Monday, December 19, 2022

No, Frank Pavone Was Not Defrocked for Being Pro-Life

I scarcely knew who Frank Pavone was before the news broke that the longtime Catholic priest and pro-life activist has been defrocked. I've heard his name, and I knew he was a Trumper. But what disturbed me more than his laicization were the instant assumptions from his supporters and other traditional and conservative Catholics that he was stripped of the priesthood simply for being pro-life. To a lot of Catholics, judging by the reactions to the news, Pavone's punishment is further proof that Pope Francis is deliberately trying to undermine the very values and teachings that make the Catholic church Catholic.

Here are the facts, the best I can work them out -- and the facts are what we should be looking at, not our feelings or allegiances.   

Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life. His group has been very vocal in its opposition to abortion. For Catholics, opposition to abortion is not unusual, nor is it a controversial position. If you're Catholic, you support the protection of human life from conception until natural death.  

What got Pavone got in trouble, it seems, was the manner in which he carried out his advocacy. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, for example, Pavone placed an aborted baby on an altar and posted a video of it to Facebook, while suggesting that anyone who voted for Hillary Clinton would be voting for those whose politics led to the abortion of that same dead child.

Following that incident, Pavone's bishop, Patrick J. Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo, denounced Pavone's stunt, calling the action "against the dignity of human life" and "a desecration of the altar."

Pavone and Zurek have a contentious history. In 2011, Zurek told Pavone to accept a pastoral assignment within the diocese and give up his extracurricular work. Pavone refused, so Zurek suspended him. Zurek had concerns about financial mismanagement within the Priests for Life organization, but more than that, Zurek wrote at the time, Pavone's "fame has caused him to see priestly obedience as an inconvenience to his unique status." 

Pavone didn't stop there. In 2020, he became the co-chairman of Donald Trump's pro-life coalition and continued to rankle his superiors who wanted him to curtail his political activism. Canon law prohibits priests from taking an active role in political parties unless they receive permission from their bishop.

He ultimately stepped down from his position in the Trump campaign, but he continued to use social media to advocate for Trump. His Twitter profile shows him standing side-by-side with Trump and wearing the red "Make America Great Again" hat that's so tightly identified with Trumpism.

In particular, he used his platform on Twitter to call Joe Biden a "goddamn loser" and claimed that Democrats "can't say a goddamn thing in support of their loser candidate without using the word Trump." 

"What the hell do you have to say for yourselves, losers?" he taunted.

To top it all off, he said that he would refuse absolution to anyone in confession who admitted to voting for Democrats. Again, Bishop Zurek had to write a statement, this time denouncing Pavone's words and actions as being "not consistent with Catholic Church Teaching." 

I hope it's become quite clear at this point why Pavone was stripped of the priesthood. It's not because the church leadership is out to get him. It's because he's proved time and again to be a loose cannon. As the letter from the papal nuncio announcing Pavone's laicization explained, Pavone has demonstrated "persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop" and engaged in "blasphemous communications on social media." That's the issue, not his pro-life advocacy.

The blasphemy charge relates to his taking the name of God in vain in his Twitter posts. In directly violating of one of the Ten Commandments, Pavone committed a mortal sin -- the kind of sin that dooms your soul to hell, and for which the faithful go to confession in the first place, so that they may be absolved.

Which brings us to Pavone's threat to refuse absolution to anyone who voted for a Democrat. Put simply, he's not supposed to do that. If someone shows up to confession and expresses genuine contrition for his or her sins, then the priest is supposed to absolve that person, issue a penance, and send the person on his or her way, with a fresh start and a caution to sin no more. To refuse that fresh start because Pavone didn't like the way someone voted is an abuse of his office, not to mention plainly uncharitable and wildly self-righteous. That's the way the woke behave, never allowing anyone to repent, forever condemning them for their ideological "sins." And lest we forget, holding absolution hostage was one of the things that triggered the Protestant Reformation.

Nor was Bishop Zurek wrong in admonishing Pavone for placing an aborted baby on an altar. Not only does Catholic canon law forbid the use of altars for anything but worship only, but Pavone unquestionably used the body of a dead human being as a political prop to get out the vote for his preferred presidential candidate. Pavone was guilty of both exploitation and desecration. "We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason," Zurek wrote at the time of the incident, "especially the body of a fetus."  

Look, I'm as pro-life as Pavone is, and I don't even necessarily disagree with him in principle on shocking people into an awareness of what it is they support with their views and their actions. As the great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer is reported to have said, "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." Just think about it: If people witnessed executions, they may not be so eager to support capital punishment. If people saw the carnage on the battlefield, perhaps they'd be less willing to cheer on the empire's bloody war machine (or at least they might wonder why they cheer on Ukraine while ignoring the plight of, say, the people of Yemen). Heck, if people saw animals being slaughtered, there would probably be a lot more vegetarians in the world. Go ahead and show consumers the working conditions in the sweatshops that keep capitalism profitable. And yes, show them that the result of an abortion is actually the taking of a human life, not just the removal of an amorphous clump of cells. 

But there's a time and a place, and a consecrated altar is not an appropriate medium on which to display a dead body to make a political point -- all the more so if you're a priest. If you want to be a political activist first and foremost, then go be a political activist. If you want to couch your activism within the framework of Catholic theology and social teaching, that's fine too, because at least you have your priorities straight, inasmuch as everything you do as a priest is supposed to be directed toward saving souls. You can't serve two masters -- in this case, the sacred and the mundane, or God and Caesar, if you like. One has to take precedence, and if you're a priest, you'd better be sure which one comes out on top. 

There's also a certain way to comport yourself when you're a priest. First, you have to be obedient to your bishop. That's not negotiable. And given that Pavone has burned bridges with more than one member of the church hierarchy, it's safe to say that obedience to his superiors is not his strong suit. Even staunchly pro-life Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York cut ties with Pavone when the priest refused to accept ecclesiastical financial oversight of Priests for Life. I'm not big on obedience for its own sake, but if I were a Catholic priest, I would understand that what my boss says, goes. It comes with the job description. If you have a problem with that, then, again, you should probably find another line of work. 

In tandem with obedience comes humility, which is a trait that Trump and Pavone both appear to lack. 
We've already addressed Pavone's combative (and blasphemous) language in his tweets. Michael Voris behaves similarly, and although it was never explicitly stated at the time, the Archdiocese of Detroit was no doubt reacting to Voris' acerbic and decidedly uncharitable demeanor when it asked him to stop using the word "Catholic" in the name of his media outlet. Now known as Church Militant, it was at the time called RealCatholicTV. 

But even now that he's been defrocked, which should have prompted at least a fleeting moment of reflection, Pavone remains defiant. For one thing, he still refers to himself as "Father," as if his priestly faculties haven't been stripped away. In an open letter to his supporters, he asks the pope to reconsider his laicization while accusing people in the church hierarchy of lying about him and abusing their authority over him. And in a video following the Vatican's decision on his priesthood, he continued to use belligerent language, referring to his critics as "the dumbest in the world." Sound like a certain politician you know? And more importantly, does it sound like something you'd expect a priestly servant of God to say? 

Pavone is trying to play the martyr, claiming that church authorities are singling him out for his abortion advocacy. In doing so, he ignores the plainly obvious fact that the church is pro-life on abortion, and that many other Catholic clergy advocate for an end to abortion. They just manage to do it without being offensive and insubordinate. 

The man clearly has learned nothing from his predicament. Like the politician he idolizes, he seems utterly incapable of self-reflection or contrition. 

Many of Pavone's defenders claim the church is exercising a double standard in its punishment. They've been quick to point out, for example, that Fr. James Martin has suffered no ecclesiastical punishment for his LGBT advocacy. But Fr. Martin has not, to my knowledge, ever disobeyed his bishop, nor does anything he promotes oppose Catholic teaching on homosexuality. The only thing he's really calling for, as far as I can see, is a little bit more compassion and openness toward people who, if the scientific research holds up, have no control over whom they're attracted to. We all know of the fundamentalist Christian tendency to focus on homosexuality to the exclusion of almost all other social and moral issues. Fr. Martin just seems to want to create an environment where gays and lesbians don't feel singled out. 

We could also have a discussion about folks like Thomas Merton, the Berrigan Brothers, Dorothy Day, and Sr. Helen Prejean, and their advocacy and activism against war, capital punishment, and exploitation of the poor. All of these Catholics have brought forth different aspects of what it means to be pro-life. Pavone's pro-life focus just happens to be abortion. In a sense, they're all fighting the same fight, upholding the Catholic belief in the dignity of life. I don't doubt that Pavone is just as genuinely passionate about his pro-life cause as they are, and were, about theirs. I do, however, wish that the militantly anti-abortion folks would show just as much passion about other humanitarian issues. Here where I live, our deacon invited us to pick up a Christmas card from the church narthex and send it to the folks in the county jail, as a reminder that one of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy in the Catholic church is to visit the imprisoned. Jesus implores us to do as much in Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew. So why do we not show as much of a dedication to all of "the least of these" as we do to the unborn? Where is the equivalent concern for, say, the poor and the refugee? Maybe that's yet another thing for Pavone to reflect upon.

Heck, we could go on all day about the German church that's in near-schism at this point, or the way the church shuffled around abusive priests for years instead of punishing them, or its comparatively soft treatment (so far) of Fr. Marko Rupnik, accused of the systematic sexual exploitation of several nuns. But the point remains that even if the church is inconsistent and falls short in other cases, in Pavone's cases it did exactly what it ought to have done.

All I'm calling for is some intellectual honesty when dealing with situations like this. Whether anyone likes Pavone and his views is secondary to whether he did something to warrant punishment from the Vatican. If you would condemn acts of disobedience and sacrilege from the "other side" of the political fence, then you have to condemn those things when "your side" does them. If you have no problem with Pavone's MAGA hat, would you feel the same if you saw a priest campaign for a Democrat or wave a rainbow flag? If not, why not? Jesus didn't have nice things to say about hypocrites. 

I'm not a tremendous fan of the current papacy, and I've made that known in the past on this very blog. I especially don't like the way Pope Francis has taken a hard line against traditionalists, in particular Catholics who attend the Latin Mass. But it's people like Pavone who make the Vatican want to clamp down on traditionalists in the first place. Peter Kreeft once astutely pointed out that while leftists have soft heads to go along with their soft hearts, conservatives tend to have both hard heads and hearts. And that's why traditionalists can sometimes look a whole lot like the same Pharisees that Jesus so roundly condemned, stuck as they were in their rigidness, their lack of charity, their resistance to change, and their attachment to the letter of the law without regard for the spirit of the law. That goes a long way toward explaining why Pavone is the way he is. It's not really something to be proud of. 

As Kreeft observes, Christians are called to combine soft hearts with hard heads, to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Pavone falls short of that call, as do many. The way of Christ doesn't look like the modern Democratic Party or like Trumpism, and we miss the mark when we try to cram Christ into either one. Our job is to conform ourselves to him, not him to our contemporary political views. Pavone is not unusual in failing to figure that out. 

I have my eye on pursuing holy orders in 2023. I would be ordained as a priest with apostolic succession, albeit through a line that the Catholic church doesn't recognize. In the meantime, I enjoy attending Catholic Mass, and I don't intend to go out of my way to announce my priesthood to the churches I visit. But I have no doubt that if word of my ordination reached the bishop of our diocese, I'd run a good risk of being excommunicated. And I would accept that sentence if it were handed down, as I would be knowingly running afoul of church law. The problem with Frank Pavone is he wants it both ways. He wants to be able to disobey his superiors while carrying on being a priest. Sorry, Frank, but you're just not that special. If you don't like the rules, don't be surprised when your rogue behavior leaves you standing out in the cold. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Dystopia Is Here. The Time to Speak Up Is Now.

I had to check out of politics at the height of COVID hysteria. It was destroying my mental health to watch the mass irrational behavior and slavish groupthink. Challenge the narrative on masks, mortality rates, vaccines, alternative meds, or the redefinition of herd immunity, and you’d get “fact-checked” into silence and mobbed by panicked people asking why you want to kill their grandma. Society devolved into a mass psychosis that we haven’t really recovered from, and the reasons it happened are, I believe, threefold. First, people are tribal and don’t want to go against the grain. Second, people obey authority figures to often dangerous and destructive ends, as Milgram famously proved. And, as much as I hate to say it, most folks just aren’t very good at independent critical thought.

I’ve been thinking about this as I watch the news about the Twitter Files unfolding. I hate to be an I-told-you-so kind of person, but everything I’ve always said about social media and Big Tech was 100% correct. They were shadow-banning and silencing people based on political opinions they disliked and justified it by calling the targeted content “hate” or a TOS violation when they knew it was neither. They were using “fact-checks” not to actually correct misinformation but to silence information that ran counter to the institutional narrative, so that they could promote their own propagandistic misinformation and pass it off as the truth. We even know now that Twitter was in bed with the alphabet agencies and actively worked with them to suppress not just certain viewpoints but actual news stories – like the Hunter Biden laptop. Twitter suspended the New York Post for breaking the story, while the feds all piled on to tell us the story was “Russian disinfo,” when they knew full well it was nothing of the sort. They just knew the story had the potential to harm Joe Biden’s election chances. If we could stop saying that “private companies can do whatever they want,” especially now that we know how deeply enmeshed Big Tech is with promoting government narratives, that would be awesome.

As the Twitter Files continue to roll out, we’re now seeing that Twitter prioritized the censorship of conservative and populist viewpoints even above taking down posts involving child trafficking. We aren’t just dealing with woke ideologues here; these are genuinely evil people. Can you imagine the rot that would be uncovered if someone like Elon Musk took over Facebook and revealed what goes on behind the scenes? There’s a reason that those in power want you to think of Musk as a hateful Nazi: It deflects the public’s attention from what he’s busy exposing.

The problem – and it’s a massive problem – is that this isn’t just a Big Tech phenomenon. People of the same ideological persuasion have captured every major institution of power, leaving their agenda unchecked. Everything from science to higher education has been taken over by authoritarians who place ideology above truth and will marginalize or silence you if you challenge them.

But what can you do about it? Vote Republican? We see how that worked out. Republicans are a train wreck. They sit back and complain and think that will be enough, while the woke left steamrolls right over them, deepening their own institutional capture. You’d think that after the Republicans got their asses handed to them in the midterms, when control of Congress was ripe for the taking in the face of rampant inflation and woke intolerance, they’d realize that playing defense doesn’t work anymore. You’ve got to play offense once in a while. You’ve got to push back.

I say things like this and get called a right-winger, when all I really long for is decency and tolerance. Not the fake tolerance of those who suppress viewpoints they dislike, but an actual pluralistic society based on the ideals of classical liberalism, where we observe equal protection under the law and the majority protects the rights of the minority, rather than subordinating the majority to the minority and trying to pass off upside-down discrimination as progress.

Republicans pay lip service to the same, but they’re of one mind with establishment Democrats when it comes to protecting the privileges of moneyed interests over the common man. No one stands up for the poor and working class. The Democrats gang up on their populists (Bernie) or make their party ideology so intolerable that the populists leave (Tulsi). The Republicans have, well, Trump, and the less said about him, the better. I think DeSantis would make a great president inasmuch as he knows how to play offense against the woke, but I don’t know how well he’d stand up for everyday working Americans, and I highly doubt he’d do anything to even try to downsize our tools of empire and its sickening $850 billion military budget.

All I know is that somebody has to stand up and say this isn’t right. All of it. The woke are successful at shutting down their opposition not only because they hold so much institutional power, but also by playing on people’s sympathies, causing opponents to self-censor and back down. They make it seem like they’re defending the underdog, which makes their agenda all the more insidious. You might be told that you just hate gay people, for example, in order to obfuscate the truth of what’s really going on and to shut down genuine criticism. But here’s the thing: I couldn’t care less what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes, and I really doubt that most reasonable people do. It’s the woke who have politicized immutable characteristics and played on people’s emotions to shut down dissent. After all, there’s a world of difference between a genuine bigot who says “I hate gays” and a reasonable person who might say, “You know, maybe it’s not such a great idea to have sexualized drag queens reading to kids in public libraries, or to encourage children to go on puberty blockers and maim their bodies, or to allow men to infiltrate women’s sports and personal spaces.”  

Kirk Cameron has a new kids’ book out that talks about the fruits of the spirit, and according to his publisher, at least 50 libraries have declined requests to let him speak on his book tour, usually citing their commitment to “diversity” and “equity.” And yet they throw their doors open wide for drag-queen story hours. We’ve gotten to this point because the woke left has conditioned enough of the public to think that the slightest modicum of criticism of their agenda is tantamount to bigotry. They go on about diversity and tolerance, when in truth they’re the most intolerant of all when it comes to allowing alternative points of view to be heard.

People might think these are petty criticisms, but what’s essentially happening all around us is death by a thousand cuts. We’re the frog sitting in a pot of slowly heating water until one day we end up boiling to death.

And again, this is not just about woke intolerance. It’s also about how the corporatocracy is crushing the poor and working class. The woke are in allegiance with them, so in a sense it’s one and the same monster we’re fighting. Conservatives and libertarians still seem to be stuck on the idea that it’s only government overreach we have to resist. But corporations hold enormous power and wealth, and the Twitter revelations should remind us of how deep in collusion the government and corporate powers in our world really are. 

You know who else married government power to corporate power and favored certain groups of society over others? They controlled Germany 75-odd years ago, and they weren’t very nice people.

Just because I’m a college grad who doesn’t do manual labor doesn’t mean I can’t stand in economic solidarity with the poor and working class. I grew up as one of them and continue to live in their midst and admire their hard work and resolve. And at the same time, just because I have a degree and some moderate smarts doesn’t mean I’ve become a pointy-headed elite who’s handed my brain over to the irrational authoritarianism of the woke left. But I feel like someone stranded between the increasingly rigid viewpoints of two political parties, neither of whom seems either willing or capable of doing the right thing for the people, and few of whom seem to see the world the way I do. The American Solidarity Party comes closest to mirroring my views. In Europe I’d fall in with the Christian democrats (small “d”). But here, I feel adrift. I always have, but the feeling has grown much more acute in the past few years. Worst of all, I despair over the future my daughter will have to live in.

The only thing that will change our course is for people to speak their truth. They have to stop self-censoring and being pushed around and bullied. They have to say no. The events that have unfolded since 2020 don’t give me much hope that they will. But if the tide doesn’t turn, and soon, I fear there’s going to be a point of no return.

There’s no time to waste. Dystopia isn’t on the way. It’s already here.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Advent 2022: The Secret Ingredient of the Christmas Story

It’s inevitable this time of year to hear critics proclaiming that “Christmas is a pagan holiday.” The obvious clue that this is not so is in the name of the holiday itself, literally “Christ’s Mass.” Early Christians did appropriate pagan customs, symbols, dates, and traditions, but not because the Christians themselves were, or wanted to be, pagans. Their aim was to persuade the pagans to become Christians, by trying to convince them that they didn’t have to give up all that much to follow a different god. The Christians in Ireland went so far as to take the beloved Celtic goddess Brigid and turn her into St. Brigid of Kildare, a miracle-working abbess who by an amazing coincidence possessed many of the same characteristics as the earlier deity.

At the other end of the spectrum are evangelical-leaning folks who are aware of the pagan overtones of many Christian traditions and forgo them, such that, say, “Easter” becomes “Resurrection Sunday,” to avoid any connection with the Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess Eostre, who may or may not have given Easter its name, and who may or may not have ever even existed as an object of worship. All we have on the matter is the eighth-century word of the Venerable Bede, whose idea was picked up by Jacob Grimm, he of the Brothers Grimm, and turned into legend. If only the Western church had chosen to use the word “Pascha” for Easter, as the Eastern Orthodox do, there would surely be much less controversy and consternation. If you suspect that the word “Pascha” has a connection to the Jewish Passover, you’d be correct.

The evangelical folks will also tell you that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and will implore us to “keep Christ in Christmas.” To this view I’m sympathetic. Christianity and Western civilization are, after all, inextricably joined, and there’s no point in denying it. I cringe every year to hear the incessant “holiday holiday holiday” from corporations whose bank accounts swell in November and December thanks to gifts being purchased by the 90% or so of the population that celebrates Christmas, not some amorphous, vague, and nameless winter “holiday.” Healthy pluralistic societies honor and protect the majority traditions that act as a cultural glue while respecting minority traditions and observances. What they don’t do is subordinate or otherwise suppress the majority traditions in an attempt to be “inclusive.” That’s a surefire recipe for cultural disintegration. More than that, it’s always bemused me that we never avoid saying “Easter” when it usually falls close to Passover, a major Jewish holiday by any reckoning, but we presumably avoid saying “Christmas” because of its proximity to other end-of-year celebrations, like Hanukkah, which is a comparatively minor Jewish celebration and has only been turned into a kind of Jewish Christmas by those who, for whatever reason, wish to promote a false equivalence.

Of course, keeping Christ in Christmas entails more than just saying “Merry Christmas” to the cashier at Macy’s. Jesus reached out to the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts. He loved his enemies and turned the other cheek. He prayed for his persecutors. And he called out the religious hypocrites who proclaimed their own holiness and lorded their supposed righteousness over the people, while in reality they were, in Christ’s own words, nothing but whitewashed tombs. Are we willing to walk the same path as Christ? Are we willing to be the Good Samaritan, the forgiving father of the Prodigal Son, the one who helps the “least of these”? Because that’s how you keep Christ in Christmas.

I try my best to do that, because even though I’m something like an eclectic Taoist Catholic who’s never gone strictly by the book and probably never will, it’s the Sermon-on-the-Mount goodness of Christ’s message that keeps me at least nominally in the fold. I was raised Catholic and find comfort and peace in the church’s rituals and traditions, the rhythms of the liturgical season, the undying message of love and hope, and the church’s unwavering pursuit of those timeless Platonic ideals of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Am I a “believer” in the story of Jesus in the most literal sense? Well, I guess that depends on what you mean by “believe.” I strive to live my life as if it were all true – not in a Pascal’s-Wager, hedging-my-bets-to-stay-out-of-hell kind of way, and not in a way of subjugating my critical mind to fictional absurdities, but because I see the benefit, both to myself and the world I live in, of adopting the philosophy that underpins the belief, whether the story is literally true or not.

“To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.” So goes a line from the film Kung Fu Panda. I find it hard to disagree. Literal truth, philosophical truth, and spiritual truth are not all necessarily synonymous. It’s how you apply the truths you hold dear that ultimately make the difference.    

To that end, I have no doubt that a dogmatic by-the-book Christian would be uncomfortable with the spiritual decor in our house, at Christmas and otherwise. My nativity scenes and Advent wreath coexist peacefully with our pagan statuary and our Wheel of the Year plaque, which will soon turn from Samhain to Yule. We'll probably enjoy a little bûche de Noël, or even burn an actual Yule log in the fire pit, as we observe the solstice and cheer on the Oak King's annual defeat of the Holly King as the days start to get longer and we slowly emerge from darkness into light.

I suppose a bit of explanation is in order. My wife has an affinity for Taoist and pagan spirituality, and I myself walked the pagan path for a while before (sort of) coming full circle on my long spiritual journey. And I still admire the way those ancient primitive traditions bring us into closer harmony with the natural world and the rhythms of the changing seasons. But perhaps even more than that, I’m drawn to the way they elevate the nurturing gentleness and compassion, the yin, of the Sacred Feminine, which is lacking in the all-male Trinity and is something we dearly need more of in our violent and angry world, burning with the heat of yang male aggression.

Don’t tell the priest at the Latin Mass I attend, but I see Mary, Sophia, and the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Comforter, all as aspects of the feminine “half” of the Divine. Even beyond that, I regard them as accessible symbols of the Great Mother, the Tao, the infinite fruitful womb from which the ten thousand things arise, the natural order of the universe itself, that which guides and cares for all who follow her gentle ways, who find her in the natural world, and who honor and love her by living in harmony with her.

I’m not one of those all-religions-are-the-same people. That’s not my point, and it’s simply not true to say that Buddhism is Shinto is Islam is Christianity. My point is more that once you know the rules, you can break them, inasmuch as you can identify common threads and synthesize them into a worldview that magnifies the best of all the traditions you happen to observe and honor. I’ve been a student of religion for most of my adult life, and my explorations and wanderings have left me with a concept of God that has more to do with a sort of impersonal creative force, a universal mind or consciousness, the natural order, thought itself, or even a kind of elemental love. It’s something like the Hindu concept of Brahman, or, indeed, the Chinese concept of the Tao, rather than a perpetually enraged deity who casts into eternal torment anyone who slips up and breaks the rules. If God is really love, as the apostle John says, then God can’t be that God. It doesn’t compute.

And I think that’s one of the things Jesus came to tell us – that the Father desires mercy over sacrifice, that he wants reconciliation and forgiveness, that he wants us to focus less on exacting adherence to lists of rules, like the Pharisees did, and more on extending our hand to those in need, like the Good Samaritan did.

That’s what the Eastern Orthodox call theosis. You become more like God by becoming more like the man who, according to Christian theology, literally was God – in other words, what God would look like if God were Man. “God became Man so that Man could become like God,” said St. Athanasius. That notion probably sounds blasphemous to contemporary Western Christian ears, especially those outside the ancient Catholic and Orthodox traditions, where the theological notion of total depravity holds stronger sway. But I think Jordan Peterson made an excellent observation when, in commenting on Orthodox theology, he saw the point of being a Christian as “picking up your cross and stumbling up the damn hill,” in imitation of Christ.

That’s the same point Athanasius was making. If Christ was both fully human and fully divine, then by grafting ourselves on to Christ, by imitating his ways and following in his footsteps, by picking up our cross and following him, we can learn to infuse our flawed and broken humanity with the goodness of divinity. No, we’re probably not going to reach Christ-like heights of goodness in this life. Saints are saints, after all, because their exceptional lives are, well, the exception and not the rule. But at least we’re not consigned to being no more than Luther’s snow-covered dunghills, our inherent filth only ever covered and concealed by the purity of Christ. That’s a view that, whether it intends to or not, proclaims that Christ, the Son of God, lacks the ability to seep into our being and transform us on the inside. That, to me, seems far more blasphemous than anything Athanasius wrote down in the formative years of Christianity. God, after all, declared his creation good, and woe to those who call good evil, and evil good. It's all right there in the scriptures for anyone to see.

To me, the beauty of the Christmas story is that it gives us a light to illuminate the way toward theosis. It holds the potential to lift us up, to change our lives, to make this world a better place for the ones we will eventually leave behind. In imitation of Mary, we have to be the ones who demonstrate the faith to trust in the divine plan and to birth Christ anew into a world in dire need of his love, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and selfless sacrifice.

Too often, we reduce Christianity to a kind of quid pro quo: accepting Jesus as your savior so you can go to heaven when you die. That’s an awfully low bar, and it ultimately does little to transform the world around us, or ourselves. This, I think, is why Jesus said to the Pharisees that “the kingdom of God is within you.” It’s not something that can be observed, “nor will people say ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is,’” Jesus told them. It’s already here. Right here, right now. You just have to find it within yourself, and Christ came to Earth to show us how to do that, to unlock the secret, to show us the Way, his Way, that lay latent within us. In the words of Po, again from Kung Fu Panda: “There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.”

Along the same lines, I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that the Chinese word “Tao” translates as “the Way.” The first Christians called themselves followers of the Way. So what, really, is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”? It’s the imitation of Christ, which is reflected in the natural order of the universe, and in the pursuit of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Therein lies what Christ called the Father. Therein lies love.

So my hope, even though it may be a fool’s hope, is that we might someday transcend our petty little turf wars, stop erecting walls, and embrace the inherent goodness of the stories that have for centuries united our culture. So what if Christianity appropriated pagan symbols and customs? So what if your neighbor’s idea of the Christmas story is a little bit different from yours? Christmas isn’t about dogma on one hand, or about throwing out the baby Jesus with the bathwater on the other. It’s not even about being pagan versus Christian. It’s about embracing the spirit of the law over the letter of the law, and following the Sermon-on-the-Mount example that was given to us as our moral, ethical, and indeed spiritual heritage. There may arguably be a time for “either-or” decisions in our lives. But Christmas transcends all that. It’s a holiday with a “both-and” spirit, a time that unites us in humility and hope, with a Way laid out before us, illuminated by the light of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

That’s not something to cast aside lightly. In fact, it’s the best Christmas gift we could ever hope for.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent 2022: The Tao of Catholicism

A few days ago, I whipped through C.S. Lewis's book The Abolition of Man. Considering the book was published almost 80 years ago, it felt eerily prophetic to read Lewis's warnings about untethering ourselves from the natural order of things. Lewis, using the Chinese concept of the Tao to stand in for natural law, argues that the more we attempt to detach ourselves from the Tao and claim to be able to make up our own subjective realities -- and if you're thinking of transgenderism and transhumanism at this point, you're not alone -- the more inhuman we will become, since humanity, being part of the Tao, can never separate itself from the Tao; it can only harmonize with it or come into conflict with it. And if the latter, it's a conflict we can never win.

For this viewpoint to resonate, one has to accept that there are objective and eternal truths and values in the world. The problem in our postmodern world is that this proposition is often rejected, and things aren't likely to end well for those who reject the Tao. But the problem didn't begin with postmodernism or wokeness; Lewis argues that it goes back to the dawn of the Enlightenment, when the spiritual was cast aside as primitive superstition and scientific materialism trained us only to believe in what we could perceive with our physical senses and measure in a lab. The danger in such an approach is that it desacralizes nature, turning it into an object to dissect and exploit rather than as something to respect, nurture, and harmonize ourselves with. Humans, by extension, are likewise treated as science experiments, and those conducting the experiments are able to amass significant power over humanity. But if those in power have rejected the Tao -- i.e., natural law and its eternal, unchanging, objective values -- then what will temper their use of power? If, in a postmodern world, anything goes, then we're setting the stage for a totalitarian society that exerts virtually unlimited power, unburdened by any kind of moral constraints.   

Lewis, as you probably know, was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, who was fresh in my mind following our family's annual Thanksgiving tradition of watching the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings film trilogy (extended editions, as is our way). Tolkien was, of course, a devout Catholic, and he called Lord of the Rings "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work." That's very obvious to someone raised Catholic and/or immersed in Catholic culture. But unlike Lewis, who tended to pound the reader over the head with religious allegory in his fictional works, Tolkien disliked allegory and instead let his religious and spiritual views speak subtly through the actions of his characters and the unfolding of his storylines. There are many parallels to Christian, and specifically Catholic, theological themes and values, but very rarely will you find a one-to-one symbolic stand-in. The strong Marian overtones in the character of Galadriel are probably as close as LOTR gets to a direct comparison to Catholicism, but the Catholic-ness of Tolkien's work is also there, more indirectly, in things like the elves' lembas bread, which sustains people physically with just a small amount, whereas the small wafer of the Eucharist sustains people spiritually; the story's many acts of redemptive suffering, an idea that's been developed in Catholicism far more than in other branches of Christianity; and the ways in which various characters express the threefold office of Christ as priest, prophet, and king, a concept that dates to the early centuries of the church. 

But even more than that, LOTR inherently promotes the Platonic ideals of goodness, truth, and beauty that the Catholic church also aspires to. 

As with LOTR's "fundamental Catholicism," though, there aren't one or two specific things you can point to and say "that's definitively where the Platonism is." It's just suffused throughout the entire tale, in a way that tells you the author has internalized those ideals in his own life so deeply that his expressing them is second nature to him. It feels natural, never forced or contrived. And I find that approach reflected in Catholicism itself, inasmuch as its theology is largely allowed to speak for itself. 

Catholicism feels emotionally and spiritually mature, in a way that many non-Catholic churches I've visited don't. I don't like going to church and leave feeling either lectured or talked down to. And I think this is why evangelical Protestant Christianity has never clicked for me. The me-and-Jesus personal-relationship emotionalism, the selective moralizing, and the overly simplistic notion that a one-time mental assent at an altar call is all you ever have to do -- well, I just think it misses the point. Catholicism has its own issues, but where I think it excels is in pursuing a deeper, rational, philosophical understanding of the divine than you can find in other flavors of Christianity. And at the same time, it allows the seeker to delve into the mysteries of the divine, in ways that stripped-down literalist Christianity are incapable of doing.

Why is that important? Well, at least for me, literalism is a frustrating dead-end that leaves you twisted up in knots as you try to rescue a God that becomes either self-contradictory or a monster. I just don't get anything out of picturing God as a petty rule enforcer, ready to send the men and women created in his image to hell for the slightest infraction. I think that completely misses the point of pursuing a relationship with the divine. The point is not to nervously walk a tightrope your whole life and hope that you don't mess up and fall. The point is to know that you will inevitably fall, and that the one who came to the world out of love provides a safety net and always helps us get back up again. And by being shown mercy, over and over, we learn over time to become more like the one who lifts us up. We imitate Christ, picking up our own crosses as he did, and strive for the ideals. We may never reach those lofty goals, but the point is to improve ourselves as we try, not to just simply say we can never do any better and thus feel justified stuck in whatever rut we find ourselves. 

If the Platonic ideals are reflected in the Trinity, I see the Father as goodness, the Son as truth, and the Spirit as beauty. The Father found his creation good because the creation arose from inherent goodness. The Son came to impart the truth -- not an exclusionary truth that condemns and limits, but one that says "no one comes to the Father but through me" because the Son represents the full truth of the divine, a truth that can be found in its fullness nowhere else. And the Spirit is the one who breathes life into creation, who comforts and nurtures -- who imbues the world with beauty. It will, incidentally, surely land me in hot water with most Catholics, but I connect with the Spirit as being the feminine aspect of the divine, seen spiritually in Sophia, the Wisdom of God, and in the human realm through the person of Mary, whom St. Maximilian Kolbe referred to as "a quasi-incarnation of the Holy Spirit" and, in my view, was not wrong.

Going back to C.S. Lewis, the eternal objective truths he spoke of in The Abolition of Man are to be found here, through the pursuit of these Platonic ideals. It's not so much that the Christian concept of God is "the truth" in opposition to the claims of competing religions, but rather that the idea of God itself points to an ideal of goodness and truth, and that the theology of Christianity orients us toward a particular pursuit of those ideals in a particular way, so that we may more fully reflect those ideals in our own lives. I find this concept of God not that dissimilar from the Neoplatonic idea of the One, the self-caused first principle that in turn was the cause for everything else in the universe, and whose truth we can perceive only through a pursuit of the good and the beautiful -- for the more beautiful something is, the closer it approaches to the Platonic ideals. Even Bishop Robert Barron has suggested that the most effective strategy for evangelization is not thumping a Bible and aggressively preaching in people's faces, but capturing people with the beautiful. Once you've done that, you can enchant them with the good, and once they've embraced the good, you can lead them to the truth. 

In seeing "God" as more like the One, an embodiment of the Platonic ideals, I understand that I probably part ways with many Christians, who would choose literalism over symbolism and abstraction. But there's no escaping the fact that my theology draws as much from the likes of Plotinus and Jung as it does from the early church fathers. It has to, because if I were forced into an exclusively literalist interpretation of Christianity, I wouldn't even be here writing this post. I feel a pull toward the theology and ethics of Christianity, and yet the only way I can stay in the fold is to approach it in my own way. The truth is that I feel more at home with the Christian mystics, like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, who, although they most certainly conceived of God in at least some literal manner, allowed for a wider understanding of what "God" is. Catholicism also throws off some strong pagan vibes for me -- Catholicism replacing as it did the pagan worship of the Roman empire, and absorbing some of its essence in the process, and I'm OK with that -- but that's another post for another time. The point is that I've comfortably arrived at a place of thinking of myself as an outside-the-box Catholic -- sometimes way outside. 

This is also where the concept of the Tao comes into play for me in a Catholic context. If the Tao is, at its essence, the way the universe works and the objective realities that govern it, then for me there is no significant difference in my mind between "God" and Tao. They're both ways of expressing ultimate reality, and neither in turn is terribly different, in my mind, from the Neoplatonic One. The Jews just happened to personify their concept of the ultimate, where the Chinese and the Greek didn't. I suppose you could even add the Brahman of Hinduism to the discussion, inasmuch as it seems to sit somewhere between the impersonal and the personified, but I don't see any need to complicate the issue by dragging in a pantheon of foreign deities.  

There's an interesting book out there called Christ the Eternal Tao, written by an Eastern Orthodox priest who inherited a worldview that drew parallels between the Christian and Taoist traditions -- not in one of those reductionist "all religions are essentially the same" ways that dumb down religions to their lowest common denominator, but in a way that respects how the East and West have interpreted each other's concepts of the ground of all being and found them to actually be not all that dissimilar. As the author points out, the Chinese translation of the Bible begins the Gospel of John by proclaiming that "In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God." Thus is the Tao the Word, which is more than just the literal Word of God -- i.e., the Father speaking to us through the Son -- but a kind of primal order, a creative principle, that weaves the underlying fabric of the universe. 

This is a God that relies more on an apophatic theology of negation than on exacting fundamentalist claims of what God is. In other words, this kind of God is not an angry, judgmental old bearded man sitting on a cloud and keeping eternal tabs on us, but one that can only be grasped by what cannot be said about it, since its essence lies beyond any human ability to express it. Or, as the Taoists put it, "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao." We can only say that it is the basis of truth and objective reality. But really, to only say that is enough. 

That being said, it also doesn't hurt, in terms of my personal spiritual worldview, that the Tao Te Ching, the central text of Taoism, regards the Tao poetically as a "Great Mother." It's always been difficult for me to conceive of the universal creative force as solely male when it's the female that gives birth. I'm sympathetic to the Hindu concept of the latent male spirit providing the raw material for creation and the active female principle shaping that material into life. But again, no need to overcomplicate things. Taoism, after all, has its concept of yin and yang, the primordial male and female principles that work in tandem to create. In Judeo-Christian terms, it's easy enough to see yang and yin, respectively, as the Father, the architect of creation; and Sophia, the Wisdom of God, hovering over the waters and breathing life into that creation. Compare Genesis 1:2 with Proverbs 8:22-31 and see if you perceive the Sophian connection. Again, this is a poetic expression of the Beginning in my mind, but it's one that allows me to comfortably remain within the spiritual tradition I was raised in.

All I can say with certainty is that I feel the need to connect to the spiritual, as I believe very strongly that material existence alone is an incomplete picture of who we humans fundamentally are. Lewis used the term "rational spirit" in The Abolition of Man, and I found that to be a very profound and succinct encapsulation of what it means to be a balanced person, one who rejects neither the material nor the spiritual worlds but sees them as a kind of yin and yang of our existence, two complementary parts of a greater whole. Allowing ourselves to harmonize with the Tao can help us achieve this balance. And it's worth noting a correlation in terminology between East and West that suggests a certain approach to living that transcends and unites cultures. Specifically, the word Tao itself suggests a Way, a path that both we and the cosmos follow; while early Christianity was also called The Way, indicating that Christians followed in the way that Christ laid out for them to follow. Christ the eternal Tao, indeed.

I'm kind of tired of writing blog posts about how I've wandered in and out of faith. The sex-abuse scandals and the seeming eagerness of the churches to shut down during the height of COVID hysteria shook what faith I had left at the time. In 2021, I was still wrestling with my internal struggle between literalist and metaphorical approaches to religion, and on whether I wanted to follow a Catholic or Orthodox path at all. At this point in my life, I'll suffice it to say that I've decided to return to church for Advent, because in such tumultuous times, I feel the need to reconnect myself with the Tao that the contemporary Western world has rejected. Why wouldn't I do that through, say, a Taoist temple instead of in a Latin Mass? Well, I hope I've made that point abundantly clear. But I've also taken to heart a bit of advice I heard years ago from the Dalai Lama, one that seemed odd at the time. Aware that a lot of Westerners were kicking the tires on Buddhism, displeased with the religious traditions of the West, he actually encouraged people to stick with the traditions of their own cultures and to strive to look more deeply into them for what they were seeking. 

That's not to say that I'm ever going to blindly take on every theological tenet of Catholicism. I've never been one to uncritically conform to someone else's worldview, religious or otherwise. Heck, I admire the Episcopal church for its ordination of women and the way it doesn't fence off the Eucharist, and at the opposite end of the spectrum I think Orthodoxy has done a better job of preserving and defending essential traditions of the faith, while being more sensible about human relationships by letting its priests be married. I also believe that Christianity ultimately boils down to observing the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, which aligns me more with the Quakers and Anabaptists, and I hold views about Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the Sacred Feminine that simply can never square with Catholic teaching. But at the same time, Catholicism is my heritage. It was what was handed down to me. In a sense, it was what was handed down to all of us in the West. It's not an exaggeration to say that Catholicism is Western Civilization. Sometimes it gets things wrong, but when the going gets tough, I know where I'm going to declare my allegiance.

Besides that, when Cardinal Robert Sarah opines that the Christian life needs to be built on the pillars of crux, hostia, and virgo -- the cross, the communion host, and the Virgin Mary -- I find myself nodding in agreement. And the Catholic church is the only place you'll find all three. Yes, there's also Eastern Orthodoxy, but as much as I love Orthodoxy, it just isn't home. Orthodoxy also has no contemporary figures like Cardinal Sarah who resonate with me, and I absolutely love the good cardinal. He's probably too old to be in the running for the next pope, and that's a shame for the church, because I think he'd make an extraordinary leader. (Then there's the aforementioned Bishop Barron, of whom I'm also quite fond, but that's another post for another time.)

Come the New Year, I have plans to attend a Latin Mass and an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy once a month, while visiting the local Novus Ordo church every other week. There are things I like about all three expressions of Catholicism, and if I plan to get back into churchgoing, for spiritual as well as cultural reasons, I figure I'm going to take in the full breadth of what the church has to offer. The Tao of Catholicism, I figure, is more easily seen when immersing oneself in all of the faith's ecclesiastical forms. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Same Fanatical Imperialism, Different Packaging

My initial reaction to the U.S. Soccer Team's decision to subordinate the national colors to a sexual ideology was that imperialism never dies and that one religion always replaces another. Team USA has decided to swagger into the World Cup in Qatar, where same-sex activity is illegal, and lecture the host nation on what its political and social views should be. Centuries ago, the West marched into the Middle East with crosses held high. Today, as Christianity diminishes, the cross gives way to rainbows, promoted by people who are no less fanatical in their zeal than were the Crusaders of old. 

It seems the West, and in particular the United States, just can't shake its habit of trying to bend the rest of the world to its will. Everywhere we look, we see ignorant savages who need to be educated to see things our way. One day you're handing out Bibles to the Indians, and the next you're accusing other cultures of bigotry if they don't share your politics. No matter one's personal views on gay rights, or anything else, it's not our place to force those views on others -- especially when we're a guest in someone's house. Would Americans like it if we were hosting an international event and a conservative Muslim nation's representatives decided to admonish us for not subjugating our women? Or if a Catholic nation's representatives went around criticizing America's easy access to abortion?

The American Conservative's Rod Dreher, whom I cited in my last post, sees what's happening and has had a change of heart regarding his own past tendencies toward American cultural imperialism. In the wake of 9/11, Dreher was all too happy to want to bomb some sense into what Americans considered a bunch of backwards Islamic nations, without understanding that constantly forcing our will on those nations, often at the barrel of a gun, was what inflamed their violent hatred against us in the first place. Ron Paul was saying as much practically the day after America was attacked, but no one listened. For Dreher, it took relocating to Eastern Europe to appreciate how much resentment there is against the United States worldwide, not just in the Middle East. Dreher writes:

[...] America, which used to be a beacon of hope to others, is now seen with ambivalence, and even hostility, by people who see how the United States is destroying its own society, and is also trying to export its corruption abroad. It's a challenge to love your country when you listen to older people in the former Soviet bloc ask you, one way or the other, what happened to the Shining City on a Hill that they used to love?

Dreher, naturally, isn't alone in once being unable, or unwilling, to see America's arrogance. People don't want to think poorly of their home nations, and of course the United States is controlled by a massively powerful corporate-government alliance that colludes to control what the public can hear, think, and say. As just the most recent of many ongoing examples: 

  • YouTube censored a video whose creator documented Democrats' claims of election fraud when Donald Trump won in 2016. The establishment wants you to know how wrong Republicans are for criticizing the outcome of the 2020 election, but they won't let you see that Democrats did the same thing, because that undermines their anti-conservative agenda.  

  • Elon Musk's Twitter permanently banned an account for a post that mocked the vicious murderousness of U.S. foreign policy.

  • Elon Musk's Twitter also banned an account for pointing out Ukrainian war crimes that the U.S. military-industrial complex won't allow you to hear, or even consider. (So much for Musk's commitment to free speech. I admit he had me fooled.)

The flip side, of course, is that the Woke Gods will attempt to force not just you, but the rest of the world, to accept its holy dogma. And what does that dogma look like? Dreher again tells it like it is:

The United States is a country where we castrate young males and cut the breasts off of young females, and call it liberation. We are a country where it is considered moral progress to bring in deviant men who dress like women, and have them read to children modern fairy tales teaching them to question their bodies and their sexual identities. We are ruled by an elite class that treats LGBT culture as sacred, and that celebrates its way of life in commerce, in advertising, in education, and everywhere it can possibly be inculcated into the rhythms of daily life. Our ruling class and its dominant value system now celebrates racism, and calls it "diversity, equity, and inclusion." Our young people are suffering a horrible mental health crisis. Millions of our people, especially poor and working class people, are succumbing to "deaths of despair" via drug and alcohol addiction. 

Our young are going to live with less material, social, and emotional security than their parents and grandparents, while our liberals are tearing down all sources of solidarity outside of radical politics, and our conservatives mostly don't care. The United States is busy destroying its higher education system, which used to be the envy of the world, all for the sake of ideologizing it. We are also destroying the capacity for excellence in science and nearly every other field of endeavor, for the sake of DEI ideology. The rich are getting richer, and the numbers of the economically precarious grow daily. And for the past two decades, Washington has not seen a war it didn't want to fight, even as the woke war machine understandably struggles to convince young Americans that serving in the armed forces is worth doing. Respect for God is in collapse among American youth. Violent crime is up. American pop culture celebrates what is most violent, sexual, and degraded in the human experience, and export that baseness globally. 

Over and over, as I travel through Eastern Europe, I hear the same thing from beleaguered parents, teachers, and religious leaders: that there is no way to resist American pop culture and its effect on their young. A high school teacher in Poland once told me that there is nothing at all in his country remotely as powerful as Western pop culture in forming the moral sensibilities of young Poles. What we Americans have done and are doing to our country, we are training the next generation of young people abroad to do to theirs. 

 And on and on.

I'd be resentful too if I were a citizen of a foreign country trying to defend my young people from the rot and depravity of Woke America. When the Ukraine cheerleaders say they're defending the "liberal order" in opposing Russia, this is what they want to preserve. It's not just American and Western military and economic hegemony, but also the corrupt values the ruling elites now embrace. 

And as I've said before, wokeism is all the more insidious because it emerges from a society that claims to champion "freedom" and "democracy" and tricks people into believing they're still free, even as the West slips into totalitarianism. And it plays on people's sympathies by exploiting minority groups to amass more and more power. This is how Dreher put it in a September 2022 interview:

The basis of the woke ideology is, on the one hand, that we must protect the weak because they are victims. As Christians, we accept this, but woke has taken this to a whole other level and treats the victims as saints. It justifies the elimination of classical liberal values ​​such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech by demanding sensitivity to the victims. It claims that victims need to feel safe, so they destroy freedom by claiming safety.

Everywhere you look, everything is black and gay -- one because of white guilt, and one because of woke moral supremacy. The woke hate the majority culture, and they expect that you won't push back because to do so will get you branded as a bigot. They've turned color and sexuality into ideologies and weaponized them as a means of consolidating their own control over society. Even as we decline into an era of segregation and upside-down racism -- a world in which failing to overtly celebrate people's sexual orientations, or in which daring to point out the incontrovertible truth that humans are sexually dimorphic and can't change from male to female, gets you scarlet-lettered and can even end your livelihood -- too few will stand up and denounce the growing tyranny.

In talking to my wife about the state of the West, I suggested that much of what plagues us is that America lacks any discernible culture. We were a bunch of (mainly) Europeans thrown together and expected to create something new -- but lacking a shared ethnic identity, we never really had anything to fall back on. We tried to create a melting pot, but now everyone wants a tossed salad instead -- the scourge of "multiculturalism" wherein we might all be stuck in the same bowl but we never come together as one, leaving us forever at odds with each other. And so if the lettuce leaves outnumber the tomatoes, the tomatoes are elevated, praised, and given special treatment, while the lettuce is lectured about its privilege and told to learn its place and step aside. Obviously, this would never happen in a melting pot, where everyone blends into a harmonious whole. 

In the end, the flag and the Constitution are essentially the only culture Americans have, and that's nothing to base a national culture on, especially when people no longer even care to defend the liberties that the flag symbolizes and the Constitution enshrines. 

The Founding Fathers, moreover, are essentially our only national mythology, and what good does that do when the younger generations have been conditioned to hate those whose lofty ideals gave us arguably the greatest experiment in self-governance in the history of the human race? 

When asked what the framers of the Constitution had given the people, Ben Franklin is said to have quipped, "A republic, if you can keep it." Two and a half centuries later, it seems we indeed weren't able to keep it -- and we now seem all too eager to throw it away. 

Maybe people are just too tired and beaten down to care. Maybe their dumbed-down education has left them incapable of critical thought. Whatever the case, I think it's just a matter of time until it all comes crumbling down. 

At this point, maybe it deserves to. 

I think I'll be shifting gears on my blog heading into the new year, provided it doesn't get nuked in this growing climate of intolerance. I figure it does little good to complain about a seemingly inevitable collapse. I'll probably just do my best to hold on to what I can of fading Western culture until it's gone.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Demons of Wokeness Versus the Better Angels of Western Civilization

I'd intended to sit down today and write a post about the upcoming Advent observance and my plans to attend Latin Mass throughout the season. But then I got sidetracked by a post I saw from Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. Dreher is a crunchy conservative and an erstwhile Catholic who left, disillusioned, for Eastern Orthodoxy some years back. His book The Benedict Option, which caused quite a buzz on its release, calls for Christians to form intentional communities as a bastion against an increasingly hostile post-Christian West. 

In 2017, when the book came out, it seemed needlessly alarmist. Just five short years later, with Christianity virtually dead in Europe and faltering in America as woke supremacy continually adds to its cultural gains, marginalizing traditional Western values more with each passing day, the Benedict Option already seems like a missed opportunity. The Amish have always lived out a kind of Benedict Option in their insular communities, but for the rest of the Christian West, it might just be too late to give it a try now, even if the will existed to do it. 

In the American Conservative article, Dreher cited a new book called Return of the Gods, by an evangelical pastor named Jonathan Cahn. I'd never heard of him before, but given my interest in pagan history, I was intrigued by the pastor's contention that with the decline of Christianity, the old gods have returned under new guises and are wreaking as much havoc on our world as they did for the ancient Jews who, much to their God's consternation, kept wandering off to worship the neighboring pagan deities.  

Dreher tells us that Pastor Cahn writes of the return of Baal, Ishtar, and Molech as something like demonic entities that have infiltrated our people and institutions. Cahn regards these entities as literally existing and not as, say, types of Jungian metaphors. I fall in the latter camp, but I can't bring myself to disagree with the pastor's observations as I look around at the confusion and evil running rampant in our world. As religious tradition wanes, it's clear that wokeism has filled the God-shaped hole in our culture. And the future doesn't look good, if the spirit of these malevolent entities that the ideology feeds upon is allowed to hold sway.

Baal, characterized in the book as the god of "fertility and abundance," is seen in America's "worship of sex and money," Dreher tells us, pointing to the similarity between the bull as a symbol of Baal and the bull statue seen on Wall Street, the holy temple of capitalism. Is there any doubt that money, material acquisition, and outright greed have become modern virtues? Your worth as a human being is so often determined by what kind of job you have and how much it pays, while so many average Americans have been conditioned to defend the worst excesses of capitalist greed, whether it's megacorporations offshoring their jobs to maximize profits or a healthcare industry that predates on the sick. If you can't afford your insulin, then you'd better go get a second job and stop whining about it. 

Meanwhile, our culture worships the rich and famous, and our entertainment is drenched in sex, often in the rawest and crudest terms, as what was once relegated to the shadows of porn increasingly becomes mainstreamed. 

The second deity to re-emerge, Cahn argues, is Ishtar, whose embrace of wanton sexuality, prostitution, and social transgressions is seen in today's embrace of gender ideology and the glorification of sexual deviance that has undermined the norm of the nuclear family. The goal of the Ishtar spirit, the pastor says, is to invert society's standards so that the traditional foundations of the culture are seen as outdated and repressive, while former taboos are first tolerated, then celebrated, then essentially worshiped. Turn on your TV for five minutes to see where we are as a culture on this point. 

Ishtar's sexual deviance extends to a blurring of the lines between male and female, and I don't need to tell you how deeply, and quickly, trans-ideology has taken root in the West, where "man" and "woman" have been reduced to interchangeable thoughts in someone's head. 

Finally, we have Molech, the god to whom children were sacrificed in exchange for blessings. Cahn draws a parallel to abortion on demand in our culture, and of course he's not wrong. But I think we can look deeper than that and consider how children are being sexualized while support for pedophilia grows, and those who try to shield kids from the madness are the ones who are vilified. In a very real sense, we're sacrificing our children's innocence.

"Woe to those who call good evil and evil good." Some biblical prophet wrote that about 2,800 years ago -- proof that some things never change.

I'm convinced that something happened to us, collectively, during the draconian COVID lockdowns. The fringe insanity that used to be confined to academia and think tanks suddenly spilled out into the mainstream, and no one was prepared, or even able, to push back. And now here we are, with the intolerant, authoritarian woke cultists forcing us all to pick sides. They divide us by reducing us to identities, praising some while marginalizing others based on perceived "privilege," rather than treating us all with equal dignity and respect. They've turned people's pigmentation, bedroom habits, and "gender" into political weapons. And they shield themselves from criticism by elevating minority groups and thereby equating criticism of their movement with bigotry. It's deeply sinister. And some of us aren't falling for it. Me, I choose to side with the commonsense, classical-liberal, equality-over-"equity" philosophy that underpins our civilization and has done so for two millennia.

And I think that, despite my well-documented struggles with religious belief, this is why I still feel a draw toward the essential tenets of Christianity, and particularly the Catholic bias toward the Platonic ideals of goodness, truth, and beauty. 

Even when the institutional church has fallen far short of being Christ-like, the fact remains that our culture of tolerance and charity, one that embraces the goodness of life and the worth of the human being, one that gives our lives a spiritual dimension that saves us from becoming mere one-dimensional consumers driven by our base instincts, with no greater purpose to our existence and nothing greater to strive toward, all stems from the ethics of Christianity upon which our civilization rests.

As I was organizing my library of books on religion and spirituality the other day, I commented to my wife that I feel as if I have trouble articulating to my daughter why I find religion socially and personally valuable. And I think it's because of the way Christianity has positioned itself in the centuries since the Enlightenment. It's been constantly on the defensive, seen as a relic of primitive and ignorant minds that attributed lightning bolts and earthquakes to angry deities, with nothing else to offer the modern person. And the church does itself no favors when it only reinforces that impression in the minds of people who have grown weary of a religion that, to them, feels like an ancient holdover wielded as a weapon today, in contradistinction to the central figure of Christianity, who taught compassion, forgiveness, and mercy.

Not that Jesus was an anything-goes hippie; that's an error in the opposite direction that a lot of contemporary churches are making. Jesus, after all, had little use for hypocrites, the greedy, and those who exploited or neglected the poor and needy. And yes, he did make moral distinctions, as when he condemned most instances of divorce and said that men who looked lustfully at a woman had already committed adultery in their hearts. 

The truth is that modern Christianity draws far, far more from Paul and the Old Testament than it does from the four Gospels that give us the crux of the life of Christ and the path he laid out for his disciples to follow. Just look at the ethics expressed in the Sermon on the Mount and see if they square up with what Christianity looks like today. The fact that they don't is evidence that Christ himself has been marginalized in Christianity. The Quakers and Anabaptists are exceptions in centering their faith life on the Sermon on the Mount, and because they do, they express a Christianity that's far more authentic to what Christ seems to have wanted from his followers. Catholicism likewise has the Corporal Works of Mercy, based on the parable of the sheep and goats in the 25th chapter of Matthew. 

But Catholicism also, for better or worse, represents what mainstream Christianity became in the West, shaped as it was through the lens of pagan Rome and its empire of violence and control. Yet the church still somehow managed to remain essentially Christ-centered while adding layers of rituals, creeds, and devotions that gave the practice of Christianity enough depth to build a civilization upon. 

I think things started going wrong when the first Protestants, rightly calling out the failures of institutional Christianity, overcorrected and shifted the focus of the religion away from Christ, to whose example we look to become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-4), and onto an interpretation of Paul's epistles that emphasized a simple one-time declaration of faith in an atoning sacrifice as sufficient to call oneself a Christian. Christianity thus became transactional and effortless. Instead of following a righteous example, picking up our own crosses, enduring hardships, and confessing when we fall short so as to reconcile ourselves again on our lifelong journey toward theosis, we no longer had to make any effort at all, beyond a simple acceptance of Christ as having died as a stand-in for the punishment we deserved. In fact, post-Reformation, making an effort at all was said to be missing the point, inasmuch as it implied a "works-based salvation" when salvation was a "free gift" given to all who accepted it.

It's this overly simplistic reading of Christianity that I think leaves it unable to push back against an extremely relentless woke ideology that's every bit as powerful, rigid, and intolerant as the medieval church was at the height of its own powers and corruption. Nor does it help that, as mentioned, this same brand of Christianity has a tendency to boil itself down to a condemnation of a tiny handful of personal sins -- in particular, abortion and homosexuality. 

Yes, scripture is clear about sexual morality. And Paul, as much as I dislike him, was eerily prescient in regard to what a debauched and dying culture would look like. In fact, let me give him the floor for a moment, from the epistle to the Romans (1:24-32):

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

But the point is not that Christians are to go around judging people for their ungodly practices -- and notice that it's not just homosexuality that Paul condemns, but also gossip, slander, deceit, infidelity, materialist idolatry, and a dearth of love and mercy. Those details tend to be conveniently glossed over. No, the point, as ever, is for Christians to serve as an example to others of how to live a righteous life. It's essentially a life of self-discipline and sacrifice, of giving to those in need, of bringing love into a world filled with malice, of celebrating goodness and life. You live in such a way that your example will heap hot coals on the heads on your enemies -- quoting Romans 12:20 and Proverbs 25:22. As when Christ told his followers to give their accusers the shirt off their backs or to walk two miles when conscripted to walk for one, you strip away any claim to moral authority that your enemies may attempt to hold over you. 

And that's precisely what the woke cult is doing in our world today -- lording their intolerance over everyone. They have the upper hand not just because they've captured every major institution of power, but because too many traditionalists, including Christians, don't know how to serve as an example of a better way to people, especially young folks, who've been conditioned for years at this point to think that deviance is normal, speech is violence, upside-down discrimination is progress, male and female are feelings, and opposing views are "hate."

Some Christian groups have once again overcorrected, as they did during the Reformation, and attempted to appease the culture by essentially aligning with it, even if doing so undermines the very tenets of the faith. By doing so, they might put themselves in the good graces of the woke, but they make themselves culturally irrelevant. What purpose do you serve if you're just an echo chamber for the prevailing culture?

In fact, by arriving at a place where it ends up on the outside looking in, Christianity actually has an opportunity to do what is hasn't been able to do since it was compromised by its alliance with empire: to be a social corrective, a voice speaking truth to power, as Christ himself did. The personal cost may well be high, as it was for Christ himself, but doing the right thing is scarcely easy. 

Back in 1969, the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI had much to say about this moment in our history, when the church would lose its social influence. A great deal of what he foresaw has come true. But he didn't fret, because he was confident that the true church, the church of faith, would prevail over shifting cultural tides, even those that crash down and inflict massive damage upon what we think of today as Christianity. Here's some of what then-Father Joseph Ratzinger had to say back then:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge -- a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. 

[...] The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. 

[...] But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. 

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man's home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.

This new church will have no choice but to shake off its cultural accumulations and the comfortable privileges it has long enjoyed. It will have to return to the basics of the faith, which will mean that, like the Quakers and Anabaptists already know, it must become more Sermon-on-the-Mount-centric. Father Ratzinger also said that out of necessity, many of its priests will "pursue some profession" outside of the priesthood, to meet the increased demands of a small and voluntary society, "entered only by free decision." 

I see myself as one of that group, eager to keep the spirit of Christ's teachings alive, even though my chance to enter the seminary has long since passed. My ordination would come by way of an alternative seminary whose apostolic succession follows untraditional lines, and I do indeed plan to follow that path to ordination in the near future. My concept of Christianity is rooted more in the ethical and mystical than in following institutional rules and dogmas, and it incorporates an affinity for the Sacred Feminine and the dynamic dance of yin and yang energies that come from Taoist philosophy. So my religious and spiritual philosophy is not in any way Christianity by the book, though it at least bears some similarity to what Ratzinger envisioned, in terms of looking at Christianity through a new lens. 

The most important thing for the future will be that Christianity presents itself as a dynamic, hopeful, life-affirming way, setting itself up as a viable alternative to the corrosiveness of wokeism, which is something that it's spectacularly failing to do right now. And what it must do to get to that point is to successfully explain to people why it's a viable alternative, while also demonstrating the authentic classical-liberal tolerance that's always been a hallmark of Western civilization. That's what wokeism lacks, and that is its Achilles' heel. Wokeism is waging a strident crusade on our culture. Its cross held high against the infidels is the rainbow flag. Its original sin is whiteness. And unlike Christianity, it offers no redemption, no salvation, no forgiveness, only condemnation, self-loathing, divisiveness, and destruction. 

We have an opportunity to show that we're better. Western culture has always made room for dissenters and those of different political and social leanings. In Christian terms, we love the sinner and hate the sin. But we also insist on proclaiming what's right, and we attempt to win people over by persuasion, not by judgment and coercion. 

We absolutely have to try. The stakes are high, and our civilization stands on the edge of a knife. It feels as we're at the beginning stages of a paradigm shift in which authoritarians, globalists, elitists, secularists, technocrats, corporatists, and the wealthy and powerful are aligning against common-sense populists, traditionalists, localists, liberty-lovers, and the everyday working class. We're certainly seeing how important religion is as a cultural glue, and how quickly another ideology can rush in to fill the void left by a lack of religious and spiritual unity. We need no less than a new Enlightenment to pull us out of the irrationality and hatred of wokeism, along with which will come the end of individual autonomy if it succeeds. 

We can fight and prevail, or we can tumble into an abyss of totalitarian intolerance and kiss liberal Western society goodbye.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Post-Mortem, for the Election, and for the West

I think that this picture might do a better job than any other I've seen to illustrate the impending death of Western civilization. 

More on that in a moment. First, the midterms. 

As we now know, the landslide that Republicans should have enjoyed amounted to a big, fat nothingburger. Part of that comes down to continued election corruption -- isn't it funny that whenever there's a slow-walk count of the votes, like in banana-republic Arizona, Democrats always "find" the votes they need to win? -- but an even larger part has to be laid at the feet of voters who have proved themselves to be absolute drooling morons.

How else do you explain the re-election of Gretchen Whitmer, the poster girl for draconian COVID overreach, unless the voters in Michigan have Stockholm syndrome? How do you explain victories for a gubernatorial candidate in Arizona who refused to even debate, and a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania who, thanks to the ravages of a stroke, literally can't put together a coherent sentence? 

Not in a million years could you make something like this up. 

Republicans have been quick to blame Donald Trump, claiming that his endorsements were a kiss of death. But the fact is that the vast majority of his endorsed candidates won their elections. Granted, if I were a Republican, I'd want to distance myself from the narcissistic buffoon too. But Trump isn't the problem. It really does come down to a toxic stew of fraud and voter idiocy. There's no other way to explain how the party that brought us the worst inflation in 40 years, wokeness on steroids, throttled domestic oil production, lockdowns and mandates, and bottomless funding for Nazis in Ukraine could get voted back into office. 

Even here in conservative and still mostly traditional Idaho, our lockdown-happy governor overwhelmingly won re-election. There's some small comfort in knowing that Ammon Bundy won the votes of over 101,000 liberty-loving Idahoans, that he finished only three percentage points behind the Democratic candidate, and that he piled up more votes in many Idaho counties than the Democrat did, even despite the constant smears Bundy endured from the media. Yet at the same time, 17.2% of the vote isn't going to win an election anytime soon. It just doesn't seem as if there are enough people left who actually care about liberty, limited government, individual rights, and constitutional principles to win the fight. 

As far as election fraud goes, let's face it: Any party that relentlessly claims that its opposition is a "threat to democracy," as the Democrats did in this election cycle, will manipulate the results to ensure that it remains in charge, if it really means what it says and wants to keep the so-called "threat" away from power. And the Democrats have every major institution of power aligned with them to make sure that happens. After all, if the elections are as fair and legitimate as these people claim, then why would they go to such great lengths to demand that we not talk about them? What's there to hide if everything's on the up-and-up? 

It's really a stroke of diabolical brilliance on their part: Run a fraudulent election, and when your opposition balks, just accuse them of spreading "misinformation." When you control all the messaging in the media, it becomes as easy as pie to marginalize the critics. Propagandizing the low-information public to embrace your point of view is the easy part. This is how dictatorships are born. And it's even more insidious in the "free" Western world because the people are under the illusion that they're still free, because they get to "vote." At least in a place like communist China, you know what you're up against. Here, you get people who blather on about "freedom" and "democracy" but will silence and cancel you if you stray from the narrative. 

And now we even have evidence that it's happening, thanks to The Intercept's report telling us that private companies like Facebook are actively working with the Department of Fatherland ... er, Homeland Security to control public narratives on social media. (Gee, if only there had been some historical figure to warn us that government and corporate collusion is a cornerstone of fascism.) This information goes a long way toward explaining why there's such a meltdown on the Left about Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, which has long been one of the establishment's primary outlets of narrative control. It also explains why the government has announced that Musk is under federal investigation, in exactly the same way it weaponized the FBI against Trump when it raided his house. It's all about using intimidation to try to silence the opposition.

And hey, I hate to say I told you so, but it turns out all those "fact-checks" on social media that were so rampant during COVID were never about controlling "misinformation" but about censoring information that contradicted the establishment narrative. Their misinformation is OK; your truth isn't. 

Of course, this should surprise no one who's been paying attention. After all, you didn't think the government was going to stop trying to control what you can think and say, did you, just because the Biden administration shut down its Ministry of Truth shortly after announcing it? That was just a trial balloon to see how people would react -- and, perhaps, to take notes on who reacted. 

Knowing that this is where we are makes it both funny and sad to see our leaders bloviating about "maintaining the international order" by shoveling tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine, as if anyone in power actually gives two flying fucks about Ukraine. This is all about maintaining the West's stranglehold over the planet, even if it means Europe has to starve and freeze in the process, and even if it means blowing up Russian pipelines and then trying to blame Russia for it, when Russia could have just turned off the spigot rather than destroy its own infrastructure. 

Really, what in the West is there to preserve at this point, other than the power and wealth of the people in control?  

Let me go back to that picture up above. The large, unattractive man in the center of the picture, surrounded by lovely young ladies, was crowned the "winner" of the "Miss" Greater Derry beauty pageant in New Hampshire, making him eligible for a scholarship that was denied to all the actual biological women competing in the contest.

Let's face it: Even if he were a biological woman, he would have been, by far, objectively the most unattractive woman in the pageant by a country mile. This is, in so many ways, the pinnacle of the kind of forced diversity that exists all over entertainment and the media these days, where people are awarded the roles they get solely because of whatever identity group they represent. A dozen or so actual women, all physically attractive and all no doubt possessing numerous notable talents and aptitudes? Meh. Ugly dude LARPing as a woman? Automatic winner! 

So first we regressed to a pre-Civil Rights time when color once again trumps character (or merit), with the "anti-racist" left creating an upside-down world where two wrongs -- in this case, sending whites to the back of the bus -- are perceived as a right. (Of course, the "anti-racism" seems to apply almost exclusively to blacks but not to, say, East Asians, who are just as sick of this crap.) And now women are in the woke crosshairs, subordinated within their own sex to make room for men, who apparently do "woman" better than any man does. That's the message being sent loud and clear to every woman with stunts like this pageant win. Not only do women have to share their private spaces with entitled, narcissistic men, and not only do they have to watch their records being smashed by men who invade their sports, but now they can't even win a pageant intended for women.

It blows my mind that this garbage is pushed by the most "progressive" members of our culture, and they're doing everything they can to erase women.

It's even worse when you see women participating in their own marginalization, as when women's rugby erases the word "women" from its own World Cup, and when a women's pro hockey league rebrands itself by taking "women's" out of its name to accommodate people who aren't actually women. How fitting that the "diversity, inclusion, equity" movement fueling this insanity abbreviates as DIE. It certainly spells the death of women's sex-based rights, along with any sense of logic and reason.

Not that the incident with the pageant "winner" is unique, either. Up in the People's Woke Republic of Canada, where the PM tows your vehicle away and freezes your bank account while calling you a fascist, this guy went missing. But read the description.

I mean, this is pure gaslighting by any definition of the word. If the elites tell you the emperor has a beautiful new cloak on, don't you dare point out that he's actually naked.

And this doesn't even touch on the spate of deviants targeting children, whether it's kids watching a sexually explicit drag performance in a bar with a neon sign on the wall that says "it's not gonna lick itself," or a "family friendly" "pride" event featuring a dildo ring toss for the kiddies. But call these people out as the groomers they are, and the establishment takes their side and censors you from speaking the truth. You can't say the word "groomer," while they can keep grooming your kids.

Woe to any culture that corrupts and sexualizes innocent little children like this. Indeed, woe to any culture that abandons decency and reason in favor of madness. We're up against a fanatical religion that's every bit as intolerant and irrational as the medieval church that resorted to any means necessary to silence the heretics. 

As we've seen ever since popular culture effectively banned the word "Christmas" because maybe 10% of the population doesn't celebrate it, we're bring ruled by vanishingly small minorities who are allowed to set the agenda and lord it over the majority because all the institutional powers have their backs. This is the opposite of how a tolerant and pluralistic society is supposed to work. In a normally functioning society, the majority rules but ensures and enforces protections for minority groups. That's essentially why the Fourteenth Amendment, and its guarantee of equal protection under the law, exists. Now in our dysfunctional woke nightmare, the majority is subordinated to the will of the minority, dragging us back to the segregationist 1950s but with the tables turned. Note that even the term "Black" now gets uppercased in print media while "white" remains lowercased: The upside-down racism is often subtle, but it's undeniably everywhere. 

Self-loathing Westerners with their guilt-ridden white-savior complexes think they're being "progressive" by doing all this, when all they've managed to do is create an apartheid-like tyranny of the minority -- a totalitarian one that's so "liberal" and "tolerant" that it'll destroy you if you raise the slightest objection. Western civilization cannot but collapse in short order under these conditions. 

This is the mindset that got re-elected, folks. This is the enlightened "international order" of so-called "democracy" that we're spending billions to defend -- and by funding Nazis to do it, no less. 

A multipolar world, with Russia, China, and other emerging nations coalescing to build their own interdependent economies that bypass the West, wouldn't be such a bad thing even if we weren't in this sorry state. But at this point, maybe it would just be best for everyone if the corrupt, vulgar, decadent, depraved West got put out of its own misery. There certainly doesn't seem to be much left to save, and not enough people to fight for what's left.