Some examples ...
- Most actors in St. Louis, even if talented, are unprofessional - in the derogatory sense of that word. They know they'll probably never make a living at their craft, and so they don't take it seriously. They give themselves over to all kinds of narcissistic indulgences both on and off stage, and since there is, in their eyes, something contrived or artificial about their calling, they are never straight-forward or serious about it. It becomes a kind of elaborate and sometimes life-long mind game.
- Many non-profit corporations are unreal. Since often they don't focus on the healthy and sane task of measuring their business success in terms of money, politics abound. Politics and back-biting at a non-profit company are always worse than at a for-profit company. We don't do well, we humans, in settings that are unreal.
- Bad church architecture, ugly crucifixes, abstract stained glass windows, and insipid gay guitar music that goes on and on and on is unreal. It appeals to no normal person. It conveys the unspoken message - "This faith of ours is all made up, as is our God; He is of our making, and we make of him what we will."
- Homosexuality is unreal. It's not politically correct to say this, but "gay" men are the most affected, viciously unreal people you will ever meet. Dressing up and play acting can make for some real meanness behind the mask.
- Likewise, contraception is unreal. It takes the basic fact of self-giving and the great blessing of child-rearing out of marriage - and so marriage becomes cohabitation and cohabitation becomes "gay marriage" and "gay marriage" becomes what all sex has become - a prolonged exercise in masturbation, itself hailed in our culture as the only remaining virtue.
- Many "Christian films" and much "Catholic programming" is unreal. Some of it is so utterly unrelated to real life that one wonders how psychologically disturbed its audiences must be.
- Internet firestorms over whether women should wear pants - and similar issues - are unreal.
Now, our political system is unreal. A Republican nominee who in 2002 very stridently and emphatically averred that he was "100% pro-choice" and who even today is pro-abortion in cases of rape, presenting himself as a good Catholic candidate is unreal. Giving him a forum and a softball interview on a Catholic network (if that is indeed what happens) is unreal. Defending him or defending an interview that appears as if it will serve his ends (and make no mistake, he would not have consented to this interview if he did not think he was in complete control and it would serve his ends) is unreal.
I have been told by my readers this week, both in comboxes and via email, that I am a judgmental beast badly in need of the confessional. Of course they're right, but not for the reasons they think.
In fact, I'll go so far as to say this - I understand unreality because that's what I lived before my conversion; I understand unreality because that's what I still tend to live even today.
My tendency is to build a house of cards, to erect a false city in lieu of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to indulge in fantasy and in unproductive, unrealistic relationships and sometimes even business ventures. I am a man more guilty of this sin than most. C. S. Lewis also knew that this devotion to unreality was his besetting sin, and much of his private life bears witness to this, though he was able to keep the worst of it out of his writing. I know that and I get that. Having an active imagination, a fair amount of intelligence, an introverted nature, and a sensitivity and squeamishness about the outside world is a recipe for a life devoted to unreality. By the grace of God, I can see that and I struggle against it.
But if we in the Church don't acknowledge this, we are not doing our job. If we think we must get defensive about our fellow Catholics or about apostolates that sometimes cater to unreality, that we must defend them from constructive criticism, we are not doing our job. Thus, if a non-Catholic says to me (as one recently did), the Church is full of hypocrites and liars who have no business preaching a morality they don't themselves practice, the only response is to say, "Amen. You are right. We're a sorry lot, but this 'hard teaching' is a task Our Lord gave us, and we can really only preach his word well when we ourselves repent and try to live it."
You see, most people are normal and like at least some form of reality in their lives. For most people, that reality consists of sex. Or booze, or food, or money - or any of the things they can taste and see - unlike the dreary "Taste and See" hymn which nobody believes is real, though the thing it refers to is real.
For Christ is real.
He is so real that all reality comes from Him and depends upon Him. His suffering is real. His resurrection is real. His presence among us is real.
And how can we preach the greatest Reality when we are devoted to our own contrived and impotent unreality all about us?