Identity Politics = children who are crying out to belong?

I’ve wondered about the connection between identity politics and un-met needs to belong and to be part of a “tribe,” a community, but I hadn’t yet followed that train of thought far enough back.

In The Primal Scream of Identity Politics, Mary Eberstadt provides as assessment of  identity politics and our culture that takes us back to the foundation: the family.  She examines several other authors’ analyses of identity politics (and our cultural climate) and concludes that while some have noticed important factors, no one has gone deep enough in their questions and conclusions.  The whole thing is worth a read.

“Mine! Mine! It’s mine!” The manifest panic behind cries of “cultural appropriation” is real—as real as the tantrum of a toddler. It’s as real as the developmental regression seen in the retreat to campus “safe spaces,” those tiny non-treehouses stuffed with candy, coloring books, and Care Bears. In social science, the toddler’s developmental “mine!” is called the “endowment effect”—the notion that humans ascribe extra value to possessions simply because they’re theirs. Some theorists consider it a subset of another human proclivity: loss aversion.

Maybe that cultural scream of “mine!” is issuing from souls who did have something taken from them—only something more elemental than the totemic objects now functioning as figurative blankies for lost and angry former children. As of today, less than 65 percent of American children live with both biological parents, even as other familial boughs have broken via external forces like the opioid crisis, criminality and incarceration, and globalization. Maybe depression and anxiety have been rising steadily among children and teenagers for a reason. Maybe the furor over “appropriation” unveils the true foundation of identity politics, which is pathos.

Did anyone really think things would turn out otherwise—that the massive kinship dislocations of the past 60 years wouldn’t produce increasingly visible, transformative effects not only in individual lives and households, but on politics and culture, too?

After all, it defies common sense to believe that the human surroundings during one’s formative years have no effect on the life to come. There’s also a library of social science, now over half a century in the making, tracing the links between fatherless homes and higher risks of truancy, criminality, psychiatric trouble, and the rest of the ledger suggesting that ripping up primordial ties hasn’t done society any favors. It’s all there, no matter how many of us have deep reasons for wishing otherwise.

One irony is certain. While identity politics has become an object of conversation in the left-leaning circles of Anglo-American and European political thought, deliverance from today’s disfigurations cannot come from the same quarter. The reason is simple. Not only identitarians but also liberals and progressives who are now anti-identitarian or identitarian-skeptical all agree on one big thing: The sexual revolution is off-limits for revision anywhere, anytime. It is their moral bedrock.

No-fault divorce, out-of-wedlock births, paid surrogacy, absolutism about erotic freedom, disdain for traditional moral codes: The very policies and practices that chip away at the family and drive the subsequent flight to identity politics are those that liberals and progressives embrace.

Then there are related family-unfriendly social realities that they also deem benign. Pornography, which once upon a time some feminists objected to, is now the stuff of their full-throated enthusiasm. Prostitution has been re-defined as the more anodyne “sex work.” And, of course, abortion is—in the unnervingly theological modifier applied to it by Hillary Clinton and many others on the left—“sacrosanct.” In the end, asking liberals and progressives to solve the problem of identity politics is like asking the proverbial orphan with chutzpah who murdered his parents.

Yes, conservatives have missed something major about identity politics: its authenticity. But the liberal-progressive side has missed something bigger. Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream. It’s the result of what might be called the Great Scattering—the Western world’s unprecedented familial dispersion.

Anyone who’s ever heard a coyote in the desert, separated at night from the pack, knows the sound. Maybe the otherwise-unexplained hysteria of today’s identity politics is just that: the collective human howl of our time, sent up by inescapably communal creatures who can no longer identify their own.

My very simplified conclusion after reading all of The Primal Scream of Identity Politics is this: maybe all the immature, hysterical acting out going on in this country really can be traced back to the destruction of the family or put more personally, mommy and daddy weren’t there to provide a stable, loving childhood.  Today’s adults were yesterday’s children who were spoiled rotten in many ways, but not given what they really needed to be able to grow-up into mature human beings.

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Discernment and Storytelling

Recently, I was doing some research on discernment and came across this article by Peter Kreeft.  Writing about discerning God’s will in both large life choices (what is my vocation?) and small every day decision-making, he looks at discernment in general and then particularly to the clues God gives us in finding the answer to the question: Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

This is interesting and perhaps helpful to someone struggling to discern what God’s will is for them especially if one is struggling with a bit of scrupulosity over whether a given thing you’re doing (or not doing) is important to God’s will for you and whether a fun or mundane thing is worth your time and obsessing over whether you are doing the right thing in all the small choices in life.  If we are sincerely trying to avoid sin and do truly want to love and serve God and do His will, that counts for a lot and we needn’t fear we’re going to accidentally do the wrong thing and ruin God’s plan for our lives (we don’t really have that much power).

Here are just a couple of the clues:

fourth clue is something God did in fact give us: free will. Why? There are a number of good reasons – for instance, so that our love could be infinitely more valuable than instinctive, unfree animal affection. But I think I see another reason. As a teacher, I know that I sometimes should withhold answers from my students so that they find them themselves, and thus appreciate and remember them better – and also learn how to exercise their own judgment in finding answers themselves. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” God gave us some big fish, but he also gave us the freedom to fish for a lot of little ones (and some big ones) ourselves.

Reason and free will always go together. God created both in us as part of his image. He gives supernatural revelation to both: dogmas to our reason and commandments to our will. But just as he didn’t give us all the answers, even in theology, in applying the dogmas or drawing out the consequences of them, so he didn’t give us all the answers in morality or practical guidance, in applying the commandments and drawing out their consequences. He gave us the mental and moral equipment with which to do that, and he is not pleased when we bury our talent in the ground instead of investing it so that he will see how much it has grown in us when he returns.

In education, I know there are always two extremes. You can be too modern, too experimental, too Deweyan, too structureless. But you can also be too classical, too rigid. Students need initiative and creativity and originality too. God’s law is short. He gave us ten commandments, not ten thousand. Why? Why not a more complete list of specifics? Because he wanted freedom and variety. Why do you think he created so many persons? Why not just one? Because he loves different personalities. He wants his chorus to sing in harmony, but not in unison.

I know Christians who are cultivating ingrown eyeballs trying to know themselves so well – often by questionable techniques like the enneagram, or Oriental modes of prayer – so that they can make the decision that is exactly what God wants for them every time. I think it is much healthier to think about God and your neighbor more and yourself less, to forget yourself – follow your instincts without demanding to know everything about them. As long as you love God and act within his law, I think he wants you to play around a bit.

I’m happily haunted by Chesterton’s image of the playground fence erected around the children on top of the mountain so that they could play without fear of falling off the side. That’s why God gave us his law: not to make us worried but to keep us safe so that we could play the great games of life and love and joy.

Each of us has a different set of instincts and desires. Sin infects them, of course. But sin infects our reason and our bodies too; yet we are supposed to follow our bodily instincts (for example, hunger and self-preservation) and our mind’s instincts (for example, curiosity and logic). I think he wants us to follow our hearts. Surely, if John loves Mary more than Susan, he has more reason to think God is leading him to marry Mary than Susan. Why not treat all other choices by the same principle?

I am not suggesting, of course, that our hearts are infallible, or that following them justifies sinful behavior. Nor am I suggesting that the heart is the only thing to follow. I mentioned seven guidelines earlier. But surely it is God who designed our hearts – the spiritual heart with desire and will as much as the physical heart with aorta and valves. Our parents are sinful and fallible guides too, but God gave them to us to follow. So our hearts can be worth following too even though they are sinful and fallible. If your heart loves God, it is worth following. If it doesn’t, then you’re not interested in the problem of discernment of his will anyway.

***

Clue number seven is an example from my own present experience. I am writing a novel for the first time, and learning how to do it. First, I placed it in God’s hands, told him I wanted to do it for his kingdom, and trusted him to lead me. Then, I simply followed my own interests, instincts, and unconscious. I let the story tell itself and the characters become themselves. God doesn’t stop me or start me. He doesn’t do my homework for me. But he’s there, like a good parent.

I think living is like writing a novel. It’s writing the story of your own life and even your own self (for you shape your self by all your choices, like a statue that is its own sculptor). God is the primary author, of course, the primary sculptor. But he uses different human means to get different human results. He is the primary author of each book in the Bible too, but the personality of each human author is no less clear there than in secular literature.

God is the universal storyteller. He wants many different stories. And he wants you to thank him for the unique story that comes from your free will and your choices too. Because your free will and his eternal plan are not two competing things, but two sides of one thing. We cannot fully understand this great mystery in this life, because we see only the underside of the tapestry. But in heaven, I think, one of the things we will praise and thank God the most for is how wildly and wonderfully and dangerously he put the driving wheel of our life into our hands – like a parent teaching a young child to drive…

God, in giving us all free will, said to us: “Your will be done.” Some of us turn back to him and say: “My will is that your will be done.” That is obedience to the first and greatest commandment. Then, when we do that, he turns to us and says: “And now, your will be done.” And then he writes the story of our lives with the pen strokes of our own free choices.

Kreeft’s image of God as the universal storyteller is appealing.  This God who loves creativity and fun and variety, who wants us to be happy in following His will, not paralyzed for fear of making the wrong choice, is no Puritan.

Rest in Peace Charlie Gard

Little Charlie Gard passed away last week.  He died in the hospital because his parents were not permitted to take him home to die in the peace of home.

What kind of evil is it that claims to be magnanimously keeping an individual’s best interests at the heart of its decisions, but won’t let that person be cared for by the people who love him most in all the world — his parents?  Won’t let that person seek alternative care elsewhere, even when it has been offered by more than one hospital and doctor, and generous strangers have donated over million dollars for his care?  Won’t let that child and his parents have the comfort of having clergy visit and pray with them?  Won’t let him, in the end, die at home?  All this in the name of doing what is good and right for that person.  We know best… your wishes, your family’s wishes, are irrelevant… we are the ones with power… you will submit…

Jenny Uebbing had this to say about Charlie and what happened to him and his family (a good summary of which can be found here):

But, but, he was going to die anyway. Extraordinary means! The Catechism says! Etc. Etc. Etc.

True. All true. And yet, his parents wanted to pursue further treatment. His mother and his father, the two human beings who, entrusted by the God with whom they co-created an immortal soul, were tasked with the immense, universe-altering task of making decisions on his behalf.

It’s called parenting.

And when the state steps over the bounds of parental interests – nay, tramples upon them – insisting that government knows best what is best for it’s citizens, (particularly when government is footing the medical bills as is the case with the socialized NHS) then we should all of us, no matter our religions or our socioeconomic statuses or our nationalities, be alarmed.

Charlie Gard was a victim of the the most heinous sort of public power struggle: a child whose humanity was reduced to a legal case and an avalanche of global publicity. And no man, not the President of the United States or the Pope himself, could do a thing to turn the tide in little Charlie’s favor once the momentum was surging against him.

The British courts and the Great Ormond Street Hospital, convinced of their own magnanimity and virtue, ruled again and again against the wishes of Charlie’s parents, frustrating at every turn their attempts to seek a second option, to try experimental treatments, to spend privately-raised funds to secure care for their child not available in their home country.

To no avail.

Charlie Gard, baptized earlier this week into the Catholic Church, went home to be with Jesus today. His innocent soul in a state of grace, we can be confident of his intimate proximity now to the sacred heart of Jesus and to the sorrowful heart of Mary. May his parents feel the comfort of knowing that they fought the good fight, and that they brought their child to the font of eternal life by baptizing him into Christ’s Church and surrendering him into heaven’s embrace as he passed from this life.

And may they find, through the powerful intercession of their little son, now whole and free from suffering, the grace to forgive his tormentors and executioners here on earth.

Charlie Gard, pray for us.

Antifa picks another target

Antifa, perhaps bored by their usual targets or just lacking something to do, has added a Catholic men’s conference to their list of “hate groups” deserving of being shut down. Since they have no grasp on what truth means, they have no problem spinning a theological conference designed to help men become better husbands and fathers into a woman-hating, white supremacist organization.  If the facts don’t fit your narrative, just ignore the facts!

Church Militant, the organizer of the conference, addressed the Antifa threat in a a press release:

FERNDALE, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) – Church Militant, a 12-year-old Catholic media apostolate, with headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, is coming under attack by Antifa-related protestors claiming the religious organization inspires a “culture of rape” and is “white supremacist.”

The group Michigan Peoples Defense Network (MPDN) is planning a demonstration at Church Militant’s third annual Strength and Honor Conference, to be held in Sterling Heights, Michigan on Saturday, August 5. The conference is entirely theological in nature, offering talks on the essential role of sacrificial masculinity required of Catholic men to be good husbands and fathers. MPDN’s aim is to shut down the event.

In a further effort to intimidate, MPDN is holding a press conference on the sidewalk in front Church Militant studios Friday, July 28, right by the front door, announcing the August 5 protest.

The claims by MPDN are completely false and unfounded. The claim that Church Militant is a promoter of white male supremacy is immediately contradicted by the following facts:

  • Church Militant has legal immigrants (including first-generation immigrants) employed in key roles.
  • Half the organization’s departments are headed by women (one who is a legal immigrant)

Additionally, the claim that the conference is about “men’s rights” is a deliberate distortion. The conference is about men’s obligations, not “rights.”

Church Militant absolutely condemns and abhors the lies and violence that have become the hallmark of the Antifa movement, which MPDN members associate with on social media. Church Militant is not a hate group; MPDN is the real hate group, trying to intimidate religious organizations into silence and shut down a conference meant to help men become better husbands, fathers, sons and brothers by fostering the virtues of humility, charity and sacrifice.

Church Militant is further disturbed by the group’s thinly veiled threats of physical violence present in the language of their site and Facebook page. This kind of discourse cannot be allowed to stand in a civilized nation.

Church Militant is open to discussion with anyone, and have indeed made this a hallmark of the work conducted here for a dozen years, but we will not be cowed by lies and thug tactics becoming so commonplace on the Left.

Let’s hope an organization called Church Militant won’t be cowed and won’t let their conference be shut down.

Proving yet again that facts do not matter to Antifa, look who one of the organizers of the men’s conference is:

Christine Niles, a Vietnamese immigrant who helps run… [Church Militant] expected to spend this week preparing theological materials and getting ready for the group’s annual conference for men.

Instead, Niles, who is editor-in-chief of Church Militant, has been in consultations with local law enforcement after learning that a left-wing group is drumming up support to shut down the conference, which will take place on Aug. 4-6 at locations in Ferndale and Sterling Heights, Mich…

The theological conference causing controversy, titled “Strength and Honor,” is billed as “offering talks on the essential role of sacrificial masculinity of Catholic men to be good husbands and fathers” and to equip attendees with tools to “gain the spiritual and mental tools to be strong leaders among the faithful.”

Did you catch that?  A Vietnamese immigrant woman is the editor-in-chief of Church Militant and one of the main organizers of the men’s conference with the goal of focusing on sacrificial masculinity and teaching men to be good husbands and fathers.

To Antifa, this equals a hate group that “promotes a hateful, anti-woman message,” a “culture of rape,” and is “white supremacist.”  In a Facebook post about the planned demonstrations against Church Militant, they added this:

“Many of the church’s points are lifted from or are identical to ‘men’s rights’ discourse, which focuses on reducing women’s agency and reproductive rights… The community will picket and protest to shut down the hateful messages spread at this conference… The church also peddles racist, anti-Muslim rhetoric, painting Muslim migrants and refugees as sexual predators… As the radical Christian right rises in America, having supported Donald Trump’s campaign of hatred against the most marginalized, it is more vital than ever that the community stands against hate draped in a cross.”

What strikes me most about this statement is the ignorance.  Many of the church’s points are lifted from… the men’s rights movement?  That is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard… aside from ignoring all the facts right in front of their faces that contradict every statement they make.

Ms. Niles responded in a statement on behalf of Church Militant:

“The real bone of contention that MPDN has with Church Militant is not the spurious claims and lies it’s telling, but the positions we take on morality and decency… Church Militant is not a hate group; MPDN is the real hate group, trying to intimidate religious organizations into silence and shut down a conference meant to help men by fostering the virtues of humility, charity and sacrifice.”

If a religious group hosting a conference to promote the virtues of humility, charity, and sacrifice can become a target of Antifa, no one with conservative and/or Christian positions is safe.

And they say there’s no war going on against Christians and conservatives…

 

Courts create “a duty to die” for those deemed not worth saving

Wesley J. Smith writes about the difficult and heart-breaking Charlie Gard case and the potential ramifications of the UK court’s decisions.  The precedent being set in this case (and similar cases discussed by Smith, including ones in the USA) is chilling regardless of whether you think you’d make the same decisions as Charlie Gard’s parents.  Read the entire article at First Things.

… the parents of “Baby Terry”—also born after twenty-three weeks gestation—faced a similar ordeal. The ethics committee at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan weighed in on August 9, 1993, opining that to honor the parents’ desire to continue Baby Terry’s treatment “would be contrary to medical judgment and to moral and ethical beliefs of physicians caring for the patient” (my emphasis). In other words, when it came to choosing between the values of the parents—based in large part on their religious faith—and the values of doctors and hospital bioethicists, the state argued that only the latter matters.

On that basis alone, a judge found Terry’s parents unfit to make health-care decisions for Terry and stripped them of their parental rights. He awarded temporary custody to the maternal great-aunt, who had previously stated her willingness to obey the doctors. Before that could happen, the infant died in his mother’s arms, aged two-and-a-half months…

… Charlie’s, and many other similar cases I could recite, involving profoundly ill people of all ages, are examples of what is known in the bioethics trade as “futile care” or “medical futility”—or, as I call it, futile-care theory. FCT authorizes doctors to refuse or withdraw wanted life-sustaining medical treatment over the objections of family and patients when the doctors and/or a bioethics committee believe that the patient’s quality of life makes that life not worth living—or, lurking in the subtext, not worth the resources required to sustain it.

A couple of important points need to be made: We are not talking about an intervention without a potential physiological benefit to the patient—a medical determination. Rather, FCT constitutes a value judgment. As bioethicist Dr. Stuart Youngner once put it, “futility determinations will inevitably involve value judgments about: 1) whether low probability chances are worth taking; and 2) whether certain lives are of a quality worth living.”

Worse, FCT empowers strangers to make medicine’s most important and intimate health-care decisionsDeciding whether to accept or reject life-sustaining care is one of the most difficult medical choices. Under FCT, a patient’s decision—whether it be the desire of an infant patient’s guardians or written in an adult patient’s advance directive—matters less than institutional and professional opinions.

Given all that, Charlie Gard’s heartbreaking situation is not surprising. However, until Charlie’s case, the patient or family has always had the option of finding alternative care. The hospital refusing Ryan’s dialysis did not seek to prevent his transfer. Neither did the hospital in the Baby Joseph controversy.

This is where Charlie Gard’s case is breaking new and even more authoritarian ground. Not only are doctors and judges forcing Charlie off life-support; they are also declaring that their ethics rule over Charlie’s life, even if the parents—Chris and Connie Gard—find alternative care. As far as I know, this is unprecedented in futile-care controversies.

Chris and Connie have raised more than $1 million through crowdfunding to pay for Charlie to be flown to the United States for an experimental treatment that has shown some potential in other mitochondrial conditions. If that course proves impossible, they just want to take their baby home so he can die there instead of in a pediatric ICU. But the hospital administration refuses to permit Charlie to be discharged! And the courts have agreed, based on a determination of what doctors and lawyers believe to be Charlie’s “best interests.”

The only silver lining in this tragedy is that a very sick baby’s life still has the power to move hearts. Not only have Chris and Connie received tremendous popular support internationally, but they are also being backed by two of the most visible leaders in the world: Pope Francis and Donald Trump.

The refusal to allow Charlie’s parents to remove their baby boy from the hospital is an act of bioethical aggression that will extend futile-care controversies, creating a duty to die at the time and place of doctors’ choosing. And that raises a crucial liberty question: Whose baby is Charlie Gard? His parents’? Or are sick babies—and others facing futile-care impositions—ultimately owned by the hospital and the state?

The UK medical center fought in court to disallow the parents to take Charlie elsewhere for care when at one point he was offered care in the USA, and Congress offered them citizenship to do so, AND they raised $1.5 million for his care.  The UK medical establishment and courts wouldn’t even let the parents take Charlie home to die in the peace of his home if death were going to be the only option allowed to him. In these difficult cases, it can be very hard to know what is the right thing to do.  BUT having the medical center and court overrule the family’s (or individual’s) choices and force someone to die?  And die in the hospital too?  It is sickening.  And terrifying.

Are Christians the Real Enemies?

Well of course they are according to liberals!

I ran across an interesting article in The Catholic Thing that objects to a particular premise put forth by Vatican journalists: liberalism run a muck isn’t what’s so dangerous; it’s those darn conservative Christians in America and the fact that Catholics and Evangelicals seem to be forming an alliance.  Way to go finding the real enemies of freedom and human rights.

Are Americans from Mars?

Percival Lowell was a member of the distinguished Boston Lowell family, graduate of Harvard, founder of the Lowell Observatory, the most prominent American astronomer – some say – until Carl Sagan. He also believed, on the basis of what he thought careful scientific observation, that there were canals on Mars, and wrote several books about what might have driven Martians to such a vast undertaking.

Unfortunately, his “observations” were an optical illusion (as several scientists already knew in Lowell’s day). Recent Mars probes have discovered no signs of the civilization Lowell thought once existed there.

Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian hand-picked by Pope Francis to be editor on the Argentinian edition of L’Osservatore Romano, have recently made quite controversial observations about America in “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism.”

They are, with good reason, destined to suffer the fate of poor Percival Lowell.

***

In dozens of other instances, they draw lines among widely disparate facts with even less justification than the old believers in Martian canals.

Their main fear is that the collaboration of Catholics and Evangelicals in fighting the culture war is really a bid to create a theocracy in America. You usually hear a charge like that from Planned Parenthood or gay-rights groups or fringe academics. Not from the Vatican.

Further, the authors opine, the participants in this “surprising ecumenism” indulge in a “Manichean” view of Good vs. Evil that sees America as the Promised Land and her enemies as enemies of God whom it’s only right to destroy, literally, with our armed forces.

Taking this as the heart of the Evangelical-Catholic alliance is so delusional that a Catholic must feel embarrassed that a journal supposedly reviewed and authorized by the Vatican would run such slanderous nonsense. The authors would have done better to get out and see some of America rather than, it seems, spending so much time with left-wing sociologists of religion.

There is something like an emerging theocracy in the United States, with a Manichean vision. But it’s the theocracy of sexual absolutism that cannot tolerate pluralism or dissent. The Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, evangelical bakers, anyone who stands up to the contraception-abortion-“gay-marriage” (and now) “transgender” juggernaut risks legal jeopardy and accusations of being a “hate group.” (Spadaro and Figueroa echo this claim, saying the Evangelical-Catholic alliance represents a xenophobic, Islamophobic, purist vision that is really an “ecumenism of hate.”)

Fighting the sexual theocracy is imperative, for believers and non-believers alike who care about liberty and the common good in a pluralist society. The courts have – so far – found for defenders of religious liberty, largely Catholics and Evangelicals. But that such cases even have to be brought tells us who is really trying to impose a kind of totalitarianism on America. Most traditional Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, and others would be happy, at this point, to be just left alone.

All this is invisible to Spadaro and Figueroa, or is dismissed as a cover for something sinister. They know not the heart of American Evangelicalism, which is generally closer to the thoughtfulness of a Russell Moore than to blind Fundamentalism (which is why we use two different terms for the two groupings). Their labeling American Catholic conservatives as “integralists” is another slander and a sloppy misapplication of a term from one period of European history to something else entirely. They could easily have learned this.

The authors claim that Pope Francis has outlined an alternative to “militant” Christianity. But their obsession with “dialogue” over these matters is a plausible strategy only to people who have never had to confront the sharp edge of the culture war. And believe they can go on avoiding it forever. They can’t.

Pope Francis added to the international controversy last week. If his frequent dialogue partner, Eugenio Scalfari – editor of the socialist La Reppublica – is to be believed (personally, I find about 25 percent of what he “reports” vaguely credible), Francis spoke just before the G-20 meeting in Hamburg of the “distorted vision of the world” of America and Russia, China and North Korea, Russia and Syria, especially on immigration matters.

The pope’s including us among such malefactors agitated many Americans. If he meant that he disagrees with President Trump, perhaps he should have said as much.

He went on to say, in Scalfari’s perhaps garbled telling, that a “federated Europe” is necessary or Europe will count for nothing in the world. This is curious for several reasons. In other contexts, the pope seems to have given up on Europe – and expects renewal from the “peripheries.” Further, the European Union is already “federated,” perhaps too much so.

I was at a conference in Portugal two weeks ago where repeated German calls for “ever closer ties” among European nations worried everyone except the Germans themselves. It’s a commonplace in such meetings to lament the EU’s lack of political accountability and arrogance – and Germany’s looming financial power.

In the last analysis, Europe counts for little, because it is in demographic collapse, is spiritually and culturally adrift, doesn’t have the means to defend itself, and seems to think its only reason for being is to be “open” to other cultures.

America has multiple grave problems, but still enjoys active religious engagement in the public square, is groping towards political and cultural renewal, and – not incidentally – still accepts over 1,000,000 legal immigrants every year.

Perhaps it would be worth noting such things, sometime, in Rome.

“Fighting the sexual theocracy is imperative, for believers and non-believers alike who care about liberty and the common good in a pluralist society.”  Exactly. (Although, some argue that a pluralistic society is doomed at this point…)

This author understands why some interesting alliances are being formed here in the States.  Yes, between Catholics and Protestants, but also between these Christians and the atheist “skeptic community.”  This is a good explanation why many conservatives support people like Milo Yiannopoulos despite the fact that his lifestyle is considered very sinful and and much of his presentation style is pretty much the antithesis of polite Christian discourse.  He may be a grave sinner, but he’s fighting our fight.  Strange times call for strange alliances.

Catholics and Protestants can’t afford to fight each other right now.  When we aren’t under attack by the regressive left, Islamic invasion (er… immigration) and jihad, and the overall pressure of cultures that cannot coexist with ours trying to live in our lands, then we can debate doctrinal differences.

Self-fulfillment vs. Self-perfection?

Image result for self-perfection

This statement will seem foreign to modern ears in a time when the idea of cultivating virtue or building character is unheard of: knowing who you are is less important than knowing who you should be.  

Since the word should has been practically stricken from our language as hate-speech, people are left drifting, trying to find out who they are and to find meaning in their lives. But if there isn’t any ideal to aspire to, why does it matter anyway?  Many people don’t bother with “who am I?” and skip right to “what do I want?”

If self-fulfillment and the pursuit of pleasure are the only goals worth pursuing in modern culture, you can see where the entitlement epidemic comes from and why people are so upset when life is hard and they do not get what they want.  From the reactions of politicians and mainstream media to the 2016 election, it’s evident they expected to get what they wanted and were shocked they didn’t.

If everyone expects to get what they want and if pleasure is our god, it makes sense that suffering is considered the great enemy.  Of course, you must do all possible to avoid suffering in your own life. If you want to feel virtuous (in the absence of practicing any real virtue), then you only have to champion some cause that claims to eradicate the suffering of others (this can consist of posting on social media, or if you’re feeling energetic, protesting, looting, and destroying private property to make your voice heard).

Even people who reject the entitlement mentality when it comes to thinking you should get something for nothing, that you should live a charmed life without having to work for it, fall for it in another form, one that says “if you work hard, then you are entitled to an easy life, to succeed and prosper, and not have bad things happen to you.”  It’s a prosperity gospel that can be religious or thoroughly materialistic and divorced from religion.  A capitalistic, free-market gospel of work ethic and the American dream: work hard and you will be rewarded with a good life, lots of material things and success.  When you work hard and fail to get ahead, it can be depressing, and if you believe you were entitled to succeed, it can fill you with anger and resentment.

Something many people fail to realize, despite the oft repeated “life isn’t fair,” is that it’s true.  Life just is hard.  If you’ve been taught that it shouldn’t be that way and you expect it not to be that way, you are in for a terrible disappointment.  Sometimes anger is described as a strong desire for something mixed with grief or disappointment: in other words, you didn’t get what you really wanted.  Is all the anger in the world, all the protesters throwing fits and setting things on fire, just an adult-sized toddler’s tantrum that life is harder than expected and they didn’t get want they wanted?  Still wanting to somehow feel good about themselves some claim their temper tantrums are about trying to right wrongs, fight injustice, and change the world.

In a fallen world, bad things will continue to happen, even to good people.  We can, and should, help our neighbors where we can to ease their burdens, and hopefully, they will do the same for us.  This is part of what community is supposed to do for us and part of why it’s near absence in the modern world is so bad for people.  If a suffering or burden shared is halved and a joy shared is doubled, you can see why lacking community makes us more unhappy on whole.  The current push to consider the world your “community” and everyone in it your “neighbor” isn’t possible for human beings.  We aren’t built to care about people we don’t know, can’t ever know; compassion needs to be human-sized. A single person cannot feel for 7 billion people.

We cannot hope to eradicate suffering from existence, either our own or the world’s. If we make human suffering the great enemy we must defeat, we will fail and only unleash injustice and more human suffering in our pursuit of this goal.  We make life’s hardships harder by failing to accept them as a normal part of reality, and by internally rebelling against them as unfair, unjust, and undeserved (which they may be, but does that matter?), we only create more self-inflicted pain and suffer more than we would otherwise.   The pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of suffering is the root of, ironically, so much suffering and unhappiness in the modern world.

Our world, our lives, will never be perfect.  The best we can hope for is to strive for self-improvement (if not perfection), but that needs an objective goal to strive towards. Without something like Christian moral standards, what goal can we have?  If we do know who we should be, the next thing to do is to treat well our families, friends, and our actual neighbors, to share their burdens and joys, to create community where we can. Unfortunately, suffering is and will always be a part of human experience, but if everyone would strive for goodness and be kind to their neighbors, the world would take care of itself.