that are Faith turns into reality! That our joy abounds when we see God face-to-face! Though this is not to say that we can have no joy here at all…of course our earthly lives prepare us for heaven and so God may gives us a gift, a foretaste of the joy to be lived in heaven along our path here (cf. previous paragraph of Blessed Mother Teresa).

    Often we sit down and look at our own situation and still are not content, though a good reflection on the thousands of graces and gifts bestowed on us by Our Lord, by keeping faithful to His commandments for love of Him and love of neighbour….striving through thick and thin to desire holiness all for the simplest of all motives…for the honour and glory of God, from the simplest action to the greatest action in our days in whatever vocation our Lord has desired us to fulfill.

    As for abstractions, Marc there is truth there that we are all to able to group people and slap a sticker over there foreheads and trundle along our merry way. Though, of course in your part 1 you included Christanity (maybe the label I hope) as an abstraction. It is not an abstraction if it is lived and breathed. Often I ask the question what is it to be human maybe it is to be Christian maybe? further to be like God? Thus, we have Christ as our example. I guess the move from an abstraction to one that is lived, regardless of feeling turns it into a reality.

    I’m sorry if my post seems disjointed but just a few things that kept springing to mind and then again, I am ignorant and my dullness knows no bounds. I pray that this post leads no one astray in anyway as I myself am still looking at the path ahead and trying to discern my first step. May the light of Grace guide us all.

    God love you :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    It’s not abstractions that lead to relativism. Abstractions are much too certain and real for the relativist – because abstract things, like math, are real. Relativists don’t go for (abstract and defined) philosophy, because it takes thought. Relativists want to “feel good” and that’s all they’re about. Relativists define themselves by causes of LIKE things – they like to make camps. To identify themselves in parties, which are at once narrow and broad. “Democrat – he who hates Republicans” is a definition by negation, which is the most non-definitive sort of definition you can have. It is even a fallacy. But Parties, camps, activists, fascists, all sorts of Postmodern types don’t care. The problem is that they don’t have CREEDS – they have CONVENTIONS. Creeds are good. They are precise – they are definitive. Creeds – well, just read Chesterton, I guess. Also, I recommend Gene Edward Veith, Jr.’s “Postmodern Times” for a quick summary of relativism. Just read it for school, it’s pretty good.

    But what am I doing? Ha! Sitting at a computer. I hope this does some good, because I’m not seeming to do any now…

  • Corita

    Dear Marc,
    I want to offer some pieces of thoughts that might fit in the puzzle you are working on. Take what you like and leave the rest, as they say. Sorry if this turns out to be long.

    First, the urge to separate oneself in *whatever way* from the urgings of morality (however they speak to us) is not a by-product of a modern age, of “relativism” alone. Relativism is just the one that fits where history and culture have been for this last little while.

    You might already know about this concept but I will throw it out: a little-remembered vice called acedia that means a spiritual laziness, or lack of arousal. One knows there is something to be done, even desires it, but does not do it. Or attempt to. It might be thought of as a spiritual version of depression, if one considers the soul able to become sickened in a real way the same as the body is in long-term depression. (Poet Kathleen Norris made this explicit simile in her memoir, Acedia and Me, which is difficult to read (very unstructured, pacing is almost sad) but has some useful history and roundabout meditation in it. Anyway, putting a name to it reminds us that the problem has always been around. However it manifests.

    I bring it up because I am of the opinion that relativism is one outcome of acedia; it is a way of codifying it into legitimacy, like a systematic version of that thing you (and most of us) do to make excuses and abstract a problem away from being so imminent as to demand action.

    Second, about “long posts that pull everything together”: Perhaps they facilitate–sometimes at least– the very abstraction you are trying to deal with, to keep at bay.

    The Christian belief demands, in my thinking, a constant striving to *be-with-integrity.*
    This fine tightrope has pits of materialism and abstraction (both are narcissistic) on each side. Writing about philosophy and faith are noble endeavors. But put words on page and they become fixed, somehow. Unless revived by being enacted by those who read them, they too can become themselves abstract. *This is especially so if the piece of writing attempts to explain something in full, from a one-person point of view.* A difficult endeavor partly because of what I mention last here.

    Only recently in my life have I realized that we can hardly get at the truth all by ourselves, AND that the life of faith is most fully lived by being present to each other, each moment here and now. Our love is best when we are, as you and others are saying, loving the *person* not the *condition*.

    I think this concept of acting morally, with charity toward each other, applies to searching for understanding, too. They are both acts of love. Our search for truth (individually and as a human race) will not end until the world is perfected again, until all things are brought together (whatever that will look like, however it happens). In a sense, then the only thing that is eternally concrete, neither pure materialism or pure abstraction, is how we are in relationship with each other and truth, and especially right now. So all of our interactions, each moment, are a way of accessing and enacting truth (like the sacraments are both sign and instrument of grace.)

    • lakingscrzy

      > But put words on page and they become fixed, somehow. Unless revived by being enacted by those who read them, they too can become themselves abstract.

      There is a lot to be said about this, hopefully Marc takes it on in another post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1125166276 John C. Wright

    “Mr. Wright claims that the only reason we don’t burn cars is because such an action wouldn’t help achieve The Goal. This seems to imply that we are suppressing our incendiary urges for the greater good. I’d hardly deny that it is better to work for the greater good — I simply deny that we are suppressing any urges.”

    The other possibility is that you are a finer and nobler soul than I am, and are not possessed of the continual urge to burn, slay, maim and destroy the enemies of life, reason, and heaven. I do possess such urges, and for Christ’s sake, I keep them in check, and also for the sake of logic.

    So “we” are not checking such urges because one of the two of us is not. Wrath is one of my besetting sins.

  • zac

    In your first post I thought you were going for a ‘contemptus mundi’ perspective. ie. Christians aren’t truly offended, don’t truly care, because through their faith they are fixed on a different horizon.
    But about halfway through I realised you think we should be offended, we ought to care more deeply, or to somehow demonstrate that care in more potent forms.

    I can see merit in your point about abstractions, presumably versus a more authentic human response, and I’m keen to see where you go with it.

    But I think we need to consider the realities of human nature, both the ‘fallen’ aspect and the nature itself.

    For example, I think it is ludicrous for the State to attempt to redefine marriage away from the natural institution. When I reflect on it, it is both laughable and sad, and daunting when I consider the philosophical divide implicit in such an attempt.
    But these feelings do not endure. For me to remain full of scorn, or to cultivate disgust, anger, or any other passion would be unnatural. If you find someone who is in a constant state of passion over these things, I would be concerned for their well-being. What is the ideal: love and peace that passes understanding? Or revolutionary zeal against the evils of the world.

    When it comes to abortion, we are not simply dealing with thousands of innocents being murdered every day; we are dealing with a society in which it has become normal for people to kill their unborn offspring, with State and (significant) public approval. When I think of it that way, my instinctive/natural response is not anger or the urge to do something – it’s dismay, astonishment, and sadness at the corruption of our societies and our cultures.

    But I don’t remain in a constant state of dismay, astonishment, or sadness; nor, I believe, are we supposed to.
    Perhaps this is just my personal disposition? Or maybe others might feel the same way.

    • Corita

      Yes. I think what keeps coming up is the dynamic of fixing one’s eyes on the horizon of Heaven – and all the “abstraction” that implies- AND the counterpart of being grounded in love here in the present.

      Sometimes I remember to think, “Oh, G-d is BOTH the Abstract, Unknowable AND the Complete Now, totally present in this exact moment. G-d is not living through the flatness of linear time, or coming into being strung out through a series of syllogisms. It is *we* who experience these things in such a disjointed manner, but not the Creator.

  • Nick

    Marc! “I can see clearly now the rain is gone…” as the song goes! It’s all so simple! What’s most important, in God’s eyes, is not the “We” and “They”… it’s the “I” and “You” (singular)! What counts most is the PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP between YOU (the masterpiece of God’s creation, formed out of Love in His Own image and likeness) and Him (God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who Loves YOU beyond any possible description, and wants to be with you forever!)!

    The next most important “I” and “You” are the PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS between you and the people in your life… to see these relationships as a simple reflection of The Relationship, and to imitate Christ’s Love through these relationships, and by doing so to bring this other person into a (deeper) Relationship with Christ.

    As a simple disciple of Christ, in humility, this is what you are called to, in addition to ordered submission to the legitimate authority of His Church.

  • Rmjloftus

    “But relativism is the natural conclusion of a world that serves abstractions instead of the human person.” Sums up most of the problems of this modern-ist world. Isn’t this
    activity the secular demiurge for all the monstrous “-isms” of the 20th century: Communism, Nazism, fascism, atheism; which as Kierkegaard stated left all the institutions standing but drained them of any moral consciousness. Perhaps Aristotle foresaw all this a long time ago in a world far, far away: “Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society”

  • Anne

    If our priests and bishops were being chopped in pieces and thrown in dumpsters everyday, what would we do? March once a year ? Yes, the babies are abstractions.

    • Sophias_Favorite

      Well, so were the daughters the Romans were exposing, and the slaves they were feeding to eels. You don’t fight an entrenched social convention the same way you fight a manifest direct attack.

  • Trace

    There is a lot of talk in the comments about convincing and converting people who live against the truth. While that is certainly an obligation of ours, I don’t think this is what Marc is talking about. I think he is asking why we don’t have the urge to stop them by whatever means necessary in their crimes against the innocent.

    Are we suffering from a more subtle, deep-down form of the very same relativism we have identified as the enemy of truth?

    I do know that this has messed up my cozy Saturday with two thoughts, 1) Oh Dear Sweet Lord, am I going to have to do something now? Something that may disturb my peaceful life and possibly land me in jail? And 2) Oh Dear Sweet Lord, am I now going to get to do something which may disturb my peaceful life and possibly land me in jail?

    Bad times are good times to become saints.

  • Here’s a Thought

    I don’t know when Relativism began (nor do I think it’s origin matters much – relativism matters now more so than times past because it’s popular, not new), but I do know that part of the reason it is so popular is it saves people from having to really stringently think about, and justify, their own beliefs.

    I also know it has changed the meaning of the word “true.” Actual truth claims are true because they always have been true, always will be true, and are true for everyone. Ernest Nagel (atheist scientist philosopher, for those who care) points this out quite nicely in a number of his writings, but this is more or less what they say (and it’s basic logic):

    Truth exists, we just don’t always have access to it.
    There’s no such thing as “true” for you and “not true” for me, or “true” before but not now, or will be “true” eventually – that’s misapplying the word to claims that are actually contingent, not true.
    When we encounter a situation where you and I “disagree” abut what’s true, either one of us is wrong, or both of us are wrong – if our claims contradict each other, they can’t both be true.

    Nagel uses a number of empirical claims to make his point (empirical truth claims are extremely tedious and qualified, because for them to be always true – i.e. true – they need a lot of context), and hesitates to apply this thinking to ethics, morality, spirituality, etc., because that’s where one starts saying that whole groups of people are living in a way that is totally untrue, less valid, wrong, and so forth. But he, like so many of us, should (we do, and he does, in a way – keep reading).

    The alternative to that (relativism) is the popular way of saying “different but equal,” and not having to actually deal with the fact that an individual still has to choose which “difference” is better (they will tack on better “for me,” so as not to offend, in the same way people will preface something they know will be offensive with “no offense”).

    So although relativism seems like a way out of having to acknowledge that not everyone can be equally right about things, it is actually more disingenuous than the alternative, because while an individual may preach the relativist mode, nobody actually lives “relatively.” E.g. Atheists are not atheists because they arbitrarily chose atheism out of other belief systems they hold to be “equally true.” Ditto for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and so on.

    And you don’t have to have kids for these philosophical abstractions to become real. Everyone makes thousands of decisions every day based on what they believe is actually true. If you don’t think that is true, then think about all the things you do NOT do in a day, and ask yourself why you don’t do them? Is it because they seem like an equally true and valid ways of spending your time? Or is it because there is only so much time in a day to do things, and you’re only going to spend your time doing what you actually believe is important, real, and true? If you don’t pray every day to God, is it because you think God is “true” for some people, but not for you?

    The mental gymnastics necessary to maintain a relativist standpoint become clear almost immediately once any real thought to it is given (isn’t the claim “everything is relative” an absolute one? “From my perspective, it is the Jedi who are evil.” and so forth), but if the word “true” can be reclaimed from its current misuse, then actually figuring things out may replace relativism as the preferred mode of public discourse.

    • Michelle Thuldanin

      I like to come back with, “I like setting fires. If it gives me great amounts of personal satisfaction and happiness to burn your house to the ground, can you blame me or say I am wrong?”

      • Alexandra

        What do you mean by that? Can you elaborate on why you say that and what you think it means?

        • Sophias_Favorite

          It means “you have no rational basis for your morality, stop trying to impose your quaint personal preferences on me.”

          It’s the appropriate response to all self-righteousness from atheists or others who deny transcendent realities, since they, uh, have no rational basis for their morality.

          • Here’s a Thought

            But to use that argument is precisely what grants the fire-starter the right to burn your house down. Their preference (often thought of as “truth”) against yours; who are you to tell them they’re wrong? As a relativist, you can’t, because all morality is relative to the individual. That’s what’s irrational.

            If you want to make the claim that they shouldn’t be allowed to burn your house down, you’re going to have to appeal to moral truth that exists beyond your quaint individual preferences and theirs – you’re going to have to appeal to something or someone whose authority is greater than yours or the arsonist’s.

            And in terms of whether or not Christianity is rational… there are plenty of rationalizations out there (some 2000 years worth – probably the most rationalized thing in existence). Until you can demonstrate the “irrationality” of Origen, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and even modern apologists like C.S Lewis, then you’re only fooling yourself.

            The rationale for Christianity is a abundant and available, but whether or not you decide to acknowledge it is up to you – free will and all.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            I’m Catholic. Indeed, a Thomist.

            Atheism, however, is either nihilist or stupid. Nietzsche made that case 120-odd years ago, and nobody’s refuted him yet. So did Dosoevsky. When those two guys agree on something, it bears looking into.

      • Here’s a Thought

        Yes, actually. That is basically a textbook example of what I was saying, and why relativism is bogus.

        Or are you in agreement?

  • Rachel

    I think abortion is a unique form of murder because in order to save the child, you must save the mother first. There’s no way to separate the two. And the only two ways to save the mother are either appealing to her reason and showing that abortion is murder or to show her love and understanding to give her the support she needs. The first way might possibly be achieved by marches and slogans if she takes the time to figure out what they’re all about, but really, it must be personal. The only way to end abortion is through personal, one on one interactions. This is the best way to explain and reason to someone, and the only way to show someone you love them.

    However, this also means that we as Christians have to stop avoiding “bad people” so we can meet the right people who need our help. We must be willing to be surrounded by sin without being stained by it. We can’t separate ourselves from the “bad” because we are “good.” It should be our pleasure to find them and discover the good in each and help cultivate it to grow.

    Once the mindset in the individuals are changed, then the laws of our country will follow. Until then, the laws cannot change, and even if they could, they would probably do little to end abortion. We need to make our focus on a smaller scope while keeping in mind the bigger picture.

    • Kristen indallas

      Yes! But also… know your strength and be careful, too. I was once young and pretty sure of myself, thought I could plop myself down in the middle of some pretty troubled sould and turn them all around. Bit off a bit more than I could chew and found myself in a big mess of my own (arrogant) making. The company we keep can affect us, especially the ones gifted with charm and strong ideas. Not saying we shouldn’t get in there, but bring a friend and start with the small fish until you know what you can handle.

  • Michelle Thuldanin

    Ah yes, this post makes a great deal more sense to me. I couldn’t take your quiz and couldn’t figure out why. I am a mother. I have the next 18 years to plan out for my son and I don’t want his girlfriend or (HOPEFULLY) wife to abort their children. I don’t want her, whoever she may be, to feel like she has to or it is the only way to get what she wants and needs in life. I want twenty years from now to watch her and my son’s eyes widen in horror as I describe what people thought was okay, normal and right when I was young. But I completely get you. They are called slacktivists because they think that liking something on facebook means that they did something to help. Yes, it starts the ball rolling, but it doesn’t DO anything. You may enjoy : http://blimeycow.com/2012/03/19/messy-mondays-you-are-not-an-activist/ I think of you, Marc, often when I watch these videos.

  • Alphonsus_Jr

    Everyone here needs to read Plinio Correa de Oliveira’s great book, Revolution and Counter-Revolution. It’s free here:


  • Jane Hartman

    Alexandra – atheist or cradle catholic? Much of the time, they are one and the same. And they don’t leave the church and let it accomplish its good, they hang around and infect it with relativistic opinion. These nasty opinions become stumbling blocks for many who want to live out their faith according to the church.

    • Alexandra

      Well that was unkind.

      You know this blog isn’t the Church right? I don’t attend church and try to de-convert people and that’s certainly not what I’m doing here either.

      You can call my opinions nasty, but you were kind of nasty in your post so I’d say we’re even. I make a point of not personally attacking people for their opinions here, and I appreciate when I’m called out for being unkind. I don’t feel like that’s what I did here, so I’m not going to apologize for sharing my opinions.

      • guest

        “I make a point of not personally attacking people for their opinions here” – I think you need to reread your comments on this blog. I recall many times you have attacked Marc.

        • Alexandra

          I realized I should have made that distinction after I posted it.

          Because is the author and he’s putting himself and his opinions out there for criticism, I do make judgements about him personally in the comments. I try to make sure they are fair and well supported, and do it only to highlight his unkindness, and avoid attacking his character without the objective of calling him out on a specific failure to think the situation through in it’s entirety.

          Marc is fair game, he’s presenting himself and his opinions for consideration.

          • Sullymom13

            Alexandra-you might not have liked Jane’s comment, but you HAVE to see that there is truth to it. Here you are, a “Cradle Catholic” who has “left” the church because she has found the “real truth” by becoming Atheist. So you find a blog called “Bad CATHOLIC” and begin trying to debunk every moral teaching of the Church. You might not be sitting in a pew honey, but you are most definitely hanging “around and infect(ing) it with relativistic opinion. These nasty opinions become stumbling blocks for many who want to live out their faith according to the church.” Not an personal attack, a truth. If you truly believe that there is no God, you shouldn’t be worried about what anyone else thinks of you anyway. Without God there is no real right or wrong, good or bad only your interpretation of it.

  • Laura

    Marc, your words really resonate with me. I have also been trying to respond to our culture, particularly the supposed “War Against Women”, although photographically instead of with words. I know it is in my head somewhere, just don’t know how to get it out. I appreciate that you just threw it out there even if it isn’t refined quite yet; I think I might follow suit, even if it’s just a place to start.

    May God’s embers purify your lips and give you the words to speak what He has placed on your heart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/balf11 Brian Formica

    I thought about this when reading the Scripture from today’s Mass.


    We’ve got work today during our time in earth; though we do not belong to the world, we are compelled to love those in the world (for God so loved us).

    Spread the Gospel through word and action. It’s a great idea to discuss at the personal level with those you meet, really to try and have an encounter of the soul with them. Don’t forget to pray, fast, and give alms, too!

    Whatever you say or do, do it with love! Be a witness to God’s love!

  • Joe

    Of course our morality has turned into abstractions and not people, it’s what’s been happening with our understanding of Jesus. People have been uncomfortable with the level of intimacy required of Christians since the very beginning (John 6:66). Just as we are more comfortable talking about God the abstraction than Jesus of Nazareth, we are more comfortable with being Pro-Life political activists than soldiers liberating Auschwitz.

  • Emily

    Marc, thank you for being willing to work this out. I personally have been struggling in my mind and life to bring this together. From reading literature from the modern and post-modern (current I should say!) times, I have definitely come to the point of being sick of the state of the world. It feels like I’m just swimming in an ocean of a million contradictions and yet there’s no clear way out, except I know it has something to do with my catholic faith and my right heart and actions. I just haven’t quite figured out what it should look like. It should definitely look like something concrete though!

  • Cord_Hamrick


    The “burning cars” issue helped me put my finger on something:

    We don’t burn (other folks’) cars over abortion, not merely because it’s not strategically helpful to the Goal, but because it would be evil, it would be immoral, to do so. We’re the good guys; we don’t do that.

    Now, Occupy Wall Street folks do that kind of thing. SEIU does that; communist protestors in France and Greek anarchists who’re, paradoxically, on the dole do that; Islamists do it all day long. But we’re Christians; we’re meek and mild and so on, so WE DON’T DO THAT.

    All well and good. We shouldn’t do that. It’s evil.

    But you’re reflecting on how we “don’t care” about the culture war; how we get impatient about the whole stupid thing; how the whole thing seems distasteful. Right?

    Well…have you noticed how distasteful it is that we Christians are so “meek and mild?” Why do I find that distasteful?

    I mean, we’re always bending over backwards to be nice to our enemies, who treat us like crap. Oh, I know: Sin and the devil are our “enemies”; the folk who demean and vilify us all day are just poor lost souls in need of Jesus. Bleagh.

    It gets really tiresome, but our job seems to be, when the world wants to shovel feces into our mouths and make us eat it, to just open wide and say “Jesus loves you” shortly before we start to chew.

    Now this would put anyone in a bad humor, and Christians are no exception. (Well, apart from the fact that leftists and Islamists would have been rioting and burning cars by now, as previously noted. Christians are no exception when it comes to being in a bad humor; they’re just exceptional in the non-rioting way.)

    The HHS thing made us oddly exhilarated, some of us, because suddenly breaking the law will be okay, even obligatory, for a change. Suddenly, we’re in a situation where it’s morally obligatory not to just sit there and smilingly eat s*** all day long.

    Suddenly they’re coming after us with guns and oppressing us directly, taking away our human rights. That kind of thing, you know, is the type of thing that morally permits, and occasionally requires, a forcible response. Certainly civil disobedience comes first, and probably is the only thing that ever happens. But one dimly foresees a day when the Knights of Columbus may need to ditch those ridiculous poofy hats and don body armor.

    And the bishops suddenly sounded like they had spines, too! Whoo-eee. Whaddaya know, sudden evidence of testicular material after years of “pastoral” hemming and hawing. (How “pastoral” is it when the sheep, shivering in the dark, are constantly having to fight off the feeling that the only thing between us and the wolves is an indecisive touchy-feely mealy-mouthed relativist whose primary instinct is to apologize to the wolves for our failure to consider the wolves’ feelings. For lack of a Joshua, won’t God at least send us a Deborah?)

    I think we Christians, especially we nice-guy Christian men who grew up obeying the rules and bowing-and-scraping to anyone and everyone even on occasions they didn’t remotely deserve it, feel like all this rules-following is admittedly one kind of “fighting the good fight,” but only up to a point; and after that point, it’s merely a way of being a pet: Not merely housetrained, but neutered.

    So, we’re supposed to be living “The Great Adventure” with Christ, thanks so very much, 90′s-era Steven Curtis Chapman. Sometimes the adventure seems a bit tame, but one is supposed to be spiritualize that feeling away and say that’s because it’s DEEP or MATURE, or something.

    Fine, fine.

    But the reason the good fight usually feels like punching mists and kicking clouds is because our enemy is not flesh-and-blood, yadda, yadda, yadda…and you can’t kick the devil, and you’re not allowed to kick other people, even when they spend billions of dollars pumping the atmosphere full of anti-Christian propaganda, calling you bigot and rube all the day long and telling you to your face that everything you value is s*** and so are you.

    So, yes, we’re disgusted with fighting the Culture Wars. But partly we’re disgusted because bravely eating s*** all day in order to stay within the boundaries of Christian humility and being at peace with all men and so forth doesn’t feel a helluva lot like fighting anything.

    And it’s pointless — utterly pointless — me saying any of this. Because the only way that a million-strong movement rushing the White House is going to matter a damn is if all million say, “Yes, it’s okay, now is the time to do this; go do it.” But they won’t, least of all the leaders.

    No. The moment any of the pro-life folks get the least bit unsophisticated — I don’t mean truly evil things like shooting abortionists, I’m talking about merely gauche things like waving placards with pictures of fetuses on them or saying that unrepentant homosexual cohabitation ought by rights to be a legal ground for being forbidden custody of a child — all the old women of both sexes in the pro-life movement suddenly leap up and start tut-tutting and apologizing to the wolves.

    I’m really not sure what all that adds up to, Marc.

    But perhaps you could address some of this? If you’re posting about the disgust that Christian culture-warriors feel over this stupid, lame culture war, perhaps the above gives some insight into why it feels like such a disgusting waste of time?

  • Marian

    “a Revolutionary Age is an age of action; the present age is an age of advertisement, or an age of publicity: nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it. A revolt in the present age is the most unthinkable act of all; such a display of strength would confuse the calculating cleverness of the times…”
    Which is why the Occupy movement did not end with a bang, but a whimper.

    These two posts remind me of one essential distinguishing fact of Catholic worldview, that we believe in the importance of and connection between the physical and the spiritual. This connects with St. John Chrysostom’s powerful statement about receiving the Eucharist: “The Eucharist is a fire that inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar being made terrible to the devil.” If we, all of us, really believed in the concrete reality of the Eucharist as the flesh and blood of the God Man, we wouldn’t float through life half-asleep and perceive the world as shades of abstraction. We would truly be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we would set the world on fire with His love.

  • http://circleorline.wordpress.com/ Colo1

    “And I understand that a lot of folks are upset by this idea. I am too. ” It’s hardly a new idea – or rather all the new ideas vilify this central classical idea. Modernity = “I make the world”. Classicism/Thomism = I and the world are born out of a conversation. If I make the world, a la Kant, with the categories of my own thought veiling the precious noumena from me, then I am just stuck back in gnosticism. The categories of my own thought, the “abstractions” which Marc describes, become the “bad god” preventing me from reaching the “good god”, the real world. Therefore the only thing to strive for any more is a movie of “what I want” projected onto the inside of my own forehead. Nothing is real except the realized will of the ubermensch, e.g. Buddha. This is so even if “what I want” happens to be what God in actual fact wants too.

  • Totheking

    As you continue to muse, and as many of us muse with you, I couldn’t help but think back to Criminology my junior year when we first discussed Bystander Effect. Perhaps the following five real-life examples should be taken into account in your next missive on this topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect#Kitty_Genovese. Is abstraction to blame, information overload (Pearls Before Breakfast anyone?), our desensitized by (and assimilated into) a larger culture adrift in pseudo-reality, or perhaps something else?