Sunday, May 1, 2016

Things I've Learned

Last year at about this time I took a sabbatical from blogging, except for a handful of posts here and there.

Here's what I've learned in the last year.

  • People are, in general, worse than we give them credit for being: more malicious, more scheming, more hateful, more selfish, more stupid, more desperate.  And that includes us.
  • Love is far more powerful than we suspect.  People who trust love are people who are saints.
  • The Charlie Johnston false prophet situation has absolutely nothing to do with religion.
  • We have not yet begun to figure out how to use the New Technology, nor do we really understand how certain technologies facilitate certain sins and bring out the worst in us, with different sorts of technology bringing out different forms of the worst in us.
  • Texting is the Pornography of Communication (the phrase is from a friend of mine who is always texting).  It separates the full person from the thing you want from him or her at that moment.  It implies a kind of casual intimacy that is clandestine, but that is also easy to walk away from - just like porn.  You can end a texting conversation without ever saying goodbye, for instance - and ignore texts indefinitely, even if you've been texting non-stop for hours with the same "friend" just yesterday.
  • Most of the problems of the last 500 years have been due to World Immanentism - the belief that the supernatural (or the Divine Ground of our being) either does not exist or is utterly separate from nature and cannot interact with it in any meaningful way.  We are all there is.  This is a closed system; there is no such thing as Grace that penetrates it from the outside.  Therefore, we save ourselves - or else we don't need to save ourselves.  Unreality (my word for the fictions we create and violently assert, forcing others to believe in them) is really just Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagianism in action.
  • NFP (Natural Family Planning - which is typically used to avoid pregnancy without contraception) is the sacred cow of the "devout" wing of the Catholic Church.  It is a sacrament.  It conveys irresistible grace.  You may criticize lying, torture, capitalism, bishops, the Pope, even Charlie Johnston - but if you dare to suggest that Natural Family Planning is merely a tool that can be abused, you will be crucified.  Nothing gives Devout Catholics more pride than the fact that they abstain from sex a few days every month in order not to have smelly, messy babies, congratulating themselves for not using the pill or a rubber while achieving the exact same result.  Such a "sacrifice" makes them holy; and avoiding having babies for any reason is no big deal when you're holy.
  • When you see the Real Church - the Body of Christ as it actually is - you know it, especially when you're a part of it.  
  • The Kingdom of God is not what we expect.  We want Our Savior to be a Super Hero, not a skinny kid from Nazareth who gets crucified.  Plus we don't need a savior.  We're doing fine on our own, Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagians that we are.  Plus we want a Kingdom we can build and see and admire, not something unmerited, profoundly silent, beyond our control and difficult to pin down.
  • My wife of 25 years, Karen, is the only person who tells me the truth at all times, even when I don't want to hear it.  She is utterly trustworthy, the best Catholic I know, the rock of my existence (next to Jesus).
  • And, finally, if it looks like BS, if it smells like BS, and if it tastes like BS, it's BS.

The Psychology of This

I honestly don't think that Charlie Johnston's followers believe him.  They can't.  Nobody's that stupid.  Nobody's that gullible.  This is why no matter what evidence people like me present to prove that Charlie is a liar and a fraud, his followers defend him.  This is why when the elections are not suspended, Obama does not convert, the Virgin Mary does not appear in 2017 and all the other things that Charlie claims his angel has "predicted" fail to happen, Charlie's followers won't care.  They'll defend him all the more vehemently from folks like me who point out that this is all simply crazy.

Back when I first started hearing about him, I had two intelligent and devout Catholics from separate parts of the U.S say to me at separate times, "I don't believe Charlie, but I want to!"


Why would anybody want to believe this garbage?

Perhaps what we see in Donald Trump and Michael Voris is part of the answer.  People don't care if demagogues are consistent or honest or anything in particular.  They want to cheer for them.  They want to see them "stick it to the man".  They're mad at mainstream politicians and so they flock to Trump, regardless of his personal integrity as a human being because he feeds and stokes their anger and mollifies their frustration.  They're mad at the bishops, so they subscribe to Voris.  "Here's somebody sticking it to the bishops!" - and the rage porn flows.  The fact that Trump has no core beliefs or that Voris attacks people like Mark Shea and me when we criticize the likes of Fr. Corapi, implying that we're part of a great shadowy conspiracy of "professional Catholics"; or the fact that so much of what Voris is peddling is paranoia of one sort or another - none of that matters.

This is not about truth.

This is about finding a hero - or a villain - who makes you feel good and who gives your less than glamorous Christian existence a little verve and focus.

Those of us who think that the truth will matter to True Believers are fooling ourselves.  This is because this is not about True Belief - it's about anger and frustration finding some sort of false solution.

Perspective on Charlie

This is from the comment section of Terry Nelson's Abbey Roads blog.  I am responding to a defender of Charlie Johnston.  I am posting it here because I think it serves as a fair summary of the situation.

The defender says ...

Charlie is a good man. His main message is to "Trust God, Take the next right Step, and be a Sign of Hope to others". Please stop with the negative comments, he is doing much good for many people. We want as many of our brothers and sisters to come back to Christ asap. Read the comments after his blogs, it is one of the best places to be, all these commenters love God and Mamma Mary. God Bless!

I reply ...


  1. He is not a good man. He has lied about walking across America and he lied about corresponding with me for several days and about me changing my blog posts. Today he admitted on his blog that he never corresponded with me. He explains his lie by saying that what he meant by "several days of correspondence" was his putting up blog posts that he assumed I read. He can't even lie well, but apparently that doesn't matter.

    And, even though "Trust God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to others" is a good message, the "next right step" in this case is to quit following and defending Charlie Johnston.

    But the good news in all of this is that the system somehow works. The bishops are speaking out against him and banning him. National Catholic Register has published a well-written and well-researched article skewering him.

    And in two years, nobody will remember who Charlie Johnston is. His followers will be on to the next false prophet.

The best liars can do is assert a huge nothing in the face of something.

The rest is mere noise.

... and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)