Our Pornified Culture of Death

Philosopher Hannah Arendt once wrote that, if left unchecked, modern society would annihilate itself if given the chance. It feels like we are there. Our collective hypocrisy is clear, as we (rightly) condemn Trump while we pick up 50 Shades of Grey at Red Box. We are all of us consumers of self-gratification.

In other words, our pornified culture exposes us as a people of enfeebled desires. We’d rather fantasize with images than do the work required for deep and meaningful relationships. In our hyper-connected society, we’ve become distracted from one another, ransoming real relationships for cheap gratification. The word “distraction” comes from a Latin term that means “torn apart.” We are not only disconnected from one another, we exploit each other, and tear ourselves apart.

In his famous Oxford address “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis said that we allow lesser objects to satisfy our desires, unaware that ultimate gratification is offered to us. “We are half-hearted creatures,” writes Lewis, “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Trump is the Logical Conclusion of Our Pornified Culture

That grabbing and ripping is the the method that remained legal after the “partial-birth” abortion ban. (Gunter eventually describes this procedure: “The fetus is essentially taken apart with a D and E to fit through the dilated cervix.” But, she says, this is not “ripping,” but “simply surgical technique.”)

Who — Trump or Hillary — was confused or dishonest about abortion at the last debate?

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Politics Is Idolatry for Many

Supreme Court nominees will not save you. National security advisers will not save you. An Ivy League education will not save you. A quarterback who’s cool under pressure will not save you. Tax breaks will not save you. The love of Mr. Right will not save you. A traditional priest will not save you. A progressive priest will not save you. This pope will not save you. A different pope will not save you.

If there’s any heresy the internet encourages, it’s the passionate conviction that “all we need is….” All we need is a Republican president or a more compassionate bishop or a baby who sleeps through the night or a diet that actually works or a higher minimum wage or better paternity leave or free reign to go after ISIS or a new iPhone or a good harvest and then we’ll be happy.

No. All you need is Jesus.

We all seem to know, Christian or not, that we’re in desperate need of a savior. Every four years, we find that savior in a political candidate, appalling as he or she may be. In between, our savior might be an ecclesial movement or a dear friend or a cup of coffee. They’re not bad things until they’re everything and then they’re idols just as much as any golden calf or statue of Bel.

. . .

It’s not just politics, of course. We look to money and love and fame and comfort to save us just as much as we do to our political leaders—more. We make them our gods, confident that what we need is a raise or a faithful spouse or a vacation or more reliable internet provider and then we’ll be okay.

Those things might be nice. Or they might be bricks building up into a wall of self-sufficiency, good things that blind us to our need for a savior. And without making a single deal with the devil or even skipping a single Mass we suffer the loss of our souls because we have installed created things in the place set aside for the creator.

Looking for our savior in all the wrong places

Statolatry, Idolatry

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Politics Is Poison to the Human Spirit

[A]ny visit to an awesome commercial center, teeming with life and full of human diversity, would be palliative. Or maybe it is a visit to a superstore to observe the products, the service, energy, the benevolence, of the commercial space. We can meet people, encounter their humanity, revel in the beauty and bounty of human life. Or it could be your local watering hole with its diverse cast of characters and complicated lives that elude political characterization.

. . .

In this extremely strange election year, escaping the roiling antagonism and duplicity of politics, and finding instead the evidence all around us that we can get along, however imperfectly, might actually be essential for a healthy outlook on life.

. . .

The message that politics beats into our heads hourly is that your neighbor might be your enemy, and that the realization of your values requires the crushing of someone else’s.

That’s a terrible model of human engagement to accept as the only reality.

. . .

What if the whole of life worked like the political sector? It would be unrelenting misery, with no escape, ever. As it is, this is not the case. We should be thankful for it, and remember that the thing that makes life wonderful, beautiful, and loving is not crushing your enemy with a political weapon but rather the gains that come from turning would-be enemies into friends in an environment of freedom.

. . .

A slogan passed around some years ago in academic circles was that “the personal is the political.” That sounds like hell on earth. The slogan should be flipped and serve as a warning to all of us: whatever you politicize will eventually invade your personal life. We should not allow this to happen. The less that life is mediated by political institutions, the more the spontaneous and value-creating impulses in our nature come to the fore.

Politics Is Poison to the Human Spirit

Many of us seem to have made an idol of politics.

Ozymandias and Statolatry

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BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder – BPD

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and impulsiveness.

With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.

Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.

If you have borderline personality disorder, don’t get discouraged. Many people with this disorder get better over time with treatment and can learn to live satisfying lives.

Borderline personality disorder affects how you feel about yourself, how you relate to others and how you behave.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
  • Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights

Borderline Personality Disorder – BPD, from Mayo Clinic

Also see NAMI and NIMH.

3 Patterns of behavior that might be ruining your relationship

Studies have shown that there are three patterns of behavior that hamper communication and, when repeated, may destroy your relationship. While there are positive things to do to, here are three behaviors to avoid: being critical, defensive and detached.

1. Criticism

Criticism means censure, personal attack or denouncement. This is a message from the “you” perspective. It is not the same as complaint. The difference, while subtle, is pregnant with consequences: when criticizing, we refer to a person, and when complaining we indicate a behavior we wish to be changed.

. . .

2 and 3. A defensive attitude and emotional detachment

Perhaps the other person in the relationship is constantly criticizing you and takes everything out on you. It is natural that you become defensive and avoid taking responsibility. It is nearly an instinctive reaction. The thing is that it takes you nowhere. A defensive attitude and emotional detachment effectively prevent us from communicating with one another; they are conducive to distance and barriers. This makes communication increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

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2016, How Strange

I cannot tell gentle reader how shocked (shocked!) I am to learn that Donald Trump talks dirty in private; or that Hillary Clinton says one thing to small paying audiences in Wall Street, and quite another to big audiences across the USA. This changes everything. It revolves my commitments 360 degrees. From a position of condemning both candidates, I come out giving my support to neither. Or perhaps the turn was only 359; for the shrieking hypocrisy of the international media, and the whole political class, has possibly moved me one point closer to Trump. It is hard to pick out, however, one-sixth of a second on the dial of a small watch.

. . .

How incomprehensibly strange is this world; how large, in the passing of trivial events. In thanksgiving for the peace that passeth all understanding, let us whisper deep to deep.

How strange

Clerisy. Ozymandias

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China Continues to Persecute Christians

China’s “utterly disgraceful” human rights record is not just bad, it’s getting worse every year, a new Congressional report has warned.

“The Chinese government’s human rights record is utterly disgraceful, continuing a downward trend over the past three years,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Committee on China, which published the report, stated on Thursday.

“The Chinese government took extraordinary and unprecedented steps last year to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, crush independent civil society and religious groups, and expanded controls over the Internet and the press.”

. . .

“China – now ranking as the world’s second largest economy – has benefited greatly from the international rules-based system in driving its economic transformation and growth,” the report’s executive summary stated.

However, it added, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has not improved its human rights record and respected the rule of law as it has been expected to by the international community. From suppression of religious freedom to detaining dissidents and human rights activists to forced population control, the Chinese state “has run roughshod over human rights” Rep. Smith stated, and it must be held accountable.

. . .

The Chinese government also cracked down on the rise of non-sanctioned religious groups in 2015, the report said, and on Friday it exerted greater control over the practice of religion through its new regulations of religion.

“In both law and practice, the Chinese government continued to violate the rights of its citizens to religious freedom,” the report said, noting the state has “broad discretion over religious practice, internal affairs, and interpretations of faith, which is often exercised based on Party and government policy interests.”

Party officials warned at April’s National Conference on Religious Work that religious groups must be loyal to the state and signaled that they will exercise tighter control on religion in the future to guard against the supposed infiltration of foreign powers through religion.

When the party released its religious regulations on Friday, Rep. Smith called it “stunning, but not surprising.”

“Religious practice is exploding in China, particularly among Christians, and the religious life of Tibetan Buddhist, Uyghur Muslim, and Falun Gong practitioners persist despite decades of the worst abuses,” he said.

However, religious groups must register with the government, and in China there is a state Catholic Church and an “underground” Catholic Church. Local and national officials have harassed or persecuted Catholics who are not part of the state Catholic Church, destroying churches and detaining or harassing bishops and priests.

China’s ‘disgraceful’ human rights record gets worse every year

And it seems Malaysia is not far behind: “Taking the rap: Malaysia’s culture of tolerance is under threat

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Eliminating Community Service

Community service is a noble concept that obscures and confuses more than it helps. The idea implies that those in need are encountered mainly beyond the ordinary circumstances of every day life. It creates a false dichotomy between ordinary and charitable activity. It excludes all but altruistic motivations and devalues genuine engagement with others.

Catholics don’t believe that community is distinct from ordinary living. Community is primarily the family. This natural truth is supported by the supernatural reality that the original community of persons is the Holy Trinity. Through the family we encounter the every day needs of love which require us to serve one another.

Our tradition provides us with a rich lexicon for this service: the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Catholics do not serve; we work. Catholics do not merely give; we show mercy. The acts themselves occur ordinarily in family life: feeding, clothing, comforting, instructing, visiting, et al. In other words, the habits of merciful work and engagement occur as a normal part of daily activity, not as an add-on to normal life.

Catholics would do well to stop referring to “community service” altogether, and instead adopt the language of public spiritedness or public life. The only practical distinction between our works of mercy is where they occur and not when. This language also has an added benefit: it expands our political engagement beyond that of sound-bite politics.

Eliminating Community Service

To mandate “community service” at a public school is moral preening and a manifestation of statolatry.

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Tim Kaine’s Abortion Stance

On the subject of abortion, Tim Kaine is a mess intellectually and a coward morally. That some people find his argument persuasive is only another sign of how attenuated we have become, nationally, in our facility for reasoned argument. The facts of abortion are the facts of abortion, irrespective of what any pope, president, governor, senator, or mere justice of the Supreme Court says.

Being a Catholic is one reason to oppose abortion. Being a human being is another. Tim Kaine, a cheap and shallow sophist, isn’t a particularly inspiring example of either.

Kaine’s Abortion Dodge

Kaine has also made an idol of government.


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Hoarding, Scrupulosity, and Detachment

To hoarders, belongings are physical anchors in a stormy world. Hoarders might otherwise lead functional lives, but according to experts who spoke at the conference, many derive security from having their keepsakes always in view.

“People who hoard tend to live their lives visually and spatially, instead of categorically like the rest of us do,” said Randy Frost, a psychologist and co-author of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, in an interview with Fresh Air. They sort things by location, rather than importance. When he asked one hoarder where her electric bill was, she responded “on the left side of the pile, about a foot down.”

Far from being dirty or disgusting, hoarders might actually be too careful. A common manifestation of OCD is scrupulosity, or an extreme fear of wrongdoing. For example, a highly religious person with OCD might have a fleeting, blasphemous thought one day—”What if God is actually terrible?”—and obsess for days about what thinking it means.

Hoarding in the Time of Marie Kondo

[M]y moderately smug disdain is directed at the writers and “experts” who breathlessly report and analyze these trends—especially when, as is the case in the New York magazine piece, consumerism is highlighted as a contributing vice. “Ours is a spendy culture,” one subheading announces with vague judgmentalism while surrounded by ads for Tiffany and Burberry. “It’s expected that as you earn more, your lifestyle should swell accordingly . . . . If you can’t Instagram or Facebook or Snapchat your material progress, it might as well not exist.”

My question is: Why on earth would we expect anything different? Our culture gives us no compelling reason to resist the allure of conspicuous consumption. We have gutted society of any institutional recognition of, let alone support for, traditional virtues, and yet we vainly expect people to live virtuously. It may be impossible to improve on C.S. Lewis’s concision: “We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Now, the virtue I’m thinking of here is not the old-timey Puritan concept of thrift. Thrift can certainly be virtuous, but it can also emerge just as much from a preoccupation with wealth as conspicuous consumption does—a preoccupation with economic status in the future rather than the present. It’s an idea that is easily co-opted by a secular culture where class is considered a reasonable proxy for moral worthiness.

I’m thinking instead of the relatively unknown and little understood virtue of detachment. We shouldn’t be too surprised that detachment has been largely forgotten; more than almost any other virtue, it relies for its coherence on the public recognition of the divine that secularism has systematically purged from our society. Detachment from worldly goods and concerns only makes sense if there’s another world to which we owe our loyalty.

Perhaps the most well-known description of detachment comes from Jesus himself in the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Secularism solves this dilemma elegantly by erasing God. Only mammon remains.

. . .

We’ve gutted all the social and spiritual foundations of a healthy relationship with worldly goods, and there’s nothing our hordes of life coaches and inspiration mongers and financial therapists can do to replace them. It’s foolish and even a little cruel to expect a society of slaves to mammon to resist their master.

Why the Rich Can’t Save Money

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Corporal Works of Mercy and the Elderly

The problem of loneliness among the elderly is not just confined to the summer holidays in Rome – it is a growing problem around the world.

Earlier this month, Katie Hafner for the New York Times reported that in Britain and the United States, roughly one in three people older than 65 live alone. In the United States, half of those older than 85 live alone. Studies in both countries show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 percent to 46 percent.

While not a physical sickness in and of itself, chronic loneliness can also be detrimental to physical health. Several studies show that social isolation or feelings of loneliness can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even an earlier death.

Sr. Constance Veit, communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic sisters whose mission is “to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.” They currently operate more than 25 homes for the elderly in the United States, as well as homes all over the world.

. . .

Statistics compiled in the UK have found that a million seniors go as long as a month without talking to anyone. The statistics in the United States are probably similarly shocking, Sr. Constance said.

“To think of an older person going a month without speaking to friends or family, that’s pretty bad,” she said.

Pope Francis would agree. The pontiff once called neglect of the elderly a “mortal sin” after visiting an elderly woman in August who hadn’t seen her family since Christmas.

“It is a mortal sin to discard our elderly…The elderly are not aliens. We are them – in a short or in a long while we are inevitably them, even though we choose not to think about it,” he said during a general audience in March 2015.

“Children who do not visit their elderly and ill parents have mortally sinned. Understand?” he added.

. . .

The most important thing that people can do is to combat the problem is to look for meaningful ways to connect with the elderly in their lives, Sr. Constance said.

“Even if you feel like you don’t have elderly people in your life, chances are you do have elderly people in your neighborhood or in your parish, maybe in your extended family of aunts and uncles,” she said.

Our elders are lonely – do we care?

As we grow older, touch is a communication that transcends age and time. No matter how old we are, we all love to have our hand held, our backs rubbed, or the feel of a warm embrace.

The Power of Touch and What It Means for the Elderly

Feed the hungry.
Give drink to the thirsty.
Shelter the homeless.
Visit the sick.
Visit the imprisoned.
Bury the dead.
Give alms to the poor.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

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