“Don Juan as Moralist,” a talk by David Bentley Hart

Last week’s posts (here and here) on the profane, gangstas, and the New Evangelization evoked a little bit of outrage in my inbox. I suspect much of that was the product of misunderstanding and the presumption that my claims were not very serious. If you want to see a substantive, albeit characteristically indulgent, treatment of the matter, watch this talk by DBH, below. It shows, among many other things, the incredibly sterile and unimaginative state of late modernity, clamoring for a profane, gansta-like message. The message of Christ.

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I cameo at the end, asking two questions. DBH’s answers are excellent.

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  • Sebastian Garren

    Well, you obviously are not backing down. In fact, this speech by DBH and posted by you strikes me as a kind of, “Amen, Amen I say to you… there is nothing edgy about being edgy anymore. Go to daily mass. Talk about it. THAT is edgy these days. Light up a cigarette and tell someone the story of how Jesus told off the Pharisee. [Both those are unacceptable] There is no sex in sex anymore. For God’s sake, hedonism is too senseless and too boring to be damned.”
    The only moral rebellion left is to a life of beauteous virtue. Something which I find terrifyingly uncomfortable and frightening. The only way to be gritty anymore is to be religious.

    Anyone who wishes to object to your claim of a profane grittiness for the Evangel must make evident that there is still a Christian (if not Catholic) moral code today. That there still exists the possibility for Don Juan. I ask myself, can I show that a Don Juan is still possible today? If not, if I cannot show that there is a cosmos and order against which to rebel in this culture that I inhabit, then this culture cannot sustain a so-called ‘conservative Catholicism.’ It is only through a Quixotic attempt at a new vulgarity that we can re-envision sinhood and sainthood.

    I may make the mistake of giving you too much credit. However, this little entry frames you as a Don Juan against a Catholicism that hides in clouds, basements, or lapsed apathy and halfhearted sins.

    The gritty, depraved sinfulness of Don Juan, if I want to pervert DBH’s talk in my way, is exactly what we want to recover. Bob posed the second question at the end of the talk. He asked (and was not answered), “If we have lost the ability to have a true sinner, have we not also lost the ability to have a true saint?”

    Here’s the problem. When you think a real sinner from the past 100 years. The only person who everyone can sufficiently agree on is Hitler (and some of his staff). If you have to be a Hitler to be a sinner, Good Lord! what do I have to do to be a saint?!


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