Tumbling America and the Narrative Thrust UPDATED

America is in the process of tumbling: she has one party interested only in “remaking” America with or without the constitution’s guidance; it is a party become so expert at political maneuvering that it no longer believes it actually has to lead, build consensus or compromise — ever — and another party that can’t manage to stick a post into a hole and call it a goal. The Democrats and Republicans remind me of nothing so much as Jules and Brett in Pulp Fiction — the Democrats alternately sly and furious, charming then terrifying, and the doomed and pathetic GOP surrendering its Big Kahuna Burger and stuttering “what? What?” until it gets shot, and then shot again. From all sides. (Language warning for that link; you’re warned)

Washington is broken because the process is broken, and the process is broken because the idiots we keep sending to “represent” us are easily broken by power, rank, privilege and the lure of the lobbyists.

And the reason these idiots are easily broken by all of that is because spiritually, we are adrift, unmoored to the values and priorities that should keep us from falling into these worldly traps. And we don’t even rightly understand how we identify ourselves or each other, anymore; we are therefore supremely disoriented.

So here is Rusty Reno, today, at First Things, concluding that the so-called “liberals” have lost their liberality and fallen into narrow parochialism: (something we saw, I think, when Sarah Palin emerged in 2008 and some sneered that she “had never traveled out of the country” in such unison that you realized they were only talking to each other and had developed their own narrow view of what constituted wisdom.)

We’ve all experienced the liberal default to denunciation. Reservations about radical feminism? “Patriarchal.” Criticize multicultural lunacy? “Cultural imperialist.” Question affirmative action? “Racist.” Opposed to same-sex marriage? “Homophobic” or “heterosexist.” Worried that increased taxation will stifle economic growth? “Protecting the rich” and “indifferent to the poor.” The message is that anyone who questions liberal policies is either a bigot or out for himself, and probably both.

The decline of religiosity among liberal elites in recent decades has accentuated this parochialism. During the debates leading up to the revision of the general-education requirements at Harvard, some genuinely liberal faculty members proposed a required course on reason and faith, observing that students need to understand the religious ways in which the vast majority of human beings have and still think about First Things.

But it was not to be. Secular jihadist Steven Pinker insisted that faith “has no place in anything but a religious institution.” Concern for faith and its influential role in society “is an American anachronism,” and “the rest of the West is moving beyond it.” In other words, the Smart People who run the world needn’t waste their time with the beliefs that govern the lives of most of the folks who actually live in the world.

You’ll want to read the whole thing, and then perhaps consider it in light of this column by Chaput that First Things has just gone live with, where the bishop writes:

A new kind of America is emerging in the early 21st century, and it’s likely to be much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation’s past. That has implications for every aspect of Catholic social ministry. . . .communities, and especially religious communities, have a great deal of power in shaping attitudes and behavior. Churches are one of the mediating institutions, along with voluntary associations, fraternal organizations, and especially the family, that stand between the power of the state and the weakness of individuals. They’re crucial to the “ecology” of American life as we have traditionally understood it.

And that’s why, if you dislike religion or resent the Catholic Church, or just want to reshape American life into some new kind of experiment, you need to use the state to break the influence of the Church and her ministries.

In the years ahead, we’re going to see more and more attempts by civil authority to interfere in the life of believing communities. We’ll also see less and less unchallenged space for religious institutions to carry out their work in the public square.

I think this piece by Chaput will surprise many, particularly perhaps our more-progressive friends, by what commenter jkm referrerd to in another thread as his “extreme centrism”

Chaput’s piece actually fleshes out my meaning in my own piece at First Things, where I wrote:

Perhaps sometime in the not-too-distant future, as governments move against her, the Church will be forced into poverty and become subject to the oppression of her earlier days. We may even see martyrs in the Western Church, once more . . . The nation may tumble; nations always do, in the end, when America tumbles, the Roman Catholic Church may very well see itself superseded by a government-friendly “American Catholic Church” that marginalizes the Roman church and even sends it underground.

The nation is tumbling. The leadership vacuum is so profound that if ever there was an opportunity to talk third party, this might be it.

But don’t fool yourself; the risk is enormous — the Democrats still own the press, and the press still matters. To lose is to install Obamanomics in all its forms.

But to win, well — don’t fool yourself there, either; you’re still not going to get the America of your youth back; the narrative thrust is always relentlessly forward, and the attacks on the churches will not relent, they will move forward too.

It’s really just a question of speed.

Related: Bachmann, the Anti-Christ and the Political Theologian

Also: Are conservative churches going “radical”?

UPDATE: And from Jack Smith:

In his July 17 blog post, Deacon Keith Fournier of Catholic Online lamented the silence of the U.S. and other western governments about these abuses against human rights and religious freedom in China. “We should ask ourselves the following question; with our growing economic reliance and dependence upon the Regime in China: Are we sacrificing our fundamental obligation to defend human freedom and human rights because we depend on the economic assistance of a repressive regime?”

At one time we might have insisted that China’s desires to be accepted and welcomed as a partner with the West must be met by an insistence that it respects this fundamental human right of religious expression and organization. Now we must be careful that our need to come, hat in hand, to China in the economic sphere doesn’t require us to be silent about such significant restraints on human dignity.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • andy

    Just a bit of clarification – the number you cite includes not only sexual contact, but from the study that is cited: “During your whole school life, how often, if at all, has anyone (this includes
    students, teachers, other school employees, or anyone else) done the following
    things to you when you did not want them to?
    • Made s&xual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks.
    • Showed, gave or left you sexual pictures, photographs, illustrations,
    messages, or notes.
    • Wrote sexual messages/graffiti about you on bathroom walls, in locker
    rooms, etc.
    • Spread sxual rumors about you.
    • Said you were gay or a lesbian.
    • Spied on you as you dressed or showered at school.
    • Flashed or “mooned” you.
    • Touched, grabbed, or pinched you in a sxual way.
    • Intentionally brushed up against you in a sxual way.
    • Pulled at your clothing in a sxual way.
    • Pulled off or down your clothing.
    • Blocked your way or cornered you in a sxual way.
    • Forced you to kiss him/her.”
    • Forced you to do something sexual, other than kissing.
    So yes there is a problem in schools, but it is not just teachers – it includes students, or anyone else. I post this not to minimize the impact or the problem, but to provide context.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Leadership needs to come from the top. Congress – both Houses – by its very nature is essentially a debating society, and therefore incapable of leading. If there is a lack of leadership, there is squarely one person to be blamed, President Obama.

    Of all the presidents in my adult lifetime, President Obama seems to have the least leadership skills of any. I was too young to really experience Jimmy Carter, but I think President Carter can now go to his grave knowing that he is not the worst president of the last fifty years.

    Greta (comment #50) is so right!

  • tnxplant

    Random thoughts:

    In a broken world, it is the nature of human institutions to devolve into less than the ideal they were created to be.

    A nation/government cannot be “Christian” – only individual human beings can be in relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    In the body of Christ times of suffering are times of strengthening. Christ himself assured us we would suffer for his sake, thereby participating in his suffering for us.

    The answers for the human condition do not lie in Washington D.C. or in the state of our financial assets.

    “Give us this day our daily bread” – God will provide our needs.

    What can I do today to love my God and my neighbor as myself?

  • Joseph Marshall

    public school abouse has over 4 million incidents compared to around 10,000 in the Catholic Church.

    This matter is not one of mere numbers of abused or abusers in aggregate. It is also a matter of the coherence of the institutions and the power of the people in charge of them. There are thousands of local school systems in this country, but they are not coordinated by a deliberate doctrine and no such things as a Pope and College of Cardinals exist for all schools, or even all public schools. The Superintendent of Schools in Wichita has no responsibility for teacher behavior in Wichita Falls.

    The Catholic Church is a hierarchy demanding total obedience to its teachings. This has two sides. Those with power in the hierarchy have a corresponding responsibility in the exercise of the power to command obedience. And all members of the priestly hierarchy share the responsibility for any failures in the exercise of that power.

    The more power, the greater the responsibility–anything else is mere despotism by an oligarchy.

    The serious problem is not the instances of abuse. The serious problem is the decades long failure to live up to the responsibilities of the power to command total obedience by allowing the abuse to go unchecked.

    Now you may ask, why is this the business of non-Catholics? It is so for the reason that the power of the Pope, the Cardinals, the Archbishops, and the Bishops is real power. In its own sphere, it is far more power than that of any other individual or institution has in this country, and far more unchecked and unbalanced power than most of us would want to give to any government official, from the Superintendent of Schools in Wichita Fall all the way up to the President of the United States. From outside the Church, the fact that anyone has such power anywhere is problematic and the only excuse for it is the responsible exercise of it.

    Failure to exercise power responsibly is abuse of power. The greater the power, the greater the failure, and the greater the abuse of the power.

    And abuse of power by anyone is an unsightly blotch, as well as a dangerous precedent, in any country based on the notion of limits to the power by the law of anyone who is charged with it.

  • Rudy

    Achoress got her mojo back…

  • Rick

    Joseph, the Vatican isn’t as powerful and all seeing as you assume. They probably know very little of what is happening in diocese. This TOTAL obedience idea seems off too. Catholic bishops and priests have defied Rome for generations. Soon after the development of the slave trade, the Pope condemned slavery–yet religious orders, priests and lay people owned slaves. The Church condemns birth control, abortion, and remarriage after divorce–but it’s not too hard to find a priest who supports you in not following Church teaching.

    Total obedience has never existed in the Church and is not desired by the Church. Even religigus who take a vow of obedience continue to use their free will and natural freedom.

    A heavy handed bishop might try to control all priests, but we Catholics can be pretty passive-aggressive when we want to be.

  • kenneth

    The Vatican’s reach is pretty long and pretty fast when it wants it to be. When a priest or bishop steps out of line by, say, advocating ordination of women, they’re on that the day before yesterday and the offender gets reprimanded, laicized etc. in very timely fashion.

  • James

    (Joseph Marshall said – “This matter is not one of mere numbers of abused or abusers in aggregate. It is also a matter of the coherence of the institutions and the power of the people in charge of them. There are thousands of local school systems in this country, but they are not coordinated by a deliberate doctrine and no such things as a Pope and College of Cardinals exist for all schools, or even all public schools. The Superintendent of Schools in Wichita has no responsibility for teacher behavior in Wichita Falls.”)

    Two obvious problems with this statement:

    First- it completely disregards the tremendous political influence of teachers unions, both local and national. It is a common practice for local unions to seek precedence and influence from other local unions in other states. It happens all the time. And the coordinated power of the national organizations is part and parcel to their structure and survival.

    Second- no one is forced to attend any one Catholic Church or school. The same is not true of public education. What feasible options do parents have other than the local public school? They are in effect held hostage by the financial and political circumstances of their location. And the amount of time their children spend at these institutions and the potential for abuse is far greater than any circumstances with a priest.

    And to add further insult to injury- all of our tax dollars are used to support and to protect these predatory teachers.

    So you say you’re concerned about the consolidation of corrupt power? Fine. Then start wringing your hands over the deep pockets and the phenomenally potent influence of political power motivated by greed and influence- union style. Because I assure you, the Catholic Church’s influence doesn’t hold a blessed candle to the powerful hierarchy of those organized mafias.

    The only question is- will your anti-Catholic bigotry allow you to open your mind to this obvious reality?


    7 Child Predators Protected by American Teachers Unions



    SEIU Unions Keep Convicted Sex Offender School Teachers on Payroll at Tax Payer Expense



    City to close ‘rubber rooms,’ $30M detention halls for teachers accused of major violations

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/04/15/2010-04-15_city_to_close_rubber_rooms_reassignment_centers_for_teachers_accused_of_major_vi.html#ixzz1SeZCu2Tz


  • Rick

    The instances of ordinations of women and advocacy of female ordination are well publicized. Most priests abusing children are able to keep their crimes hidden through intimidation and fear. In cases of the illicit ordination of women, the offending male priest is given years to recant and reconsider what he has done (look at the priest in Australia, and Fathers Phelger and Bourgouis). It might be more accurate to say that the Vatican can reach pretty long and fast when they know what’s going on and where there is public evidence. Child abuse thrives in the dark and is kept secret. Most reformers want to be heard and shake things up. It’s hard to work fast with dark secrets.

    The Church is working more quickly now with priests who abuse–but there has never been a good excuse for a bishop to refuse to address abuse.

    For awhile, back in the 70s and 80s, the pastoral and liberal thing to do was to send the sex offender to a treatment center for a cure. Mental health professionals thought that abusers could be rehabilitated. Rehabilitation was part of the canon of progressive and pastoral ministry and social thought.

    People are feeling that Bishop Chaput may be too authoritarian for Philidelphia–that he’s not pastoral enough. Maybe Philidelphia needs a bishop who is willing to be a bit authoritarian when necessary. Those biships in the 70s and 80s thought they were being progressive and pastoral!

  • Joseph Marshall

    Rudy, this has been going on for decades and, with 10,000 incidents, it was not a minor problem. I don’t believe for a moment that John Paul II, or his Cardinals were in ignorance of it. John Paul always struck me as a man more in full control of the Church than any other Pope in my time, and I go back to John XXIII.

    Nor do I believe that, as defender of the Faith, the former Cardinal Ratzinger was out of the loop.

    And the matter is not whether they can or do apply their power in any given case, it is the fact that there is no real check or balance to it, as there is for any governmental power in this country. In context, they can do anything, or nothing, as they please.

  • Joseph Marshall

    I’m sorry. I confused Rudy with Rick. My apologies to both.

  • Joseph Marshall

    Okay, James, have it your way. I’m an anti-Cattholic bigot bereft of common sense. That’s why I come around here and read Elizabeth.