Saturday, May 25, 2013

Compromise and Corruption

There's a scene in the brilliant American musical Of Thee I Sing where the politicians decide to hold a beauty contest to pick a bride for the President of the United States.  (They figure it's good publicity and he'll get more votes).  Diana Devereaux wins the contest, but the President falls in love with a girl named Mary instead.  So he marries Mary.

Diana Devereaux, Mary, the President of the United States.
Photo from the 42nd Street Moon production.


Diana Devereaux files suit.  The case makes it all the way to the Supreme Court.  The judges are on the verge of annulling the marriage and forcing the President to wed this tramp Diana Devereaux - until Mary brings the judges some of her home-made corn muffins.  The judges sing in unison ...

Corn muffins!  Corn muffins!
Though other girls are good at baking,
 She takes the cake!
For she can make
Corn muffins!  Corn muffins! 
 
And then when Mary reveals that she is "with child" - well, the judges, overcome by sentiment, with corn muffin crumbs falling from their lips, decide in Mary's favor.  The marriage will stand, the baby will have a father, and Diana Devereaux (the rightful winner of the contest) ... well, she can't believe how badly she's been treated.  Pointing to Mary, Diana exclaims ...

I get screwed and she gets the baby!

Well, since Of Thee I Sing was first staged in 1931, Diana actually says

I get compromised and she gets the baby!

Compromised is a polite way of saying screwed.  Screwed is a word that was tantamount to the f-bomb in my day, but has been accepted as a polite way of saying f-'ed.  

I bring this all up here for one reason.

We're all compromised.  This is not to say we're all screwed - or maybe it is.  We have lost our spiritual virginity, and we have lost it willingly and with a kind of lust.

***

I'm reading The Heart of Addiction by Lance Dodes.  Dodes sees addiction in these terms - the addict feels trapped and helpless by a bad situation.  He has two choices ...

  1. Do Nothing.
  2. Confront the situation.
Since both choices bring anxiety and fear, the addict compromises.  Since he sees no way out of his situation, and since both choices seem unbearable, he does something.  He doesn't do the right thing and attempt to fix what's causing the problem - he doesn't do this because his fear is having no control.  If he does nothing, he has no control and the situation will only get worse; if he confronts the problem, events might take on a life of their own and that is even more terrifying than the first option.  What he feels is helpless and what he wants is control.

So he chooses a compromise - a compromise that offers him the illusion of control.  

He pops a pill.  Or drinks a few drinks.  Or shuts the door and spends all day on video games.  Or porn.  Or he throws himself into overwork or anything that creates his own Reality - his own manageable Reality that is really an Unreality, but that's at least his own Unreality.  

He is, in other words, compromised.  If you compromise your integrity, you will be compromised as a person.

And with drugs or drink or any addictive behavior - indeed, as with all sin - the irony is that the drug or the sin ends up controlling us, instead of us controlling it.  

We are all addicts in that sense; this is the psychology of sin for many of us, and he who sins is a slave to sin.  We want control over our house of cards, but the house of cards becomes a prison and we wake one morning to find ourselves in the dungeon of our own making.

The ultimate expression of that dungeon of our own making is hell.

***

The simple fact is that when we want something and we see no easy way of attaining it - say we want to score some sort of victory in the pro-life cause - we are tempted to compromise to get what we want.

In the case of abortion, pro-life activists (God bless them all) are so mad, so angry, so frustrated at forty-plus years of this horror, that they'll take whatever compromise they can get.  For they see their choices as being between

  1. Doing Nothing
  2. Fixing the Situation

#1 is untenable and #2 seems impossible, so they compromise and in doing so they become compromised.  They seek a victory, any sort of victory, even if it's a Pyrrhic victory, even if it's a victory that gives ammunition to the supporters of abortion, even if it's a victory that victimizes pro-abortionists and leaves them angry and bitter at pro-lifers and at Christians, even if the tactics used to gain that victory are clearly and simply prohibited by Church Teaching, and rationalizing them leads to another compromise - the compromising of conscience itself.

***

I can't tell you the number of good Catholics I know who are compromised on this issue.

One, in particular - one of the most devout Catholics I know, and a very sweet person - is also badly compromised in other key areas of life.  

Indeed, in many ways we all are.  This is why we need Jesus Christ.

For, as Chesterton points out, that really is the Good News of the Gospel - the Good News of Original Sin.  Seeing this element in each of us - even in the best of us - this willingness to sacrifice spiritual purity in order to get what we want in life - this willingness to be compromised - to be screwed - seeing this in ourselves, while opening the door to despair, also opens the door to humility.  

It opens the door to humbly admitting this:

We need a Savior.  Badly.  Even the best of us.

 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been hard on you when you've written badly on this topic. However, today's post is outstanding.

Well done. This is what I was hoping for when I discovered your blog. This is also worthy of a Catholic media figure.

Harry Seldon

Tom Leith said...

My father says "People will do absolutely anything except what's required." He's right about that. Everyone compromises -- "maybe this is enough."

Abortion in America will stop when something more than 2/3 of the people want it to, not before. Changing hearts and minds is what is required, and I just don't see "gotcha" videos changing hearts and minds.