Be Hopeful: The Lunacy Can’t Last Forever

In a recent piece published in Crisis I commented on the features of our public life that led the Supreme Court to assert that support for the natural definition of marriage is simply an attempt to harm people.

One reader wrote to say he found the piece both convincing and horrific. He noted that it attributed the Supreme Court decision to “a rationalization of society [that is] radically irrational at a meta-level of which the ruling class is unaware … the goal [of which] is a ‘self-contained system.’” That goal, he said, “is madness … [Justice] Kennedy’s statement [regarding opposition to same-sex marriage] is made from inside such a world. He sounds psychotic.” But given such a situation, the reader asked, how can sanity be restored?

My correspondent was right that the piece presented a bleak picture of public life today. The basic idea is that modern technocratic thought attempts to make reason and knowledge ever more rigorous, perspicuous, and oriented toward control. The result has been abolition of an overarching concept of an ordered and directed cosmos, and with it the possibility of understanding the ultimate meaning of anything. Under such circumstances truth eventually evaporates, since thought and language become more and more arbitrary, and what’s left is a battle of wills.

The obvious question such a picture presents, assuming its general accuracy, is whether there are influences that moderate how far the process and its effects can go.

On that point there are grounds for concern. Institutions like global markets and expert bureaucracies play a larger and larger role in social life today, and technocracy lines up with the interests of those who run them, because it’s all about running things in a clear and effective way. And once technocratic attitudes are established it becomes hard to appeal to anything else. They are based on stripped-down assumptions that everyone agrees on, like the reliability of the modern natural sciences, and people complain if you say other assumptions are also needed. If you appeal to natural law, for example, they say you’re trying to pass off prejudice as objective reality.

People who act in a public capacity feel called upon to act in accordance with principles that are publicly accepted as authoritative. That’s why Supreme Court justices and philosophy professors say the things they do: they want to speak and act in a way that is publicly supportable. The result, when public principles are technocratic, is that discussion loses its connection to objective goods and meanings. It bases itself either on will or on purely technical considerations, and public life becomes nihilistic.

The trend, then, is for technocratic tendencies to dominate the public sphere more and more completely and for public life to become ever more empty of truth and meaning. The system of public life that results will no doubt eventually stop functioning because of its intrinsic irrationality, but it’s not obvious how to get out of the hole we’re falling into short of general social collapse.

Nonetheless, the situation is complicated and unpredictable, so there’s no reason for despair or paralysis. Current thought may emphasize the distinction between public and private, and identify the public sphere with what is true and the private sphere with what is meaningful, but the separation of truth from meaning is at odds with natural inclinations, so people resist it. It is very difficult to view choice as a pure expression of arbitrary will and preference. We can’t live without making choices, and to make choices is to view some possibilities as better than others. Moral objectivity, the thought that some choices really are better than others and we can sometimes recognize the better ones, keeps creeping back in.

The effect is that we always recognize a world larger than ourselves that we share with others and includes not only atoms in space but real goods. It is very unlikely that Justice Kennedy applies nihilistic principles consistently to all aspect of his life, or even all aspects of his public activity. That’s one reason for all the propaganda, and for the abuse, ridicule, and outrage when someone deviates from public orthodoxy. They’re attempts to enforce an insupportable view that on some level is recognized as incoherent.

So there is a basic conflict in liberal society between explicit public principle and things people can’t help but know. Basic conflict means intrinsic instability, so it’s always possible the system could come unstuck and reconfigure. Its ideals could lose their grip on people, its principles could be rethought, and other ideals could arise to guide and organize thought. Our recognition of natural law may be confused, for example, and bad education may have confused it still more and made us think of it as irrational prejudice, but time, hard knocks, and attention to how things actually work could still show us its necessity, help us bring our understanding of it more into order, and lead us to accept its reality.

What conditions could cause that to happen we can’t say for sure, but lunacy doesn’t last forever. Our public life will no doubt reconfigure when it becomes altogether dysfunctional, but a social system is complex, dynamic, and unpredictable, so it could happen much sooner and quite unexpectedly. We can’t know the timing in advance any more than we can predict when a stock market bubble will burst.

In the meantime we should do what we can to provoke the collapse of the bubble, and build for whatever the future may hold. To do that we need a point of resistance to rally around, and the obvious point of resistance is the Church, which in principle is a universal institution that claims public authority and stands for an understanding of the world more adequate than the one now accepted as authoritative in public life. In more ways than one, extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

At a more abstract level, we need to reject technocracy. That means making ultimate reality our basic principle for understanding the world, rather than what we experience and how to satisfy our wants. The latter approach sounds hard-headed and practical, but we can’t treat it as basic. If we want our approach to be grounded, stable, and fruitful we must deal with the world as it is, so knowledge must be contemplative before it is practical. Man isn’t the measure, and ultimate reality comes first.

At the intellectual level that means paying attention to writers who fought free of the attitude toward knowledge that has led to technocracy, like Pascal, Newman, and Burke, and to earlier writers who start their thought with being rather than knowledge, like Aristotle and Aquinas. At a more personal and basic level, it means conversion, prayer, and contemplation. Ruthless practicality got us where we are today, and a radically different attitude is needed to get us out of it. Especially today, nothing is more useless than pragmatism, nothing more useful than right understanding.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is U.S. Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy.

James Kalb

By

James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • James

    I live in a state that is less than 5% Catholic. What sort of “greater truth and meaning” do you think such a society would seek to enshrine in law?

    • There’s going to be something or other enshrined in law. Why not argue for as much truth as possible?

  • smokes

    The basis for the former Western Civilization (before abortion, LGBT preferences, and EEO preferences) is the “natural law”, dating back to Aristotle. Jefferson knew it, Kennedy despises it. For him, the end justifies the means as he eradicates the concept of natural law in favor of the reed in the wind. The result is a civilization afloat to odd conclusions and in crisis. A majority may not want this, but a majority won’t oppose it, either as America becomes dumber by the minute.

    • PiusFan

      Please.

      The abandonment of the West didn’t start in the 1960s, and Jefferson is certainly not some apotheosis of Western wisdom. The decay started with the Reformation, Endarkenment, and Lockean anti-Catholicism. Jefferson is almost as guilty as Pelosi.

      • smokes

        “The Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” belies your contention about Tom Jefferson. Ask Trinity how it produced TWO
        devilish individuals in Pelosi and Finnegan-Sebelius, then determine if this Trinity is an anti-Catholic force. Ask why the Church doesn’t close Trinity’s doors forever.

        • PiusFan

          No, it doesn’t. Jefferson was opposed to Catholicism, and did not believe that government had any legitimate role in fostering true doctrine and values in the citizenry.

  • lifeknight

    I would doubt that few individuals know about the concept of Natural Law. It is difficult to teach or see in a world of sexual compromise and moral collapse.
    Our only hope is that the pendulum swings the other way–and SOON.
    Thank you for a somewhat optomistic look at our dying society.

  • Don

    I hope you are correct Mr. Kalb . . . but history suggests that the madness can continue for very long periods. To end the madness that infects our society today will require a massive cultural shift that seems likely to require many years. It may in fact, require a restructuring of our country on several levels. We live in interesting times . . . and as Christians, we have some real work ahead of us.

  • PiusFan

    The wonderous paradox here is that Mr. Kalb notes the naked public square that is steamrolling basic truths and values, while tiptoeing around the unpleasant truth that our American-masonic square has always been, and always will be, naked to some meaningful degree, aside from how much this has intensified in recent years.

    Mr. Kalb references Augustine and Aquinas, but I strongly doubt he’s prepared to fully embrace them, their views of Church-State relations, and how propagation of doctrinal and moral errors should be curtailed.

    Our popes from Pius VIII through Pius XII warned us about the increasing lack of regard for the Social Reign of Christ and governments’ obligations to recognize Christ, the Church, and the Church’s teachings. Since 1960, the chickens having been flocking to the roost, but all we seem to get from the neo-Catholic establishment is futile suggestions for tinkering and fine-tuning the existing apparatus.

    • Why is the American founding a key issue? In the rest of the West they have the same problems, maybe more so, and they didn’t have the American founding. Also, I’m not sure how “it’s not obvious how to get out of the hole we’re falling into short of general social collapse,” “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” and a call for “a radically different attitude” add up to fine-tuning.

      • slainte

        If the American founding is based on Masonic principles, then its foundation is suspect and may not be sufficient to support a governmental structure consistent with Catholicism. What happens to structures built on sand?
        It is important for Crisis Magazine to explore Freemasonry and why the Popes have taken such a strong position in opposition. Catholics and Christians in general cannot address what they do not fully understand.

        • Sygurd Jonfski

          Interestingly, Joseph de Maistre, one of the pillars of ultramontanism and the Counter-Enlightenment movement, was a Freemason…

          • slainte

            Is your point that the popes were wrong?

            • Sygurd Jonfski

              No, my point is that Freemasonry at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century (that is, still in its formative period) was an ambiguous and multifaceted force. If such a clear thinker as de Maistre could belong to its “progressive” Scottish Rite, the fact is telling. By the way, the popes CAN be wrong when they don’t speak ex cathedra in the matters of faith and morals…

              • slainte

                First let us understand what this “ambiguous and multifaceted force” or competing Theology, perhaps, is all about, then perhaps we can better understand why so many popes, including Pope Francis, have opposed it.
                The popes, by the way, are very oftne Right about things and quite prescient in their warnings….Humanae Vitae is but one example.

                • Sygurd Jonfski

                  Did you notice the time qualification before the words “an ambiguous and multifaceted force”? I am clearly not talking about modern Freemasonry. And Humanae Vitae WAS an “ex cathedra” statement.

                  • slainte

                    Rather than parsing words, why not speak plainly? Clarity, not shadows; let the Light shine forth.

                    • Sygurd Jonfski

                      Rather than asking unnecessary questions, why not read my posting with attention? There is nothing obscure or overly difficult about it.

                    • slainte

                      I just read it again..twice. You appear to suggest that Freemasonry is a progressive philosophy or movement which attracts deep thinkers such as Joseph D Maistre and statesmen such as George Washington, If so, great. Let’s understand what it was and now is, or was and continues to be.
                      I would like to understand Masonry from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Popes, ie., Pope Leo XIII. Perhaps Crisis Magazine can facilitate that request.
                      Pax.

                    • Sygurd Jonfski

                      You’ve completely misunderstood my meaning. OK, please bear with me: I said that, even despite Clement XII’s and Benedict XIV’s encyclicals condemning Freemasonry (in 1738 and 1751 respectively), some ultraorthodox Catholics like Joseph de Maistre still thought several decades later that they could achieve something good by joining it. This has a bearing on the position of the Founding Fathers in USA. It’s just a reflection, an observation, don’t read a whole philosophy into it…

                    • slainte

                      Freemasonry is a movement or philosophy or theology that has survived for hundreds of years and continues to remain an enigma. A Catholic’s membership in this group estops him from receiving Holy Eucharist and is cause for excommunication from the Church.
                      If De Maistre purportedly supported the papacy as an ultramontane, yet belonged to a group that was explicitly condemned by the papacy, I would question his loyalty and obediance to the papacy, notwithstanding his towering legacy. All the more reason to understand what it is about Freemasonry that would tempt De Maistre and others to ignore repeated papal condemnations.

                    • Sygurd Jonfski

                      Go ahead…

              • PiusFan

                Maistre’s dabbling in early masonry appears to have been prior to the French Revolution and prior to the full solidification of his Catholic piety, values, and psyche. It also had not been condemned by the Church at that time. Masonry has since been authoritatively condemned by the Church, a denounciation that has even been restated after the Second Vatican Council.

                And it’s not quite true that popes can be wrong whenever they are outside the arena of the ex cathedra. Popes speak either definitively or non-definitively. Even the non-definitive is presumed to almost certainly be correct and valid, and one would have to have a solid case to demonstrate otherwise. Not simply that one chooses not to agree and then claim that non-definitive status means you have a right to disagree.

                Definitive can include a papal restating of something that is already established as definitive via an ecumenical council or the universal ordinary magisterium of the historic Church. It would also include any official, explicit, unconditional condemnation from a pope in the area of faith and morals.

                • Sygurd Jonfski

                  “It also had not been condemned by the Church at that time.”
                  Yes, it had. Twice.
                  “And it’s not quite true that popes can be wrong whenever they are outside the arena of the ex cathedra. Popes speak either definitively or non-definitively.”
                  Hairsplitting. This kind of mental jugglery in Catholicism can get very silly.

                  • PiusFan

                    I stand corrected, you are right with regard to masonry, it had been condemned. Very well, we can say early Maistre was wrong here.

                    My point regarding definitive and non-definitive is perfectly accurate and sound. Hairsplitting seems to be a growing, common response from one whose assertion has been refuted.

                    I can admit when I’m wrong. Perhaps you should try to do the same.

                    • Sygurd Jonfski

                      “I stand corrected”. Thank you. “I can admit when I’m wrong. Perhaps you should try to do the same.” This is not a matter of being right or wrong, I simply reject the whole idea. I don’t know where does it come from but it is highly casuistic and smacks of papolatry. It reminds me of that character in “Brideshead Revisited” who, when asked what if a pope stated that it was raining while the weather was clearly sunny, answered, “Well, if the pope says so it must be raining but we are too sinful to see it”.

        • Every government in the world is founded on blood, so exaggerated loyalty to a political regime is always a mistake. On the other hand, something that lasts a couple hundred years probably has some good features, and it’s a bad idea simply to throw popular loyalties away without compelling reason, so it mostly makes sense to work with what you have and try to improve and correct it as much as possible.

          • slainte

            The Truth of America’s philosophical and/or theological underpinnings is not an unimportant inquiry as it provides the foundational basis for the way we think and for the nation that we have become. It contributes to the formation and shaping of Culture.
            If Freemasonry is an important part of this effort, we should more fully understand it. To ignore this very salient inquiry is to agree to operate in darkness, a position which is inconsistent with Catholicism.

          • PiusFan

            Mr. Kalb, slainte hits the nail on the head. The fact that something may have some good features [what doesn’t?] does not mean it is wholesome, good, and true. No, we don’t confine our work to what we have when what we have is not what we should have.

            The American founding was a radical experiment, who postulate tenets have come to suffuse the modern world. It’s no accident it essentially waged war against the Church throughout the 1800s. It’s corpus of thought will always be at loggerheads with Catholicism, and is not some free, hospitable environment just waiting for the ever-elusive Catholic Moment to burst forth and clothe our Naked Public Square.

            Our classical tradition has authoritiatively condemned Americanism and freemasonry. It has called for Catholic confessional states. There can be no doubt regarding that. So when your proposals are intended to be situated within our present geo-political structure instead of being part of a sweeping call for Catholicizing society and ultimately instituting the Catholic confessional state that gives Christ has due, and us the benefits of a state in tandem with the Church’s vision and mission, then it can still be characterized as fine-tuning.

            • You seem to be saying that nothing at all can be done short of total revolution. Since total revolution is not in prospect, the apparent conclusion is that nothing can be done and nothing should be attempted. We shouldn’t even try to persuade anyone that we’re right about some issue because that would be an act within our present geo-political structure that doesn’t involve a call for total revolution.

              The Roman Empire was not a Catholic confessional state. That seems to have been Pontius Pilate’s view. Most of the early popes while they were being martyred probably thought the Romans were acting in a downright anti-Catholic fashion. Saint Paul nonetheless said the powers that be are instituted by God and should be obeyed for conscience’ sake within the limits of conscience itself.

              The American founding had aspects that reflected tendencies of thought at the time, aspects that reflected the heritage of the past, and aspects that reflected common sense, practicality, and political experience. It couldn’t have worked as well as it has if there hadn’t been a lot of the latter. If you like popes, that seems to have been the view of Leo XIII in Longinqua.

              What seems important is to emphasize that America is not a religion or a philosophy of life, it’s a particular human community that like others has good and bad features, and the point here and now is to support what promotes and extends the good features and mitigates or suppresses the bad features. The Church has what it needs in that regard. With that in mind, why is it a good idea to define America as a religion or philosophy and pledge eternal war against it? Isn’t that way of looking at America a big part of the problem?

              • slainte

                Nobody is requesting that we tear down America or engage in a revolution; merely that an accurate history of America’s founding be set forth. If the founding involved or is based on freemasonry and its principles, then it is reasonable to want to know what this system is about and how it has contributed, if at all, to the development and present state of our country and culture. Is it linked to and does it inform the global or national ruling elite? Has its purpose been and does it continue to be the destruction of Catholicism? If so, why? Is it behind policy decisions like the HHS mandate which is nothing short of a frontal assault on the Catholic Church in America?
                To turn a blind eye to a group with a proven track record of revolutionary disruption benefits noone, especially if Catholics and Catholicism are its target. The popes do not generally and repeatedly condemn groups as they have Freemasonry, again why? Just a few weeks ago Pope Francis referenced “masonic lobbies” as inimical to the Catholic Church. This is a group that we may ignore at our peril. We understand so little about it and so few Catholic apologists have the guts to discuss it. It is time to Man-Up.

              • PiusFan

                I did not say that nothing could be done short of what you term ‘revolution’. Yes, things can and should be done in the present context. What I’m saying is that the tactical efforts we make in the current environment cannot constitute the totality or even the bulk of our total efforts, which should be oriented toward striving toward a Catholicizing of society AND government.

                Pope Leo XIII noted positive aspects of the American environment for Catholics, but also included in that assessment the call for the American government to show specific favor toward Catholicism, apart from and beyond all other religions. In Immortale Dei and Libertas, he makes crystal clear what our official teaching is regarding church-state relations, and that should be what we are ultimately striving for, without compromise or apology. If we decline to pursue that, we set ourselves up for a chronic, problematic political environment, not to mention failing to give God His due recognition and respect.

                One could extrapolate from this idea of eschewing revolution to extend it to all sorts of other aspects of Catholic teaching, such as ending efforts to outlaw abortion. Why continue to wage an anti-abortion ‘revolution’ when there are so many other things we could do, and not alienate as many people in the process? Besides even if Roe/Wade were miraculously nullified today, the matter would just go back to the states, and any number of them will either have completely pro-choice laws or only modest restrictions or regulations in this area.

                This Crisis Magazine site has a Kenneth Whitehead article right now about the imperative of Catholics fighting for ‘lost causes’. Very true. I’m taking it seriously and applying it across the board. Otherwise, this call just becomes another forum for cafeteria Catholicism.

                • If you don’t say nothing can be done short of revolution what in this piece are you complaining about? Where do I propose rejecting general transformation as a goal? What do I say should be excluded from that process? Elsewhere I’ve explicitly said that “the ultimate goals of the Church necessarily include evangelization of public life and thus a Catholic society”: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2298/the_idea_of_a_catholic_society.aspx. Do I have to copy Cato, and end every comment I make on any topic whatever with “ceterum censeo res publica catholica fienda est”?

                  • PiusFan

                    Perhaps I’m not reading your material with as much clarity as I can and should, but I’m not seeing a clear explicit presentation of general transformation that subsumes the tactical short-term approaches and prescriptions, and what, precisely, that would look like. M. Brumley raises key, important points in some of his comments on the linked article.

                    Please excuse my wariness, but given what has elapsed in the past 50 years, I’m accustomed to being suspicious when certain high-minded ideals are presented without a clear, undeniable allegiance to what the Church has tradtionally championed.

                    • A “clear explicit presentation of general transformation that subsumes the tactical short-term approaches and prescriptions”? Sounds like you want a six point action plan to convert the world and bring about a Catholic society in the next fifteen years.

                      The problem though is that what we need is fundamental transformation of the tendency and outlook of our society. I’m not sure that’s the sort of thing that lends itself to clear explicit tactical short-term approaches and prescriptions. Especially when a basic part of the problem is the technocratic tendency to overrate such things.

                    • PiusFan

                      I’m not calling for a six-point or any-quantity-point action plan for the next fifteen years or any concretely set timeframe. I am calling for a transcending view and approach to the problem here that sounds less like George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Richard John Neuhaus and more like Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII.

                      They were not speaking in or for a different context. They were teaching immutable truth that is just as applicable for us today.

                    • Art Deco

                      What’s wrong with Weigel, Novak and Neuhaus?

                    • PiusFan

                      You mean aside from their departures from the fullness of Catholic truth? Since Pope Leo XIII has been referenced here more than once, please carefully read Immortale Dei, Libertas, and Satis Cognitum and candidly ask yourself if these 3 persons truly hold to these teachings.

                    • Art Deco

                      Why not be more specific?

                    • PiusFan

                      Separation of church and state is not acceptable, a Catholic state has the right to suppress the public spreading of error against Catholic faith and morals, government should not be secular and treat all religions on an equal basis, all Christians must be Catholic, and must be in or meaningfully united with the Catholic Church for their salvation, one who rejects any one official article of faith rejects the faith in its entirety,

        • Facile1

          Freemasonry does not accept a “belief in the Roman Catholic Church” as necessary to living a ‘good life’, as do many scientists, economists, academics, secularists, liberals, libertarians, etc. Of course, at the time when the Roman Catholic Church colluded with monarchies (beginning with Emperor Constantine) to the rise of nation states (beginning with Henry VIII), this belief easily translated into the exclusion of the belief in God altogether from one’s belief system. Thus the belief in ‘human reason’ during the American and French revolutions and the belief in atheism to this day.

          The study of Freemasonry (while fascinating to someone such as myself who is interested in the history of mathematics) is NOT necessary to being a ‘good Catholic’. It’s more important to study the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (and there is enough there to keep one occupied for life.)

          What is truly sad is that Catholic Schools have yet to learn how to teach science, math, and history in the context of the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings.

          I came late to my FAITH (inspite of the fact I was raised by American nuns). I truly regret that I did not start sooner.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        The French Revolution was also based on freemasonry.

        • James1

          I would posit that freemasonry was instrumental in most of the significant revolutions. Certainly, a number of freemasons were instrumental in the American Revolution, as well as the French Revolution. As well, freemasonry (or, again, a number of freemasons) were active in Mexico and Spain.

          I’ve come to a tentative conclusion (admittedly without a great deal of research…) that the freemason/freemasonry is behind most of the revolutions ushering in a “democratic” form of government.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’ve done the research, and I’d say you are right. Further research has convinced me that for the grand majority of society, including most freemasons, democracy is a sham.

          • slainte

            Did Masonry just go out of business when it accomplished its purported goals in 1700s France and America and later in Mexico and Spain? The popes say No.

            • Facile1

              Of course not. The mathematical formulas masons used to build Baroque cathedrals are still in use today.

    • Adam__Baum

      I’m still wondering when Governments ever had regard for Christ.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        When a heir couldn’t become King without appealing to the Pope, and when the Pope maintained his independent sovereignty with the Papal States.

        • Facile1

          BUT the meddling of the Church in the affairs of nation states was BAD for the Church.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Bad for the Church, good for humanity.

            • Facile1

              Only GOD is good.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Exactly why we should not trust democracy or secular governments.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Would you prefer the fusion of faith and government found in Islamic countries? Post Tudor England? The State (Lutheran) Churches found in Sweden? The Mormon hegemony found in Utah? The state idolatry that exists nearly everywhere now?

                  Government is inevitably comprised of individuals who lust for power, who seek it, nuture it and maintain it.

                  The best you can ever hope for from government is restraint, an application of subsidiarity. Let’s not forget how quickly Henry forgot his Catholicity and his title of Fidei Defensor, when his lust got in the way.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    I prefer Acts chapters 4 & 5, replicated locally.

                    Democracy is not a government of restraint.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I’m not asking for “democracy” (aka, two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner) and no government is a government of restraint.

                      Politics is the art of the possible. The first step in treating cancer, including the metastis of statism on the global body politic, is to stop further damage.

                • Facile1

                  EXACTLY. And why what it “Bad for the Church” cannot be good for humanity.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    If we have to sacrifice the Church to the will of God, we should.

                    • Facile1

                      TheodoreSeeber writes:
                      “If we have to sacrifice the Church to the will of God, we should.”

                      Hmmmm.

                      So, we should destroy the Church Our Lord built on a rock as a sacrifice to God’s will when she/we sin?

                      This does NOT sound like the same GOD who sent His only begotten SON as the ransom for our sins.

                      For awhile there, I thought you were Catholic. My mistake.

                      Good-bye.

  • publiusnj

    I agree with the thought that we should hold the Supreme Court and the rest of the US Government up to opprobrium. They are really making a hash of things. Too often, we pull our punches out of respect for the idea of a neutral beneficent government. The leftists/secularists never pull their punches (at least so long as they have focus-grouped tested the punches and found they could make them work), though. They will keep pushing until they meet resistance.

  • JERD

    If we are to reverse the trend toward increasing “technocracy,” we will need to upend the current dogma that the study of the natural sciences is the only path to knowledge and truth. This contemporary dogma has infected all areas of intellectual inquiry.

    Man has been reduce to a biological specimen, whose psyche is nothing but chemical reactions, and whose relationships can be poked and prodded by sociologists using techniques borrowed from the natural sciences. The study of art, music and theology – those disciplines that raise man to a higher order – are neglected, and have become malformed and base.

    Frankly, I don’t see much light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Facile1

      Science is a subset of the TRUTH like ‘natural numbers’ is a subset of ‘whole numbers’.

      Whole numbers contains the set of ‘natural numbers’ plus zero.

      And yet, one has to see zero and point it out in Nature.

      Can we move forward to algebra and calculus if we did not have zero?

      Language (including mathematics) is a human invention. The TRUTH is NOT.

      The light at the end of the tunnel is Jesus Christ.

  • Pay

    A really good and deep essay. My favorite part:

    “Under such circumstances truth eventually evaporates, since thought and
    language become more and more arbitrary, and what’s left is a battle of
    wills.”

    That is so common today and widely embraced. We no longer use words to reflect reality. We talk of “gay” and “marriage equality” and “pro choice” as if that is a sane and rational way to convey what is happening. It is perverse.

  • poetcomic1

    Whose natural law? This is the age of relativism and everybody has there OWN natural law, haven’t you heard?

    • Facile1

      I agree. Many speak of Natural Law to avoid the issue of GOD when speaking to atheists. St. Thomas Aquinas was able to reconcile the Natural Law of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato with FAITH in GOD. Jesus Christ, of course, did not bother.

      The TRUTH is the “common good” is the sum of individual “moral choices”. So, what is more important — to define the “common good” or define “moral choices”?

      Nation States like to define the “common good” because it gives them the excuse to limit the freedom of individuals.

      But the Church of Christ can only be composed of individuals who freely choose to love GOD, self and neighbor.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Longer lifespans means the irrationality lasts longer. This is the end game of sexual sin that started with the Eugenicists at the end of the 19th century. I do NOT see even total social collapse ending this lunacy- because social collapse is what the whole point of eugenics is.

    • Adam__Baum

      I doubt that lifespan has much to do with the duration of irrationality. The author of irrationality is immortal. Henry Tudor lived to be what, 47 years old and launched hundreds of years of irrationality. Marx is long gone, he still has adherents.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        What lifespan does is expand the influence of certain generations. I’m resigned to the fact that GenX will never have any governmental power- by the time the baby boomers die off, the Millennials will be advancing- and there is a certain calcification of irrationality. Far too many from GenX still are stuck in the socioeconomic effects of the sexual revolution- affected by their parents, never to expand into any power of their own because the geriatrics won’t let go of governmental power.

        This is just the revenge of the hippies.

        • Adam__Baum

          “What lifespan does is expand the influence of certain generations.”
          I still think it matters not a wit. Watch all your Protestant friends celebrate the 496th “reformation day”, this Halloween, even if they aren’t Lutherans.
          Then wonder if they realize Luther was an arguably a man with serious mental issues or if they (especially some who respect marriage more than some Catholics) realize that Luther’s proposition that marriage was a state affair is now reaching it’s absurd conclusion.

          • Facile1

            And compare that to the irrationality of Christ’s teaching of LOVING GOD FIRST. I cannot think of anything more irrational. But why is loving one’s neighbor near impossible even when one loves one’s self?

            • Adam__Baum

              What’s irrational about having as a primary love, that directed to God who created you, wills your existence, will judge and complete you?

              • Facile1

                It is irrational only if one’s vision of the future does not include GOD.

                • Adam__Baum

                  I think that it’s irrational not to include God, so I don’t think any statement that rests upon the the belief that there is no God can be rational.
                  Since it is impossible to prove a nullity, it is irrational to assert the non-existence of God. Even if I was a misguided radical empiricist, driven only of mercenary concerns, I would have be a fool to ignore “Pascal’s Wager”.

                  • Facile1

                    And even if we have good reason to believe in and love GOD, what can His reason be to believe in and love us?

                    Like Beauty, what is rational is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

                    Language is a human invention. The TRUTH is NOT.

                    And the TRUTH (ie GOD) is irrational.

                    So, let’s not pretend love is anything more than a gift.

                    Only GOD is love.

                    GOD is LOVE and HE created us in HIS image because of LOVE.

                    GOD is LOVE and HE lived, died and was raised from the dead because of LOVE.

                    GOD is LOVE and HE suffers us to reject HIS perfect LOVE because of LOVE.

                    TRUTH begins with GOD and cannot exist outside of GOD.

                    LOVE GOD FIRST and then tell me if this is a rational way to live.

  • Sygurd Jonfski

    I’m afraid that the present lunacy, founded predominantly on Freud’s “pleasure principle” (in other words, on extreme hedonistic individualism), is of the terminal kind. Humanity may never recover from it, mostly because in terms of mass appeal no ideology can compete with sex, entertainment and material possessions. As for Mr. Kalb’s description of the Church (“which in principle is a universal institution that claims public authority and stands for an understanding of the world more adequate than the one now accepted as authoritative in public life”), I find it indeed based more on principle than on reality.

    • Your first two sentences basically support the view that the end of liberalism will involve some sort of extreme collapse. It will keep on going until irrationality and dysfunction render it unable to continue at all. That might be the right answer of course. And the significance of your final sentence depends on the significance of principle. Will the Church return to type when the alternatives not only discredit themselves intellectually but stop working even minimally?

      • Sygurd Jonfski

        Correct, Mr. Kalb. In my opinion, liberalism MUST end in anarchy due to its very nature.

        • Facile1

          Correct, Mr. Jonfski. Sin consumes itself like fire consumes fuel.

    • Facile1

      Reality is the cumulative sum of moral choices. Thus, reality can change if we ALL act on principle.

  • CharlesOConnell

    Tighten your belt, batten down the hatches. The good will suffer with the evil. Woe to those with child in this day.

    • RainingAgain

      “The good will suffer with the evil.” Only for a time.

  • Tony

    Brilliant. We desperately need the contemplative life, which is just another way of saying that we need LIFE, instead of the simulacrum of it that we have now. I wonder sometimes how long it would take for people to clear their heads, if they just did ordinary things outdoors as people used to do; and they would rediscover the beauty of plants and animals, of natural time, of the sounds of beings besides ourselves, of silence, of the sexes, of children and old people … It’s madness we have, but madness cooked in incubators. I think that it doesn’t survive outside of those incubators.

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  • Facile1

    “Under such circumstances truth eventually evaporates,…” TRUTH cannot evaporate. BUT the TRUTH can be ignored. Otherwise, this article is BRILLIANT.

  • oregonlocal

    “to earlier writers who start their thought with being rather than knowledge”

    “Being?” Sounds like more metaphysical gibberish passing for reason and critical thought.

    • Augustus

      Mr. Kalb is assuming a certain elementary level of philosophical knowledge among his readers, the kind of insight one gains from a freshman introduction to philosophy class. Basic distinctions will sound like “gibberish” to the ignorant.

  • Vivianne

    How it can be seen that one of the most beautiful things in the world, i.e. matrimony, is simply an attempt to harm people, I do not know. How it can be seen that people who want to preserve the natural order are “haters”, I do not know. The question is how to live with this insanity, yet combat it….

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