Everyman Piece on Notre Dame

After watching Notre Dame Cathedral burn, I wrote up some of my thoughts, which are running today at The Everyman

We are the heirs of Christendom. We have inherited treasures beyond belief; Notre Dame Cathedral is only one jewel among hundreds of such cathedrals and churches, living prayers in stone and glass, not to mention the great palaces and other architectural wonders of the past. The treasures of Notre Dame are but a tiny fraction of the artistic tradition that has come down to us, not to mention the vast inheritance of learning, manners, morality, and law carried down through the centuries. While Notre Dame was being constructed, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure were teaching theology and studying Aristotle a few blocks away, and St. Louis the king was laying down the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty.

Most important of all, of course, is the faith which Notre Dame and all the other Cathedrals were built to glorify; the true faith, which God sent His Son to establish upon Earth that man no longer need walk in darkness. We are heirs to the promise and saving work of Christ, of the knowledge that God has been among us and preached His Word to us as a man, and took upon Himself the punishment of our sins.

The Church and Her History in Flames

And what do we do with that inheritance, that unspeakable wealth of centuries? We neglect it, ignore it, and condemn it. In art we celebrate departures from tradition, however hideous or meaningless, as bold and original. In history we speak of the great men of the past as if they were ignorant children to be taken apart and explained by us. In education we dismiss the works of Aristotle, Aquinas, Cicero, Shakespeare, and other giants in order to cling to the latest fashionable turn of thought.

Read the rest here.

Thoughts on the Pro-Life Movement

Every year, about half-a-million people descend upon Washington DC, and many more march in other cities, to call for the end of abortion. It is probably the most noble and most important social movement in the country right now: one of the few that is both appropriate to the moment, possessed of a clear and achievable goal, and which deals with a vitally important issue.

It is thus with a heavy heart that I say they are never going to succeed. At least, not if things stay they way they are. Pro-lifers, as they are called, are up against something far more vast and complex and powerful than most of us seem to understand.

Put it this way; say the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade tomorrow. That would be a very good thing, as far as it went, and most likely abortion would then become illegal or mostly illegal in at least some states. But the problem is, it wouldn’t last. Sooner or later the balance of the polls would shift, new justices would take the place of the old, and another case would come before a restructured court, or new laws would be introduced, and the slaughter would begin all over again.

This is because abortion is only a symptom. A terrible symptom, but a symptom nonetheless. It derives from a much larger cultural and social movement, and what is key, it is necessary to that movement.

The movement is not, as it is sometimes described, the devaluation of human life as such. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that once Hiroshima happened, Roe was inevitable. With respect to the great man, that is nonsense, whatever you think of the bombings. An act of war, justified or not, is clearly in a different category from a peacetime law.

The fact is that abortion does not primarily stem from a devaluation of life; it stems from the overvaluation of sex and, more fundamentally, of self-will. The devaluation of life is a parallel consequence of this.

In other words, the real problem is neither abortion itself, nor a culture that doesn’t value life, but what is called the Sexual Revolution: the radical movement to overthrow moral and legal restrictions on sexual indulgence in favor of an ideology of self-will.

The origins, philosophical and historical, of that movement are too complicated to go into here. The point is that this is the true enemy, and as long as it remains in place, abortion will as well.

The sexual revolution is based upon the idea that the only relevant rules in sexual matters are consent and (possibly) fidelity. It proposes that each person should be able to decide for his or herself the way in which he will be sexually active and the meaning that sexuality will have. This is the doctrine of self-will, which was explicitly expressed by Justice Kennedy in his ruling on Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

The great flaw in this view is that nature itself imposes certain meanings upon human life which are not amenable to individual definitions. In particular, when it comes to sexual activity, it imposes the fact of reproduction, regardless of any consent or desire on the part of the participants (there are other ‘imposed facts’ as well, but this is the most blatant). Therefore, in order for these new ideas of sexuality to stand up even for the briefest of considerations some means is required to prevent intercourse from resulting in a child.

Hence contraception and abortion: the twin props without which the sexual revolution cannot stand (no-fault divorce is the third, but that is for another time). Contraception obviously is necessary in order to render the likelihood of pregnancy as low as possible, artificially creating circumstances where the new ideology is at least superficially plausible (I will leave off, for now, the wisdom of a worldview dependent for its credibility upon the existence and accessibility of a particular human technology).

Abortion too is necessary because it allows us to say that we are in control of our bodies: that we dictate the meaning and content of our behavior. It isn’t just that we prevent the consequences of our actions, we actively subvert them once they occur.

Ultimately, the sexual revolution is about claiming this authority to dictate the meaning of our actions, which means controlling the consequences. Abortion is necessary to this, all the more so because the Sexual Revolution coincided with the movement to bring more women into the workforce. You obviously cannot have both an active sex life and a flourishing career if you do not have a way to prevent and to end pregnancies before a child is born. Since we moderns find the idea of choosing one or the other to be abhorrent, we accept infanticide.

This is why pro-abortionists are so passionate about this issue, and why they will defend and even celebrate abortion to the end: because a large segment of our culture is dependent upon the ideas of the Sexual Revolution. Whole industries rely upon it, and even those that don’t go that far often find it extremely profitable.

That alone would make it punishingly hard to dislodge, but there is something else; something that, even in our culture, people value more than profit: self-respect. A huge number of people have staked their images of themselves and their friends as good people upon the ideas of the Sexual Revolution. It allows them to justify actions that otherwise would be seen to be wrong, and which most of them would never have done if they weren’t assured from all corners that it was acceptable. The maintaining of the ideology of the Sexual Revolution is necessary for many, many people to continue to think well of themselves. And abortion is necessary to maintain that ideology.

In other words, ending abortion doesn’t just mean enacting new laws or convincing a majority of the population of the humanity of an unborn child: it will involve convincing a large portion of the population that the moral standards by which they, their friends, and their parents have been living are simply wrong, with all the implications that come with it. That is in addition to overturning assumptions upon which much of our commerce and most of our culture now rests.

That is what we are up against. We’re struggling and fighting against an entrenched fortress when really it’s only guarding the pass to a whole Empire with forces beyond reckoning waiting for us.

When Imperial Japan was gearing up for war with the United States, some of the military brass warned their comrades what such a war would mean: it wouldn’t be a matter of taking Hawaii and California, they would have to somehow find a way to strike at the industrial and agricultural heartland and march into Washington. The pro-life cause is, of course the very reverse of that of Imperial Japan, yet the example applies to us as well. The fight we are engaging in is not to enact one law, or end one practice. We may wish that were all, but the nature of our enemy forbids it. This war must be a war of total conquest or of total defeat, and our enemy is very strong indeed.

I don’t bring this up to discourage those in the pro-life movement, but I do think we should be clear on our goals. It cannot be just to end abortion, or same-sex marriage, or any of the other obvious manifestations of the sexual revolution: that would be a temporary solution at best. The whole ideology has to be ripped up, root and branch, which will involve something akin to conversion and repentance on a national scale, along with a near-total rebuilding of our culture.

With that in mind, shall we begin?

 

Smile Fun With Captain Marvel

After writing my Captain Marvel trailer rundown I listened to some more commentary on the whole ridiculous ‘don’t tell women to smile’ thing. Among other things, apparently star Brie Larson personally responded to the ‘smiling Captain Marvel’ memes by going after the fans for being ‘sexist.’

If they’re not careful, “No Smiling” will be the film’s unofficial tagline.

No smiling 2.png

A lot of a film’s success is the attitude of the people involved, and if the lead actress feels the need to get angry at fans for poking fun at the trailer, then that’s really not a good sign. She could have played along, posted smiling pictures or herself, or said something like “man, they left out all the happy bits!” That would have caused the whole thing to be a net gain for the film and probably gotten a lot people who weren’t impressed by the trailer onboard. I’m sure someone like Dwayne Johnson or the ever graceful Gal Gadot would have done that, or at the very least have shrugged the whole thing off and gotten back to promoting their film.

In any case, I couldn’t resist having just a little more fun with the topic:

Smile2.png

 

(And for the record, my money is on the pony)

How Did This Happen?

With the ongoing flood of celebrities, politicians, and people in power being accused of sexual harassment, some people are wondering how this happened? Well, there are a few things that might have factored in:

You said that sex didn’t have to mean anything.

You said monogamy was outdated and unnatural.

You said pornography was harmless fun.

You said that one’s sexual habits were an entirely private and personal affair.

You said that sexual constancy was impossible.

You elevated sexual pleasure to the level of the highest good.

You said that one’s sexual preferences were the defining feature of his personality.

You encouraged children to ‘experiment’ with sex.

You encouraged people to base their relationships on how good the sex was.

You said that adultery was ‘just another kind of marriage.’

You held up sexual predators and deviants as heroes.

You praised depictions of sexual depravity as high art.

You mocked and derided anyone who called for morality in sex.

You hailed contraception as liberation and condemned anyone who opposed it.

You hailed abortion as freedom and condemned anyone who condemned it.

You hailed pornography as liberating and raised pornographers to the status of folk heroes.

You made ‘Pimp’ a compliment.

You made contraception a fundamental human right.

You made sodomy a fundamental human right.

You made not having you sexual habits questioned or criticized in any way a fundamental human right.

You mocked and derided courtesy and chivalry.

You condemned the teaching of virtue as ‘judgmental.’

You forbade religion from the public square.

You condemned any special treatment offered to women as an insult.

You condemned anyone who pointed out that men and women are different and ought to be treated differently.

You mocked anyone who said that women should take special precautions and have special protections simply because they are women.

You repeatedly mock the idea that men should protect women.

You denied that there is even any substantial difference between men and women.

You celebrated imprudence, self-indulgence, and the exploitation of others as ‘self-discovery.’

You encouraged men and women to abandon or never start families in the name of ‘independence.’

You teach children about the beauty of sexual perversions.

You advocate for men to be able to use the women’s bathroom.

You hold personal desire up as an unquestionable good.

You deride any safeguards, precautions, or prudential habits as ‘repressive.’

You accuse anyone who suggests ways a woman can minimize her risk of being assaulted of ‘blaming the victim.’

You sneer at the customs, laws, and teachings of ages that didn’t have this problem.

You spent four generations stripping away more and more boundaries, advocating greater and greater transgressions, and claiming that you were virtuous for doing so.

You spent four generations mocking and deriding morality and elevating a person’s animal desires as the truest part of himself.

You spent four generations telling people that only they could decide what was right or true for them.

 

What the hell did you think was going to happen?

 

On Being the Prodigal

Our Lord doesn’t specify how long the prodigal son was away in His parable, but one must imagine it to be a fairly long time, given that he had the chance to spend all his money, enjoy the company of harlots, live lavishly, and so on. I bring it up because I think that parable applies aptly, not just to us as individual sinners, but to the civilization formerly known as Christendom in general.

Like the prodigal son, the last few generations have taken our inheritance (the wealth, grandeur, and security that our fathers labored to produce), told our ‘Father’ to go to Hell, and set about spending every cent we have on lavish living, fondly imagining the security and wealth piled up before we were born will last forever without our having to do anything about it. Thus, we declare anything inconvenient to our chosen lifestyle to be ‘outdated,’ imagining that the results will continue even after the cause is removed. We toss off the family, free enterprise, hard work, letters, tradition, and the most basic ideas of culture in favor of a ‘do what you want, welcome everyone’ attitude. We think nothing of tearing up the basic foundations of society, like marriage, the church, and the community, because we fondly imagine the stability they created will continue without them. We preach multiculturalism because we assume that the results of our cultural norms are permanent and will endure if the culture changes.

In short, we squander our inheritance.

The sin of the prodigal came in dishonoring his father by taking his inheritance for granted as a right rather than a responsibility. Whatever he had from his father, he threw away because he assumed he didn’t have to do anything to maintain it and it was simply his to do with as he liked. We moderns do the same with the rich inheritance of the west, assuming that the relative peace, security, and wealth that we enjoy is ours by right, rather than the hard-earned product of labor which is our responsibility to maintain.

I can picture the prodigal son at his lavish parties telling his new friends all about his father and brother; how his father was a senile old fool and his brother a stuck-up hypocrite, much as we treat our forefathers with contempt and ridicule even as we enjoy the fruits of their labor and despise our ‘brothers’ who actually try to live up to their responsibilities.

Now, as you know, this isn’t to say the ‘elder brother’ is model to follow: he has his own failures and temptations. Perhaps, in the end, it is better to be the prodigal, but only after the prodigal returns. At the moment, we’re still living it up, though there are signs that the great famine is coming, where we’ll long to eat the husks that are given to the pigs. Perhaps after that we’ll come to our senses and seek forgiveness, and maybe then we’ll be in a position to criticize the behavior of the elder brother.

At the moment, though, we’re not in much of a position to criticize anyone.

Where We Go From Here: The Reconquest of America.

If I have learned anything during this election cycle, it’s not to make any predictions involving Donald Trump. So I’m going to say that I don’t know what he plans to do, or what kind of President he’s going to make. Only thing I can say for sure is that we’re probably in for an interesting time.

Meanwhile, conservatives need to seize the moment. The Left has received a major upset; we need to follow up on that. We might not get another chance.

Politics is downstream of culture. The government responds to the people, and the people act on ideas. If the ideas are bad or false, then the result is bad politicians pushing bad policies. If they ideas are true and good, the result is good politicians pushing good policies. Culture might be defined as the general field of ideas that are popular among a given people.

Every culture is a mix of good and bad, true and false ideas. Just which ones are which is very difficult to determine from inside the culture, though in ours we can form a pretty good notion of the bad ones based on the state of our civilization: the ones that go under the names of Multiculturalism, Diversity, Sexual Liberation, Feminism, Political Correctness and so on. These ideas form a large part of the culture of modern America, and they are, objectively, really terrible ideas.

The thing is, nothing Donald Trump could do as President would eradicate these poisonous ideas. His victory is a setback for them and the larger worldview known as Liberalism that embraces them, but only a setback. They still dominate the news media, the entertainment industry, the schools, and much of the political landscape. They reign supreme in almost every major city, and they are in the atmosphere throughout the country.

Now, no matter what happens in the next four years, the culture will remain steeped in Liberal ideas unless we the people do something about it. Yes, the direction of government has to change, and hopefully will, but that would only be a temporary, ultimately futile solution if the culture does not change even more drastically. This election has given us breathing space and momentum, but it’s up to us to take advantage of it.

Another thing it has done is to show us the weakness of our enemy. Trump had almost every news media outlet, all of academia, the entertainment industry, and the political establishment against him…yet he still won. They threw everything they had against him and it still wasn’t enough to stop him.

This supports something I have long suspected; that the Left, for all its formidable arsenal, is a paper tiger. Its primary weapon is emotional blackmail: “support this or you are a bigot.” The power it has is largely the power that we give it. Take that away and it crumbles.

So what do we do now? Here’s a summary of a few suggestions.

First we need to recognize that it is up to us, the people, to make the real change and take back the culture: no politician can or will do it for us (least of all Donald Trump, who is the last person in the world to overturn the central problem of our culture, which is the sexual revolution, but that’s a topic in itself), and no law will ultimately matter unless we do.

We also need to recognize that we can do it; we have seen the consequences of Liberal ideas and know that they don’t work. Reality is on our side and we have nothing to fear from open debate. Their ideas have had power for a relatively short time; perhaps a century or so at best, while our ideas are ancient and proven by experience. Their ideas are temporary fashions: ours are eternal truths. Besides which, if the other side can enact such sweeping societal change as they have over the past few decades, there is no reason why we can’t push it back: they have shown that what is unimaginable one year can become a basic assumption in the next. There’s nothing they can destroy that we can’t rebuild.

To believe that we can, and that we ought, is the first step to doing.

Next we need to start making out case publicly. We should stand up and celebrate Western Civilization, Masculinity, the Family, Religion, and so on. When someone denigrates these things, we should hit back at once, attacking their position both with reason and mockery. This is an important point: ideas are born from emotional responses as much as intellectual ones. Dissecting the illogic of Liberal positions won’t be enough; we need to make their ideas feel as ridiculous and wrong and immoral as we know them to be. Both reason and mockery are necessary for social change.

We need to reduce our concern for the feelings of others. I know how bad that sounds, but again, emotional blackmail is the Left’s greatest weapon: we won’t win unless we neutralize it. Their standard refrain has been, “if you don’t agree with this, you’re a racist or a sexist or homophobic or just a bigot.” Our answer to such accusations should be, “Call it what you like; it’s the truth.” If people get angry or hate us for it, so be it: we don’t have the luxury of caring anymore.

We ought to become more active in pushing our views. Mostly I find Conservatives are far less willing to proselytize than Liberals, and that needs to change. With the world as it is, people are more likely to be receptive to what we have to say than they have been in the past and we ought to be making a concentrated effort to persuade people of our ideas.

Those who are able to should create works of fiction, music, art, or even advertisements that reflect a conservative worldview. ‘Pop culture’ is far more powerful than it is usually given credit for in terms of inculcating ideas and emotional reactions in people, and we need to start taking advantage of that. The entertainment industry is overwhelmingly Liberal, but it is also going through a transition: the internet has opened the world of entertainment to anyone who is willing to put in the work and the old gatekeepers in publishing, music, and the film world are less and less powerful. We must seize this opportunity to establish a foothold on the field of entertainment.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to stop sending our children to be educated by the Left. We raise our children to be moral, sensible, upright citizens, then we send them to universities controlled by the most radical Liberals in the country, where they spend four years being indoctrinated and pressured into accepting Leftist ideas and then we wonder why they defect to the other side (yet another reason to avoid college altogether if you can). Since at least the sixties, American universities have largely been the enemies of American ideas and it’s long past time we realize that.

We should be thoroughly vetting every school our children attend, up to and including college. If we find a school functioning as a reeducation facility for the Left, we need to avoid it like the plague. If our children are already attending one, we should pull them out as soon as possible and either send them to a different school or teach them at home. I realize this won’t be practical for many, perhaps most people. If it isn’t, then we at least need to monitor what the school is trying to teach and point out the lies and propaganda, reassuring our children that it’s okay if they get in trouble or lose points because they don’t follow the party line. Whatever we do, we have to always keep in mind that we Cannot. Trust. The schools.

These are just a few suggestions: maybe they will work, maybe they won’t. The question of what specifically we need to do to reconquer American culture is at present less important than awareness of the fact that it needs to be conquered. Our present culture is a poisonous sewer, and unless we can do something to create a more sober and rational society, America will die no matter whom we elect.

The election of Donald Trump is not a victory; it is an opportunity. Politics are symptoms: not the real disease. The real illness is the culture. It’s up to us to take advantage of it. Make no mistake; if there is not a serious change in the direction of this culture, this election will ultimately not change a thing.

Let the reconquest begin!