Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Christopher West and the Case for Evil

My latest post Theology of the Trench Coat does not begin to scratch the surface of what's wrong with Christopher "Wild Wild" West.

On page 186 of his new book At the Heart of the Gospel, West says ...

As we let the fundamental truth about good and evil sink in more and more deeply, it changes our whole approach to evil. We overcome it not by categorically "throwing it out". Why not? Because there is always a baby in that bathwater ... We ultimately conquer evil not by wagging fingers at it, but by "suffering it" in union with Christ.

This, my friends, is plain rationalization.

West is saying (slyly and in happy-clappy theological terms that are hard for college girls to see through) that you should view pornography because there is a good at the heart of it. Evil is merely the privation of good, therefore evil has no real existence, therefore seek the good even amidst the evil. You should not block porn sites from your computer, for that is "wagging your finger" at evil. Instead, see the body with the redeemed eyes given us by the risen Christ and you can use porn for the good that's there, not the evil that isn't.

This reminds me of nothing so much as Carl Jung, the gnostic psychologist who was my biggest hero in my atheist days. I read the entire collected works of Jung, over thirty bound volumes, and the center of his psychology is what he called the "integration of the shadow", or the indulgence of the dark side of our souls. Jung claimed that only by seeking out, drawing forth and cultivating this rejected part within ourselves could we achieve "individuation", by which he meant self-actualization, the fulfilment of our highest destinies.

This is why Jung slept with his patients, one of whom became his life long mistress. This is why he got lost in New Age thinking, in alchemy and sorcery. This is why he saw everything within the mind as merely a reflection of the mind itself. Jung preached the redemption of evil, the normalization of it, the celebration of it. And he used language not unlike Christopher West's.

West is a Jungian.

He is telling us to embrace our dark sides.

He is doing so in terminology that is superficially Catholic, but it ain't Catholic underneath.


Kevin O'Brien said...

Over on Facebook, I've gotten at least one correspondent who's confused by this post.

I responded thus:

Here's why West is dangerous. We must certainly suffer evil in our union with Christ, this evil being the bad things that happen to us and our concupiscience, which the sacraments do not remove. We can never in this life be without the evil around us and the evil within us, and in that sense we must "offer it up" or "suffer" it.

But West is using this truth to go one step further. He's saying it is Puritanical to avoid near occasions of sin, that it is instead a mark of an illuminated Christian to embrace occasions of sin and to seek the good in them.

His argument is Jungian. It is really nothing but "there's good at the heart of everything bad". True enough. And there's even a kind of "good" in pornography, so far as sex itself is good. Even Satan still retains things that are "good" - his intelligence, his will. These he uses for evil, but they are in themselves good.

West is practicing a kind of "grooming behavior". He is trying to dull our sensibilities by speaking theological half-truths that are used to rationalize sin.

Here's a test for you. Use West's argument with your wife if you're married. Tell her, according to West, that looking at another woman naked is a good thing because you're looking at her through the eyes of a redeemed Christian and you're seeking the good that lies at the heart of lust. Tell her you're going to the strip club for just this high minded theological reason.

See if she buys it

Ink said...

As a college girl, I take slight offense to the suggestion that we're all ditzes who can't sort out good from goushi.

However, I do understand that my peers are not necessarily known for being the brightest.

I think your captcha is generalizing me too: "tramp."

Tongue planted firmly in cheek,

Anonymous said...

It seems disingenuous to me that you are purposefully ignore selections from West's book to create a willful mis-characterization. Don't misunderstand, I think that your concern or line of thought is actually very valid, but you ignore the fact that West seems very conscious of these concerns and even plainly addresses it within his book.
"I am not suggesting the average man should look for opportunities to 'test' his purity by gazing upon scantily clad women. Indeed, the large majority of men must heed the Old Testament admonition to "turn away your eyes.""

"As an important clarification, the bishop who turned his eyes did the right thing, since he knew that if he had not done so we would have lusted. We classically call this 'avoiding the occasion of sin' by 'gaining custody of the eyes.' This is a commendable and necessary first step on the road to mature purity."

"Of course, even those with a mature purity can still slip and fall. Growth in virtue is not simply a steady uphill climb. This means that no one could ever claim in this life that he or she is entirely beyond the need for 'custody of the eyes.'"

Kevin O'Brien said...

Good gravy, Anonymous, you're proving my point!

QUOTE ONE: "The average man" should not tempt his purity? He believes, apparently, that the "above average man" may. This is implied in his quote, and articulated in other things West says.

QUOTE TWO: As to his anecdote about the bishop averting his eyes, you're the one taking that out of context. Where does West go from there? What point is he making with this anecdote? He's using the bishop who averts his eyes as a contrast with another reaction, remember?

QUOTE THREE: West is implying that the illuminati may indulge in sexually provocative situations, though even they may sometimes fall. Even that final phrase, "entirely beyond the need of custody of the eyes" is telling. He is saying that while we never get "entirely" beyond this need, we can make progress toward a situation where we get in fact beyond it, where we may gaze on pornographic images because we are spiritually illumined enough that we see God in the crotch.

This is madness and this man is doing a lot of damage.

Anonymous said...

So, to put your objection in perspective, you condemn West for what you believe he IMPLIES in a quote 186 pages into a 300+ page book?

It seems a matter of justice, particularly for a fellow christian, to critique what he SAYS in over 300 pages of his own writing first. Especially when he speaks directly against what you have contended that he has implied.

Jungian? Madness? Damage?

So far, you doth protest too much, methinks.

Tom Leith said...

Mrs. von Hildebrand protested very well.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anonymous, please read the link Tom Leith provides above as well as Dawn Eden's thesis on West, available on line.

Here's the crux. If West answers the following questions without ambiguity in the proper way than I'm willing to admit I'm barking up the wrong tree.

THE QUESTIONS: Is any man in this life able to overcome concupiscene completely, and be sanctified to such an extent that any thing this man does will not be sinful? In other words, can a saint on earth look at internet porn without sin? Can a saint on earth experience lust and engage in fornication and adultery and masturbation and yet not be sinning because his human will has been joined with the Divine Will? Can one use pornography to find God? Are there a select few, a group of illuminati, for whom sex is sacred and all of their sexual activity holy, though viewd by the unenlighted prudes as sinful? Is there a group of those who Know and who make of acts that others call adultery or fornication or masturbation something pleasing to God and expressive of God? Does the Divine Will ever erase or consume the human will on this earth and in this mortal life?

These goes to the heart of West's heresy, couched as his heresy is in implication and enthusiasm.

Note as well that West is alligning himself publicly with Anne, one of the fraudulent visionaries of Medjugorje, and she with him.

Anonymous said...

You slanderously throw around a charge of heresy in the face of a book that has been thoroughly vetted, endorsed by Fr. Benedict Groscel, the Cardinal that was the general editor of the Catechsiem of the Catholic Church, on of the founders of the JPII Institute, the person John Paul asked to found an institute on family's & marriage, just to name a few, and you charge West with encouraging people to look at porn? Really?

How could anyone but a complete fool take anything you have to say with any seriousness?

In the book the author goes into great length to answer the question about concupiscence, which is that no, short of being in heaven it is never fully overcome.

The author also goes to great length to make it clear that the cross is where all disordered desires must be taken and that it is a life long struggle for one to achieve a mature chastity, in marriage or in a single or celibate vocation in life.

He also handles all the slanderous treatment he has endured from people like you, Eden and others with great restraint and charity, something that you sorely lack.

What is laid out in this book completely shines a light on all the lies and slander that has been whipped up by distorters of the truth like you. It's no surprise you would try to dissuade people from reading this book, because when people do, they will see what an injustice has been perpetrated by the slanderous pharasisees like you.

You should be ashamed of yourself. Where is your sense of decency?

I will be sticking with the good Cardinal, the long list of bishops and other endorsers of the book rather than 'bad actors' like yourself.

In this book, as well his teachings, West always points people to " offer it up"' "suffer it" as the only way to live out JPII's TOB. ... There is simply no way one can miss this in his current book, or his past books or teachings. It is one of his most consistent themes. There is no way a reader can miss it. For you to selectively excerpt the book and create the impression you have it simply evil. It is called defaming a person and it is a terrible sin against justice. Shame on you.

Wade St. Onge said...
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Wade St. Onge said...

1. I hate anonymous posts.

2. All of the arguments made by the latest "anonymous" were all responded to in my blog - especially his main argument: the fallacious and fragile argument from authority. I also show how West merely gives lip-service to the Catholic teaching that concupiscence cannot be fully overcome in this life while contradicting that with other statements he makes because in reality, he truly believes it can be overcome.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I knew it. The arrival of Wade St 'Outrageous' confirms it. The professional West/JPII critics are out in force!

Yeah good one Wade.

The Catholic church doesn't rest much of what it teaches under any type of authority. Interesting that people who have never had any of their work endorsed by anyone that most Catholics have ever heard of from a position of authority within the Catholic church are always the first to say that it doesn't matter.

Have either of you gents actually ever had any of your work submitted and approved by your bishop or any one in authority within the church as West does with all of his published works? No? Mmmm wonder why? Maybe because you have no published works. Maybe because your role is to spend your time distorting the work of others and not actually contributing anything of value?

Just as I was referencing fools who would buy into such non sense and resort to misrepresentations and straight up lying Mr Wade shows up. How charming!

You sad 'more pope than the pope" people like O'Brien, Wade, et al (closet JPII critics) who actually don't in reality have any positive effect in the world in the realm of actually helping people, but spend an obsessive amount of time
attempting to lead people astray from work that in reality leads people to freedom from porn, restored marriages, countless vocations to the priesthood and consecrated celibacy for the kingdom.

People like you will have much to answer for on judgement day if even one person who might actually have been helped by a fully, properly vetted work like the current one you are trashing is turned away because of your lies. Justice may demand that there be a millstone perfectly sized for your neck awaiting you.

Judge a tree by its fruit, and the aforementioned fruits are in reality what has been the outcome of West's works. I know people who have attributed it to saving their very lives and there are scores of people who publically have attributed Wests work to being a major factor in thier conversion journey to Rome.

The National Review piece on this book which is now on Bernie Goldbergs blog and elsewhere will give people who might be unfortunate enough to stumble on this sad little blog a real review that would be helpful and not full of the lunatic obsessive fringe rantings of professional West/JPII haters.

I do not plan on spending another second on this blog. The only fruit that comes from this tree is rotten and leaves one with a sour stomach.

Knock yourself out spewing all your distortions & lies Gents. As I said, I' lll stick with the good Cardinal et al. It is pretty amazing that even the editor of the Catechism endoresing a book is not enough to slow down crackpots like this!

Wow, on the day JPII becomes a saint, I can only imagine the wailing and grinding of teeth from the ''Ongs" & "Obriens" of the world.

You poor, pathetic gentlemen are in my prayers, that you would get a life, a life rooted in reality, not cyberslander.

I'm out.

Wade St. Onge said...
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Wade St. Onge said...

I'm going to guess that "Anonymous" is really "Bernie Thomas".

I dealt rather definitively with the fallacious "fruits' argument on my blog, as well as the "imprimatur" argument - which is further proof that this "Anonymous" has not familiarized himself with the arguments of "the other side".

Anonymous, are you saying that someone who has had his work published is "ipso facto" right if someone who has not had anything published disagrees with him? You know that if we get into that argument you will lose.

Finally, thanks for the prayers - I hope you are not just saying that rhetorically as a way of saying we are misguided souls in need of a great conversion of heart. I hope you will sincerely pray for me. I'll do likewise for you - judging by your tone I think you are in need of them as well.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Wade--

I'd ask for one clarification, as I do not know the precise answer and am wondering what you might have seen in West's work on this point--are you saying that West reflects the view that concupiscence can be overcome as in *eliminated* (its "wound" removed from human nature), or are you saying that West's view is that concupiscence can be overcome as in "controlled" (via one's response to grace, which is the remedy for concupiscence)?

Also, I just left a comment on Kevin's more recent "Questions" post that contains a West quote from just last week, apparently, which I think is pretty helpful.

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Kevin O'Brien said...


What you say may indeed be correct. I may be entirely off base here. And I'm willing to have you challenge me and Wade in the combox as boldly as you do, even with the snide tone you adopt - on one condition. You may not do so anonymously. Please sign your posts.

If not, I will delete them from here on out. If so, please continue to say what you will and we will engage your objections and respond to you.

Wade St. Onge said...

Deacon Jim,

To clarify: West is saying, though not in so many words, that the "effects" of concupiscence can be eliminated in this life. If you asked West the question you asked me, I am not sure how he would answer. I would say West would probably say concupiscence could actually be "healed", and that the effects of redemption go further than merely "controlling" concupiscence.

With regards to the quote from West as you pasted in the other combox: I found that interesting and it could mean he has abandoned his teachings on "mature purity" and "the pure gaze" as I critiqued on my blog. But if he really has (and that quote may or may not be interpreted that way), we should expect to see a retraction and an attempt to correct his misguided followers such as Terri Kimmel and Lauretta, whom I mention in my letter to Cardinal Rigali. Time will tell, as Kevin says, but I very much doubt we will see such a retraction. If we do, I will retract those particular critiques of West's theology.