Sentimentalism: a softer shade of tyranny

Disorientation; How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind features essays on modern “Isms” (Hedonism, Americianism, Marxism, Modernism, Relativism, Cynicism) from some of your favorite Catholic writers, including Peter Kreeft, Eric Metaxas (whose Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy is an award-winning must-read!), Fr. Z., Fr. George Rutler, Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, Fr. Dwight and many more. Given the time of year, I’ve been recommending it be added (along with the YouCat) to everyone’s “back-to-school” shopping list.

I’ve noticed that a few reviews on Amazon have suggested that the book is “too advanced” for college freshmen. Thinking it might give you a better idea of what to expect within, I got permission for Patheos to reprint one full chapter of the book — my own essay on Sentimentalism.

That the churches are faulty is undeniable. The Catholic Church, indeed much of Christianity, is an unkempt housemother to a den of miscreants. The place is teeming with gossips, adulterers, cheats, and liars—and that’s just in the pews. Her leadership is, to the progressive perspective, irredeemably sexist, patriarchal, repressed, intolerant, and perhaps malevolent; it supposedly clings to outmoded tradition and outmoded thought due to a shrunken heart and—moderns suggest—an insufficient capacity to reason.

These charges are easy to make; they are full of modern buzzwords that suggest other buzzwords and people use them as a sort of verbal shorthand, a social coding that denotes at which table one may sit in the societal lunchroom. They signal a bent of mind so “advanced” that it has done away with the need to reason, and is content to let feelings and desires dress up as critical thought. Hence, a Sentimentalist says he cannot reconcile himself to a Church that “holds women back”—a vague term used to signal support of women priests, while ignoring the historical evidence that Christianity helped women to “self-actualize” as no other societies ever did. He says he cannot believe in a God who would “punish love” and in this way signals support for gay marriage, while brushing off pesky questions about physiology, covenants, or Scripture.

Not so scary, right? You can read the whole piece, here, and of course, pick up the book via Amazon, or elsewhere. I don’t earn any royalties for pushing the thing. I just think — having had two sons go through college, one secular, one Catholic — that these essays (and the YouCat) provide a useful counter-narrative to the college (or prep-school) indoctrinations to which our kids are exposed on campus.

Julie Davis is recommending a book, also, one that got under her skin

Turns out Brandon Vogt
reviewed the book a few months ago, and linked to other reviews as well.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • GeekLady

    It pains me to say this, but based of my observations from CCE and my husband’s as a HS teacher, I think that these essays are probably too advanced for the new college freshman.

    This is a problem with the freshman, not the essays.

  • Brandon Vogt

    I loved the book but I have to agree with those who say it’s a little challenging for recent high school graduates.

    Your chapter was fine, as were a handful of others, but some would be difficult even for a college graduate (especially Fr. Rutler’s).

    See my review here:

    [Well, of course my was "easier," I am the least intellectual of the bunch! :-o -admin]

  • cathyf

    I have a college freshman friend who will be taking a class for which the central text is Botany of Desire. Any suggestions for a counterweight to the anti-religious propaganda? (Well, more precisely, the proselytizing-for-a-mush-brained-pseudo-religion propaganda…)

  • Rouxfus

    It’s a great book for college students or anyone who wants a concise reference on all the various intellectual and spiritual maladies which afflict our age.

    Regarding the quoted comments on the Church, Hillaire Belloc probably described it best: “An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”

  • JohnnyZoom

    Loved it. Mark Shea and Peter Kreeft are always treats and privileges to read (although all chapters were great!). But your chapter, Elizabeth, resonated the most with me. Probably because it helps so much for there to be a bit of sentimentalism present to let any of the other isms take hold. Well done.

    Perhaps it was a little higher level than intended, I am not sure.

  • Maureen

    Introduction to Christianity by Joseph Ratzinger is too hard for a college freshman, unless he’s a frosh philosophy major. It’s the sort of book that legitimately makes your brain hurt.

    I seriously doubt that anybody’s essays in this book are on that exalted yet painful level.

  • Lifelong Lutheran

    Not to knock the conversation off topic, but can anyone recommend a book for the father of a freshman who wants to help his son stay Catholic in college? (The above-mentioned title would be too deep even for the dad.) They’re neither of them well catechized, but they do attend Mass faithfully. I worry because the son is off to a Big 10 school that’s notoriously leftist and secular. Meanwhile the dad has no inkling what lies ahead in terms of attacks on the kid’s faith.

    I *could* offer something from a Lutheran perspective–we’ve plenty of material–but this isn’t about doctrine, it’s about keeping the young man safe. (I’m already committed to constant intercession for him.) Any serious suggestions would be gratefully received. Thanks.

    [Try this: -admin]

  • John L

    I think that a more useful book would be one that explained the imbecility of spending large amounts of money and several years of one’s life at colleges where one will spend time being taught this kind of nonsense. If you think your child needs a college degree for economic and social reasons, they can do a degree in physics, chemistry or a foreign language, where they will not have to bother about this kind of thing and will actually do some learning.

  • cathyf

    John L — not so sure about the foreign language part. Maybe ancient Greek/Latin is ok, but in lots of places language study has turned into “cultural studies” which is a euphemism for victimology and critical race theory…

    Chemistry and physics are reasonably safe in most places, though!

  • Annette Heidmann

    Elizabeth, thanks so much for your part in this excellent book. I just bought it on kindle and my oldest daughter, who is 16 and just began her first day at college today, is reading it. She loved your article on Sentimentalism. While it’s true that degrees in the sciences might be “safer” than the humanities, there are required humanities courses for every degree. This is good material for young people to be reading as they enter the higher education environment.