April 2, 2006
They Hate the Church More Than They Hate Life Itself (Or Do They?)
On modern liberalism considered as "an acid that burns through everything it touches."
TODAY: "Dr. Eric R. Pianka following a speech before the Texas Academy of Science in which Pianka endorsed airborne Ebola as an efficient means for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population. Pianka received an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation." -- The Citizen Scientist
YESTERDAY: Written April 1, 2005
Modern liberalism is an acid that burns through everything it touches. The Church has shriveled in proportion to its exposure to it. Now those who have long sought its death present themselves, carrying more of this acid, as its healer, and even, as Thomas Cahill wrote in the New York Times, finger Pope John Paul II, who resisted it, as the Church's enemy.... He then proposes a "solution," which amounts to trading the teachings of Jesus Christ for modern liberalism.
-- St. Peter's in Chains By George Neumayr in The American Spectator
NEWMAYR'S OBSERVATION that "Modern liberalism is an acid that burns through everything it touches" is of the moment. In the spectacles of death, from the killing of Terri Schiavo, to the tawdry Carnivale of the Cochran funeral, to the outpouring of affirmation surrounding the passing of John Paul II, we've had a chance to see our two warring cultures of Life vs. Death exposed to direct sunlight. And while the former can only be seen as reflecting radiance, the latter is as dark as the various icons it worships with an almost perverted frenzy.
As a one-time card-carrying member of the Culture of Death, I've felt the acid burn out the soul and replace it with the dead-end secular totems of possessions, fashion, sexuality, and ego-uber-alles. I've used selfishness to "enhance" my own life and I've had "selfishness" used on me in turn to enhance the lives of others.
Money and things drive this culture. Vows have no meaning to it. Truth less. People are traded for houses much as a fresh bottle of wine is picked up at the grocery store while the drained are hidden in the trash. Commitment and duty have no place in this philosophy -- everything is reduced to "lifestyle" choices in which, since people are only things, they can easily be replaced by other things; other people to be used as things, as draft animals for hauling bloated egos around the landscape, as checkbooks that pay for frantic fantasies and self-fulfillment until at last they are overdrawn. The is no God in this world unless it is the god of Get Yours.
I remember when this acid burned strongly on all fronts and seemed, in the main, unstoppable because it seemed to have become 'the universal solvent' -- something that could dissolve all that it came in contact with. The flaw in that formula was, of course, the flaw that lurks in the ancient alchemical nature of the universal solvent -- it will eventually burn through everything, even its container.
What we've seen in the last few weeks of the last six months is the evidence that the container that holds antiquated liberalism is beginning to be eaten through at last. I've been struck again and again by just how small, mean and trivial the recent "victories" of liberalism seem to be.
Under advanced demographic attack by the rigid and extreme conservatism of Islam across Europe, liberalism in those states seems to be falling back on extending its failed policies of bribes and accommodation -- as if offering greater "police-safe" zones in cities and ever higher doles will cause the swelling future to live in peace with the settled present. In time these zones will fail and the demand for bribes in terms of benefits will become so high they cannot be paid.
Europe is now on the block and the current controllers are falling so far below replacement that they won't have enough people to outbid the new arrivals when the hammer falls. Instead of perpetuating itself, European liberalism looks to the small still fungible victories of jobs for life and long vacations. In the end, it will get, in the words of the aptly named Grateful Dead, "A vacation for the rest of its life."
Small victories are the order of the day in American liberalism as well. Last month the entire weight of the Culture of Death's self-selected but unelected power base of the Judiciary and the Media was brought to bear on the Terri Schiavo case.
In the end, what did they achieve? The death of one defenseless woman at the cost of polarizing an entire nation -- a nation that for the most part will not forget this spectacle. The cost to liberalism in political capital was immense and the return, once the victory laps are over and the memos are forgetten, was miniscule.
In the end, the image that will remain is of a disabled woman killed by the "Law" and approved of by the Media. Say what you will, the final images of this debacle are not attractive. (Please spare me the plaints about the "overwhelming polls" and 'congressional over-reaching'. We are dealing here with something that has entered the realm of myth, and myth lasts longer and is far more potent than any passing poll, I assure you.)
Lacking real power and finding its support among the ordinary people of America waning with every passing election, American liberalism has had to withdraw into its armed hamlets of academia and the media where it is existing on thinner and thinner gruel as time goes by. "Victories," if you would call them that, have recently been limited to the shaming of a Harvard president, and the support of a fraudulent Dime-Store Indian in a professorship at the University of Colorado. On the one hand, you've got a poster child for how little liberal academia thinks of free speech, and on the other you have probably the worst argument for continuing tenure that can be imagined. In both cases you can see the acid eating its way through the walls of the containers.
None of this is to say that the dark culture of death is soon to be a sad historical episode -- although its stock and trade seems to be one sad historical episode after the other. This culture and the people who promulgate and promote it are far too entrenched in the fabric of America -- in our schools on all levels, in our media, local and national, in our politics, local, state and national, and, most insidious of all, in our "approved" national arts and entertainment. They are far too embedded to vanish like a choking fog at break of day.
It is to say that the American demographic, at its roots, has changed and that, in time and perhaps not such a long time, this increasingly sad hodge-podge of half-baked new-age nostrums, impoverished politics, and intellectual insanity will prove to confirm its own well-worshipped social Darwinism, and travel the path to American extinction. The paralyzed and Popes may die to rounds of cheers. Dime-store fake indians may be rolled around the college talk-show circuit. University presidents may be shamed out of the truth and into a lie. All these may happen as the acid eats its way through the walls, but they are not determinative. Small victories are no way to win a war.
Posted by Vanderleun at April 2, 2006 1:29 AM
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Gerard, I love most of your stuff, but this is over the top. Hyperbole. Take a few deep breaths.
A very interesting essay. I have something to think over through the weekend.
Breathing, breathing, breathing.... ah... better now.
I couldn't disagree with you more, Yehudit. Your feelings about it may be hyperbolic, but it's absolutely true. Thanks for another fine essay, Gerard.
Hyperbolic or not, I still think it's a wonderful essay.
And once again I see this measurement being applied on the "success" of the church: by how many people attend. I know of surefire ways to get more people in the pews, but I think those ways are a little at odds with the underlying principles.
I get the feeling the church is continually being asked to incrementally degrade by those who wouldn't attend regardless. I think you've highlighted many of the reasons why.
Over the top, Yehudit? Fourty million dead at one end and sluice gates opening at the other? No, I think that "spot on" is the apposite term here.
This was great. I have sent it to my friends. Keep it up.
I've posted this quote a few times on different sites. The first time I read it, I was amazed the man could say so much in one sentence. Having some small knowledge of the man who wrote it made it more poignant to me. Seeing the truth in his statement and being able to translate it to others is beyond me, but you are doing a heck of a job! Your mind is still in touch with your heart.
"Man without God is a beast, and never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness." --Whittaker Chambers
It's ironic how the liberalizing of the Gospel has had the opposite effect it was intended: rather than filling the pews, it's served to empty them. And all the while evangelical churches are exploding with growth teaching what some would call a fundamentalist Gospel, but I would simply call the Truth!
Beautiful essay, by the way.
This was indeed well said.
It seems that the liberal definition of self-interest is also corrosive. We see that in the sense that it is rare that a liberal would encourage their own children to enter the military but then are appalled by how primitive those who would actually sacrifice their lives are. Demand the fruit but don't be so silly as to expect to have to pay for it. And worse than that, do everything possible to destroy the culture of those who would actually do what it takes to defend it. Truly gutless!
Brilliant post; an excellent diagnosis of where we're at today. I agree, I think, that in the end the American people will choose a "culture of life," but I also agree the battle's far from over. But, to switch metaphors, I do think we've turned an important corner.
Well, it seems the cancer is in remission. When do we take up the scalpel and finally remove it?
I attended Catholic schools both pre- and post-Vatican II. During that time, the Church threw out the Latin Mass, replacing the mysterious and magical incantations of the liturgy with pedestrian words that we found we frankly didn't believe. The majestic pipe organ was retired in favor of nuns with guitars. Rote catechism was replaced by liberal European-derived "theology" that seemed to side with the terrorists and protestors burning down our cities and spitting on our soldiers. In effect, the Church alienated its base in an effort to bring in more members, and the result was to drive away the most dedicated supporters and replace them with people having little reason to support the institution.
As an Evangelical Christian, I am becoming more and more convinced that we are living in the End Times.
The author has hit the nail right on the head. We are heading for the same train wreck that will destroy Europe in another generation.
Don't expect too much help from the G.O.P.. They like it when Christian Conservatives mobilize for them, but don't expect anything in return. The recent editorial in the WSJ from Excusapalian priest and former Senator John Danforth should prove to illustrate the point. It's the Country Clubbers in command and don't you forget it.
It's not all doom and gloom around the world, though. Christianity is exploding in growth in the Global South. It's the great untold story of today. Too messy and primitive for the MSM. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next Pope was a Black man.
Oh, for a voice like thunder, and a tongue
To drown the throat of war!
When the senses
Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,
Who can stand?
When the souls of the oppressed
Fight in the troubled air that rages, who can stand?
When the whirlwind of fury comes from the
Throne of God, when the frowns of his countenance
Drive the nations together, who can stand?
When sin claps his broad wings over the battle,
And sails rejoicing in the flood of death;
When souls are torn to everlasting fire,
And fiends of hell rejoice upon the slain,
Oh, who can stand?
Oh, who hath caused this?
Oh, who can answer at the throne of God?
The kings and nobles of the land have done it!
Hear it not, Heaven, thy ministers have done it!
The Catholic Church will only recover It's membership when It brings back the Ancient Latin Mass that so thrilled hearts and souls. When the soul is transported to Heaven through the holiness and sanctity of the Mass, the lilting air of the sacred chants, the smells and the bells, people will drop everything else in life to be there. This is easily enough seen in the places where the ancient Mass is allowed to be celebrated. If you are lucky enough to be able to find one, you will meet there people who have driven hours and made many great sacrifices just to be there. This Mass is worth it and no hardship will keep us away. If the Mass were in a barn at midnight -- (as it was for St. John Vianney at his First Holy Communion during the French Revolution) -- the love of our Faith would lead us there where we find the depths of richness and holiness in the traditions of our Church made manifest in the Canonized Mass of the Ages. What joy would fill our souls! S. L.
A great but sad essay, to add to the wonderful comments as Chesterton said in some form Christianity has never been tried it is to difficult.
I love the smell of flaming truth in the morning.
We do not face a stark choice between the so-called conservative view of Christianity and "possessions, fashion, sexuality, and ego-uber-alles." Liberalism, in its truest sense, is what Jesus taught. He fought the orthodoxies that separated men from their hearts.
I don't know why you posted this a year after it's original appearance, but it is indeed timely considering the Drudge report today has a column on a Texas scientist advocating 90% of the world's population by wiped out by Ebola... to save the planet of course.
Thank you. Without knowing it, that must be the reason I republished it. I've now updated it thanks to your pointer.
"...the Church threw out the Latin Mass, replacing the mysterious and magical incantations of the liturgy with pedestrian words that we found we frankly didn't believe."
As a philosophical Protestant, I do wonder a bit at that Catholic statement. If I could ask you to elaborate: was it the replacement or the translation of the words that bothered you more?
I would hope that translation was not an issue: yet I've heard many others (and not all of them Catholics) who've said they prefer Latin over English, even when the meaning of the words is identical. *Not* understanding seems somehow "better", by their lights. But I've not actually heard it said that way: can it be said a better way?
(And I can only wonder what early Christian Romans would make of all this. -- Did they prefer liturgy in Greek?)
But more seriously: it's a disquieting social condition, is it not, when citizens cannot formulate religious sentiments with conviction and depth, in their own most versatile tongue?
You might wish to look in on OneCosmos, he does a good job of trying to explain the horizontal world (the material) and the vertical (the spiritual), but I will attempt to explain the difference between the Mass in Latin and all that went with that.
It would be easier if I could have you listen to CHANT the CD and then find a guitar playing nun at random to sing for you.
It would be easier if I could take you to a beatiful Cathlic Cathedral and then to one of the "modern" halls that serve as churches. This horror is not just applicable to the Catholic church - I'm sure most Protestant denominations would prefer the classic New England clapboard church with steeple also.
I was only a child, the Italian side of my Mother's family had the most hold on our family, so we attended an Italian neighborhood church. It was red brick and had a, wonderous to me, dome with paintings of angels and saints, beautiful old stain glass windows, and fantastic statues (check out Our Lady of Fatima),add the scents of furniture polish (parish ladies' loving care) and insence and just imaging CHANT in the background,
while you answered in Latin. Tex it gives me chills recalling it to attempt a description.
Tex, one left the horizontal and entered the vertical just about every Sunday. Of course, you would have gone to Confession on Friday and been on excellent behavior thru Sunday morning so you could receive Communion.
When I was 21 just before I was going to wed, a new pastor thought that old church should be updated. He replaced it with something that looks like a winged roofed air terminal. Limited pictorial stained glass - large broken thick clumps in a sandy resin. No Cross shape to the church with the long aisle that one traveled to the Altar to receive Sacraments thru life and to be carried to for your final Mass. From the door of the Vestible to the foot of the Altar was exactly 18 of my steps. Hard to get all the pallbearers in. It was definitely HORIZONTAL.
I refused to be married in the air terminal, luckily my husband parish was the diocise (Bishop's) Cathedral. It is definitely a reach for the VERTICAL.
Thanks, Larwyn. "married in the air terminal" -- no, we can't have that. :-)
I can well understand the dislike of purely functional, "horizontal" religious structures. I've always felt, deep-down, that there was no good excuse for a prosperous congregations to build temporary, bottom-dollar cathedrals; especially those which are designed like boxes, deaf and dumb to the natural aesthetic needs of congregation members.
(And don't get me started on mosques.)
Not that I'm one for extravagant ornament. But to build churches like strip malls... I mean, even *druids* had the good sense to use permanent materials, right? ;-)
Well, as regards aesthetics: I'm looking at the new cathedral in Tor Tre Teste, Italy.
Air terminal, indeed. And I shudder to think of the acoustics in that concrete rind. Every casual motion must simply _scrape_ the ear. It couldn't be a pleasant site for reflection, on the vertical or much else.
The very Catholic and sincere David Warren has a darkening view of matters, and I can't say I find in my compatriots spiritual evidence to make me disagree with the man:
"A church with blank walls is not, to this Western way of thinking, a place without distractions. As so many wise Western minds have observed, the blank wall easily becomes a screen upon which to project the phantasms of the human heart; a mirror in which we look not for God, but for our own faces.
To put it another way, we have used art as a means to break down our own narcissism; and over time, repeatedly, we have found the enemies of art to be fanatics.
Yet recently, from our society at large, we have been stripping the symbolism, the public imagery that recreates what we are and believe -- mostly to achieve the lowest common denominator of “multiculturalism”. And now, even our churches are becoming bare and "unwestern".
This is another aspect of the suicide of the West."
I have to ask if Dr. Eric R. Pianka has ever considered the impact of losing 90% of the world's population in a few years. Especially through such a disease as Ebola. Has he ever sat down and visualized in his mind how such a death occurs, with the inner organs literally puddling into goo and blood pouring forth from old scar tissue dissolved away.
Has he any comprehension of the horror?
Is Dr. Eric R. Pianka a liberal, or a psychopath?
After I posted, I feared that you might think my promotion of the Vertical by pointing out the lack of more "materiality" in the material Horizontal as very shallow.
Thank you for getting it and for sharing the David Warren quote. He is absolutely correct. In the old ornate churches there was always someting new to focus on or to think more deeply on what you had discovered last week.
In the new boxes with blank walls, the other worshippers become a focus. I found myself checking out the clothing of others and when "Sunday go to meeting" dress codes began to dissolve, I would become very annoyed. Later I put together IMOM that the casual/sloppy dress actually matched the casual/sloppy architecture.
Of course, Tex, I am an old schooler. But I do wonder if those who now go casual to office, and play current music while they work realize how they have lost some of the joy of the demarcation between work and play. Lordy, I couldn't wait to lose the heels and my male associates would be in process of loosening that tie on way out of the building. Then you start the car and crank up the sounds. What you do now to celebrate "another day another dollar?"
Again thanks for understanding my effort to explain what I feel is a great loss.
Crazy people in Texas are absolutely the single most important sign of the coming Apocalypse.
I, personally, am a little annoyed that I finally get to be singing the Pange Lingua, and it turns out to be a flat, boring rendition, totally unlike the soaring wonder that I grew up with. (Very post-Vatican II, mind you; I don't have a problem with the guitar-playing nuns as long as the songs are *good*... a recent discussion about weak and strong spiritualities crystallized for me why Carey Landry's stuff always struck me as insipid. "Don't Be Worried," feh.)
"What you do now to celebrate 'another day another dollar?'"
My case: What do you do, when your work is a global logic puzzle, in which you are one frantic logic gate? When night and day lose meaning, and home is just a branch office?
What do you do, to free your mind from work which by its nature *consumes* your mind -- and begs even for your heart, because a committed heart increases work product?
Me, I formed my character elsewhere. I could afford to; my youth was a rural nest. My rural character now provides my escape.
But the next generation; what of them? When urban starter homes cost a $million, and parents have no choice but to press their high-priced toddlers into high-performance discipline? When childhood friends are... professional online avatars?
In that tormented world of the hyper-competitive, churches will have to become treatment centers for the mental illnesses attendant a life of pressured sublimation: offering meditation and bio-engineered incense not for access to the Vertical or the greater worlds past and future -- but merely to focus the worker's mind. Helping the worker deaden natural desires and fixate on cult-job more strongly, so as to survive therein.
In New York, executives now get plastic surgery not for youthfulness, but to render the face incapable of expressing emotion. They want to mask emotions, especially fear and anger, so as to seem more "in control". It helps them survive.
I fear that this is what the next urban generation will want from their churches: plastic surgery for the soul. And I fear that churchmen, straining to make payments on their echo chambers, will climb over each other in the rush to offer it.
Just a minute here. Pianka is an wacky green, a monger of scares and dooms, full of ludicrous and hyperbolic rhetoric (to be polite).
Pianka has asserted that due to population densities etc. etc. humanity is setting itself up for vulnerability to pandemics, like an airborne variant of Ebola, with the potential (according to his rather extreme models) to cause a massive die-back of human population.
He goes further, and displays his profound anti-humanism, referring to humanity as a "scourge", and asserting that the resultant population crash would be ecologically beneficial.
However, this is not the same as advocating that a pandemic brought about on purpose."Pianka said he was only trying to warn his audience that disease epidemics have happened before and will happen again if the human population growth isn't contained."
For my part, as a self-described leftist, this shows once again why I tend to dislike Green ethics and politics. Doesn't make them all psychos, though.
Not only do they want their faces expressionless, they are training their voices to be as Gerard captured them in:
"The Voice of the Neuter"http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/006007.php#006007
And we who have been raised in the culture of my Mother's Italian side will be subject to commitment for our vocal inflections falling on the ears of the neutered.
Note the latest Scalia kerfluffle!
Mm-hmm. I've noticed that a lot of male bloggers on the Loser Left have acquired a hysterical mindset which produces text that's truly *odd* to read. Andrew Sullivan is a famous one, but he has many students.
It's so *strange* to read text from an adult man that has a style more appropriate to, say, one of Freud's Vienna housewives; or maybe Meryl Streep (ala 'Plenty'). Harping, maudlin, tendentious, and of course blindly inconsistent -- such text (which needs no example; we know it well) the text seems at first glance a man's poor imitation of hysterical woman. But no, each of these men writes in his own, neutered voice. I understand the social origin of the voice, I guess; but it's nonetheless bizarre.
I'd never seen American journalists write that way before 9/11. And now it's everywhere, seemingly. (Or did men really write like Sullivan for national journals in decades past? Maybe in late Vietnam?)
I try to talk reason to these guys, from time to time. "Slow down - let's focus on one issue here - marshal your facts - try to answer this common objection -" They'll stay with me for one quick round, maybe two, just to see if they can *convert* me; and when I persist in thinking like a healthy, responsible adult, suddenly "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" And off they go, full-flight, like Dr. Smith from 'Lost in Space', jumping headfirst into the hydroponic mulchpit.
[pauses, eats peanut butter cookie, metaphorizes...]
We've GOT to flush
OUT THE AIRLOCK!
Haelll yeah! The single guy was *right*. We can't afford the weight. And he's a flight risk. And if it weren't for Smith, we'd be colonizing Alpha Centauri already! Those two cuties'd be sweating it hard in New Eden, if you know what I mean. And YOU know - but Smith DON'T. So OUT THE AIRLOCK!
[munches another cookie]
How to effect the... - what word? Catharsis? No. Marginalization? Ball-drop? Civil vomit?
I'd pay cash and bend steel if I knew it would help, Lord knows.
Will it be possible to break the hysteria in our generation? I'd like to think so, but... maybe it's not possible. The hysteria serves so many base needs. It's politically useful, stirring up the Dem base. And it feeds a sense of moral superiority, to wear one's ostensibly traumatized emotions on the sleeve, yes? Other uses?
Maybe the psychic housecleaning will only be possible when our troops return victorious (God willing) from overseas, to take their place as leaders and exemplars. When every campus, every publisher, every Fortune 1000 headquarters has at least one resident veteran that young adults can see and touch and actually talk to.
"I'm telling you, he was there. He was *in* it. That guy, yeah! 4th ID mechanized! That guy, he *took* Mecca..."
The liberalism did appear because of an over pression of the church community over the people. Searching for answers, they coudn't find any... The church may be to much conservative for most of the people.. still I'd rather be open and do whatever I want "as a selfish guy...of course" than spending my times, asking questions about spirituality and "why i'm living?" 's questions.
We're living right now.. this is what we call life. Play along.. just live and died. We're animals, with a high cognitiv capacity.. still, we got that "instinct" who's telling us that sex, power and cash is good for us. Pay attention to the animal's life VS human's life.. we're all the same. So I wonder why some people are still asking questions about who we are.. and why liberalism is an "acid" digging into walls of conservatism and alienation. Some people will probably react that way : " You're anti-romantic version of life is pathetic" and ... if it was? It's may be not the truth..I'm not saying: "Look I found the truth!!" but it's just a matter of opinion.. Ever If I disagree... good text though..
Sorry for my "english's mistakes."