Understanding the Cross in a “Way of the Cross” Society

crucifictionThe following excerpt is taken from a speech titled “A Way of the Cross Society,” delivered at the American TFP’s 2014 National Conference on October 25th, in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.

And so we need a “Way of the Cross” society. But not just any way and not just any cross.

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The modern world does not understand what the cross really is. It simplifies the notion by saying the cross is just any random suffering that happens to come our way.

 

And so, crosses are exceptions, detours or obstacles along my path to happiness. At the very best, the cross consists of little inconveniences. And normally people can put up with little inconveniences which they mistake for crosses. The problems really start when a misfortune is prolonged and the world falls on top of people. Then, people like this rebel and complain that there is something profoundly wrong and unjust about the cross that suddenly appears to ruin their happiness.

A society based on this mentality leads people to embrace not the cross, but a culture of entitlement and resentment. They seek redress for the “injustice” of the cross that disturbs their road to happiness. They reason: “If I break my leg, I will sue the sidewalk company to compensate me for ruining my happiness.” “If I am fired from my job, I will demand corresponding benefits.”

But in an organic Christian society, it is the opposite. We understand that, because of Original Sin, we have disordered passions that once let loose, unleash a tyrannical rule upon everything. They throw everything out of balance and turn everything into a constant party.

Our cross consists of constantly reigning in these disordered passions. That is why wePogrzeb_gorala must embrace the constant crosses of hardship, tragedy and complicated social relationships that come from the Original Sin of our first parents. In such a society, the cross is not the exception, but the norm of our lives.

The problem is that no one escapes from the cross. One can either embrace it or run from it.

In modern society, crosses are hated obstacles on the path of happiness. In Catholic society, times of happiness are welcome rest stops on the way of the cross.

Of course, God is merciful and often allows us periods, even long periods, of happiness and rest from the cross. We might cite as an example, the mercy of God giving us sleep. Think about it, for a good portion of every single day we have a time where we can put our problems aside and rest. God gives us other mercies like chocolate shops that provide us with little pleasures amid our trials. God is good.

But as long as we live, we have to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. The bookSubscription8.11 of Job says “The life of man upon earth is a warfare” (Job 7:1). And so the cross is found always before us. An organic Christian society has as its foundation this understanding of the cross as the rule, not the exception. And this allows us to face and deal with reality much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Family Needs Outside Support

faith_brings_harmonyEveryone knows that parents are the primary educators and nurturers of their children. The family is the basic social unit upon which society is build. We can never stress enough the importance of the family in its role in the education and raising of children.

However, parents need to see that their efforts are reinforced in the world around them. They need the concrete support, advice, experience, and Why the family_needs_supporttime from others to aid them in this monumental task. They need to sense that the moral values they seek to implant in their children have projection outside the home and especially in the surrounding neighborhood.

Moreover, children also need to see that the moral values their parents hold extend beyond the home. They need to see a consistent message in home and neighborhood if these values are to have a solid foundation.

David Popenoe puts it this way: “For the moral development of children, no aspect of community support is more important than the community’s ability to reinforce the social expectations of parents; that is, to express a consensus of shared values. Young people need to hear a consistent message about what is right and wrong from all the important adults in their lives; they need not only a social community but a moral community.”

(As quoted in: Christopher Beem, The Necessity of Politics: Reclaiming American Public Life, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, p.23.)

What kind of messages are today’s children getting from around them?

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Discouraging the Rise of Heroes

4233871770_85d5b0a794 copyWe live in an age of self-interest where each looks after his own pleasure and gratification. Ours is a culture that glorifies comfort, safety and health. It exudes carefree optimism, giving us the mistaken impression that we can somehow have perfect material happiness in this valley of tears. In such a climate, the hero seems to reproach society by engaging in risky adventures which most “sensible” people avoid.

Indeed, modernity does much to discourage such heroes from gaining too much influence. Robert Nisbet writes that, “The acids of modernity, which include equalitarianism, skepticism, and institutionalized ridicule in the popular arts, have eaten away much of the base on which heroism flourished.”

Yet another factor in the decline of heroes is what he calls “technology’s reorganization of the world has brought with it a certain built-in disenchantment.” (Robert Nisbet, Twilight of Authority, Indianapolis, Liberty Fund, 2000, p. 98.)

Subscription8.11That is to say that there must be a degree of enchantment and admiration for heroes and their feats to flourish. When technology dominates a culture, it turns the focus of fascination towards itself and away from the feats of men.

 

 

The ISIS Problem: Wrong Beliefs Expressed Savagely

deaths-head-487276_640The late Sen. Eugene McCarthy once said that only two kinds of religion are permitted in America: strong beliefs vaguely expressed or vague beliefs strongly expressed. In a similar way, it could be said that the same formula applies to political beliefs.

Keeping everything vague is the basis of a general consensus which supposedly allows everyone to get along. It appeals to a broad sector of American society that wants to neatly sidestep sticky theological and political issues, and pragmatically get around to the business of the pursuit of happiness and the prosperity of the nation. Such an attitude facilitates a willingness to work with anyone who will make a deal.

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With such a mindset, it is no surprise that many Americans are experiencing difficulty understanding the ISIS threat. Having so long followed a “get-along” policy, they find it inconceivable that someone would deliberately break all the rules and not seek to get along. Indeed, such Americans are prepared to be very flexible by considering all sorts of bizarre alternatives as long as they are vaguely expressed, but they are mystified when strong beliefs are strongly expressed.

As a result, most people do not have an explanation for ISIS. They simply attribute the problem to “extremism” that results in irrational behavior. Extremism happens when confused young people undergo a mysterious process of radicalization that turns them into terrorists. The solution offered is to eradicate extremism (using extreme means if necessary) and support any form of moderate alternatives (even to the point of using immoderate means).

There are two problems in dealing with the extremist threat in this manner.

The first is that it fails to delve deeply into the reasons why extremists believe in what they do. It does not consider what is believed but rather how it is believed. The issue is the intensity of belief, not its radical message.

The danger in holding such a position is that its advocates tend to assume that any belief strongly held is irrational and must be eradicated. Thus, for example, they will attach the extremist ISIS label to Christians and any others who believe in something strongly. In so doing, it makes any proportional reaction very difficult since it is hard to fight if one believes in nothing.

The second problem is that advocates of this position go to the extreme of assuming that the only way to fight strong beliefs expressed strongly is to hold vague beliefs expressed vaguely. Thus, they will do anything to return to the blessed ambiguity in which they find safety. They will, for example, insist that the Islamic State is not really Islamic or hold that more inter-religious dialogue is needed. In any conflict, they will frantically look for “moderates” to support with the wishful thinking that they will prevail over the radicals and the whole thing will go away.

But alas, in this new world of extremists who behead journalists, the rules have changed. The politics of vagueness is a losing strategy that leads to concession, naiveté and defeat. There is no getting along with those who do not wish to get along no matter how hard one tries to wish it away.

Extremism exists because today’s postmodern world fails to provide meaning to life. Young people desire something to live for, and thus look for strong ideals expressed strongly. Extreme Islam provides them with not only strong ideals but wrong ideals to fill the void. Its tech-savvy militants express these ideals not strongly but savagely by breaking the civilized rules that still govern the world and using the very technology of progress to broadcast their barbarism across the hated West.

What is missing are right beliefs expressed strongly that are worth fighting for. And the West has those right ideas that now more than ever need to be expressed rationally, strongly and unapologetically. These ideas include the rule of law, a strong moral code based on natural law, representative government, Christian charity and a passion for justice—all the fruits of Christian civilization.

But the West has lost the will to fight for these ideas, which are the very foundation of theSubscription11 present order. And that is the greater threat. Much more dangerous than the paltry army of ISIS terrorists is the West’s fear of affirming Christian principles strongly.

As published in TheBlaze.

 

Christianity Greatly Favors the Welfare of the State

AngelusThe beneficent action of the Church upon the State is described by Saint Augustine, who comments:

“Let those who say that the teachings of Christ are harmful to the State find armies with soldiers who live up to the standards of the teachings of Jesus. Let them provide governors, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, kings, judges, taxpayers and tax collectors who can compare to those who take Christian teachings to heart. Then let them dare to say that such teaching is contrary to the welfare of the State! Indeed, under no circumstances can they fail to realize that this teaching is the greatest safeguard of the State when faithfully observed.” (“Epist. 138 ad Marcellinum,” [Chap. 2, no. 15]) in Opera Omnia, vol. 2, in J.P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, col. 532). (TFP translation.)

 

 

 

The Family Cannot Be Substituted by the State

the_state_cannot_substitute_thefamilyThe child can have no better guardian than the family which watches over him more than any state agency can do. Carle Zimmerman notes:

The parent who prevents a baby from swallowing a safety pin, keeps him from high places, warns a child daily about crossing the street, and inspects the evacuation functions of a child during the first years of its life does more protecting of a family member than the whole police force of the United States does altogether for the child in its entire pre-adult life. The great fire hazards for a child are scalding water, matches, electrical circuits, stoves (wood, gas, and electric), and fireplaces. The family Subscription6members and only the family members are the ones who take care of these dangers – not the fire departments. The religious and moral attitudes and behavior of the parents, still have ten times more influence upon the value behavior of the young than all the other ‘moral’ agencies put together.” (Carle C. Zimmerman, Family and Civilization, ISI Books, Wilmington, Del., 2008, p 196.)

Defining Organic Society

Edward_Charles_Williams00Organic society is a social order oriented toward the common good that naturally and spontaneously develops, allowing man to pursue the perfection of his essentially social nature. In this society, the family attains the plenitude of its action and influence as the social cell or fundamental unit of society. Professional, social, and other intermediary groups between the individual and the State freely exercise their activities according to their own forms and rights.

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The State respects the autonomy of regions and intermediary groups, giving each the right to organize according to its social and economic structure, character, and traditions. The State, acting within its own supreme orbit, exercises its sovereign power with honor, vigor, and efficiency. The Church exercises a hallowing influence upon society, by guiding, teaching, and sanctifying.

(This excerpt is taken from Return to Order:…)

 

 

Respecting the Dignity of Man

The Modern Plague of UnemploymentIt was not by chance that the Middle Ages was the first civilization in history to abolish slavery. Nor was it by chance that the Church ennobled and facilitated manual labor to the point that the Benedictine Order claimed prayer and work were complementary. There was a reason why this happened.

As Lynn White explains: “The labor-saving power machines of the later Middle Ages were harmonious with the religious assumption of the infinite worth of even the most seemingly degraded human personality, and with an instinctive repugnance toward subjecting any man to a monotonous drudgery which seems less than human in that it requires the exercise neither of intelligence nor of choice” (White, Machina Ex Deo, 73).

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We might contrast this consideration for human nature with the quote attributed to industrialist Henry Ford: “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?” (Matthew Stewart, The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong [New York: W.W. Norton, 2009], 57).

(Taken from Return to Order:…)

 

 

A Return to the Rule of Honor

Col. RipleyThroughout history, two sides, two economic outlooks, two lifestyles have long opposed each other as if engaged in constant combat.

On the one side, there is the rule of money with a set of secular values, which include quantity, function, efficiency, and utility. This rule tends to reduce everything to terms of self-interest, matter, and production.

On the other side is another rule with its own set of values that opposes that of money. We experience some difficulty in naming this opposing rule. Many authors have written about it using words like “moral,” “status,” or “humane” to describe it. They list virtue, tradition, or prestige as its attributes. However, the overwhelming tide of change wrought by our industrial society has so undermined the meaning of these terms as to render difficult the task of finding a word that characterizes this rule entirely.

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We think honor best describes this rule since the word survives less sullied from modernity’s brutal egalitarianism. Honor conveys the definition of an authentic esteem given to all that is excellent in a social atmosphere of respect, affection, and courtesy. It towers above that which is strictly material, functional, and practical.

By using the word honor instead of prestige, for example, we avoid the misunderstanding Subscription8.11of those who would confuse our order with vainglory, vanity, or pride. Rather, honor conveys the idea of values that cannot be bought and sold. It spreads the atmosphere of tranquility and temperance that we desire.

Where Did Personal Debt Come From?

Where Did Personal Debt Come FromWith literally trillions of dollars in personal debt now hanging over the American consumer, the question might be asked as to where all this debt came from.

It has a long history. Buying on credit started at the turn of the twentieth century. Buying dreams on credit was an American invention that served to create the consumerism of modern times. The installment plan soon became the way to buy automobiles, furniture, pianos and high-ticket items. By 1924, for example, nearly 75 percent of all cars were bought on credit and 80 percent of all appliances.

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The promotion of personal debt turned credit into an engine of economic growth…and bankruptcy. Mass consumption led to the roaring twenties when consumer spending burst all limits and prepared the way for the bust of the Depression.

Subscription8.11Installment buying later prepared the way for the credit cards, long-term mortgages and other instruments of credit. The credit wave turned what was once considered a privilege to deserving individuals into an entitlement to be enjoyed by all Americans. It also prepared the tragic consequence of such uncontained spending – the mountain of personal debt that now threatens the nation.