So, how do we fight monsters without becoming monsters ourselves?
The short answer is that when we operate on our own power, we can’t. The temptations of monster-fighting are many and varied, but the most insidious of them is our ability to parse words, exploit meanings and paste ideas together to form new ideas. In other words, the greatest monster-maker of them all is our own excellent brain and its many talents.
We can convince ourselves of anything. I know. I am a victim of my own ability to lead me into doing bad and thinking it is doing good. My worst sins involve me, convincing me, that wrong is right.
That’s why I welcomed the Catholic Church with its uniform teachings with such gladness. It was an everlasting relief to have somebody separate right from wrong and tell me what they were. I don’t want to be a moral arbiter. I want to be a faithful follower.
That’s why I took it so hard — and I was devastated by it — when the bishops proved to all the world that their own moral compass was not only broken, it was pointing East, West, South — everywhere but the true moral North.
The bishops I know are good guys. I don’t want anybody to think that I’ve had personal experience with a ravening-wolf bishop. I haven’t. The bishops I know are good men. They try to do good.
But the fact of the clergy sex abuse scandal shreds the bishops’ moral leadership. How can anybody not look at their moral leadership with a jaundiced eye after 20 years of being pounded by revelations of clergy sexual abuse of minors, children, seminarians, parishioners and nuns?
Not only that, but they have gone dumb and blind at the sexual predators in powerful political positions. The bishops don’t lead in matters of sexual assault. They give us an example of what not to do.
That makes the task of fighting monsters without becoming a monster even more fraught. Or, at least it does for me.
The particular monster we are faced with today is President Donald Trump. We certainly can’t trust the bishops to guide us concerning him. They not only won’t stand up to him in a consistent manner, they don’t appear to have any idea of what they are dealing with. Their latest moves in this area have them teetering on the brink of falling face forward into Jerry Falwell Jr, Franklin Graham territory.
What that means to me as an individual is that I have been cast out of the comfortable safety of just looking to my church for moral guidance in the matter of Trump. They’ve got nothin’.
So, where do I go?
Trump is a traitor to this country. He is so profoundly corrupt that finding a suitable comparison can leave you reaching. He spends the federal treasury however he chooses in direct defiance of Congress’ budget-making powers. He has taken over the Justice Department and is using it to reward his cronies. He has threatened from the first to use it to punish his enemies. He has betrayed America to foreign powers. And he lies, and lies and lies.
He’s evil. Plain and simple.
He’s a monster, and he’s in the process of destroying our democracy, root and branch.
Our religious leaders are worse than useless. Many of them have actually become acolytes for this evil. Many of our dearest friends worship at the altar of Trump. A lot of us even have family members who have become besotted with this man.
There is nothing — no fact — that will persuade any of these people. They are brainwashed.
That’s enough to lead anyone straight into rage. And rage is enough to make anyone lose their judgement and do things they will regret later.
Rage is the lighthouse of vulnerability that signals all the demons everywhere to turn and look in your direction. Rage attracts the cold eye of the abyss and it begins to look back at you.
How do we fight this monster without becoming monsters ourselves when our shepherds have forsaken us?
We fight the same way that good people have always fought evil. We stay inside a wall of law and faith and allow that to protect us from ourselves.
The law I’m talking about is not the law of the land, although we certainly should obey that, even if the president does not. The law I mean is the Law of God as laid down by Jesus Christ.
Trump’s religious followers don’t quote the Gospels very much. They stick mostly to a few verses St Paul wrote and the Old Testament. Even then, they stay away from the Prophets. What they like is a verse here, and a verse there, taken out of context and hatched together to weave a rug of self-excusing self-righteousness that they can stand on while they worship their idol and call down abuse and curses on anyone who denies him.
What we have to do is ignore that and go back to the Gospels of Christ. Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. He completed them.
If you want to know what Jesus requires of us, read the Beatitudes. They are the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments. Read the Sermon on the Mount. It is the Law of the New Covenant. Meditate on Jesus in Gethsemane, before Pilate, under the lash and hanging on the cross. That is the absolute fulfillment of the Law, the end of the Temple sacrifice and the beginning of grace. Think on the Resurrection. That is our future.
You cannot avoid becoming a monster if you cherry pick the Scriptures and use them to justify yourself and condemn others.
On the other hand, you cannot be a monster if you earnestly and honestly follow the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.
In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the particulars of what that means.