Fighting a Just Culture War

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  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Fantastic article, from beginning to end. Should be required reading for every member of Congress.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Heh, I knew before clicking that such a headline must surely belong to The Imaginative Conservative.

    Goerke writes that “[p]oets speak of big things in small and quiet ways.”

    Kirk writes that “[n]o less than politicians do, great poets move nations, even though the generality of men may not know the poets’ names.” This is from the concluding chapter of The Conservative Mind, “The Conservative as Poet” (in which may be evidenced Kirk’s deep and abiding appreciation of GKC).

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Goethe wrote Faust. Small and quiet? NOT.

  • Ann Shultis

    Makes the point that any snark that appears in speech or articles just works against the message. Something that every blogger and comment maker does well to keep in mind.

  • Andy

    The investment in the Culture Wars has so removed from our lives the concept of the common good – we no longer see people with we disagree as being part of humanity – we see them as less then us. The culture warrior mentality leads to degradation of not only the warrior, but also of the opposition.
    Pope Francis speaks to this so well when he talks about meeting people where they are and how we must preach the teachings of the church with compassion as well as passion. He also clearly a liberal for so many because of this. How sad.

    • AquinasMan

      The opposition has already degraded itself in a rather Gollum-like fashion; We don’t need to do it for them. We’ve been screaming “the house is on fire” long enough. At some point, if no one brings a bucket, you just walk away and focus on the structures that can be saved. That may sound defeatist, but, fact, we’ve lost the culture war.

      • Andy

        I disagree – how have they degraded themselves – they have a set of beliefs no matter how repellent they may be, that is not degradation. That they disagree with us does not make them Gollums. Perhaps it the screaming that has caused those we disagree with to block us out. We degrade people when we scream at them, when we walk away, when we see them as not being capable of being “saved”. That is degradation.

        • AquinasMan

          You seem to think that what “we” believe are just a set of opinions crafted over the centuries. If by “us”, you mean the Church which stands on both the Natural Law and Divine Revelation, then, yes, disagreeing with “us” is a turning toward sin and an act of self-degradation. Either that, or “we” don’t have the fullness of truth, take your pick.

          If by “us”, you mean, a couple of people sitting in front of a computer, independent of the Deposit of Faith, then, yeah, I’m possibly even more self-degraded for reasons other than embracing the Culture of Death.

          Further, I was fairly clear in my original response that I’m referring to people who are already following the faith (and are most likely to end up on the mailing lists of these groups anyway). I don’t see anyone screaming at social liberals outside polling places, and besides, the Black Panthers wouldn’t show up if I called them, anyway.

          • Andy

            First please don’t try and put words in my beliefs – I no where stated that what the church teaches is a set of opinions. It is that type of response that makes conversation and conversion all but impossible. I in no way said that we do not have the fullness of truth. You obviously missed my intent which is that screaming is a waste of time and energy. Conversation – meeting people where they are allows for change. Jesus talked to the sinners, he castigated those who preached the law and held themselves up as models but did little for others.

            What is amazing is that you are ascribing to what the church teaches as conservative – it is counter-cultural in nature. Conservatives, at least today’s variety do not really follow all of what the church teaches.

            • I in no way said that we do not have the fullness of truth.

              I’ll say it. We do not have the fullness of the truth. We have the potential to have the fullness of the truth. We have the Holy Spirit which is leading us into all truth. But if we think we have the fullness of truth now and that therefore our opponents – cultural or otherwise – have nothing to teach us, then we’re dumber than a bag of hammers.

              • Andy

                I agree – I did not mean to suggest that we cannot learn from others – it is up to the hOly Spirit to lead us to that fullness and sometimes what we read as the fullness is not.

              • AquinasMan

                I don’t mean to split hairs here, (but I guess I’ll go ahead and do just that). We have the fullness of Truth in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Yes, we have the potential to understand this Truth to the fullest, but Christ is not a part-time Groom. He has given to His Bride, the Church, His entirety — and He is the Fullness of Truth. We, the Church, possess this Truth already, in faith. The Holy Spirit is guiding us to understanding what it is we have been given (see Augustine, ‘Lord help me to believe so that I may understand’ — or to that effect…)

                • Fine. Distinguo: I’m talking about the truth as we understand it and can apply it to political problems.

            • AquinasMan

              No one is putting words in your mouth. I’m interpreting what you stated. Hence, what you *seem* to think… so enough with that.

              You indicated that those with repellent beliefs are not self-degrading. I explained why the contrary is true.

              Jesus didn’t just talk to sinners. He also excoriated them for their willful blindness. He called them “whitened sepulchers” who were dead on the inside, i.e., self-degraded by their turning toward sin. That said, we don’t know how many sinners Jesus gently chided and how many He tongue-lashed. We know for a fact that He used both approaches — perhaps based on the gravity of culpability for some versus others. Francis does the same. He approaches certain groups with kid gloves and others with an iron fist.

              I’m not conservative, I place equal importance to each of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium today, and the Magisterium of yesterday.

              Believing in God is all it takes to be counter-cultural these days. The real question is whether one is counter-revolutionary. And I agree, political conservatives (as I’m liable to be identified with) don’t embrace the fullness of the faith anymore than political liberals.

              • Andy

                Interesting – you dismiss my statement about putting words in my mouth, but feel that you must state that you place equal importance on Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, and that you are not a conservative. I never said you ere a conservative, I said you are ascribing much of what the church teaches as conservative.
                In Matthew where you take the white sepulchers form – he was speaking to the pharisees and not the “run of the mill sinner”. His excoriation was aimed at people, not who disagreed with, but who held themselves up as models – he was speaking to their deceitfulness more than anything else.

    • We must be willing to lose an unfair fight and be happy to go to our cultural deaths still possessing the dignity of charity. Most of the “conservative” reactions to the culture that I run into smell of the kind of fear that indicates an almost complete absence of perfect love.

  • AquinasMan

    Children speak of small things in big and loud ways. Poets speak of big things in small and quiet ways. It is my humble suggestion that we take the latter as our example. Let us stop attempting to bother each other into a frenzy of political outrage.
    Spot on.

    I appreciate the yeoman-like work that many Catholics are doing in the effort to influence political discourse, but, for the most part, they’re preaching to the choir, and the choir is not that big these days. So, yeah, I don’t need to be bombarded with e-mails telling me marriage is between a man and a woman. Got that. We’re long past the point where practicing Catholics have measurable influence in political outcomes. For that to happen, we have to actually grow the community of Catholics who understand what objective truth is, and the rights that are owed to God in any society.

    The most eloquent witness is the witness of love, which is demonstrated in the works of mercy and the worship of God in His sacramental Church. That’s the real objective of the Church militant. And yeah, we’ll have to battle all kinds of demons in the process, so, lock and load…

  • Irksome1

    That’s a fine sentiment in the abstract, but what might it look like in practice? I would submit that even this blog is no stranger to hyperbole similar to the kind mentioned in the linked article. For many people, the panicked way in which things are described constitutes its own justification for using that kind of terminology. Moreover, the issues concerned are always grave. Therefore, how might this blog put the suggestions of the article into practice? Could, for instance, we begin to see, in reference to things like Obama’s recent executive order regarding federal contracts, the acknowledgement that, as he left the procurement of federal grants untouched (where most faith-based draw their funding from), that, while certainly not friendly towards people of faith, neither is he openly contemptuous? Is the article to be taken as a call to change the way we (and I, personally) talk about these issues or will it be yet another fault for which we tar our opponents?

    • I would submit that even this blog is no stranger to hyperbole similar to the kind mentioned in the linked article.

      Ha ha! True. But Mark doesn’t strike me as a prisoner of his own fear-inspired hysteria in the same way as – say – Rod Dreher is, who badly needs to go on a regimen of these things. (It’s the main reason I stopped reading Dreher. While I like his philosophical perspective and willingness to engage with people he doesn’t agree with, I just couldn’t take the freakout de jour.) Mark doesn’t strike me as an angry person. He’s a hot-head, and his rhetorical cannon is always set to “Obliterate”, but he’s not afraid of the world.

      I’m so. damn. sick. of. the. fear. Everywhere I go in the “conservative” sub-culture, the air is filled with the horrid cacophony of people freaking out. I’m constantly tripping over “conservative” and “traditionalist” families who’ve thrown their children to the floor and are covering them with their bodies, like Secret Service agents in a Jack Ryan novel. Either that or they’re overly aggressive to everybody, with as much willingness to listen to reason as a bear with her cubs. It’s like they think Jesus’ advice in John 16:33 goes, “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”

      • Dave G.

        In fairness, it’s not really just the conservative sub-culture. It’s everywhere. It’s just that the conservative sub-culture often freaks out over things being celebrated and accepted by the rest of the culture, that subsequently freaks out over a host of things, including those things often embraced by that conservative sub culture. Only it has the disadvantage of being a single, shrill voice, while the rest of the culture has the advantage of shaping the overall societal narrative so that we barely react anymore to some of the things we’re supposed to be freaking out about.

  • KM

    That is an exceptional article. Thank you, Mark, for bringing it to our attention.

  • “[W]e relish too much in the false glory of finding what is wrong with the world.”

    Those words will stick with me.

  • Mike Blackadder

    Amen, Amen, Amen. Thank you Mark.

  • Brian

    Mark, in light of this great article, I’ve got a challenge for you. You’ve admitted in the past to a weakness of being harsh in your posts. It just occurred to me, you kind of do an okay job of being gracious to those to the left of you. But harsh to those to the right of you. Just picking some random counterparts – I imagine you might disagree equally with Harry Reid as Mitch McConnell, and speak up against both of their positions. Let’s just say that’s so. I’d bet anything that if you’d write about both, you’d be harsher in tone on McConnell. Same goes for how you write about other Catholic bloggers. Come to think of it, I think Pope Francis does this as well. I really think you nailed it on your post about St. Peter and martyrdom and how best to think about the Iraqi crisis, but I hesitate to link to it from my blog for fear of your sarcasm about those on the right offending friends.

    • chezami

      You should link it anyway. Catholics on the right routinely regard themselves as “real” Catholics and dismiss lefties as CINO’s. Those to whom much is given, much will be required.