You won’t like this post. Don’t blame me, blame him:
“A passionate, tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down; but [the present age] that is at the same time reflective and passionless, transforms that expression of strength into a feat of dialectics: it leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance.” — Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age
Don’t tell the evil, godless heathens, but Christians today are only pretending to be “offended!” by the state of the world, what with its diverse immoralities and general suckage. We don’t actually care. Sure, we’ll argue the cause of Goodness and Morality with raised voices and carefully arranged countenances, but when it comes down to it, we don’t give half a damn about the Attack on Traditional Family Values.
The dominant feeling associated with fighting the Culture Wars — whether over abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, or any of those super-fantastic conversation starters — is not one of righteousness, zeal, passion, hope, or holiness. It’s one of bleaugh. It’s a desperate attempt to feel anything but nausea over the prospect of defending “God’s plan for marriage!” or whatever slogan seems popular. There may be joy in the fight — for fights are fun — but beyond that we don’t care. To be perfectly clear, I don’t care. Traditional family values can go rot, as can traditional morality, good government, and all the rest.
Now stay with me for a while. If you, Christian, don’t believe you’re at least partially feigning your disgust with the age, I hold you’re either holy or lying. If the former is true, leave the Internet and pray for us. For those of the latter bent, I’ve developed a quick self-help quiz for your answering pleasure. Please be honest:
1. When Obama announced the screw-religion-I’m-awesome HHS mandate were you (a) personally offended and disgusted (b) filled with deep sorrow or (c) oddly exhilarated. Discuss.
2. Defending traditional family values, like marriage over gay ‘marriage’, makes you feel (a) righteous (b) Christian or (c) slightly nauseated. If you answered (c), where does the nausea come from? Honest disgust over the proposition of natural marriage being redefined, or elsewhere?
3. The slogan “It’s a Child, not a Choice” (a) inspires you (b) has no effect on you or (c) vaguely annoys you.
4. True or false: Conversation becomes more animated when discussing the sinfulness of the modern world. (Discuss: Is the separation of the world from its Father a topic that should liven discussion?)
5. Would you rather read (a) a book on the rise of the culture of death or (b) The Little Flowers of St. Francis. Why? Alternatively, for you hardcore Catholics, which makes for a better conversation starter: (a) the fact of Nancy Pelosi or (b) the fact of Jesus Christ?
You see whither the blogger doth drive. Now allow me to ask you, is it at least possible that you’re feigning some of this Great Disgust at the sin of the world? I am, barring a few rare moments (like when I read philosophical defenses of infanticide).
But why? Why, so often, is the Christian’s defense of the things he holds dear a halfhearted affair? Why is our offense at the culture so very apathetic, so mixed with inappropriate excitement? Why do we feel excitement and exhilaration when we should be feeling sorrow, and indifference when we should be fighting? In short, why don’t we really, truly care? Why is a soul-sucking weariness the principle characteristic of the Christian at battle today, he who is supposed to have joy in his heart and fire on his tongue?
I could be wrong, but suffer me to speak. Everything has been cunningly emptied of its significance. The Christian today defends ghosts and attacks with shadows. He may look like St. George, but he has been given a sword of cloud to fight a dragon of steam. He may kill the dragon in the end, but he will never be happy, fighting such a whispery battle.
Our culture achieves this emptying through a rabid desire to define everything as an abstraction.
A godless, pagan man, in all his unique rationality, might seriously consider the mysteries of human life. He might decide — after much deliberation — that the present age’s obsessive drive to normalize the killing of unborn children is wrong. All this would take place in the only place things ever take place — the human person.
But were our man to stand up and proclaim this discovered truth to the world, the world would immediately level him into an abstraction. He would cease to be a man who believes — in the depth of his being — that human life is of infinite value. He would become a pro-life man, part of the pro-life movement. He would be politely forced to exchange his weapon of steel for a weapon of cloud. For the pro-life movement is not real.
You may have a man against abortion. You may have several men against abortion. But the moment you draw a circle around those men, group them into a class, point to the circle and say, “Here is the pro-life movement!” you’ve created a deadly logical error. You may use the term to speak of the men as a movement, but there exists no movement. The circle is your own construction. There exists only the men.
Now when an idea becomes a movement, a generation, or a lobby, that idea is emptied of its significance. It becomes an abstraction. We who oppose abortion become a demographic, and can be ignored as such. We have pro-life arguments, we develop pro-life slogans, we try to convince people to join the pro-life cause. One can only feel true joy in fighting such a fight for so long, for it attempts to operate on the level of abstraction, attempting to convince people to join a non-existent thing. (Think of the last time you seriously entertained a pro-choice slogan. Why did you dismiss it? Was it because it was immediately and apparently illogical? Or because it was pro-choice, part of an abstraction which your abstraction rejects?)
Surely you’ve noticed this. Surely I’m not the only one who, whenever some TV channel hosts two people to “represent” the pro-life and the pro-choice movement in a debate, ends up hating everyone?
Or take the marriage wars. Again, a man might — understanding marriage to be the ultimate expression of love between two human beings, knowing love to be the desire of the ultimate good of the beloved, and recognizing that the normalization of homosexual activity has not been shown to lead the beloved to the good, physically or mentally — decide that marriage is an institution to which only two humans of the opposite sex are orientated.
But again, were he to stand up and express that “all else is sham!” he would be immediately and violently leveled. He would be made to defend, not himself, but a movement. He must fight on the behalf of the anti-gay-marriage movement, for traditional family values. He’ll become — perhaps — pro-family. Perhaps he’ll even be abstracted into being a Christian! It matters not: he will be leveled. He will be obliged to defend ghosts.
Thus it begins to make sense why the Culture Wars sicken us more than they do anything else. We must defend the Abstraction — have we ever defended ourselves? We throw around these puffs of air — pro-choice, pro-life, pro-family, liberal, conservative, Christian, pro-equality, traditional, modern — with the grand result of nothing ever happening. And why would it? None of these things are real. When two wisps of clouds go to battle, the world is unmoved.
I really must come to some sort of conclusion, as this will take me several more posts to explain. Let me end by saying this: If the March For Life was a march of human beings who saw other human beings as normalizing and legalizing the murder of infants, there would be cars burning in the street. As it turns out, there is no protest in the present age. There is only representation. There is no foolish human action. There is only the support of abstractions. Infants are being killed — we follow the lines the police allow us to follow.
But there is a way out. Till next time.