Are things really quite so grim?

Jonathon Van Maren thinks so.  His recent blog post is entitled “Grim poll: Conservatives are losing catastrophically on every single issue…except this one”

If certain enthusiastic public figures are to be believed, there is a wave of iconoclastic and libertarian youth who are fed up with political correctness and ready to turn the Left on its head. When I attended a campus event featuring the recently disgraced and even more recently resurgent Milo Yiannopoulos last fall, he made the claim loudly and boldly: “I might be the only one who has noticed this trend, but young people hate the Left. I have thirteen-year-olds emailing me. I even have children attending my campus events.”

Ignoring for a moment the obvious problem with a child attending an event put on by the self-described “Dangerous Faggot,” this sort of optimism is entirely unwarranted—unless, as is obviously the case with Milo, you do not see moral issues as indicative of national health overall. On that front, Americans continue to shift to the left, and continue to abandon Judeo-Christian values—if they even know what those are anymore. Gallup recently released new polling data for their annual Values and Beliefs poll, and the results were very sobering.

He goes on to talk about all the “sobering” data points covering views on marriage, sexuality, the family, etc. — all with predictable and completely unsurprising revelations. None of this is news.  How did Van Maren miss that we were no longer living in a Christian society, that we had long since passed into a pagan one?  That traditional Christian morality is not the standard by which most people live shouldn’t be surprising or discouraging.

He notes that the polls didn’t show a large increase in support of abortion, which he believes is due to massive efforts of pro-lifers to educate people:

On every moral issue, social conservatives are losing ground—except for abortion.

Looking at the raw data, it’s hard to see where someone like Milo Yiannopoulos gets his optimism from. He may not care about most moral issues—his relaunch party, after all, featured male and female strippers—but even on free speech and free markets, the numbers look grim. Millennials are embracing socialism, rejecting the fundamental idea that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are bedrock values in a democracy, and turning university campuses into totalitarian safe spaces that exclude any idea they find threatening to their fragile progressive worldviews.

The truth is that an entire generation has grown up more or less disconnected from the Christian past of the West, and that activists must fight tooth and nail to educate the public on each and every issue. We see what happens when massive educational efforts are undertaken: On abortion, we are not losing ground—and even under the most pro-abortion president in American history, over 300 laws were passed on the state level. Pornography, while still prevalent, is now attracting the ire of government bodies across the West who are recognizing it for the public health crisis it is. Social conservatism as a worldview may be on the fringe, but there are many, many opportunities to change that.

Here Van Maren recognizes that kids have grown up in a non-Christian world; so why the surprise at the poll results?  His faith in the “raw data” of the poll is misplaced. Polling isn’t exactly a hard or perfect science (anyone remember 2016?).  Who’s to say we really should trust a poll’s conclusions over our own observations or the anecdotal evidence presented by someone else?  Then he talks about millennials, but Milo isn’t talking about millennials; he’s talking about the next, even younger generation. It can also be noted that Milo specially said he didn’t have any proof, any hard data for his hopeful statement, but that it came from his experience of meeting and talking to, and receiving messages from young people.  Milo isn’t the only person who has noted this trend of the younger generation leaning more conservative.

Even the one place where Van Maren strikes a hopeful, positive tone, he’s probably at least partly wrong.  You can understand why, being part of the pro-life movement, he would be quick to attribute the lessening support for abortion to the efforts of the prolifers.  I hope he’s right that all those efforts have helped, that education does help. But there’s something else powerful that is influencing young people to turn conservative: they have seen and felt the consequences of their parents and others leading a life without conservative morals or standards.  They may be the unwanted children of selfish parents, the products of divorce or homes where they never had two parents to begin with.  They may have seen older siblings or relatives or friends make terrible choices and suffer for them.  Those with eyes to see can see the wreckage caused by abandoning traditional morals.  And the liberals, feeling assured of victory, have turned up the heat too fast; things they are pushing for are so obviously against nature that people with will to think for themselves can see we are headed in the wrong direction.  But cultural trends do not reverse directions overnight.  The problems we are seeing today began long before Van Maren was born.  Some would argue they began even before his parents were born.

Van Maren himself is a contradiction to this poll.  He’s young, conservative, Catholic, pro-life and fighting for it.  And surely he works alongside other young people.

Other than being overly pessimistic and incorrect in his interpretation how we are losing the culture war — rather we have already lost, but perhaps have hope of rebuilding from the ashes — he is wrong about Milo.  Previously, I had noticed that he was particularly critical of Milo (and the Alt-Right) as unacceptable for Christians to follow.  He objects to Milo’s lifestyle, vulgar humor, and that he isn’t very nice to people.  Van Maren also tends to exaggerate Milo’s behavior (can you believe that’s possible?!): Milo’s re-launch party, as aired on youtube (surely Van Maren didn’t have an invitation?), did not have “male and female strippers.”  Milo calls them “models” for his photo shoot, and they are scantily, and one might say tastelessly, clad (and waving prop guns around), but they do not strip any clothes off which I think would be the definition of “stripper.”  They might be strippers elsewhere, I don’t know, but at Milo’s party they were just eye candy — which is problematic in its own way, but let’s not over-exaggerate things.

I was surprised to see Van Maren had actually attended a Milo speech so I read what he had to say about it.  It was the same old attitude so many on the Right have towards those they deem impure.  They are like Pharisees who don’t want to associate with sinners for fear of contaminating themselves.  Milo is definitely a sinner, but Jesus frequently ate with and talked to sinners.  Jesus did not worry about being made unclean.  God often uses sinners and unlikely people to carry out His work, sometimes even people who do not know Him.

It doesn’t matter to Milo’s critics on the Right if he is effective or that we really need to reach people where they are — and where they are isn’t necessarily ready to listen to Christian moralizing or preaching.  Milo has a point about reaching people with humor and fun (even if he does take it a bit too far at times); humor and fun are attractive, especially to young people.  Free speech, for which Milo has made himself a standard bearer, is an important battle.  If Christians are silenced completely, there will be no chance of educating people or changing hearts and minds through dialogue.  Milo is an ally in that battle, even if he is a public sinner.

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Offense Taking is Immature

I’m not sure I understand exactly what our obligation to “not give offense” is when everyone is hair-trigger offended all the time.  But the rest is interesting.

“Being offended is a sign of immaturity because it’s an unwillingness to acknowledge and live in the truth”

“To choose to be offended is to choose to be a victim”

Some Cultures Deserve to be Destroyed

History, like life, is a complicated thing.  The more one tries to simplify it, the more inaccurate the story becomes.  A recent trend in the presentation of the history of the New World, the Americas, is the idealization of the indigenous cultures.  The politically correct version contains a great deal of revisionism and applies today’s standards backwards onto people who lived in a very different time and place — well, as you will see, they’re only applying moral standards onto one group of people: the Europeans. Another instance of Moral Relativism at work, and the result isn’t very pretty.

When studying the discovery and conquest of Central and South America by Spain and Portugal, the more recent presentations tend to focus on the cruelty of the Europeans and the “tragic” loss of the “advanced” cultures of the Mayan, Aztec and Inca (among other lesser known tribes).  While abuses by the Conquistadors are undoubtedly true to some extent, to what extent is difficult to determine considering that even at the time there were numerous forces working to paint Spain, in particular, as evil.  This propaganda is referred to as the “Black Legend.”  It was politically and religiously (by Protestants), useful to depict the Spaniards as immoral, greedy hypocrites.  Today of course all European colonization of Native cultures and lands is seen as despicable.

If it is wrong to idealize the conquerors as primarily intention-ed to bring Christianity to the natives and be kind in doing so, it is also wrong to demonize them all as selfish and cruel.  Many holy men (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, etc.) accompanied the explorers with the intent of converting the native peoples — not forcibly, but with persuasion. Often these priests and monks lost their lives.  When abuses of the soldiers were made known to leaders of State and Church in Europe, they were denounced and those in the New World were admonished to cease their cruelty.  Events “prompted Pope Paul III in 1537 to issue the bull Sublimis Deus in which he declared: ‘The said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.'”

One must also remember that the majority of the Europeans in the New World were hardened soldiers.  Theirs was of necessity a brutal existence.  To make the journey and explore lands that were wild and unfamiliar to them, they had to endure much hardship. They were all at least minimally Christian, being immersed in European Christian morality, if not actually practicing it well.  What they discovered in the New World was so horrifying that we might excuse at least some of their supposed brutality in response.

When Hernando Cortez and his forces encountered the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan — a city on a partially man-made island in Lake Texacoco — they were amazed by its beauty, sophistication and cleanliness.  There were paved streets and numerous canals laid out in an orderly fashion and intricate carvings and designs.  They were welcomed with gifts by the natives who were so astonished by the arrival of these strange beings that they suspected they were gods (this belief was influenced by the fact that their calendar was predicting an important god return to the city that year).  Then, and imagine their shock, they discovered in the temple district that the stairs and walls and statues were liberally splashed with blood, so much blood that one description speaks of the stench of decay.  And the evidence of human sacrifice, walls of skulls for decoration. They would later learn that the Aztecs sacrificed tens of thousands of people every year. Can you imagine how you might have felt in their position?  It is the stuff of stories indeed: one discovers a fantastic new civilization, appearing quite advanced and civilized in fact, only to later uncover the horrible truth of the underlying savagery.  I wonder if when faced with such horrendous evil, it might be understandable if a person might “go off the deep end” a little and react by trying to wipe these frightening and inhuman practices out by any means necessary?

The Aztecs are the most well-known for their fierce fighting and warring and love of human sacrifice, but the Mayans, who predate them, and many other lesser tribes, whether enemies of the Aztecs or allies, were also fond of such blood-shed.  The Incas of Peru, who I have seen described as mostly “peaceful,” were especially fond of child sacrifice.  There is archaeological evidence that captured Spaniards and indigenous allies were used for sacrifice (and possibly cannibalized), which should come as no surprise since that was the typical fate of captured enemies.

Older historical resources tend to have a harsher presentation of these realities, while newer ones skim over the human sacrifice bit and focus on the other interesting bits of culture: art, astronomy, architecture and technological advances, and lament the loss of these cultures at the hands of the Europeans.  I’m not sure if all the other “advances” or “achievements” account for much when the culture’s core is so rotten. How can I appreciate the interesting statues and carvings when many of them represent blood-thirsty gods with insatiable desire “to eat” hearts ripped still-beating from living people, that these images were once deliberately splattered with human blood?  Can we “appreciate” such “art?”  Is it morally acceptable to “celebrate” such cultures or mourn their demise?

One presentation I heard said basically “that’s what worked for them and that’s all that matters.”  Can we not see what is evil any more?  How can those practices ever be ok? People who think this way have no imaginations.  How would they have liked actually living in those times?  How would they have liked being “chosen” as a sacrifice or having their child chosen?  Moral relativism and modern inconsistency leads to harsh criticism of the Europeans for their conquest of natives, but refrains from condemning human sacrifice.

I am glad that the dominant civilizations of ancient Central and South America were wiped out!  The barbarity and cruelty of their religious practices make it difficult for me to summon up sympathy towards these peoples or condemnation for the Europeans who ultimately destroyed their cultures.  It takes a Saint to respond with kindness and compassion.  In 1987, then Pope John Paul II spoke to a gathering of Native Americans in Arizona:

“The early encounter between your traditional cultures and the European way of life was an event of such significance and change that it profoundly influences your collective life even today. That encounter was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples. The cultural oppression, the injustices, the disruption of your life and of your traditional societies must be acknowledged. At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people’s encounter with the culture that came from Europe. Among these positive aspects I wish to recall the work of the many missionaries who strenuously defended the rights of the original inhabitants of this land. They established missions throughout this southwestern part of the United States. They worked to improve living conditions and set up educational systems, learning your languages in order to do so. Above all, they proclaimed the Good News of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ, an essential part of which is that all men and women are equally children of God and must be respected and loved as such. This gospel of Jesus Christ is today, and will remain forever, the greatest pride and possession of your people.”

Note that he was speaking to North American natives who weren’t infamous for their love of human sacrifice.  I doubt “disruption of your life and of your traditional societies” would be considered a bad thing morally speaking, even if it was perceived as a negative by the people themselves, when that traditional society included human sacrifice.  However, the good results of European conquest apply to those natives as well or one might argue even more so.

The World is Confused About the Nature of Love and Suffering

One might argue that the zeitgeist is confusion, especially confusion about what it means to love and how to handle suffering — both one’s own and that of others.  No one seems to understand what is true or even that there is such a thing as truth.  To illustrate this confusion, people embrace relativism and “personal truth,” but then turn around and decry what they perceive as politicians telling untruths (with great shock and outrage it might be added, as though they’ve missed all the jokes about lying politicians).  In How TIME murdered truth, and framed Trump, Jonathon Van Maren, points out the irony (which no one seems to notice) that TIME Magazine’s recent cover, “Is Truth Dead?” (apparently referencing Trump’s “lying,” so-called “fake-news,” etc.), follows on the heels of this cover: “Beyond He or She: How a new generation is redefining the meaning of gender.”

Of course truth is dead. Our culture killed it, long before Donald Trump showed up…

We now reject every constraint on our own so-called right to radical self-determination, even if those constraints are biology and reality. That is why a full-grown man can decide to leave his family and live as a six-year-old girl, and the media coverage of this is largely subdued and respectful. That is why there is a new group of human beings who identify as non-human beings—rather, they are “Otherkin,” people who identify as certain animals. This is treated with long-faced solemnity by our cultural elites, because truth is dead and people can be whatever they want, even if they are obviously not what or who they say they are.

For those who are baffled by each new absurdity, there is an extensive arsenal of labels awaiting them. Homophobe. Transphobe…Otherkinphobe? And so it goes.

Our culture is no longer self-aware enough to recognize humans who claim they are not human as fundamentally disturbed, and men who claim to be women and women who claim to be men as suffering from some delusion deserving of treatment rather than celebratory front page stories in iconic news magazines. TIME Magazine can mourn the loss of truth merely a week after they have championed its departure, and almost nobody will notice.

In these times of confusion about even the nature of biological sex/gender, people are understandably confused about the nature of marriage as well, even among Catholics who should know better. According to John-Henry Westen, Pope Francis is playing with fire and adding to the confusion:

But as we’ve laid out above, there is massive confusion in the Church about where exactly the Pope stands on the matter. Even though a thorough assessment clearly shows the Pope backing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, there are cardinals and bishops who suggest the Pope means the opposite.

For those who knew Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio prior to his election to the pontificate, this is nothing new. I spoke to a few priests from Buenos Aires who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in different capacities and from them learned that confusion is emblematic of his ministry…

Shortly after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, a forward-thinking critic warned that it would become unworkable for the Church if the bishops in Germany would wink at divorce and remarriage while across the border in Poland it would be mortally sinful. Yet who could have envisioned that we’d see bishops and cardinals voicing opposing opinions on what the Pope himself believes and teaches?

The dichotomy is clear evidence that the Pope himself, in refusing to clarify despite the formal and public request of the four Cardinals and associated pleas by countless other Catholic clergy and laity, is guilty of betraying the entire Church. By letting this charade continue he has sown confusion into the hearts of the faithful. This confusion could lead to mortal sin and thus eternal damnation.

Pope Francis is indeed playing with fire. Hell fire.

It is sad that Pope Francis, whether deliberately or not, seems not to understand or be able to clearly articulate consistent Church teaching as well as some laity can.  Leila Miller, author of the soon-to-be released book Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, has an article on Catholic Answers summarizing: Eight Things You Have To Know About The Church’s Teaching On Divorce.

As Catholics, we are called to a higher standard than the secular culture, and we must rejoice in and embrace Jesus’ insistence on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. The Church’s unbroken teaching reveres and protects the spouses, the children, extended families, society, and the order of creation itself. Our response to marriages, and families, crumbling around us should be a commitment to live, teach, and defend these little known and often rejected truths about the immorality and effects of divorce. As St. John Paul II said in a homily, “The person who does not decide to love forever will find it very difficult to really love for even one day” (The Love Within Families).

The Church teachings that she summarizes are not as well known as they should be.  One response commended her article for being “straight out of the Catechism… founded in Scripture” and had this to say:

The fact is, life is about the cross. Take everything TV and movies say about marriage and throw it out the window. Marriage is a great source of joy. But real joy and peace comes from the cross… Some marriages will be exceptionally difficult. So what? There’s a million things that can befall a person that would make life difficult. We are still bound by moral rules… The points in this article need to be preached over and over and over. They used to be well understood. They need to be made that way again.

A Catholic friend of mine recently announced that she is getting divorced.  This has been a long time coming and was no surprise.  Hers is one of the hard cases.  Her suffering and that of her children has been great (and probably will continue to be so). Changing Church rules would not alleviate their suffering.  Unfortunately, only a miracle and the much needed change of heart and healing of her husband would do that.  She’s hoped and prayed and worked for that for years without any results.  A hard and sad case indeed.

Likewise another example of hard cases are those of infertility and reproductive technologies.  This mother deeply regrets not having fully understood or been told firmly the truth about Catholic teaching.  Because she ignored teaching about IVF, she is now in a difficult moral situation involving frozen embryos.  Her response to the blogger who wrote about the truth of Catholic teaching: “I truly wish I had read your posts about IVF four years ago… that one stung, but it was so necessary. You’re right, of course, but the truth hurts.”

It has been said that hard cases make poor law.  So too do hard cases make poor Church policy. It is a mistake to attempt to turn the Church into yet another in institution solely bent on eliminating human suffering on Earth, at the expense of speaking the Truth, and would make the Church just another failed institution of “social justice.”  Trying to alleviate suffering by telling people to go and do whatever they want and patting them on the back for all their dysfunctional and self-destructive choices as though that were showing love — because we wouldn’t want to make anyone feel bad about the way they are living their lives — will only lead those suffering people to greater suffering and ruin in the long run.  Sometimes a mother must tell her children hard things for their own long-term good, though it may seem unkind in the moment.  Good mothers tell their children “No” as often as necessary.

Jesus said we must pick up our crosses to follow Him.  Following Jesus sounds nice, but no one really wants to pick up his cross because crosses equal suffering and who would want to embrace suffering?  Sometimes living the way we should can be extremely painful.  The world is uncomfortable with suffering: people try to escape suffering for themselves and think the best way to help others is to try to remove their suffering in any way they can.  Yes, some human suffering can and should be eased if at all possible, but sometimes the way to help isn’t to try to snatch away your neighbor’s cross and fling it as far as possible or pretend it isn’t there; sometimes the best way is to come alongside and offer to help carry his cross, like Simon of Cyrene did for our Lord.

Compassion Cannot be Globalized

I am weary of attempts to guilt-trip me into caring about people on the other side of the world or about every single living human being on the planet.  This morning I read this:

“Do we have Jesus’ priorities?  Are we living Gospel values?…Our collective lust for money and things has blinded us to the real and legitimate needs of so many people.  Some of these people live just a few blocks from us.  Others live on the other side of the world.  All are children of God, and that makes them our brothers and sisters.  The problem is we value some people more than other people.  Jesus doesn’t do that.  If a hundred people died in a natural disaster in our city, this would capture our attention for days, weeks, months, or even years.  If a thousand people died on the other side of the world, we might barely think of it again after watching the story on the news.  Why do we value American lives more than African lives?”

Of course there is nothing wrong in directing us to the Gospel as guide for how to live a good life and reminding us to not be so selfish or materialistic.  But this author errs in pushing us to care for people on the other side of the planet just as much as our neighbors.  In an abstract way this is possible, to acknowledge that yes, we are all children of God and deserve respect and love, that the world’s people are my brothers and sisters in Christ (whether they know God or not).  But to actively feel for everyone?  Or to do some sort of work that will impact the lives of all the suffering or downtrodden people in the world?  Impossible.

Human beings cannot handle a scope like that.  I am not Jesus; neither are you.  Only God can hold the world in His hands.  We are incapable of even fully grasping it in our minds. The push towards globalization hasn’t just been about economics; it’s been about Compassion as well.  As one mere human, I cannot feel for the world.  To attempt to do so, is crushing, depressing, overwhelming, and inevitably completely unproductive — worse, it might even negatively affect how I treat my actual neighbors.  To do something actively, practically to help the whole world is physically impossible. Most work that compassionate people do, whether in their writing or speech, is really just virtue signaling to make them feel good, to feel like helpful, caring people but has zero results in the lives of others. There is a better way to improve the lives of others.

According to innovative farmer and author Joel Salatin,”Most of us spend a lot of time and money dealing with and worrying about things that we can’t do anything about anyway.  If we would devote that same energy to our little realm of influence, the cumulative effect would be a much better society.”  He notes that one of his favorite writers, Wendell Berry, agrees that “there are no global problems; only local ones:”

one cannot live in the world; that is, one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a “world citizen.” There can be no such think as a “global village.” No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality. (Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays)

In a speech Berry gave particularly focusing on environmental issues (about which we are also often guilt-tripped), he again points to local solutions to so-called global problems:

“All public movements of thought quickly produce a language that works as a code, useless to the extent that it is abstract…  The same is true of the environment movement. The favorite adjective of this movement now seems to be planetary. This word is used, properly enough, to refer to the interdependence of places, and to the recognition, which is desirable and growing, that no place on the earth can be completely healthy until all places are. But the word planetary also refers to an abstract anxiety or an abstract passion that is desperate and useless exactly to the extent that it is abstract. How, after all, can anybody – any particular body – do anything to heal a planet? Nobody can do anything to heal a planet. The suggestion that anybody could do so is preposterous…  The problems, if we describe them accurately, are all private and small. Or they are so initially.

The problems are our lives.  In the “developed” countries, at least, the large problems occur because all of us are living either partly wrong or almost entirely wrong… The economies of our communities and households are wrong.

The answers to the human problems of ecology are to be found in economy. And the answers to the problems of economy are to be found in culture and in character. To fail to see this is to go on dividing the world falsely between guilty producers and innocent consumers…

Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale. In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else.

Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity, and glamour.

Make a home.

Help to make a community.

Be loyal to what you have made.

Put the interest of the community first.

Love you neighbors – not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.

Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.

As far as you are able make your lives dependent upon your local place, neighborhood, and household – which thrive by care and generosity – and independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.  (Berry, commencement address)

During her lifetime, Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, said many profound things. When she was asked how to influence the world, she replied, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”  Her answer wasn’t: drop everything and come work with me in the slums of India.  Some people may have that calling, but most do not. She also said, “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

Christian authors would better serve God’s people by encouraging readers to seek God’s will, to ask “how is God calling ME to serve His people?”  It is discouraging and unhelpful to tell people they should care for the whole world, just like Jesus did — though as a flesh and blood man on Earth, he actually did not.

Was Jesus a nice guy? Or was he a troll?

Was Jesus just a nice guy?  Some Christians seem to think so.  They are very concerned with being proper and polite.  They immediately disavow anyone who is discovered to have a less than pristine past, even, and perhaps especially, those who have been allies in the culture war.  Apparently for fear they be tainted by association or some sort of holier-than-thou position, they quickly throw said offender under the bus. So much for “there but for the grace of God go I” or Jesus’s treatment of say, the woman caught in adultery. This attitude seems a far cry from Jesus’s relationship with sinners.

Or was Jesus a troll?  Blogger Fencing Bear at Prayer (by day a tenured professor of Medieval Studies at Chicago University), thinks Jesus was likely seen as a troll during his lifetime (and perhaps if we paid attention, he’d be viewed that way today too).  She has recently written some controversial things, for which she has of course been attacked.  Her worst offense? Defending Milo: “I have said over and over again, much to the ridicule of many of my academic colleagues and the journalists who have gotten wind of my blog, that the reason I love (yes, love, in the Christian sense of profound charity) Milo is because he tells the truth.”   Unsurprisingly, she also describes herself as a “Catholic catechumen.”

It’s hard being a Christian. On the one hand, there is the image that everyone has from going to Sunday School, of Christians as goody-two-shoes…

On the other hand, there’s Jesus. Jesus drank with sinners. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Jesus made friends with women of ill repute. Jesus wandered about the countryside gathering crowds and scaring the authorities.

Jesus was a troll.

Think about the day he announced himself to his village. He stood up and read the Scriptures for the day:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

And then he gave the book to the attendant, sat down, and said:  “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

And all wondered and said, how could it be, wasn’t he Joseph’s son? At which he replied: “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country.”

And the people rose up against him, and drove him out of town.  This was only the beginning of his trolling.

***

Jesus knew they all hated him, both the Pharisees on the Right, who tried to live purely according to the Law, and the scribes on the Left, who were functionaries of the Jewish state. And he denounced them regularly in his preaching as hypocrites and fools.

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

And then he marched into Jerusalem, straight up to the most holy place in the city, and vandalized it.

“It is written,” he said, “‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of thieves.”

Authorities on both the Right and the Left were not pleased.

You know the rest of the story.

Jesus so enraged the holders of power in his community that they trumped up charges against him, trying to get him to blaspheme so that they could invoke the death penalty against him.

When Truth speaks to Power, Power bites back. Hard.

But what Power does not know is that Truth will prevail. Because Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world.

People who value the Truth are the ones who don’t gloss over this side of Jesus, because this Jesus is just as true as the one who said “to turn the other cheek” — it seems a contradiction, and for some, it’s easier to focus on the nice Jesus and forget that this other part of Jesus exists.  But this is God we’re talking about here, so we shouldn’t be too surprised by qualities that are both complex  and difficult to understand.

Mathew Kelly writes in Rediscovering Jesus, that Jesus was a radical:

What does radical mean?  It means to get to the “root” of things.  Jesus was interested in getting deep down to the root of things.  He was interested in what was essential — not the fluffy periphery, but the core, the center, the heart of things.  He wasn’t burdened with the need to be liked by people.  He wasn’t moved by desire for expediency or convenience.  Instead, he simply allowed truth to reign supreme.

Truth is radical.

People who love the Truth, love Jesus.  Those who don’t know Jesus, but pursue the Truth are seeking God, whether they know it or not.  If you seek Truth long enough, it will lead you to Jesus.

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life –  John 14:6