This is part one of what will be posted in two parts on The St. Austin Review Ink Desk.
The Beast Advances or The Attack on Reason
by Kevin O'Brien
Hilaire Belloc, in “The Great Heresies”, pointed to a disturbing feature of the Modern Attack on the Catholic Church: the attack upon Reason.
Nowhere is this more clearly displayed than on the internet - yes, on Facebook in particular, but also everywhere on the internet. And though I have written about Facebook before and my on-again off-again love-hate relationship with her, I’m beginning to see that the enemy is not Facebook. The enemy is us!
Let me try to categorize the problems I’ve noticed:
1. BEING FORCED TO EXPLAIN THE PUNCHLINE
A friend of mine on Facebook can not post even innocuous quotations such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s, “The Saints are the Sinners who keep on trying,” without a barrage of comment box (combox) attacks nitpicking at all sorts of things the quote never intended to convey. In this case, commenters insisted such things as “saints do not sin; they are not sinners”, or “it’s not the efforts of sinners ‘trying’ but God’s grace that does all”, or other such picayune objections that miss the entire point of the quotation and are willfully tone-deaf to its verve and its fun.
If I were to post my Facebook status update as Henny Youngman's "Take my wife, please!" I'd get the following comments ...
"Certainly by take he can't mean ravish, as that's simply the sin of adultery."
"Since in heaven we are neither married nor given in marriage, Youngman must be referring to our ultimate end, thereby longing for the absence of his wife as he gazes forever at the face of God."
"If he said simply, 'Take my wife', I'd go along with that. But the word 'please' implies free will, which, as a Calvinist, I find offensive."
"Take her where? To the Obamacare Death Panel?"
... and so forth.
I think we've come to the End of Civilization as We Know It - hence we must always find ourselves explaining the joke.
2. HIT AND RUN
A person I never knew “friended” me on Facebook, apparently for one reason: to post this on my wall:
“And what exactly is the church doing these days to keep priests away from little boys? ...or is it all just imaginary dust underneath a giant magick carpet?” (sic)
In a series of combox back and forths, I began by conceding that pedophilia is indeed a serious sin, and that the Church should be doing public penance, and that the Church has indeed done much to address this, most especially with Pope Benedict now creating bishops who are actually Catholic and not sympathizers of pederasty.
This fellow responded derisively, and kept bringing up what a terrible scandal this was and began to make fun of the sacrament of Confession as a make-believe way of sweeping things under the “magick” carpet. So I continued with this …
“By the way, may I remind you that it's the Catholic Church that condemns child molestation and perversion, not the culture at large. If Church members do not live up to this standard, then by all means we should seek to repent - but you put yourself in an awkward position when you attack the Church with a weapon she herself endorses, the condemnation of sin. If you're so eager to endorse the Church's teaching on the evils of child molestation and sexual perversion, I assume you also endorse all the other teachings of the Church, teachings which its members fail again and again to live up to.”
He then replied – astonishingly:
“I do not condone nor condemn the said priests (sic) actions. Pedophilia is merely a (sic) human nature, i.e. Greek traditions of initiation, that the church (and some conformists) oppose ... My apologies if I antagonized you.”
So I couldn’t resist:
“Wow. Glad to know you don't condemn any actions, despite what you wrote on my wall and in the combox. Consistency was never to be expected from this, I see. … Meanwhile, keep focusing on sin. It’s good for the soul.”
3. E. E. CUMMINGS WITHOUT SPELL-CHECK
Another mark of the abandonment of reason is indicated by all these “sics” above. People who argue foolishly on the internet display and flaunt their foolishness not only by what they say but by how they say it. Not only do they abandon any attempt at punctuation, as E. E. Cummings and many of the modern poets did, they also refuse even to use spell-check, apparently.
Take, for instance, someone who attacked me by commenting on a youtube video of mine, telling me that if I read the Bible cover to cover I would be “de-converted”, by which he apparently meant converted back to atheism, where I started. When I replied that I have indeed read the Bible cover-to-cover, perhaps a dozen times, and asked him if in fact he had himself read it even once, he replied with …
“Yes I read it from cover to cover the first when I was 12. And thta was th eend of me believing in thta fairytale. My morals could not accept your god to be all loving and all that bs when he orders? genocide in men women and innocent childre and at age 12 I was pretty sure I didnt need an invisible friend. Adults shred their imaginary freinds you know.. part of growing the f*** uo.”
I present this comment exactly as he posted it (it’s actually an amalgam of two of his comments), although I have put asterisks where he used letters. The phrase was “part of growing the f*** up.” He spelled the F word right, but not much else. Not even “up”.
My only thought was, while God chose the foolish of this world to put to shame those who are wise, when the devil tries to use the foolish of this world, they only end up shaming themselves.
4. FOLLOW THE SIN
One of my Facebook “friends” is in the midst of denying his own gender. He uses a female name and is objecting to not being allowed to wear a dress to work. So he won’t work; he sits at home (in heels and hose, I’m guessing) hopping on Facebook, praising Ayn Rand and Nietzsche and railing against something he calls “Christian Privilege” and the paternalistic oppressiveness of “definition” and “reason”.
He uses reason to attack reason because reason and definition are essential to understanding identity, and identity (a thing being what it is) is central not only to our being, but to God’s vocation for us and to our ultimate destiny. But if we can re-define even “definition”, if we can deconstruct the most basic construct that we have – who we are – then by God we are gods!
Sad that we want to be gods not to live forever or to rule the world, but just so we can go to work with lipstick on.
But be that as it may, in the real world we hear the expression “follow the money”, which means find out where a person’s vested financial interest is and you can explain a lot, from the travesty of “climate change” to the protection of abortion mills. By the same token, if you follow the sin, and see where the trail of disordered desire leads, you begin to sniff out just why we’re rejecting reason and just where such a rejection will lead.
It will lead to idiocy. It will lead to men wanting to be first women, then children, then chairs and cows. It will lead to hit and run attacks that really don’t care if they make any sense. It will lead to a loss of humor and a loss of the appreciation of literature. It will lead to incomprehensible statements. It will lead to the great big horrific abyss we call hell.
As Belloc says, “But that great Modern Attack, which is more than a heresy, is indifferent to self-contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal, counting on strength alone.”
And may we, with God’s grace, work to weaken its growing strength.