THE OUTRIGHT FOOL

Modern man sees himself as a natural cynic and skeptic when it comes to all Higher Potential – be that Higher Potential Divine, or in himself, or concerning mankind as a whole.

He thinks this makes him appear sophisticated and urbane and much like a very worldly modern intellectual. And, of course, it does.

It also makes him an outright fool.

from Human Effort

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DIVERSITY IS NOT NECESSARILY AN EVIL, BUT, OF COURSE, BY VERY DEFINITION IT DIVIDES UNION

Does Diversity Really Unite Us? Citizenship and Immigration

Edward J. Erler
Co-Author, The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration


Edward J. ErlerEdward J. Erler is professor emeritus of political science at California State University, San Bernardino. He earned his B.A. from San Jose State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in government from the Claremont Graduate School. He has published numerous articles on constitutional topics in journals such as Interpretation, the Notre Dame Journal of Law, and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He was a member of the California Advisory Commission on Civil Rights from 1988-2006 and served on the California Constitutional Revision Commission in 1996. He is the author of The American Polity and co-author of The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration.


The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 11, 2018, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Colorado Springs.

President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossers has provoked a hysterical reaction from Democrats, establishment Republicans, the progressive-liberal media, Hollywood radicals, and the deep state. What particularly motivated the ire of these Trump-haters was the fact that the zero-tolerance policy would require the separation of parents and children at the border. The hysteria was, of course, completely insincere and fabricated, given that the policy of separating children and parents was nothing new—it had been a policy of the Obama and Bush administrations as well.

Furthermore, where is the compassion for the thousands of American children who are separated from their parents every year as a result of arrests and convictions for non-violent crimes? Many of those arrested are single mothers whose infants become wards of the government until their mothers complete their sentences. No hysteria or effusive compassion is elicited by these separations, confirming that the object of the hysteria surrounding illegal border crossers is to force open borders on the nation under the guise of compassion for children.

President Trump’s preferred solution for ending the influx of illegal immigrants and providing border security is a wall; it is also the preferred solution of the American people. Zero tolerance is an interim policy that—if enforced—will help deter illegal crossers. The hysteria provoked by zero tolerance could have been predicted, but its magnitude and sheer insanity are almost breathtaking. Some prominent constitutional scholars have gone so far as to argue that the government has no constitutional authority to control the border. And this, which seems almost beyond hysteria, from the elite intellectual class that should be most immune to hysteria!

In the meantime, a Federal District Court judge in Southern California has discovered a substantive due process right guaranteeing the right to “family integrity” lurking in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and has ordered all children reunited with their illegal immigrant parents. Obviously the judge expects the parents to be released from incarceration to join their children, but the Trump administration seems determined to keep parents and children together in detention centers until legal proceedings determine their fate.

More than a century ago, the Supreme Court announced what was considered the settled sense of the matter when it remarked: “It is an accepted maxim of international law . . . and essential to self-preservation, to forbid the entrance of foreigners within [a sovereign nation’s] dominions, or to admit them only in such cases and upon such conditions as it may see fit to prescribe.” This view was reaffirmed in the recent Supreme Court decision, handed down on June 26, that upheld Trump’s travel ban on foreign nationals from eight countries, six of which have majority Muslim populations.

Part of the complaint against the ban was that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because Trump had displayed “animus” against Muslims in speeches before and after the 2016 election. The plaintiffs argued that the national security reasons for the ban were merely pretexts for Trump’s thinly disguised contempt for the Muslim religion. Although the Court agreed that individual injury could be alleged under the Establishment Clause, the travel ban on its face was neutral with respect to religion, and it was therefore possible to decide the issue on statutory rather than constitutional grounds.

The dissenting opinion in this case would have invalidated the ban on constitutional grounds, based on the idea that the President’s campaign statements and those of his advisers proved that animus against Islam was the real and pervasive motivation for the travel ban. Had this dissenting opinion prevailed, it would have created an anomaly in constitutional jurisprudence. Conceding that the plain language of the travel ban was neutral and therefore constitutional, what rendered the travel ban unconstitutional was Trump’s purported display of animus in his public speeches. If signed by any president other than Trump, there would therefore be no constitutional objections. In other words, in the minds of the dissenters, psychoanalysis of Trump’s motives held greater constitutional significance than the intent of the law expressed in its plain language.

In any case, the majority opinion held that “by its plain language” the Immigration and Naturalization Act “grants the President broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States. The President lawfully exercised that discretion based on his findings . . . that entry of the covered aliens would be detrimental to the national interest.” Few limits have ever been placed on the President’s broad authority to act under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, especially when national security and foreign relations are involved.

***

In the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump appealed to the importance of citizens and borders. In other words, Trump took his stand on behalf of the nation-state and citizenship against the idea of a homogeneous world-state populated by “universal persons.” In appealing directly to the people, Trump succeeded in defeating both political parties, the media, political professionals, pollsters, academics, and the bureaucratic class. All these groups formed part of the bi-partisan cartel that had represented the entrenched interests of the Washington establishment for many years. Although defeated in the election, the cartel has not given up. It is fighting a desperate battle to maintain its power.

Historically, constitutional government has been found only in the nation-state, where the people share a common good and are dedicated to the same principles and purposes. The homogeneous world-state—the European Union on a global scale—will not be a constitutional democracy; it will be the administration of “universal personhood” without the inconvenience of having to rely on the consent of the governed. It will be government by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, much like the burgeoning administrative state that is today expanding its reach and magnifying its power in the United States. “Universal persons” will not be citizens; they will be clients or subjects. Rights will be superfluous because the collective welfare of the community—determined by the bureaucrats—will have superseded the rights of individuals.

Progressive liberalism no longer views self-preservation as a rational goal of the nation-state. Rather, it insists that self-preservation and national security must be subordinate to openness and diversity. America’s immigration policies, we are told, should demonstrate our commitment to diversity because an important part of the American character is openness, and our commitment to diversity is an affirmation of “who we are as Americans.” If this carries a risk to our security, it is a small price to pay. Indeed, the willing assumption of risk adds authenticity to our commitment.

In support of all this, we are asked to believe something incredible: that the American character is defined only by its unlimited acceptance of diversity. A defined American character—devotion to republican principles, republican virtue, the habits and manners of free citizens, self-reliance—would in that case be impermissibly exclusive, and thus impermissibly American. The homogeneous world-state recognizes only openness, devotion to diversity, and acceptance as virtues. It must therefore condemn exclusivity as its greatest vice. It is the nation-state that insists on exclusive citizenship and immigration policies that impose various kinds of restrictions.

Our progressive politicians and opinion leaders proclaim their commitment to diversity almost daily, chanting the same refrain: “Diversity is our strength.” This is the gospel according to political correctness. But how does diversity strengthen us? Is it a force for unity and cohesiveness? Or is it a source of division and contention? Does it promote the common good and the friendship that rests at the heart of citizenship? Or does it promote racial and ethnic division and something resembling the tribalism that prevents most of the world from making constitutional government a success? When is the last time we heard anyone in Washington talk about the common good? We are used to hearing talk about the various stakeholders and group interests, but not much about what the nation has in common.

This should not be surprising. Greater diversity means inevitably that we have less in common, and the more we encourage diversity the less we honor the common good. Any honest and clear-sighted observer should be able to see that diversity is a solvent that dissolves the unity and cohesiveness of a nation—and we should not be deceived into believing that its proponents do not understand the full impact of their advocacy!

Diversity, of course, marches under the banner of tolerance, but is a bastion of intolerance. It enforces its ideological liberalism with an iron fist that is driven by political correctness, the most ingenious (and insidious) device for suppressing freedom of speech and political dissent ever invented.

Political correctness could have been stopped dead in its tracks over three decades ago, but Republicans refused to kill it when they had the opportunity. In the presidential election campaign of 1980, Ronald Reagan promised to end affirmative action with the stroke of a pen by rescinding the executive order, issued by Lyndon Johnson, that created it. This promise was warmly received by the electorate in that election. But President Reagan failed to deliver his promised repeal. Too many Republicans had become convinced that they could use affirmative action to their advantage—that the largesse associated with racial class entitlements would attract minorities to the Republican Party. By signing on to this regime of political correctness, Republicans were never able to mount an effective opposition to its seemingly irresistible advance.

Today, any Republican charged or implicated with racism—however tendentious, outrageous, implausible, exaggerated, or false the charge or implication may be—will quickly surrender, often preemptively. This applies equally to other violations of political correctness: homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and a host of other so-called irrational prejudices. After all, there is no rational defense against an “irrational fear,” which presumably is what the “phobias” are. Republicans have rendered themselves defenseless against political correctness, and the establishment wing of the party doesn’t seem overly concerned, as they frequently join the chorus of Democrats in denouncing Trump’s violations of political correctness. Only President Trump seems undeterred by the tyrannous threat that rests at the core of political correctness.

***

In addition to the Affirmative Action Executive Order in 1965, there were other actions taken during the Great Society that were meant to transform America. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was sound legislation, authorized by the Fourteenth Amendment and designed to abolish racial discrimination in employment. But the administrative agencies, with the full cooperation of the courts, quickly transformed its laudable goals into mandates that required racial discrimination to achieve racial proportionality in hiring and promotion.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 similarly sought to ban racial discrimination in voting. It too was transmogrified into an act that required racial discrimination in order to achieve proportional results in elections. Proportional results were touted by a palpable fiction as the only reliable evidence of free and fair elections.

The Immigration Act of 1965 was a kind of affirmative action plan to provide remedies for those races or ethnic groups that had been discriminated against in the past. Caucasian immigrants from European nations had been given preference in past years; now it was time to diversify the immigrant population by changing the focus to Third World nations, primarily nations in Latin America and Asia. The goal, as some scholars have slowly come to realize, was to diversify the demographic composition of the American population from majority white to a majority of people of color. There was also some anticipation that those coming from these Third World countries were more likely to need the ministrations of the welfare state and therefore more likely to be captured by the Democratic Party, the party promoting the welfare state.

White middle-class Americans in the 1960s and 70s were often referred to as selfish because their principal interests were improving their own lives, educating their own children, and contributing to their own communities. They showed no inclination to support diversity and the kind of authentic commitment to the new openness that was being advocated by progressive-liberalism. They stood as a constant roadblock to the administrative state, stubbornly resisting higher taxes, increased immigration, and expansion of the welfare state. Once they were no longer a majority, they would be powerless to resist. Demographers say that sometime around 2040 is the day of reckoning when whites will no longer be a majority and will sometime thereafter have to endure the fate they have inflicted on others for so many years. This radical demographic change will be due almost entirely to the immigration reform that was put into motion by the Immigration Act of 1965.

Of course, it is entirely a fiction that the American political system has produced monolithic white majorities that rule at the expense of so-called “discrete and insular minorities.” Whites as a class have never constituted a majority faction in the nation, and the Constitution was explicitly written to prevent such majorities from forming. The fact that, among a host of other considerations, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by a supposed “monolithic white majority” to promote the equal protection rights of minorities belies the idea that it was a majority faction ruling in its own racial class interest.

***

President George W. Bush, no less than President Obama, was an advocate of a “borderless world.” A supporter of amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, he frequently stated that “family values don’t stop at the border” and embraced the idea that “universal values” transcend a nation’s sovereignty. He called himself a “compassionate conservative,” and said on several occasions that we should be more compassionate to our less fortunate neighbors to the south.

President Reagan used this same kind of rhetoric when he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which provided amnesty for three million illegal aliens. This was touted by Reagan as a way of “humanely” dealing with the issue of illegal immigration. In his signing statement, he said the Act “is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America.” The Act was supposed to be a one-time-only amnesty in exchange for stronger border control, but only the most naive in Washington believed that the promise of border control would be honored. In fact, illegal immigration continued unabated. The Act also fueled expectations—even demands—for additional amnesties, and delays in implementing new amnesties have been proffered as evidence by immigration activists (including Jeb Bush) that the American people lack compassion.

Any clear-thinking observer, however, can see that compassion is not a sound basis either for foreign policy or immigration policy. Compassion is more likely to lead to contempt than gratitude in both policy areas. The failure of the 1986 amnesty should be a clear reminder of the useful Machiavellian adage that in the world of realpolitik it is better to be feared than loved. Fear is more likely to engender respect, whereas love or compassion is more likely to be regarded as a contemptible sign of weakness. In 1984 Reagan received 37 percent of the Hispanic vote, but after the 1986 amnesty George H.W. Bush received a significantly lower 30 percent. Granted, Bush was no Reagan, but such ingratitude seemed to puzzle Republicans.

Republicans and Democrats alike are reluctant to consider serious measures to control illegal immigration. Republicans want to continue the steady supply of cheap and exploitable labor, and Democrats want future voters. Republicans are thinking only in the short term—they are not thinking politically. Democrats always think politically. President Trump wants to stop chain migration and the diversity lottery. Those who win in the diversity lottery also begin chain migration, as do all legal immigrants. Since 2005, more than nine million foreign nationals have arrived in the U.S. by chain migration, and when they become voting citizens, in all likelihood, two-thirds of them will vote Democrat. Trump knows how to think politically!

***

Birthright citizenship contributes to a borderless world. Any woman who comes to the United States as a legal or illegal alien and gives birth confers the boon of American citizenship on her child. In these instances, America has no control over who becomes a citizen. Constitutional law experts say it is a settled issue that the Constitution adopted the English common law of birthright citizenship. William Blackstone is cited as the authority for this proposition, having written the authoritative Commentaries on the Laws of England—a work that was well known to our nation’s Founders. What the proponents of birthright citizenship seem to ignore is that Blackstone always refers to “birthright subjects” and “birthright subjectship,” never mentioning citizens or citizenship in his four volume work. Under the common law, anyone born under the protection of the king owed “perpetual allegiance” to the king in return. Blackstone freely admitted that birthright subjectship was an inheritance from the feudal system, which defined the relations of master and servant. Under the English common law there were no citizens—only subjects.

The Declaration of Independence, however, proclaims that the American people “are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown.” Thus, it is clear that the American people rejected the common law as a basis for citizenship. What is substituted in place of “perpetual allegiance” to a king is “the consent of the governed,” with the clear implication that no individual can be ruled without his consent. Consent—not the accident of birth—is the basis for American citizenship.

James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration and the Constitution and later a member of the Supreme Court, perfectly expressed the matter when he wrote: “In America there are citizens, but no subjects.” Is it plausible—is it even remotely credible—that the Founders, after fighting a revolutionary war to reject the feudal relic of “perpetual allegiance,” would have adopted that same feudal relic as the ground of citizenship for the new American regime?

The American people can, of course, consent to allow others to join the compact that created the American nation, but they have the sovereign right to specify the terms and conditions for granting entry and the qualifications for citizenship. Presumably the qualifications for entry and naturalization will be whether those who wish to enter demonstrate a capacity to adopt the habits, manners, independence, and self-reliance of republican citizens and devotion to the principles that unite the American people. Furthermore, it would be unreasonable not to expect that potential immigrants should possess useful skills that will ensure that they will not become victims of the welfare state.

Immigration policies should serve the interests of the American people and of the nation—they should not be viewed as acts of charity to the world. Putting America first is a rational goal. It is the essence of sovereignty. And the sovereign nation-state is the only home of citizenship—as it is the only home of constitutional government.

THE HEATLESS SUN

THE HEATLESS SUN (As a follow Up to the Ghostless Machine)

Francis is, by the way, and in my opinion the single worst pope I have seen in my lifetime. He might as well be a secular Western European politician or an American progressive liberal professor of religion.

He is no Man of Miracle and High Ambition, as was John Paul, or even a Man of High yet Humble Mind, as was Benedict.

Rather he is a devoted apparatchik and zealous liberal agent of that queer modern fusion known as political-religion – posing as a pope.

On the other hand he must be extremely comforting to the “modern Christian,” be he Catholic or Protestant. You know, the one who believes nothing (terrified of the very idea of miracles, or that they might stain themselves by being involved in one) and wants desperately to share that state of eternally mundane miasma with everyone, so that like a good Socialist Christian all are equally moderate in soullessness.

He is, after all, precisely what they are… how could they not be enthralled?

Pascal’s Fire & 8 Minutes Till Darkness

I had a long late breakfast this morning with a Catholic friend, a native of Baton Rouge who now lives in New England, but is in town visiting his family. When we sat down at the restaurant, I mentioned to him that I had seen this tweet from a very solid Catholic priest friend:

Fr. Matt Fish@matthewjfish

Gospel today: can we please stop talking about sharing the loaves? Instead: mountains and theophanies, new Moses, Passover meal, new Exodus, anticipation of eschatological banquet, sacrifice of the lamb, kingship of Jesus, miracle vs sign, all acceptable alternatives.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

To which I had responded (on Twitter) by quoting part of Blaise Pascal’s note at the end of a late-night mystical vision in 1654. Here is the entire quote from Pascal, for whom this vision occasioned a deeper conversion:

FIRE.

GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.

My friend shook his head, smiling sardonically. “I had the ‘miracle of sharing’ homily at mass this morning!” he said. He was angry about it.

This is a sad old joke for Catholics. When the Gospel reading is the story of Christ feeding the multitude with just a few loaves and fishes, some Catholic priests (like, um, this guy) are in the habit of downplaying the supernatural core of the event, and saying that the real miracle here was the “miracle of sharing” — the idea that the generosity Christ inspired in people’s hearts is what that story is about. The Catholic blogger Amy Welborn once wrote about this phenomenon (which some Protestants have had to endure too); the unnamed acquaintance in her story is me. I was still Catholic then, and had been at mass that day in St. Francisville, when I heard the priest give that lame homily. When I politely confronted him about it after mass, he pulled me out of his way.

The “Miracle Of Sharing” is shorthand among certain orthodox Catholics as a symbol for the desacralization of the faith by priests who don’t really believe in it, not as Pascal’s fire. My friend this morning said that listening to that lazy homily this morning at mass, with the meaning of the Cardinal McCarrick scandal weighing heavily on his mind, infuriated him. I blog here about our ensuing conversation with his permission, though I’m not going to name him.

“You remember how you had on your blog a couple of weeks ago that stuff about the final pagan generation?” he said.

He was referring to this post about how pagan Roman elites in the fourth century complacently believed that the old religion was going to endure. Even though the ground itself had shifted under their feet throughout the century, as Christian conversions continued throughout the Empire, they didn’t see what was happening around them. All the outward forms of pagan religion — the temples, the shrines, the public celebrations — were still more or less in place, even though the inner light of pagan belief was fast dimming. Then suddenly, paganism was gone. Historian Edward Watts, author of 2015’s The Final Pagan Generationwrites about how these elites turned out to have been the last people educated and formed intellectually in classical pagan culture. They did not recognize what was happening to their civilization. It had always been pagan, and always would be, they thought … until suddenly, it wasn’t anymore, and never was again.

Anyway, my friend said this morning that he agrees with me that Christians today — he was talking about his fellow Catholics in particular, but nodded when I said this is true of all Christians in the West — are like the Final Pagan Generation.

“It takes eight minutes for light to reach earth from the sun,” he said. “If the sun stopped exploding, if it went dark, it would be eight minutes before we knew it. I feel like we’re  living in that eight minutes now, about the faith.”

He explained that from what he sees around him, the Catholic faith is pretty much a dead letter. My friend is a deeply convinced believer, but the corruption in the clergy and in the episcopate has left him reeling. We’ve been friends for a while, and I know that he’s been undeceived for years about the real state of things in the Church. But the Cardinal McCarrick thing seems to have been a breaking point for him. He’s filled with disgust and anger at the Catholic bishops, doubting now how many of them have faith at all. How can you believe in Jesus Christ but facilitate so much corruption, sexual and otherwise? he said.

My friend is no Puritan. But he has hit a wall, and he has hit it hard. The “miracle of sharing” sermon stood out to him as a symbol of the total spiritual mediocrity of the Church in our time and place. The house is burning down around them, and sentimental priests can’t stop talking about that warm feeling in their hearts.

“They think they’re giving us mercy, but they’re not,” said my friend, who has suffered some serious setbacks in his own life in the past couple of years. “I’m desperate for mercy. I need it so much in my life. The hard truths that the Church teaches, that’s real mercy, not this fake stuff. Those truths give me what I need to bear up to all these trials. To live sacrificially when the world says the easy thing would be to give up.”

“To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever looked up to a priest as a spiritual father,” he continued. “I guess I had to learn a long time ago not to expect anything from them other than giving out the Sacrament.”

“Where I live, the Church is over. It’s done,” he said. “I was at mass a few weeks ago, and looked around, and my family were the only people there under 70. Nobody else is coming.”

It’s true that New England used to be the most Catholic part of the United States. Now it is one of the most secular. My friend says that when the grey hairs start to die off, very few believers will be around to replace them. And yet, there’s little sense of urgency in the Church there, he says — at least not the kind of urgency inspiring the clergy and the laity to search for Pascal’s Fire. They’re just content to fade into the mist.

It’s different in south Louisiana, he said — but this is little consolation. He grew up in this place, immersed in Catholic culture. “I feel like living in New England puts me ten to fifteen years ahead of y’all down here,” he said. “What we’re living through up north is coming here, but nobody seems to understand that.”

Far too many people in the South take comfort in the generally Christian culture here, said my friend. He wants me to understand that he’d take that over the spiritual desolation he’s living and raising his Catholic family in now, but it’s still a very serious problem, because it breeds complacency. Everybody’s happy sending their kids to Catholic school, going to mass on Sunday, hearing about the Miracle of Sharing, and consoling themselves that it’s all going pretty well now, and always will.

Meanwhile, he said, the faith is dying in the hearts of the middle-aged and the young.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the kind of thing where it just gradually declines,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more like one of these things where people just stop showing up. It’s going to be abrupt. Nobody’s going to see it coming, but when it happens, they’re not going to be surprised, either.”

Of course I told him that this is not just a Catholic experience, but a general Christian experience today. It plays out differently among Evangelicals, for example, but it’s there. If it weren’t, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism wouldn’t be the true American religion. An Evangelical pastor friend told me recently over the desperation among so many Evangelicals, always looking for the Next Big Thing — praise bands! smoke machines! — to keep emotions high and the troops rallied, and to keep people from noticing that the churches have been hollowed out from within.

None of this is new with me, of course. My Catholic breakfast friend and I talk about this kind of thing whenever we see each other. What made today’s conversation stand out to me was the power of his “eight minutes to darkness” metaphor — that, and his visceral post-McCarrick anger at the hierarchy and clergy of his own Church. To emphasize: it’s not only about toleration, even encouragement, of sexual sin and corruption, but satisfaction with spiritual “mediocrity” (his word) general in the Catholic Church today. That last one is an accusation that could accurately and justly be leveled at nearly all of us Christians, Catholic and otherwise.

We Christians are living out the Eight Minutes Till Darkness. If we are going to have the ability to see clearly when the lights go out, we are going to have to start tending Pascal’s fire in our own hearts, our own families, our own Christian schools, and our own religious communities. This is what the Benedict Option is about. This, I think, is why people like my older Millennial friend visiting from New England, as well as young Catholics in Europe, are so enthusiastic about the Benedict Option: because they already live in once-Christian lands across which the shadow of night has fallen.

For American Catholics, the McCarrick affair is an apocalypse in the strict sense of the word — that is, an unveiling. Believe it or not, this can be a blessing. It’s better to know the truth, and to go forward undeceived, than to operate under false pretenses. As angry as my Catholic friend is about this corruption, and as little confidence as he has in the bishops and the clergy, he is still committed to the Catholic faith. Now he has to figure out where to go from here, as a husband and a father and a soldier who salutes the uniform of the officer class, but has little to no faith in their ability to lead.

I don’t want to leave you on an anti-clerical note. It’s understandable, given all the news about clerical corruption, and besides, nobody wants to be taken advantage of by bishops who say “we are one body, one body in Christ” as a way of leaning on the laity to pay off the debts the clergy have incurred for molesting children and (in the case of bishops) tolerating it for decades. However, it would be self-serving for the laity to blame the clergy entirely. I’m thinking as I write this of a very fine young Orthodox priest I know who is in a difficult position. He did not tell me this, but someone who knows him passed on to me that no matter what he has done to try to engage his fairly large congregation with actual Orthodoxy (as distinct from ethnic-festival Orthodoxy), they resist and try to shut him down. They don’t want to be bothered with it. They’re fine with Miracle Of Sharing™ Christianity.

A Mainline Protestant friend of mine’s father got mad at his pastor once, for what I was told was good reason. After that, though, the man fell into the habit of finding fault with every pastor the church had. It wasn’t that the old man was always wrong, I was given to understand, but that the old man (who wasn’t old at all when this started) did not compensate for the clergy’s failing by either finding another church, or redoubling his own spiritual disciplines. Instead, he griped about church, and stopped going; his wife went along with it. He told himself and his family that he didn’t need to go to a church building and listen to boring sermons to find God. So he quit going to church, though he told himself that if the clergy would ever get its act together, he might start coming again.

For decades this went on. The old man finally died. I’m told that today, you will find none of that old man’s descendants in that church. Would things have been different for that family had the old man and his wife met the crisis of clerical mediocrity differently, instead of lazily blaming the institution for all their own failings? Maybe, maybe not. But at least their kids and grandkids would have had a better shot at holding onto the faith. In that family, the eight minutes till darkness passed a while back. In my friend’s late father, I very much see the attitude that my own late, Christian but non-churchgoing father had: believing that the faith would always be here because it always had been here, and that the church was like a public utility: always there to make sure that the lights would come on.

He was wrong. It’s going to be like that for all of us, if we don’t kindle Pascal’s fire, and seek the face of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

UPDATE: Well, whaddaya know, here’s what Pope Francis said today about the Loaves & Fishes reading Gospel reading:

Then, at the end of the account, when all were satiated, Jesus asked His disciples to gather the pieces left over, so that nothing would be wasted. And I would like to propose to you this phrase of Jesus: “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost” (v. 12). I think of people who are hungry and how much leftover food we throw away . . . Let each one of us think: the food that’s left over at lunch, at dinner, where does it go? In my home, what’s done with this leftover food? Is it thrown out? No. If you have this habit, I give you advice: talk with your grandparents who lived after the War and ask them what they did with leftover food. Never throw away leftover food. It’s re-heated or given to someone who can eat it, who is in need. Never throw away leftover food. This is advice but also an examination of conscience: what is done at home with leftover food?

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, so that in the world programs dedicated to development, to supplies, to solidarity prevail and not those of hatred, of armaments and of war.

That’s the end of his six-minute homily, but it gives you the gist. If you want to listen to the whole thing, it starts shortly after the 3:00 mark, and the concluding passage above begins about 8:30:

THE GHOSTLESS MACHINE

THE GHOSTLESS MACHINE

Christianity, especially Ancient and Medieval Christianity is awash in the supernatural and in spirituality. And in a far more potent and real form than that of any historical branch of paganism. That’s one reason it replaced paganism, and worldwide.

It is the modern Christian who has castrated Christianity of all its inherent force and power to fix obsessively upon the much smaller issues of politics, culture, entertainment, society, and materialism.

As a matter of fact it is very hard to see where society ends and the church or Christianity begin. It is like a sow who has birthed a fat piglet. Place either upon the plate as cooked ham and without further information you’d be hard pressed to identify the source.

The trouble with modern Christianity in this sense (and there are almost countless problems with modern Christianity) is not that Christianity is not a far more viable and valid form of spirituality than paganism, it is that modern Christianity has no spirituality any longer, just as it has no magic, miracle, or salvific force. Not in the West anyway.

And that began (the abolition of miracles, spirituality, the Mysteries, etc.), rightly or wrongly with the Protestant Revolution. And some things concerning the Protestant Reform should have definitely happened and some things should have never happened at all. But still they did.

And as a result Christianity is now but shadow of itself and a mere machine without a Ghost, Holy or otherwise. Or should I just say it is little more than a mere cultural artefact and a religion Wholly Without a Ghost…

I recently visited the website of a popular company that sells products like deodorant and toothpaste with natural ingredients. Curious to learn more about the business, I visited their blog which was purportedly about the latest trends in health and wellness.

What greeted me was not what I expected. Rather than tips on exercise or healthy eating, the blog featured stories about the healing power of crystals and the benefits of tarot card reading. This was at once surprising and unsurprising, for new age and occult practices, in all their various forms, are experiencing a major resurgence, especially among millennials. But from a company that sells toothpaste?

It is no exaggeration to say that, despite the best efforts of the New Atheists, our culture is more awash in spirituality than ever before. One can hardly go anywhere today without seeing products, articles, and popular gurus encouraging practices like yoga, meditation, reiki—and now, tarot and crystals—as essential to a healthy lifestyle. In the realm of entertainment, hugely popular series like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones all draw on themes of magic and the supernatural.

What are we to make of this ?

Heresy…or Hunger

From a Christian perspective, many of these trends are undoubtedly suspect or downright heretical. And yet, we should think carefully before issuing anathemas, for while misguided, many of our culture’s flirtations with the occult really betray a deep hunger for the supernatural.

Theologian Alexander Schmemann once said, “To condemn a heresy is relatively easy. What is much more difficult is to detect the question it implies, and to give this question an adequate answer.” He was right. As Catholics, we are often in such a rush to point out what is wrong with neo-pagan practices that we miss the deeper questions they imply. And we certainly fail to give them a satisfying answer.

The truth is, our culture is starving for the supernatural. My generation has been raised to believe that we are nothing more than accidentally advanced apes on an unusually lucky space rock floating in a meaningless sea of nothingness in a universe that could care less whether we lived or died. It is despair inducing in the highest degree. Moreover, we have been told, nearly since infancy, that science has answered nearly all questions of existence, and if any remain unanswered, they will be resolved quite soon. For every question, there is an answer, even before you ask it. Existence is thus no longer wonderfully strange and awe-inspiring, but mundane and prosaic.

As a result, young adults today are desperate for an encounter with authentic mystery. Things like astrology and crystals are attractive because they are strange and defy the scientific-materialist paradigm. There are certainly explanations for how they work, but they require a level of faith. And despite what the pompous atheists claim, we want to have faith in something we can’t fully explain. We are fundamentally religious beings, and we instinctively know there is more to the world than meets the eye. We are hungry for magic and mystery and will embrace the first thing, rightly or wrongly, that offers it.

The Failure of Christianity

Now, you  may be reading this and thinking that Christianity, especially Catholicism, believes and proclaims the existence of supernatural realities, so why abandon it for neo-pagan practices? Wouldn’t their hunger for the supernatural be satisfied at their local parish?

Yes and no. Yes, because the supernatural mysteries taught by the Church do exist. No, because in practice we so often deny them.

We claim to believe in angels and archangels and a host of saints who join us in worship. Yet, we strip our churches bare and make them into beige-carpeted business centers, rather than holy temples.

We claim to believe that each Mass is a miracle that brings God bodily to dwell among us. Yet we make our liturgy a comfortable affair, eliminating anything that is difficult, disorienting, awe-inspiring, ancient, or mysterious. We sing cheesy ditties, hold hands, and pass out the greatest mystery of all, the Holy Eucharist, like a snack in a cafeteria.

We claim our priests have supernatural powers to consecrate, bless, and preach. Yet we water-down or change their sacred formulas, eliminate their rituals, and distribute their duties to laymen as often as possible.

We claim to believe in the Almighty, the Creator of all before whom the burning spirits veil their faces, yet we insist on dragging him down to our level to accommodate our needs and sins. We say we believe in supernatural mystery, but we do all in our power to destroy it at every turn.

If lex orandi, lex credendi is true, then we simply do not believe what we say we believe.

Christian Secularists

To be perfectly honest, we have failed to offer an encounter with mystery for some time now. The mass abandonment of the faith by young people is not so much a sign of their wickedness as an indictment of our own practical unbelief.

As Catholics, we long ago turned the faith into an intellectual game devoid of mysticism, priding ourselves on our clear philosophy and well articulated theological frameworks. But the letter without the spirit, philosophical theology without mystical encounter, kills. It is a head without a heart, and it cannot give life.

When the world walked away—tired of textbook answers and hungry for the Transcendent Mystery—we became not lessworldly but more worldly. We embraced modern, secular modernity, stripping our faith of nearly everything supernatural, and we lost any credibility we had left.

The truth is, most of us live like complete secularists the vast majority of the time. We claim to believe in supernatural realities, but compartmentalize them to one hour, one day per week—and perhaps not even that. Heaven is always somewhere out there, and never really upsets my daily existence. We aren’t taken seriously by modern men and women hungry for the supernatural because we don’t believe in the supernatural, despite what we say.

The Answer

I have been critical to this point because it upsets me to see countless Catholics practically deny the supernatural realities of our faith with banal liturgies and disrespect or even disdain for the holiest things of our religion, and then see the same Catholics criticizing the errors of wayward neo-pagan youth. Until we take our own faith seriously, no one else will.

But I don’t simply want to criticize; I want to offer a solution. The answer is not difficult to discern. It is simply this: Emphasize the supernatural reality of our faith at every turn, recover those traditions which preserve and honor this reality, and thus offer an encounter with what one theologian termed the mysterium tremendum et fascinans—the Great and Awesome Mystery—which is Almighty God.

For everywhere the Holy Eucharist is treated with awesome and painstaking reverence, everywhere buildings still appear to be and are treated like temples, everywhere saints are still venerated and angels called upon, everywhere priests are honored as the supernaturally-endowed mediators that they are, everywhere miracles are still believed in and occur, the faith is growing. And it is almost always young people who flock to such places.

If we want to be a viable alternative to neo-paganism, we need to embrace once again the supernatural traditions of our faith. Our sacred language. Our ancient and venerable rites and formulas. Our “superstitious” Catholic practices. Our symbols. Our mystical traditions of prayer. We don’t need only more catechesis, as if ideas alone could save us. We need more mystery, more transcendence, more ritual, more magic, for lack of a better word.

Every Catholic must become a mystic, in the sense that we live like the supernatural is as real as the air we breathe—because it is. Then, and only then, will we be able to speak authentically to a world hungry for the divine.

MODERN MAN AND THE TRAINABLE PIG

The only thing easier to subvert and influence with bad habits and instruction than a modern man is a trainable pig.

Then again you gotta work at training a pig. All you’ve got to do with a modern man is just drop him in the center of his supposed “culture” and most of them will reflexively absorb by osmosis every low social custom they come can possibly come into contact with.

Modern man is hardly known for his strength of mind and soul. He is, however, very well known for how easy he is to corrupt, pervert, and manipulate.

GIVING UP, GAINING, AND BEING REBORN (as a REAL HUMAN BEING) AGAIN

GIVING UP, GAINING, AND BEING REBORN (as a REAL HUMAN BEING) AGAIN

 

Over the past few years and up until recently (within the past few weeks) I have given up a number of things. As a result I have gained immensely in numerous other ways and, to be honest, I feel as if I have been reborn as a kid (teenager to my early twenties). Psychologically that is. And in my worldview and in my mental and behavioral outlook upon Life (and Death) and upon many other things as well – such as Work and Achievement and Enterprise and Industry.

Physically I am approaching 55 years old but the vast majority of the time I feel (in my body and how I can use it) like I’m about 30 years old.

Here are some of the things I have given up and what I have gained as a result:

Video games (gave them up years and years ago), haven’t missed them at all, they were a huge time-suck. Gain: Productive use of my time and an absolute revulsion for escapist entertainment. Feeling of being a kid again. To replace that kind of passive, escapist entertainment I took up real recreations again, including, but not limited to playing wargames and RPGs and board games with real people.

Cell Phone: as my family and friends will tell you I only use it for emergency and business communications. Or to take pics if I am vadding. I am untrackable otherwise and never turn it on. My wife and kids and even friends spent years trying to convince me to get one. But I’ve never liked the God-damned thing. (It is one of those pieces of modern technology that I can honestly hear God saying, “ah, that’s a real piece of infiltrating demonic shit son, and will only lessen your ability to truly Live, not enhance it. Burn the damned thing.” I can easily hear Christ saying that too, as an off-hand remark.) It has always revolted me. The idea of being traceable is also disgusting and unmanly to me. Nevertheless I keep it to please my wife and kids and for security reasons. Gain: Not using it or activating it means I always enjoy the Real World far more. I observe closely and easily all that goes on around mem as is my natural inclination. I haven’t had an auto-accident in over thirty years. Though I have avoided many. Time means nothing to me. I go where I wanna go and do what I wanna do. I talk constantly to strangers when travelling, often engage in and initiate conversations, or am engaged in or others initiate conversations with me. Nobody will bother talking to ya, nor do you bother meeting new people if you have a fucking phone stuck to your face all of the time or you’re so damned rude you think it more important than the actual people you’re in the company of. I don’t care for those shitheads and most others don’t either. Who would?

Eating: I gave up eating (doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my food, just don’t need much of it) any more than I really need to in order to sustain myself and to grow myself or repair damage during training. Gain: less weight, leaner, more muscle, better health, more energy, easy to fast.

Sugar: aside from chocolate (usually semi-sweet form) I take in none. Gain: Better energy, rarely tired (I can go to bed at midnight or one, arise at five or six AM and be good all day. Better health, hormone, and metabolic regulation. Rarely sick, injuries don’t bother me nearly as much as they used too. Rare pain unless I over-exert myself clearing land or training or boxing. Quicker recovery.

Soda: Gain: same as above for sugar. No advantages of any kind for sodas or processed sugar.

Bread: Gain: same as above. Occasionally I’ll eat flatbread or unleavened bread or antique breads.

Coffee: I drink this still, but very rarely now. Gain: better energy and metabolic self-regulation.

Junk Food: gave that shit up a long time ago. Gain: rarely sick, not fat, good diet and nutrition, take no meds of any kind (you’d be surprised how this shocks modern doctors and nurses and surgeons), good energy, train easily, little to no exhaustion, no desire to eat it. Taking in eating as a whole (diet, sugar, soda, bread, less consumption) my body is far better off, my mind is clear and alert, my concentration is superb, I dream and recall my dreams better, and my attitude is positive, optimistic, and happy.

Politics: gave this up about a six months or so ago. Aside from the necessary evils of my political duties (to thwart this world becoming a modern liberal, socialistic, Islamic, communistic, impoverished, tyrannical hellhole) I could give a shit less about politics and take no notice of it. Gain: nothing but positive, especially on my outlook and optimism. Also I got out of that modern, effeminate, unmanly, pussified habit of just talking about problems and politics ad infinitum (instead of acting on them) as if “consciousness raising” or “internet awareness” were some kind or form of valid problem solving. What a self-deluding, unmanly pussy pursuit. It is the political and social equivalent of modern Christians who say, “I’ll pray,” but never left their hands or can’t be bothered to actually do anything.  So I’m glad to be shed of that shit.

TV: gave up watching TV. Sent back DirectTV receiver and don’t watch local channels (haven’t done that for decades) and eliminated Netflix, etc. Gain: Don’t miss it. At all. Time I would have spent on that shit now goes to far more important things (like traveling, spending time with family, clearing land, my Work and Career, new start-ups, making submissions, networking, exploring, vadding, hanging out with friends, etc.) I also now spend a lot of time with my kids, cuddling and showing affection to my wife, more sex with her, etc. My self-education program flourishes. I stargaze more. My language acquisition programs have improved and advanced. Very much like being a kid again when I never watched TV. I was always far too busy doing things, learning things, having fun, and enjoying myself instead.

News: I gave up watching all TV news some time back. Gain: Happy, optimistic, not bothered by modern bullshit, not obsessed by disaster, doom, or politics (next to criminal and terrorist activity and entertainment and crack-whoring the lowest of all forms of human enterprise). Far less distraction.

Introversion: gave up any idea at all that I am a natural introvert. Yes, when it comes to Work I prefer to work alone, and always have, and likely to some degree always will. But with the kids now in college and having a free hand to maneuver my extroverted side has reasserted itself vigorously. So I have gone back to being what is my natural and true inclination, an Ambivert.  When working I am still basically an introvert, but when out in public or otherwise I am very much an extrovert, as my wife and kids can tell you. Gain: Immense.

Worrying About Money, or giving a shit about it: gave this up maybe two or three years ago. Something like that. Gain: better marriage, better family, increases in income, more time on Work and Career, easier money and time management, more saving and investments, more entrepreneurialism. Instead of giving a shit about money I now just say to myself: “what are my real momentary and monetary priorities, and knowing those I’ll get the money and constantly (over time) increase my income and Wealth.” If it is not really a priority then I don’t care one way or another. I am neither enslaved by lack of money, nor impressed by having it. And I feel more and more, even absolutely confident, that I will become incredibly wealthy over time. But I don’t give a shit for money other than what I can use it to do. (Build things, advance my career, take care of others, start businesses, invest, do charity and philanthropy, engage in science – do important things in the world.) Aside from what it allows me to do I am completely Stoic and entirely unconcerned about money. And I Sleep like a baby.

Professional Sports: I gave up watching professional sports decades ago, (almost three decades now) and college sports not long after that (reminds me far too much of pro sports).  To me they are merely vastly overpaid, spoiled, self-absorbed entertainers, and also they tend to be primarily urbanized Europeans in their mindsets (probably the result of nearly all pro-sport teams being located in big and degenerate cities, big city people never really understand just how naturally corrupting their urbanized environments and mindsets make them, but the corruption is deep even if rarely realized). I do not admire or respect most professional athletes and as far as their thin and anemic contributions to society I rank those right up there with other professional entertainers. Which means I don’t rank them very high at all. Not as a profession anyway, individuals vary, of course. I do not consider most to be manly in their natures at all. When a damned professional football game or team takes ten minutes to run a single play because of time outs and clock delays and men have to reset in huddle for an interminable time period lest they break a real sweat (or anything else) then to me that is the very height of pussydom and unmanliness, not sport. And there is nothing “professional” about that. That is the very opposite of professional when it comes to sport – which should be a test not only of skill, strength and of power, but of endurance, speed, toughness, reflexes, drive, determination, and exhaustion, and the effort to overcome weakness.  It isn’t any of those things anymore, it is an effeminate attempt to appear impressive yet preserve and coddle and overcompensate “assets” for purposes of entertainment. Also I won’t even bother to mention the effeminate nature of the politics that now also infect all professional and collegiate sports top to bottom. But I will say this, the modern politics of professional sports is the result of the decades long slide into effeminacy, over-concern with money and profit, and the obsession with appearance, not performance – or in other words, the effeminacy and unprofessionalism is not the result of the politics. That’s just a late stage symptom (and hopefully a terminal one). First came the decline in the full range of athleticism, then came the resulting political corruption, not the other way around. So instead I indulge myself in personal and amateur athletics – climbing, hiking in pack, weight-lifting, running (a little, not so much after I broke my wrist), boxing, exploring, outdoor activities, clearing land, using my axes and hatchets, etc. I will however watch little league baseball, or kids play soccer, rugby, football, baseball, etc. Because they are enjoying it just as sport, and as fun, and because they aren’t clogged and cluttered with endless rules and endorsements. Gain: great advantages to my own health, no time, money, or effort wasted on these meaningless distractions, and far better uses of my recreational activities.

Social Media and most of the Internet: aside from business purposes or aside from the fact of someone mentioning me on social media (don’t wanna be rude) or something truly important happening I don’t comment on it, respond to it, give a shit about it or use it. Social media might take two minutes out of my day, usually just to scan and make sure distant family and friends are okay. Many days, sometimes weeks go by, and I don’t bother to look at it. Also I am now far more naturally skeptical or anything and everything I see on the internet nowadays and many things tend to amuse rather than bother me. Gain: how do I list them, or how many can I possibly name? All that pointless, wasted time is now free for me to do as I wish, want, desire, or need. To spend on far more important things. And most everything in life is far, far more important. (Looking back upon it objectively now one of the worst sins of the baby-boomers was laying the groundwork for whole generations growing up on this bullshit and thinking it normal. Pathetic. Even bathetic. I hope one day when you kids grow past this pointless shit, and give it up too, you will forgive us… we really did a number on you. Not to mention ourselves.)

Other Things I have Gained as a Complimentary Result of my Revolt against all this Modern Bullshit: I spend more time with God, more time improving myself, I have more time to practice Christian Theurgy, more time for charity and philanthropic work, I spend more time praying and in meditation, more time at philosophy, and languages, more time writing (poetry, novels, articles, short stories, songs), more time learning music and playing guitar and piano, have more time for physical training, more time for inventing, I have gone back to the practice of Raja Yoga, more time playing wargames and gaming with people (RPGs etc.), more time with family, more time travelling, more time making new friends (in person, not on internet), more time outdoors and in nature, more time to pursue my more obscure interests and experiments, and I could probably go on and on in this vein.

In short, I haven’t lost a thing. Instead by giving up all of that otherwise unimportant, petty, modern shit and by fully enjoying the naturally resulting Gains thereof I am living like my ancestors, ancient ancestors, and a like Real Human Being again.
About bloody time…

FALLOUT IN THE NIGHT SKY

Went down to Greenwood with the family to watch Mission Impossible: Fallout, which was quite excellent, thanks in no small part to Henry Cavill (whom I suspect I would actually like as  a person) who stole the show.

The rest of the evening I will spend with my spotting scope and telescope watching Mars and the moon and star-gazing.

Excellent time to be an amateur astronomer.

Have a great night folks.

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