Thursday, February 6, 2020

Avoiding the Extremes

If one wanders around in theological discussion groups on social media or elsewhere, it is inevitable that at some point there will be someone you disagree with, or you will say something that will fire up someone else to come after you.  Dogfights on social media these days are an unnecessary but unavoidable reality at times, and even with our best efforts, nine chances out of ten even the most innocuous thing you say will tick off somebody.  That is equally true in political discourse as well. With this being an election year, coupled with the recent Trump impeachment issues, the tension among people is thick enough to be cut with a knife honestly.  So, as a person of faith, how would one handle this?  That question has compelled me to expound upon this openly.

Recently, one of my cousins posted that she was getting kind of sick of politics and hearing about it, especially the hateful vitriol she (and I am sure others of us as well) has been exposed to.  She is perfectly right to feel that way, as those issues will wear you out physically, mentally, and even spiritually if we allow them to get out of control and eat up a lot of our time and energy.  It was her comments that led me to explore this, and she has some valid concerns I believe many of us share. 

For someone of Christian convictions, religious and political issues are inevitably intertwined, as what we believe and where we exercise our faith determines much in the shaping of our worldviews.  The Assemblies of God pastor that actually officiated my wife's and my wedding, Rev. John Broome, said once in one of his Sunday sermons that "every issue for the Christian is a theological issue."  Of course, he was right, and to be honest, I have taken that to heart and still agree with that to this day.  As a result, how we vote is determined by how we pray, in other words - that is, if we take our faith seriously.  Can we get some things wrong though, and is there room for growth?  Of course, as the fact is we are all fallible human beings, and even our best intentions can sometimes need some work.  That is another reason I wanted to write this today, as at times we do need to step back and reassess a few things as we grow in our faith.  Fundamental convictions that are universally true are not what changes, as God's laws are eternal, and the natural law that is subject to God's sovereignty is also immutable as well.  However, how we view those convictions and act on them may require some "tweaking" if you will, and for the remainder of this discourse, I want to focus on something I read recently.

There is a friend of mine who I have known for years who operates a website in which she gives her perspective on issues, and this particular friend and I have a long history - her grandfather, who was a retired minister, was our landlord at one time, and her brother was for a short time the pastor at the church we attended years ago.  Her father, likewise, served as the Dean of Students at my alma mater where I received my Bachelor's years ago.  So, she has a deep heritage in her faith tradition.  On many things she has written about I actually agree with her, but she does tend to be problematic in other areas - she is virulently anti-Catholic for instance, and she also tends to come across somewhat harsh and callous in her convictions at times, even outright condemning people.  She serves as an example of how often there is a fine line between right belief and wrong action and conviction, and one issue stands out concerning some things this person has written that I want to address.

Over the past several months, my friend has been tackling the issue of premarital sex on her blog, and the issue of children being born out of wedlock was front-and-center of the discussion.  First, let's address what I agree with in regard to what she said.  One, premarital sex is a sin, and it is wrong - it is known as fornication, and Scripture does forbid it.  Two, there is no doubt that the laxity in sexual morality in our society has led to an upturn in couples cohabitating without the virtue of a marriage covenant, and in many cases, children are produced from those disordered unions.  On both of these, there is no dispute.  Three, many people doing this are also professing to be "Christian," and that does create a contradiction between faith and action on their part, and thus a lack of proper discipleship and other issues are at the root of the problem.  Again, I agree with that as well, as I have witnessed that sort of behavior in couples even within our own parish community, unfortunately.  Now that those facts have been established, the problem with addressing it is that oftentimes people like my overly-zealous friend tend to go to a certain extreme, and in this case, it is pretty serious.  Let me address that now.

In her own missives on this subject, my friend basically condemns children of unwed parents as being "bastards," and although she doesn't come right out and say it, she has essentially denied the fact that such children are also loved by God and that Christ died for them too.  Let us look at John 3:16 again shall we?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but shall be saved"

You do not have to be a learned theologian, Biblical scholar, or be versed in Greek or Hebrew to understand what that plainly says - whosoever implies anyone!  Now, this is where my friend missed the boat big-time, and there are two areas she got it wrong on:

1.  Fornication is the sin of the parents, not of the unborn child that may result from such a union.
2.  A child is a person, a human being, and despite how the child was brought into the world, the gift       of Christ of Himself is still as valid for the "bastard" as it is for anyone else.  We claim oftentimes       as Christians to be "pro-life," so let's validate that by not condemning innocent children.

My friend, although coming from a more Wesleyan-Arminian Pentecostal background, is nonetheless acting as a quasi-Calvinist when she is more or less arbitrarily condemning a child to eternal damnation for something that child was not responsible for, and that is where she errs seriously.  If I were my friend, I would be careful of that, as it borders on heresy to spout such things.  If you cannot love the unborn child of even an adulterous union, then the love of Christ is not in you as it should be.  And, that leads to a couple of other observations.

As mentioned, the child is not accountable for the sins of the parents - they need to account for their own sins and do something about them.  If a couple is living in a disordered relationship - in the vernacular, meaning "shacking up" - yet claims to be Christian, they are in need of some serious counseling from their pastor or priest to find a way to remedy that.  Marriage is a sacrament of the Church, and as such it imparts a grace of its own to those who enter into it.  That grace is vital and important, and cannot be underestimated or cheapened by some selfish, lazy requirement that "we are married in the eyes of God and don't need the Church."  People are playing a dangerous game when they do that.  It also bears mentioning that as marriage is a sacrament of the Church, it cannot be ignored, re-defined, or violated in good conscience by those who profess Christ either. Therefore, if a child is produced out of such a union, then the parents need to seek to legitimize that union as husband and wife and not produce any more offspring until they do so.  But, if the sin of fornication does result in the production of a child, the child should nonetheless be seen as a blessing and miracle of life - irregular, but still a miracle.  It is up to the parents to legitimize their relationship, and an innocent child should not bear the sins of their parents for which they had nothing to do with. 

If the hyper-Fundies are going to one extreme, there are some Christians that go to the other, and they are equally wrong.  God's laws don't change, and he established boundaries for our protection, and if we profess to follow him, we are obligated to honor those commands.  Some in the Church though have advocated for laxity in regard to sexual morality, and they often use absurd reasoning to justify it.  One person that comes to mind here is the so-called "Rainbow Jesuit," James Martin.  Although Martin is an ordained Catholic priest, his celebration and legitimization of "same-sex unions" is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church.  So, while we treat those involved in the LGBT lifestyle with the dignity afforded all humanity, we do not embrace their lifestyle choices as "good," and the Church never has despite what some liberal revisionists like Martin said.  Martin and my aforementioned friend are both guilty of the same lack of grace, although they manifest it in different ways.  In the end, neither has the true love of Christ in the way they handle things, nor do they have the necessary balance to uphold the truth with love as they should - one ignores love, the other ignores the truth, and you need both.  That is why both of these extremes need to be avoided by all of us who seek to follow Christ, as neither is truly following Christ if they are allowed to manifest.  Thank you for allowing me to share, and will be back again soon.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

"Rad-Trads" and "Mad-Trads" - Are They Really Trads?

The impetus for this discussion has to do with a heated discussion that happened on New Years's Eve a few weeks ago with a self-styled "Traditionalist Catholic."  The young man - who is also African-American (that will play into this shortly) - essentially was promoting "Zionist conspiracies" and other nonsense encouraging the hatred of Jews as an entirety as practically a virtue.  When I called him out on it when he started promoting Holocaust revisionism, he got very upset at me and accused me of "virtue-signaling" mainly because for me it is incomprehensible why an African-American would be engaging in Holocaust denialism.  But, he is but a symptom of a greater problem, which is what I want to address.

First, I want to just state my own position.  I am of course a convert to the Catholic Church from Protestantism (specifically, from the Pentecostal tradition) and as such I have a rather unique perspective on things.  I would myself identify as a traditionalist as far as my own Catholic faith is concerned - I am favorable toward the Traditional Latin Mass, and am not overly enthused with some "innovations" I observe in Catholic parishes that result from the faulty application of things from Vatican II.  But, as a traditionalist, I am not your run-of-the-mill advocate of the SSPX and such either, but rather take a more balanced approach to issues.  For one thing, I don't reject Vatican II - I have read the documents, and there are many valuable insights to be found in them.  And, that leads to two other observations on Vatican II.  First, it must be understood that Vatican II was a pastoral Council, and not a doctrinal one - no doctrine was changed, and the majority of the documents of the Council do affirm the historic doctrinal positions of the Church.  Second, the problem with Vatican II I would have is not so much Vatican II itself, but rather a faulty implementation of what it proposed - let's face it; there are some crazy things going on in some Catholic parishes!  When it comes to things such as the acceptance of theistic evolution, the position Catholics should have in regards to other religions, and the modernization of some things in the Mass, more clarification is needed for the faithful to understand better, as it has led to a lot of funny ideas being espoused by individual lay Catholics in the pews.  Taking the Mass first, the Ordinary Form that most Roman-Rite Catholic parishes use (also called by the Latin term Novus Ordo) is not evil or bad in itself - it has reintroduced many good things that the Church needs, and I don't necessarily unilaterally condemn everything about it.  That being said, however, there are abuses, and the Ordinary Form could use some tweaking and refining of its practice for sure.  But, it is a valid Mass, and there is no need to unilaterally condemn it as "modernist."  Then, regarding the acceptance of "theistic evolution."  Many Catholics are under the false assumption that this is the Church's official position on origins, but it is not - in fact, the CCC says that God is simply the Creator of all things, and that man is the pinnacle of His creation (CCC 337-344), and theistic evolution is not even addressed there.  It is only alluded to in other Church documents, but when it is, essentially it is addressed as a theory by which Catholics should be knowledgable, but there is no binding decree for Catholics to accept theistic evolution as a dogmatic truth at all (and honestly, there is little evidence).  Most of the Catholic espousal of such things in orders such as the Jesuits is due to the writings of Teilhard de Chardin and others, which at best are suspect as they are Novelle Teologie and not Magisterial.  That as why as an orthodox Catholic, I accept the Biblical view of Creation as valid, and would scientifically subscribe to an Intelligent Design view personally.  Regarding other religions, this has led to a lot of confusion largely based on misreadings of both Gaudium et Spes and Nostra Aetate.   Both of these documents lay out the fact that there are indeed truths within other religions, but the problem with that is when the average Catholic reads it, they don't understand that it actually means this - while there are truths in other religions, those truths bear witness to a greater Truth that many of those same religions reject, and looking at it historically the little truth other religions have is actually corrupted truth, and thus is deficient.  The same Council also affirmed two other truths of the Catholic Church - first, that salvation is only possible in the person of Jesus Christ, and secondly, that the fullness of that salvation is found only in the Church herself.  Catholics need to keep this in mind when they read this stuff, and they need to read them in context with the whole Deposit of Faith and not on the stand-alone merit of the document itself.   So, no - in reading the Vatican II documents myself over the course of my graduate work at Franciscan University of Steubenville, there is nothing significantly out of order with the majority of their content, and where there are variances, they can be rejected in good conscience because these are pastoral documents and not doctrinal ones, although doctrine forms the underlying basis for the pastoral positions.  That should put many thinking Traditionalists at ease who may, by necessity, have to attend an Ordinary Form Mass due to lack of accessibility to a Traditional Latin Mass. 

Another thing that bothers me about the "MadTrads" is their rejection of any other Christians who are not exactly like them.  Coming from the place of a convert to the Catholic faith, I find that mentality disturbing in that it nullifies what I know to be true, that being that one can believe in Jesus Christ and also be Christian without being formally part of the Catholic Church.  There are two reasons I hold this view.  First, before I became Catholic, I did know I was Christian, and although I also was aware something was missing in my Christianity, I was nonetheless still Christian.  One of the positives of Vatican II that I do actually think is good is the fact that other Christians (mainly Protestants) are considered "separated brethren," and to a limited degree, they do participate in the life and legacy of the Church, although they don't possess all the grace of the Church.  That essentially means that a Protestant can be saved, but that the fullness of that salvation is only recognized through the Church - Lumen Gentium addresses this to a degree too.  Protestants and Catholics are not separate religions in other words, as each is unmistakably Christian (as are the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and others).  But, the revelation of truth the Protestant receives at their initial conversion should help them grow toward the Church, and thus to the fullness of their Christian faith.  This is why the Church allows the reading of certain Protestant writers who are not in conflict with the Catholic Church, and also why it is perfectly fine to read even blatantly anti-Catholic fundamentalist literature like Chick comics because it also helps the Catholic to be more informed when engaging in dialogue with their Protestant brethren.  It is advisable, however, for Catholics to be prayed up properly and receive the proper education and spiritual counsel before attempting to venture into that territory, as a level of protection is needed. 

Those spell out some of my specific positions on things in contrast to others who identify as Catholic Traditionalists, and it does at times bring me into debate with them on these issues, as they often have some issues of their own.  In an excellent article available at tumblarhouse.com, Fr. Chad Ripperger notes that the problems some "Trads" have can be identified and addressed, and he does so in an article entitled "10 Problems in the Traditionalist Movement."  Fr. Ripperger is himself identified as a Traditionalist as well, but he is also insightful and well-grounded, and thus for many years I have used his material as a trusted resource for my own research.  Fr. Ripperger identifies ten major problems he observes among "Trads," and briefly, these are what they are:

1. Becoming Gnostic and elitist - they think only they are privy to some "secret revelation" no one else has.

2. Impurity - the sin of pride, essentially, leads to other sins among self-professed Trads.

3. Generational Spirits - What Fr. Ripperger means by this is simple:  although Trads profess to be faithful, they use their Trad label to sometimes ignore serious issues in their own families, and thus their children get involved in things they shouldn't.   I see this as well among the more old-time Holiness/Pentecostals I was part of when I was growing up, and even recently a young man I know from among them made an abrupt move into a homosexual relationship that is still shocking.  It is also about sometimes setting the bar so high that no one can get over it, and thus it leads to concupiscent behavior - Trads are not exclusive to this, as Protestant Fundamentalists of various traditions also have a similar problem.

4. Isolationist Attitude - This is a problem many Trads share with other Christian traditions, in particular, fundamentalist Independent Baptists.  It relates to the inherent Gnostic tendency noted above in that the natural world is rejected in lieu of a self-created religious utopia.  That has failed among Fundamentalists, and will likewise among Trads who embrace it too.

5. Depression and Despair - Fr. Ripperger notes this as a problem because Trads (and also Protestant Fundamentalists I would add) sit and mull over the negatives so much that it ultimately adversely affects their spiritual well-being.  I will put it this way - they cannot fully participate in the Christian life because they deprive themselves of the joy of Christ and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and thus they also hinder the work of supernatural grace. 

6.  Anger - related to depression, anger can be detrimental to spiritual growth too, and many Trads are falling into that.  Fr. Ripperger notes that this anger also leads to a diminishing of the virtue of charity, just like depression leads to a diminishing of goodness and Gnostic flirtations lead to a diminishing of beauty. 

7.  Disrespect of Authority - This is one where some empathy can be shared with Trads, as at times honestly some of our clergies (and not a few laypeople) in our parishes can be real jackasses.  Also, I share many concerns about the current Pope - he has done some things, honestly, that warrant concern, but at the same time he is still the validly-chosen Pontiff and Bishop of Rome, and a certain amount of respect and decorum is due him.  As Fr. Ripperger would agree, the real course of action in something like this is to pray for Francis, as God does love him and Jesus died for him too just like He did for us.  Where he is wrong, it is OK to disagree, but do so respectfully.

8.  Loose, Reckless Argumentation - This is a serious one for Trads, as many of them run their mouths quite loosely about things before thinking about what they say.  This will tie in as well to a later issue I am going to be addressing, as do several of these, and that is the rampant anti-Semitism among some Trads. 

9.  Bullying - like the argumentative spirit Fr. Ripperger notes above, bullying is a problem in some groups of Trads.  As Fr. Ripperger affirms here, it is one thing to identify a problem and address it civilly, but quite another to be abusive to others over it. 

10. Driving Others Away - This sort of ties the others together, as disrespect, combative discourse, and bullying tends to do that.  Trads need to remember that they are being watched by a searching world looking for answers, and we have an evangelistic mandate to reach out to them in love.  When we go beating them over the head and try to impose things on them that they are not bound to, it tends to drive people off.  This is especially true with the recent controversy over transgenders - those who struggle with this may encounter Trads or other Christians to seek answers, and when we get nasty with them, it has the effect of not only driving them away, but it also will make them more militant and it will hurt the witness of Christ that they could have had. 

Those are the ten problems Fr. Ripperger notes, and although he did get the component symptoms to another I am about to address, he didn't address it directly, so I will do so here.  I don't understand why, but a certain segment of Trads have gotten themselves infected with anti-Semitism, and it's ugly.  I have heard shocking things from self-identified Trads about Jewish people - for instance, citing the Apostle Paul out of context to justify hatred of Jews, embracing "Zionist" conspiracy theories, and sadly, even Holocaust denialism.  I want to make one thing very clear here and now - Never in the history of the Church has any Pope, bishop, Church Father, saint, or theologian ever encouraged the hatred of Jews.  At times, they have rebuked certain Jewish communities harshly over their rejection of Christ as their Messiah, and have even responded in kind to occasional Jewish opposition to certain things, but although harsh, their response has never encouraged a rejection or hatred of the Jewish people as a whole.  And, it is definitely not a virtue of being a Traditionalist Catholic either, as even the SSPX has a strong statement condemning anti-Semitism among its members.  The official statement of the SSPX, titled "Anti-Semitism is Not Catholic," states very clearly that the SSPX "completely rejects the false claim that it teaches or practices anti-Semitism, which is a racial hatred of the Jewish people because of their ethnicity, culture, or religious beliefs."  Further, the same statement affirms historic Catholic teaching by stating further that "The Catholic Church teaches its members to pray that the Jewish people will recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah and convert to the Catholic faith for their salvation...the Catholic Church desires the happiness of ALL people in this life and the next."   That is actually a good statement on the part of the SSPX, and I commend it.  As for the Holocaust denial among some Trads, that is more disturbing - as Fr. Ripperger notes above, many Trads hate Jews so much that they get reckless in the crap they spew out of their mouths, even trying to distort actual history.  The news flash for them is this - the Holocaust was a major tragedy, it happened, and millions of innocent people (Jews and others) died in those camps, including a significant number of Catholic saints and other Christian martyrs (St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Edith Stein, Bl. Emilian Kovch, as well as Protestants such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Orthodox saints such as Fr. Grigol Peradze).   That being said, it is insulting that Trads are denying the Holocaust, and they should be ashamed of that - may St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Edith Stein intercede for their souls honestly.  The eyewitness testimony and countless survivors even alive today from those vile camps are enough evidence to debunk any stupid allegation of "hoaxes," and if that still doesn't convince people, then maybe some therapy in a padded room with a designer sleeveless jacket will because only an insane person would deny a major atrocity like the Holocaust happened.  I still maintain that many Trads who are engaging in this anti-Semitic BS need to make a trip to their local confessional, as they need a lot of help.

Just because I was hard on the Trads here doesn't mean I am excusing the "Modernists" either - people like James Martin, the so-called "Rainbow Jesuit," should be defrocked and removed from public ministry in the Church, as they are heretical, plain and simple.  If the Trads were deplorable for embracing anti-Semitism, there are some Modernists likewise culpable for going to the other extreme. Both of these extremes - the modern-day equivalent of Pharisees and Sadducees - are equally damaging to the witness of the Church, and therefore they must be rejected by faithful Catholics.  There is a better way than going to these extremes, and that rests in knowing one's faith, and also asking oneself the question as to why I am Catholic.  How that question is answered will be a huge determining factor in where one stands on these issues, and it is something perhaps we should all think about as we approach the Lenten season in a few weeks.   Thank you for allowing me to share, and God bless.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Reflections on Frank Peretti


Christian novelist Frank Peretti

The year was 1986 - I was still in middle school, and had not yet become a Christian myself, but a momentous event happened.  That year, an Assemblies of God minister and author by the name of Frank Peretti authored a book and published it called This Present Darkness.  A couple of years later, in 1989, he published its sequel, Piercing the Darkness, which was in some ways better, some worse, but definitely a distinct story.  Although published while I was still in high school, it wasn't until my sophomore year of college that I first came across these books.  However, they have become classics of Christian fiction, in the vein of Tolkien, and they managed to stay in that position until the late 1990's when Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Jenkins' series Left Behind succeeded the throne of classic Evangelical Christian fiction.  I have been considering doing some sort of article about these books for some time now, being that I make it a point to re-read both of them every few years or so and I know the stories of both like the back of my hand now.   So, today, we will do that as the first theological/philosophical/spiritual study of the new year.

Frank Peretti (born 1951) was born in Canada, but was raised in Seattle for most of his early life.   His dad was an Assemblies of God preacher there, and after a stint with a bluegrass band playing banjo, he studied at UCLA and then served as an assistant minister to his father at a small church.  However, pastoring doesn't pay the bills, and understandably the young man went into construction to make the necessary income to do that.  I can identify with that to a degree too, as for years I have had to work in the corporate world although I have no real passion doing so, but the bills and those to whom those bills are owed could care less about your passion, as they just want money.  It was in the mid-1980's that young Frank began to publish his own works, starting with a children's book in 1985 and then he published the landmark Christian fiction novel This Present Darkness the following year, which would be a life-changer for the young budding author.  That set him on a course in which a series of novels followed for several years, and it established Peretti's place as an author.  Just his story alone is inspiring, as it is not easy to pursue a passion such as writing, and he had to put a lot of hard work while just waiting for that open door to happen - we have all been there.  But, his hard work paid off, and This Present Darkness ended up eventually being a best-seller, as did its sequel.  So, what is the appeal of these books?  I want to analyze that now.

Both This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness are riveting, well-written stories, and Peretti has a gift of grabbing the imagination with them for sure.  I always enjoy reading them again every few years, and I practically know their stories by heart.  There have been people that have taken a lot of exception with these books, and some critics have even accused Peretti of being an animist or a pantheist, but he is neither - for the most part, although his books are fiction any Christian doctrine they may manifest is fairly orthodox and consistent with Peretti's Assemblies of God faith tradition.  And, as I am sure Peretti would readily affirm, his books are not meant to be theological tomes - they are Christian fiction, and therefore they are not to be held to the same accountability as a theological textbook, something many gung-ho Evangelicals often miss.  And, honestly, they are just good stories - I love them!  I want to now just give a summary plot of both books, and then we'll go from there.




The setting for This Present Darkness is in the fictional Midwestern US college town of Ashton, and
it is a composite setting for what typically such a town would probably look like.  The main protagonists of the town are a career-hardened newspaper editor, Marshall Hogan, and a young but fervent pastor of a small (seeming Pentecostal of some sort, based on Peretti's own background) struggling church who both find themselves at the center of an attempted takeover of the town by a nasty cadre of New Age corporatists who are intent on implementing a "new world order" of sorts on the unsuspecting community.  One of the antagonists, a stuck-up, aloof, and somewhat wacky college professor named Julene Langstrat, is attempting to do this by indoctrinating kids into some sort of New Age group that sounds eerily similar to the Theosophical movement of Helena Blavatsky.  She has the rather rodentian town police chief, Alf Brummel, as well as the liberal pastor of the town's largest church - called Ashton United Christian, which probably mirrors the real-life United Church of Christ denomination, a theologically liberal Reformed denomination that could have been Peretti's inspiration for this - by the name of Rev. Oliver Young.  Although these people appear to be the players on the proverbial chessboard, it turns out that under the surface is a more intense spiritual struggle for control of the town being played out by regiments of demons and angels.   It is the angel/demon battle portrayed in the books that has drawn blowback from Peretti's critics, as it seems as if every demon is in control of specific negative emotions, while his angels have diverse racial qualities reflexive of their human charges.  Of course, there is the whole demonic principality thing as well, which Peretti takes from Ephesians 6, and at the head of this demonic conspiracy is a global overlord called the Strongman (taken from Mark 3:22) who like a puppet master controls a corporate George Soros-like mogul called Alexander Kaseph.  In their battle plans, the angels and demons use human charges to carry out their plans, and the "trump card" that the new demonic prince Rafar has is the manipulation of Hogan's daughter Sandy, who already has a rocky relationship with her dad, and this is used to its full advantage to bring down Hogan, who is proving to be resistant to the control of Langstrat and her demonic overlords.  Let's talk about this Rafar guy for a moment.  Peretti's story uses the old Semitic word "Ba'al" as the way subservient demons address their leaders, and Rafar is claimed to be the ancient "Prince of Babylon," which is referencing Revelation 13, as well as the historic fall of Belshazzar's empire to the Persians as recorded in the book of Daniel.  Rafar was defeated by a long-time "Captain of the Host" named Tal, and they are the ones who prove to be the real opponents in the story.  The story also indicates a link between New Age mysticism and outright occultism, and even shows that when desperate times demand, the followers of this New Age religion will resort to more sinister rituals and measures - often criminal, in reference to the emphasis many Evangelicals at the time these books were first published placed upon the reality of SRA (Satanic ritual abuse).  We see this played out in the final chapters in the book, where a mysterious informant who apparently was led to Christ, Susan Jacobsen, is almost ritually sacrificed by Kaseph utilizing the services of a rogue Hindu priest, who by description could have been either a follower of the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess Kali, or possibly part of the aghori sadhu sect, which engages in some bizarre practices.  The story in the sequel follows a similar plot, except that the community is smaller, and the protagonists are a Black Christian cop named Ben Cole and a local headmaster of a Christian school named Tom Harris, while the "wild card" character in that story is a hippie burnout who is trying to escape her past, but needs to confront it, but a demon-possessed little girl named Amber who manifests as a horse named Amethyst sort of "rats" her out.  The New Age plot in Piercing the Darkness has a couple of distinct things from the first book, however - in it, the antagonists are part of a quasi-Masonic (which I note Peretti probably makes references to Rosicrucianism) group of powerful elites called the Sacred and Royal Order of the Nation, and they feel as if the Christian school as well as the burnout lady - Sally Roe - are a serious threat.  Many of the members of the quasi-Masonic occult brotherhood are also big in so-called civil liberties activist groups, in particular, one Peretti patterns in his book after the ACLU, which seek to restrict Christian influence.  However, when legal means don't work, they have no problem resorting to outright Satanist allies to carry out their dirty work, and what sparks the whole thing off is when one of that group attacks and tries to kill Sally at her home, but an angel intervenes and kills the female Satanist instead.  The Satanist group, called Broken Birch in the group, is the real face of the conspiracy, as they have the same ultimate objectives as the more elitist occult brotherhood that hired them.  Some of the same figures that were in the first book - most of the angel characters, as well as the elusive Strongman - reappear in the second book, as do Busche and Hogan, who are now beyond damage due to their victories in Ashton earlier.  It is also a good chronicle of a journey of self-closure and redemption on the part of Sally Roe, who goes from burned-out hippie New Ager to born-again Christian, and that is seen as the key to prevailing over the forces of darkness.  Sally Roe has a similar role to Susan Jacobsen in the first book, but Sally's character has more depth and intensity, as the real struggle is masterfully documented by Peretti.  In short, the story will keep you on the edge of your seat.

When I read these books over again every so often, I think of how they would look as a motion picture, as they both would be darned good motion pictures.  However recently when Peretti was approached about that possibility, he emphatically said that it was negligible that this would happen.  While that is disappointing, I respect his conclusion, and he has his reasons.  Often, when reading certain stories like this, you envision certain actors and actresses who would be perfect for the parts.  For instance, I would see Marshall Hogan's role being perfectly filled by veteran actor (and fellow West Virginian) Paul Dooley.  Susan Sarandon or Sigourney Weaver would make a good Sally Roe, and the guy who would make a great Alf Brummel is an actor I have seen in a number of roles over the years, but for the life of me his name escapes me - every time I read This Present Darkness though, I see that guy in the role (Note - since writing this, I found out the actor I was looking for is Sam Anderson - a perfect Alf Brummel!).  Alexander Kaseph would be best played by an actor similar to either Glen Shaddix or Dom DeLuise, and the guy that comes to mind is Ricky Jay.  Santinelli, from Piercing the Darkness, could be played masterfully by Frank Langella, and his cohort Steele would be best played by a Hollywood "bad guy" like Michael Ironside.  Unfortunately, many of those actors are either dead or too old now for the roles, but these are just my ideas.  Of course, Peretti may have other plans in mind if he were to change his mind and approve a movie based on these books, and his imagination is what created the characters, so he would know better who could play what.  These are just my imagination playing around with the characters though.

In looking at the criticisms of Peretti's books, I want to analyze that a bit now.  The first thing I will note from the Wikipedia article on This Present Darkness is that much of the criticism from Evangelical authorities comes from those who hold to a Calvinist theological position and are somewhat more cessationist when it comes to charismatic phenomena, etc.   Peretti is not part of one of those positions, and much of what he portrays in his books comes from what the prevalent teachings were in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles at the time the books were written, and in that period (late 1980's and early 1990's) there was a significant interest in spiritual warfare and the supernatural, and also the New Age movement was seen as a real threat to Christian belief - Peretti's books were in sync with other popular non-fiction Christian literature at the time such as Johanna Michaelson's Beautiful Side of Evil, Constance Cumbey's Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, as well as a more eccentric take on spiritual warfare at the time in the guise of a book entitled Pigs in the Parlor.   While there are things in all of those books that can be both agreed with and also criticized, the prevailing sentiment among many Evangelicals at the time - in particular Charismatics and Pentecostals - was that a real spiritual struggle was taking place, and education about it was vital.  Some did go to some ridiculous extremes, but looking ahead 30 years after the fact now, a lot of it is also very real as we are seeing it more so today after a period of relative dormancy.  In recent years, we have witnessed a rise in both Satanism - including the erection of Satanic monuments in front of courthouses, etc. -  and in other forms of occultism (such as vampirism) in our society, and there is a rather odd alliance between overt Satanists and the highly visible LGBT community now.  However, the ones sounding off on these dangers are no longer necessarily Evangelicals and Pentecostals but are primarily more traditionally-minded Catholics.  Many of those Evangelicals and Pentecostals who once warned of such things are now either passed away, or they have either toned down their emphasis or disavowed it totally.  The recent "Pachamama" scandal in the Vatican has also served the purpose of galvanizing more orthodox Catholics against outright paganism in the guise of Christianity, and that is a positive.  Often, it is the outright assaults of the enemy which serve as a wake-up call or "red pill" to the dormant faithful, and perhaps that is why God allows it.  I see a similar message in Peretti's stories too.

Another thing one picks up on in Peretti's two particular books here is that this is more than just a mere "religious" issue.  Despite the "guise" of certain "spiritual enlightenment" practices, the powers behind them know the real motivation, and it also manifests itself in some of their higher-level human pawns too.  While the average run-of-the-mill seeker of spiritual enlightenment wants to be "one with the universe" or whatever, the demons promoting the deceptions driving these clueless people are looking for a bounty of souls, and their ultimate fate for their human pawns is eternal damnation and imprisonment.  We see that in the closing chapters of This Present Darkness, where Marshall Hogan's daughter Sandy is told she would be "unlocking her higher consciousness" by being initiated into a "special group," but then right before it's too late, they are leading her to basically kill herself, and she quickly learns that things were not what they seem.  There are overtones of Ecclesiastes here that I believe Peretti is drawing on, in that the vanity of worldly glory and even some self-serving "spiritual enlightenment" more than often leads to doom, because the wrong thing is being sought.  This is where the evangelistic aspect of Peretti's story comes into play too - true happiness is found in the true God, not in running after things which sound good but are ultimately destructive.   In that, I see no dualism or animism in his writing, as ultimately it is God who is glorified and who has the ultimate victory in spiritual battles as long as the people on the right side stay focused and not get distracted by things meant by the enemy to get them out of the way of his agenda.  It's, in reality, a good lesson.

More could be said about these books, but I think I have hit upon the highlights.  If you haven't done so yet and are into captivating Christian fiction, be sure to read these two books - as mentioned, they are hard to put down and will keep you on the edge of your seat, as Peretti is a gifted writer who knows how to create a powerful story.  However, they are not meant to be theological, but can challenge us spiritually - if the reader is not a Christian, it also can serve as an evangelistic tool to reach them as well.  Thank you, and will see you next time.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Catholic Faith and Evolution – Are They Compatible?


A couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism, authored by John Zmirak.  The Politically Incorrect Guides were a series of several books published on various subjects in the early 2000s by Regnery Press, a conservative publisher.   These books, called by their fans “PIG’s” for short, are actually quite informative, and each features a different author who is an authority in a certain subject area.  At this time, I have approximately six of these books in my own library, as they are concise, easy to read, and for the most part present a more accurate perspective on a controversial subject than you will find in most “mainstream” narratives.  This PIG on Catholicism is likewise useful, although there are some issues I do take personal exception with in regard to the topic of evolution and science, and that will be my main focus here. 

First, I feel a little background information on the author, John Zmirak is in order.  He is, for starters, editor of a Catholic periodical called The Stream, which can be accessed online at www.thestream.org.  This periodical is a fairly conservative journal, and it does have good content.  Zmirak was at one time also the Press Secretary to former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster and he has also contributed extensively as a reporter and editor to a variety of other publications.  In addition to this PIG on Catholicism, he has also written at least 11 other books.  His educational credentials include some impressive content as well – he has Bachelor of Arts from Yale, an MFA and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and he has taught courses as well at both LSU and Tulane.  In reading the majority of the PIG he authored, Zmirak generally holds pretty orthodox Catholic religious views, and is also conservative politically.  In all, I would conclude that Zmirak is a talented writer and also a sound voice of Catholic orthodoxy on a variety of issues.  However – and this is where it gets more complicated, as not all orthodox conservative Catholics necessarily agree on all the minors – when it comes to science and evolution, Zmirak expresses many points that I would disagree with him on, and this is where my focus will mainly be concentrated.
The section of Zmirak’s book I want to focus on is Chapter 10, entitled “Is the Church Anti-Science?”  The chapter itself encompasses approximately 34 pages, and in order to see where things differ one has to read the text carefully.  The majority of it, on a positive note, is actually not bad reading at all, as it largely affirms the importance of both faith and reason as well as making the valid (and truthful) case that in many cases the Church was on the forefront of scientific discovery.  So far, this is all good and actually true – no Catholic or any other Christian of any denominational tradition would deny any of this at all.   However, when delving deeper into the “meat” of the chapter, there are a few small things we are going to address more at length momentarily, but let me just give where Zmirak is coming from in regard to science first.

While Zmirak is mostly sound and orthodox in the majority of his theses in this book, when you get to Chapter 10 you quickly find out that Zmirak would fall into the category of what is called a theistic evolutionist.  Theistic evolution basically asserts that while one can affirm that God did ultimately create the universe and everything in it (to deny that, regardless of who you are, would be outright heresy from a Catholic perspective), he also instituted the evolutionary process and therefore evolution is the reason why creation happened – to put it this way, for the theistic evolution, God essentially created the process of evolution, and then it did the rest.  Although a theistic evolutionist would affirm the uniqueness of humanity, there is a twist to this – God created the apes and then chose a specific ape to give a soul and spirit to, and thus Adam was essentially a genetically-enhanced gorilla or chimpanzee.  Therefore, when God injected the soul into that special ape, evolution took over, and – voila! – Man comes into the picture!  There are a number of problems with this position and we will address them, but I wanted to make a couple of important points.   First, despite a very flawed perspective on creation, a theistic evolutionist is technically still a Christian, and despite that variance, someone can still otherwise be an orthodox and faithful Catholic.  And, leading to the second observation, a theistic evolutionist doesn’t necessarily deny God as ultimate Creator, but rather the person has a faulty understanding as to how the creative process happened.  This essentially means that I don’t have a problem accepting a person like Zmirak as a fellow faithful Catholic and a brother in Christ, and I will not dismiss all the good material he and others who would share his perspective have produced based on a different view of creation he has – I think he’s fundamentally wrong, and that his theistic evolutionism has some gaps, but at the end of the day I still can see he doesn’t deny the essentials of the faith.  I hold a similar position with fellow Creationists like myself who happen to be in what is called the “Old Earth Creationist” camp; despite holding to the view that the earth is billions of years old, for the most part, Old Earth Creationists are still Creationists – one particular figure that comes to mind is Protestant Old-Earth Creationist Hugh Ross, who has produced some good material.  I have more sympathy for “Old-Earthers” as well because I used to be one too, and I understand where they come from.  The problem I would have with the “Old Earth” position, however, is that those who hold to it need to face some sticky theological issues, in particular concerning the origin and present reality of sin and death.  However, that is a discussion for another time.

One more thing I wanted to add in this lengthy introduction is to note that not every Creationist ever agrees 100% on everything.  Even among us “Young-Earthers,” there are differences in opinion about such things as the origin of the Genesis 6 Nephilim (some, like myself, hold to a Watchers view while others hold to a Sethite position), whether the sun revolves around the earth or if it is the other way around (the Geocentric view, espoused by Catholic writer Bob Sungenis among others, vs. the Heliocentric view, which is the one I would hold to), or other such topics that may arise.  It is to actually be expected that differences of opinion on minor points happen, and at the end of the day, we can still be good friends although we may differ on the minors – what counts is the major belief which we all share, that being that God created the universe and everything in it.  That being said, it is perfectly fine to engage in healthy debate and discussion over minors, as long as we don’t end up making those minors into majors.  Having established this basic understanding, we can now dive into the “meat” of our subject.

The first thing I would like to address is found on page 220 of Zmirak’s book, and it is a clear affirmation that science and the Catholic Church are not in conflict with each other.  That is actually very true, and looking at it Thomistically, here is why.  First, theologians such as Aquinas, Bonaventure and others noted that God authored two “books,” those being Nature and Revelation.  Revelation, for the sake of our argument here, is synonymous in this context with Holy Scripture as whole, while Nature is pretty much self-explanatory.  If we introduce supernatural grace (which comes from God alone and nowhere else) into this, then here is what happens – Nature will always affirm Revelation, and in turn, Revelation will always work to elevate, heal, and perfect Nature.  We see this in Scripture in such passages as Psalm 18:2, 44:6, and 96:6, as well as passages in the earliest chapters of Genesis where God declared at each point in his creation of all that is that “it is good,” and this is also affirmed in mathematical principles such as the “Golden Ratio” and the Fibonacci Sequence, particularly if one looks at the particular designs of things such as sunflowers, snail shells, and the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy itself.  These things bear witness to the fact that natural law has a supernatural source, which is also a major tenet of another school called Intelligent Design.  Intelligent Design (or ID from here on) is not the same as Biblical Creationism, and that is because of one important difference – ID is based on scientific evidences, while Biblical Creationism is theological in emphasis.   Although Biblical Creationists and ID proponents are two different schools of thought with even some disagreements, it is also very reasonable to accept both Biblical Creation and ID as the framework together of a valid explanation of origins.   Rather than being in conflict (which both some ID proponents and Biblical Creationists seem to miss), I personally feel that the combination of Biblical Creationism and ID are actually complimentary, and in my case, I would hold to both myself while at the same time also include what is called a Christian euhemerist perspective – to explain that, euhemerism essentially holds that much of the mythology and folklore of many cultures has at its root something which inspired it, and thus despite embellishment over time, once the fictional aspects of a subject are stripped away, a core truth is there which can be accepted.  When it comes to both ID and Biblical Creationism, a euhemerist view of things happens on topics such as dinosaurs, and if you can be completely honest about it, the so-called “dragons” that dominate the folklore of many cultures would establish that these people encountered something, and what they encountered more than likely were the creatures we today call dinosaurs.  Aside from the foray into euhemerism and ID, getting back to Zmirak’s premise, he is on-point here by acknowledging God is the supernatural source of all creation.  However, it is when we get to page 22 that we encounter the first problem with his position, and I want to discuss that now.

Anyone who is familiar with any of the PIG books will note that in their basic structure they have these little gray boxes inserted at various points that highlight certain things, and one of those shows up on page 222 entitled “Fourteen Centuries Before Darwin.”  Here, Zmirak attempts to use the writings of St. Augustine to refute a literal reading of Genesis, and he even presupposes that St. Augustine taught evolution.  But, did he really?   Zmirak makes a few key errors in his assertion at this point and these are errors that can be easily corrected.  First, in my readings of St. Augustine or any of the other Church Fathers, which I have done extensively in my own research, I see no evidence whatsoever that any of them espoused anything remotely akin to evolution.  They did differ regarding their interpretation of Genesis, which is true, as some like St. Augustine would be aptly classified as “Old-Earth Creationist” while others such as St. Lawrence of Brindisi, some centuries later would be more “Young-Earth Creationist.”  The idea of a Darwinian-type macroevolutionary process of one species evolving into another was far from their minds, John N Wynne, in his book A Catholic Assessment of Evolution Theory (Restoring Truth Ministries, 2013) notes on page 254 that the actual position of St Augustin was that one should never depart from the literal and obvious sense of except where reason makes it unattainable or necessarily requires it.  That goes back to the “Fourfold Hermeneutic” principle I have talked about before, in that something can be both literally true and allegorically valid at the same time.

In discussing how Genesis is to be understood and interpreted, there are concepts the Church gives us to do so.  The most important of these is something we’ve touched on before elsewhere in my earlier Genesis study called the “Fourfold Hermeneutic of Scripture,” and we can remember it with the easy acronym LAMA:

         Literal – what it says in plain language
                     Allegorical – what it admonishes us to believe
Moral – what it compels us to do
 Anagogical – what hope it instills

Theologians and Biblical scholars have literally gotten into dogfights over the years regarding these, and often try to assert the prominence of one over the others.  However, in reality, this conflict was never really necessary – on the contrary, a passage in Scripture can be one or more of these at one time and still be true, communicating the core truth it was meant to.   It is of no surprise that the two pivotal books of the Bible – Genesis, and Revelation – have been at the forefront of this.  This is a major reason why a discussion such as this is important, and it also calls into play a harmonious fusion between faith and reason.  The whole remainder of this discussion will emphasize that very thing.  In doing so, I will also be contrasting some of Zmirak’s positions – particularly those where he asserts that Catholic doctrine and evolutionary theory have no conflict – with what the Church really says, and I want to preface that first.

When Zmirak makes the assertion that Catholic doctrine and evolution are not naturally exclusive, he does take care to note that theistic and Darwinian evolution are two different things and that Darwinian evolution does conflict with the Church.  Of course, he is correct, but it also poses some problems – for instance, what if a theistic evolutionist embraces Darwinism, as many indeed have?  Darwinian evolution, as Zmirak correctly points out, is very secular and even dangerous, as it has been the driving force behind many of the more nasty policies of some tyrannical regimes in the last century.  It is also the main impetus behind the eugenics movement, from which the abortion industry has its roots.  What Zmirak fails to note, however, is that the man who advanced and taught theistic evolution among Catholics, the late renegade Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), was an avid proponent of many of those things as well.  Chardin’s influence is oddly absent from Zmirak’s discussion of science and faith, and that to me was puzzling.  Given that the widespread acceptance among many Catholics of theistic evolution is due in part to Tielhardism, I find it odd that Zmirak omits any mention of him in the discussion.  Of course, Zmirak is not by any means a Darwinian evolutionist either, whereas Chardin was, and maybe as a benefit of the doubt that is why Zmirak doesn’t really include anything about him in the discussion.  But, here is the fundamental problem:   Although Zmirak rightly rejects Darwinian evolution, he is also appearing to fail to understand that even the milder theistic evolutionary views held by otherwise orthodox Catholics are at odds fundamentally with traditional Catholic teaching and this will now be addressed. 

In the year 1959, Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini published a landmark text evaluating evolutionary theory from a classic Catholic perspective entitled The Theory of Evolution Judged by Faith and Reason (historical reprint republished by - Boonville, NY: Preserving Christian Publications, 2008).  In it, Ruffini provides a lengthy, thorough evaluation of the idea of evolution in light of historical Magisterial teaching, and his work is revolutionary in regard to refuting many of Teilhard de Chardin’s errors.  On page 85, Cardinal Ruffini gives a very succinct affirmation of Biblical creation when he affirms that the fact of the creation of all things is certainly an object of special divine revelation – by that, he means that human understanding cannot fathom the miracle of creation in entirety, as it preceded humanity’s creation later. But, as the act of creation sets time in motion, it gives certainty to the fact that everything started from a certain time.  On the following page (86), Ruffini goes on to note that the distribution of creation (as he terms it) was a product of divine revelation as well.  In short, Ruffini is affirming that the account in Genesis is historically accurate.  Reading further, Ruffini makes an important point which leads into the next part of the discussion – the purpose of Creation and its order is arranged by the Creator for dogmatic/moral reasons and not as a scientific fact.  However, that being said, Ruffini also notes that scientific evidence - often cited by evolutionists in terms of “epochs” – would affirm the Genesis record.  If that is the case (and I believe it to be so), it provides clarification then for another argument.  Zmirak attempts to make a point on this based on St. Augustine’s writings, but he both misses the point as well as affirming Biblical creation without realizing it.  It is a well-worn argument used by many over the years which sort of relegates the Bible to the realm of faith and divorcing it from reason, which is a fruit of Enlightenment influence we see reflected in such statements as “the Bible is not a science or history book,” and it is an argument that has its roots in the secularized mentality of people like Baruch Spinoza, the philosopher who claimed the Bible is only a religious book and therefore has no relevance in other areas.  The modern manifestation of that fallacy, which even Zmirak holds, is that the Bible is not to be relied on for matters of history or science, but rather is a “book of faith” only.  It is time to address and debunk that now, as it’s a very prevalent argument used by even some Catholics as well as Evangelical Protestant scholars to diminish the authenticity of Scripture.  We will now examine that argument.

Zmirak, on page 222 of his book in the gray box entitled “Fourteen Centuries Before Darwin,” uses St. Augustine to buttress the assertion that the Bible was only written to teach us faith, not science.  People who utilize this argument often state that the Bible is not a science text or a history book, which we will examine more shortly.  As for now though, let us deal with Zmirak calling upon the authority of St. Augustine.  To counter this, we turn back to what Ruffini says on page 171 of his book when he notes that St. Augustine studied Genesis for over 30 years before formulating his insights on it, and in the time he wrote his many works, St. Augustine demonstrated levels of maturity of thought.  Ruffini contrasts, for instance, Augustine’s thoughts in AD 389 in De Generi Contra Manacheos, as well as his last work on the subject in AD 415 entitled De Genesi ad Litteram – in the latter, Ruffini states further on page 176 to note that there is a distinction between the concepts of creation and administration – God created all in an instant, in Augustinian theology, but never ceased being sovereign over Creation.  What we see here in that context is that God made living things with the ability to grow and adapt, which a theistic evolutionist will see as their “aha!” moment.   But, this does not prove progressive evolution, and if anything it affirms scientific fact that variations within species do exist but that no species can evolve into a completely different species.  So, getting back to Zmirak’s text, we will take his assertions and respond now.

  • 1.  Zmirak notes that St. Augustine originally didn’t hold to the idea that the “days” in Genesis were literal 24-hour days.  There is some merit to that, but that does not make St. Augustine a theistic evolutionist either.  If Zmirak would read this in context, he would see that Augustine did believe in divine creation, and his view is somewhat unique in that it leaves leeway for either a “Young-Earth” or “Old-Earth” Creationist interpretation – Augustine held that the act of creation was simultaneous, but was ordered in minute detail.  Rather than making this support for Augustine embracing an early form of theistic evolution, at best it would more likely make him closer to what the ID or “Old-Earth” Creationist proponents hold.  This is why we really need to exercise caution using either Scripture or Tradition selectively, as that serves no one well.  The overall consensus of the Church for over 2000 years is that a special creation happened – God created everything that exists – and although there were debate and differences in opinion among the Church Fathers themselves over minor details, the conclusion reached by all of them is still the same.  So, whether one reads St. Augustine’s works, or those of St. Lawrence of Brindisi (who was a literal six-day Creationist), the end result affirms a cardinal belief – God the Father Almighty is the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things visible and invisible, as the Creed we say at Mass every Sunday clearly states.  Again, let me reiterate that no Church Father I have read has ever endorsed theistic evolution, and its prominence is a rather recent phenomenon. 

  • 2.  In attempting to make the case from St. Augustine that Scripture only teaches truths of the faith and not scientific facts, Zmirak makes some errors.  First, while it is true that Scripture was not intended to be a science manual or a history book, we also need to remember the principle of non-contradiction, which in metaphysics is based on a Thomistic perspective that we note in Fr. Norris Clarke’s book The One and the Many – Aquinas and Bonaventure, among others, held that God authored two books, Revelation and Nature.  Nature affirms Revelation, and Revelation perfects Nature.  For the sake of this discussion, this is what it all means – while it is true that the Bible is not a scientific text or a history book per se, true history and true science do bear out the truths of Scripture nonetheless.  And Scripture was not designed to be comprehensive history or a science manual, granted – its actual purpose is the revelation of God’s plan for the redemption and salvation of mankind.  That is a major reason why in certain parts of Genesis certain historical details are omitted – they are not relevant to the story, and there are other sources to “fill in the gaps” if one is interested in doing so.  By reading these other sources (Enoch, Jasher, Jubilees, etc.) it gives a “bigger picture” of what one sees in Scripture and does provide a point of context.  Even today, other historical texts are written the same way – for instance, if you were studying World War II and you came across two different histories (for sake of context, one is written by an American soldier, while the other by a Luftwaffe officer who served in Germany), both would be accurate, but both would have omissions of certain details because they would not be relevant to the particular account.  But, in putting both together, you get a fuller picture of the event.  That is what Scripture is – the focus in it is on salvation history, but the history it records is still accurate and can be corroborated with other sources to get a fuller picture of a particular time. 


On these two points, Zmirak’s assertions for theistic evolution fall apart even more, for in saying that Augustine promoted it he neglects to read further in Augustine’s works, as Ruffini illustrated.  The reality is that Augustine’s views on variations contradict evolution as he states clearly that a man cannot “evolve” from a bean, etc.  But, a bean can adopt a different character, and in some areas grow bigger or taller – that is commonly called microevolution, and microevolution is definitely a reality that is scientifically proven.  So, no, apes are not “relatives” to us as Zmirak asserts, but they do have a common Designer, which we, of course, believe to be God.  This also begs another question that a former Anglican priest friend of ours raised, and I find it valid – if apes “evolve” into people, then why do apes still exist?  I mean, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans are still around, and no one has even tried to examine if they “evolved” or what they “evolved” from – it is amazing that only humans seem to be a product of evolution but time seems to have miraculously stood still for Cheetah while Tarzan “evolved” into himself – hmmmm!!!  A chimp fossil from antiquity is still a chimp, regardless of if one thinks it is thousands or millions of years old.  That merits a discussion of its own at some future date.

This now leads to a discussion on first principles.  Zmirak and other theistic evolutionists try to have this both ways in that they acknowledge God is creator and source of all that is but then they take almost a Deistic approach of demoting God to a mere clock winder – he created it all, set it in motion, and then sat back to let it “evolve” on its own.  Fr. Chad Ripperger, in his book The Metaphysics of Evolution (Norsterstad, Germany: BOD), uses Wovlner’s definition of First Principles on page 7.  It is a three-part definition, and essentially is set up like this:

  • 1. That from which something in some way follows
  • 2. Any cause
  • 3. Anything that is in any way first even if it has no relationship with later members


On page 8, Fr. Ripperger further talks about “real principle,” defining such as the principle from which being proceeds.   Then there is “logical principle,” meaning a truth from which other truth proceeds – the last, Ripperger notes, is one that governs how we come to know a thing, and it is built into the very structure of our intellect.  As God is the ultimate truth, it is logical to conclude that he is the source of all other truth.  That important distinction, as noted on page 15 of Ripperger’s text, is in regard to evolution, and her is why evolution is not a compatible view with Catholic teaching – evolution dictates that the existence of a being comes from something lower than itself, but Divine Revelation suggests a greater intelligence than ourselves is the true source of our origins (that would be God, if you just tuned in).  The violation of the evolutionary position is in regard to what is called priority of act of potency, which means an act had to precede the creation essentially.  Despite Zmirak’s assertion on page 219 that Catholic beliefs about creation do not contradict evolution, in reality, that non-contradiction is superficial and involves a common observable natural law – this means procreation of species, etc.  In this area, as we will discuss next, the Darwinian variety of evolution contradicts itself while many theistic evolutionists have a false assurance that causes self-delusion on that issue. 
While Catholic teaching is certainly not harmonious with evolutionary theory on a very fundamental level, there are some things where intersectionality does happen though.   One of the most obvious is the process of procreation.  A true evolutionist who accepts the idea of “natural selection” therefore would technically by their own ideological system be incapable of supporting things like the LGBT agenda, abortion on demand, or even the most radical forms of feminism.  If survival and continuity of a species is important (and no question it is), the evolutionist would naturally have to oppose “same-sex marriage” and abortion on the grounds that neither of those things does anything to perpetuate the survival of the species.  In fact, both of those things violate a fundamental principle of evolution, either of the Darwinian or theistic variety – if you don’t have proper sexuality and you keep killing your young, you essentially cancel your own existence.   What is so odd about that, however, is that many who believe in what is called “more” evolution (whatever that is!) are often involved in things that defy the own basic premises they supposedly embrace.  Of course, this is where things such as eugenics and transhumanism, not to mention the various “third sex” theories hawked by early homosexual activists such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895), a German lawyer who was openly homosexual himself and adopted Darwinian principles to justify his own sexual preferences.  One way he did this was by formulating a “third sex theory,” which essentially stated that male homosexuals and lesbians were the way they were because they were “evolving” into a “third gender.”  Much of that is still being advocated by the rise in transgenderism we see in recent years too.  Eugenicists such as Margaret Sanger also used Darwinian evolution to justify abortion – abortion was seen by her and others like her as a means of removing the “human weeds” from the human gene pool and thus ensuring the “survival of the fittest” with a little help to accelerate the process – we see how that ended with the demonic policies of Hitler’s Nazis.  Although a typical theistic evolutionist such as Zmirak would find all of this repulsive (and rightly so), in reality, if any evolutionist were honest, they all should see the actions of Ulrichs, Sanger, and the Nazis as contrary to basic evolutionary principle – the natural law that supposedly dictates evolutionary theory could not afford to allow the possibility of a forced “culling of the herd,” as technically even the weakest member of a species can supposedly adopt.  On pages 220-221 as a matter of fact, Zmirak actually devotes a very fluent section to repudiating eugenics-based racism on the same premise.  He is right, of course, but his understanding is still incomplete of the whole argument. 

Any commonalities that evolution and Catholic teaching share are in reality just verifiable facts that empirically belong to neither.  Both do accept the basic facts but come to different conclusions regarding them.   Any belief system (including evolution) has at its core some truth that, over time, is elaborated upon but the thought processes of its proponents into something totally different, although the kernel remains.  Many things mentioned earlier we can note in early cultures – legends of dragons, etc. – can be easily substantiated but established facts.  For instance, the dragons of folklore are possible references to various species of what we know as dinosaurs, and the universal flood in Genesis also has corroborations in other cultures too as a historical reality – in other words, something happened.  So, in the same way, we must also be fair to the evolutionary theory in the same way – we accept what can be verifiable truth and reject the rest.

What evolution accepts as empirical fact (and it is) on some issues – the necessity of procreation for a species to survive, for instance – has at its core a universal principle, and Catholic teaching does not deny that at all.  However, we have a fuller understanding of it from a Catholic perspective due to the metaphysical principles of proportionate causality that Fr. Ripperger discusses in his book.  It also ties into another principle – resemblance – that Fr. Ripperger discusses in that logically life begets life, and this is where evolution differs dramatically with the Judeo-Christian perspective of Catholic teaching.  In essence, evolution gets the following two things wrong in this regard:

1.  Evolution violates this principle in that, for the evolutionist, lower life that is different evolves into a more diverse higher life.
2.   Evolution also gets the process backward in saying that lower – and even non-living substance – evolves into higher living organisms.

  •   a.     This would violate the principle of resemblance, as nature dictates only a thing can         produce something in its own form (or largely similar at the most)
  •     b.     It also violates proportionate causality, in that an effect cannot be greater than its cause.  In other words, the cause must be nobler than the effect.


Hence, the reason why I must fundamentally disagree with Zmirak concerning his assertion that Catholic teaching is compatible with evolutionary processes because it clearly is not.  While it is true that science is not in conflict with the Catholic faith, it is also fundamentally an error to call evolution “science” in the strictest sense, as in reality, it is a set of theories based on a non-theistic worldview.  While I understand this can be murky territory (thanks in part to heretical views that have gained tacit acceptance, in particular, those of the late Teilhard de Chardin), it really should not be at all – God created the natural order of things, and it is only logical that he also is the origin of the laws by which Nature operates.  For instance, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom together produce water, and if you heat water at a certain temperature, it turns from liquid to gas.  On the other extreme, if you freeze water at a certain temperature, it solidifies to ice.  These are observable, empirical facts that no one could dispute.  Likewise, if you drop a ball off a roof, it goes downward instead of up – simple gravity, another empirical scientific reality.  On a more complex level, design too has mathematical and physical laws that determine different things – a snail shell, a sunflower blossom, and the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, for instance, can all be calculated using what is called the Fibonacci Sequence, and the proportions of the human face can be measured using what is called the “Golden Ratio” (equaling 1.618).  Many of these fundamental principles of chemistry, geometry, etc., were discovered by men of faith, and today they are universally accepted and readily observable.  So no, Judeo-Christian faith is not anti-science; it is just through supernatural grace we have a fuller understanding of how it works, that is all.

Now, seeing it from that perspective, the Church tells us that we can discuss evolution and other systems of thought without accepting or agreeing with them.  It is important to know what these things are (a “know thy enemy” principle if you will) so that we may more intelligently address them.   But, the Church has never espoused or presented a dogmatic official position on evolution, although many wrongly assume that Catholics accept theistic evolution.  On the contrary, people need to understand more clearly what the Church actually says, and essentially it can be reduced down to two things (CCC 159, 2293, 2294):

1.          We cannot ignore that these views exist, but we must also inform ourselves as to what they                  truly entail.
2.           While accepting evolution is not fully possible, it is acceptable to find common areas with it                 and use these as both a tool of education and evangelization
               (also true with other beliefs and traditions).
3.            The basis of the Church’s belief is enshrined in the historic Creeds, and they all affirm God                  as Creator of all, visible and invisible.

If we understand the above properly, then encountering a person who believes the evolutionary view should not be threatening, but rather an opportunity for debate, discussion, and even evangelization.  Many people who hold to false views on anything do so because they have a skewed understanding of God, Christianity, or the Bible.  Our witness to them, as Catholic Christians, is to show them the truth, and it opens doors when we do so.  But, a great responsibility is entailed – we must present accurate truth, and not one tainted with bad theology.  This is why, as II Timothy 2:15 admonishes, we are to “study to show ourselves approved.”

In conclusion, I now want to offer a few closing thoughts.  First, I concur with Zmirak that faith and science are not mutually exclusive and are not in conflict.  However, I also would assert that the theory of evolution, in particular, is not compatible with Catholic faith, as evolution is a theory only and not viably scientific.  Third, although I think that Catholics who believe in theistic evolution do so in error, if they are orthodox in other aspects of faith then they are still validly Catholic.  Zmirak’s book is a good example of this – aside from the theistic evolution discussed in some sections, his book is indeed a valuable resource.  Fourth, although some writers (including Zmirak) attempt to justify their views on theistic evolution by appealing to St. Augustine and other Church Fathers, in reality, many of the Church Fathers would actually reject theistic evolution – there were legitimate areas of debate and difference among the Church Fathers regarding how the term “day” in Genesis was interpreted, but no Church Father in their writings ever endorses any form of evolutionary theory.  On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of the Fathers were very much creationist in their thinking, as they all would quickly affirm that they believe God created the universe.   Many may have possessed what we would call today an Intelligent Design approach to creation, but there were certainly none of them who would have said men came from monkeys.  And, further, all would maintain that humanity is a special and unique creation in God’s image.  Fifth, metaphysics suggests that evolution is not possible, as it is not logical for something to “evolve” from a lower life form into a higher one that is completely different.  A higher intelligence, a “Designer” if you will, is evident in all creation, from the tiniest atoms to the most massive star in the universe.  That all being said, it is, therefore, conclusion to note that it is illogical to even entertain the notion that one species “evolves” into another, and macroevolution is not scientific in that it is not observable.  That being said, variations within species (microevolution) is an observable fact and is also scientifically verifiable, but despite how one member of a species may be bigger or a different color, it is still the same creature.  Finally, where commonality does exist with the Judeo-Christian worldview regarding some aspects of evolutionary theory, it is perfectly fine to acknowledge it, and it is also acceptable to examine and have a good knowledge of evolutionary claims.  However, despite apparent commonalities, those should always be viewed as being from a supernatural source for the natural law that made such commonalities a reality and does not validate evolutionary theory in totality.  These points will therefore both summarize a response to some of Zmirak’s content, as well as providing further detail on the difference between these matters by appealing to both faith and reason, Revelation and Nature, and in the end one confirms what the other perfects.   Thanks again for allowing me to share it with you.

(Originally written 9/20/2019)
              

Sunday, October 20, 2019

True Capitalism vs. Corporatism

As I write this, it is about 7 AM in the morning and I am sitting in the lounge of a large corporation I am doing some long-term contract work for.  I have been in the corporate world as an administrative professional for over 20 years at this point, and a part of the reason I am writing this now is due to a bit of exasperation I have been feeling about the behemoth called "Corporate America," and today is a day in which it would be opportune to talk about it.

My own experience with "Corporate America" started back when I was a couple of years out of college in 1998, and over the years I've worked for several large corporations in a number of industries, as primarily I have done what is called "temp work" during the majority of that tenure.  Being a "temp," which is a word I honestly hate to use as I am in reality a contractor, has been a revelatory experience - I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in many companies, and with that being the case I have reached a number of conclusions.  One of the most prominent conclusions I have come to is that the higher up the corporate ladder one goes, the less practical common sense people possess.  Higher echelons of management in corporations have a sort of "tunnel vision." and it is a tunnel wallpapered with dollar signs.  Their rabid pursuit within the tunnel often denies the fundamental human dignity of their designated underlings, and the more tragic reality is that those higher-ups are often forced into the tunnel by their superiors who have an even more restricted view of human dignity and less foresight and common sense than even those below them in a management capacity.  Observations like that are the primary reason why something like this needs to be addressed.

I want to first define what the term "corporatism" is, as that is the driving impetus behind much of this. According to a Wikipedia definition, corporatism is defined as "a political ideology that advocates the organization of society by corporate groups," and furthermore, it can be classified as a form of fascism due to the fact that sectors of the economy are controlled by a private organizations (corporations) in conjunction with government bureaucracy.  Another term for this in its extreme form is syndicalism.  The idea of corporatism is often confused with free-market capitalism, although they are definitely not the same.  For corporations striving toward this syndicalist view of economy, the term "monopoly" is often used, in that a sort of carnivorous and even cannibalistic insight exists which puts a corporation in a position to take over and eliminate is "competition," which often is a smaller and more "mom-and-pop" type business of some sort.  It also seeks to eliminate self-sufficiency of individuals by creating a new class of serfs, these serfs being individuals confined to cubicles in large offices where unreasonable demands and threats of disposability keep them in check, placated as well by "benefit packages."   The common "serf" is viewed by the corporate higher echelons as an expendable commodity, and thus the employee "serf" is seen merely a means to the corporate entity's end, and thus dignity of personhood is both diminished and despised.  That summarizes the "Corporate America" of today.

In the 1998 cult classic Office Space, we see how this is played out.  One reason why this movie is a cult classic is because it presents a very accurate portrayal of the general attitudes of large corporate monopolies and their management.  And, people do relate to it.  Besides paying the employee an "acceptable" wage however, what it the true benefit of monopolistic corporatism?  Very little actually, and we will now discuss why.

The driving force of much of monopolistic corporatism is greed, which is seen as a cardinal vice in traditional Catholic teaching but is worn as a badge of honor in the corporate world.   It is what John Horvat calls in his book Return to Order (York, PA:  York Press, 2013) on page 2 by the term "frenetic intemperance."  The way Horvat defines "frenetic intemperance" is this - an exaggerated trust in our technological society, a terrifying isolation of our individualism, and a self-imposed heavy burden of materialism.  The result, as Horvat further notes, is a modern economy that is out of balance, cold, impersonal, mechanical, and inflexible, and it can in time lead to socialism or fascism.  Horvat, on page 14 of the same text, gives monopolistic corporatism another name - gigantism - and notes that this mentality undermines the free market as well as attacking rights to private property, and this is all driven by an oligarchy of powerful corporate executives who couldn't give a damn about the workers they manage.  Frenetic intemperance, Horvat posits, is the driving force behind corporate gigantism (or monopolistic corporatism). 

Hillaire Belloc, in his seminal text The Servile State (London: T.N. Foulis, 1912), mistakenly I believe labels this same mentality as "capitalist," and he notes that the type of frenetic intemperance Horvat refers to creates a moral strain - a contradiction exists between the accumulation of wealth and the moral base of laws and traditions (Belloc, p. 53).  This means that in time the capitalist economy gives way to one of two evils, socialism or slaverly, (p. 60), of which in reality both are one and the same.  In his book The End of Democracy (Arcadia, CA:  Tumblar House, 2017), Christophe Buffin de Chosal notes that true capitalism is a good thing in that it encourages the investment of saved assets to generate new profit.  But, as he notes on page 123, there is also a negative capitalism, and this one is enabled by big government that often is funded by corporate entities, and thence the problem.  It is a problem which creates a caste system in which, as de Chosal points out on page 69 of his book, discriminates against some in favor of others - the large corporation, for instance, is favored over the small business, and the corporate exec over the data entry clerk.  It also discriminates against the consumer as well, in that the pursuit of wealth on the part of large corporations prioritizes quantity over quality, and cheap junk is marketed to consumers at more-than-invested prices.  That is, inevitably, where problems and inbalances arise, and the average worker in these corporations is forced onto a ferris wheel of mere survival and is often suppressed.  Good, quality work is no longer rewarded, but rather numbers and unrealistic production quotas, which inevitably lead to mistakes and ultimately a tank in quality of work.  This is a sad commentary for sure upon Corporate America, although the powers-that-be could care less.  So, what of the average worker then who has much to offer but is suppressed?   That is where we now go in the next part of the discussion.

The great Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote a classic book in 1952 entitled Leisure:  The Basis of Culture, and in it he has some interesting insights.  He notes, beginning on page 43, that the "worker" is characterized by these three personal traits:

1.  Extreme tension of powers of action
2.  A readiness to suffer in vacuo, unrelated to anything.
3.  Complete absorption into the social organism - itself planned to utilitarian ends
(Josef Pieper, Leisure:  The Basis of Culture. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1963)

So, what does Pieper mean?  First, the idea of leisure is seen by this mindset as strange and frivolous: "work for work's sake" is the order of the day.  This describes Corporate America to the proverbial tee - numbers, numbers, and more numbers!  A production-based environment is stressful, and cold managers expect numbers without taking into account variables, and that creates unnecessary and undue stress on the worker.  Pitch-perfect accuracy matters little, as does any other dimension of quality - rather, numbers are the priority.  But, mass-production of any sort ultimately leaders to inperfection, and it does one thing - it forces the consumer to invest in more of the product.  Inferior quality is almost the prime objective of the corporate hack who is bereft of common sense, and if workers don't produce the anticipated numbers, they are deemed useless and disposable, like used tampons in a woman's restroom.  This "corporate exec" mentality is a hazardous bi-product of both Enlightenment thinking and social Darwinism, and it ultimately does diminish God-given personhood.  You don't find this mentality in a lot of small independent businesses, but it is rampant in large mega-corporations.  Until we address this malady in our society, we face an imminent financial collapse as in time the inferior quality and excess quantity of crap product will implode many large corporations, and maybe that is the goal, as Big Business and Big Government also seem to collaborate in a lot of this.  Although it seems like a wild conspiracy, let us now demonstrate it next.

So, the question arises as to if a conspiracy exists between large corporations and centralized governments?  On the surface it doesn't look possible until one looks from the perspective of corporatism, especially its fascist dimension. As the Wikipedia article on corporatism notes, the Italian model of Fascism mandated in the 1920's by Mussolini has as its integral component a corporatist system "in which the economy was collectively managed by employers, workers, and state officials at the national level."   In order for that to happen, influential corporate executives would have to hold some sway, and in a system like that, they indeed would.  Ben Shapiro notes in his book The Right Side of History (New York: Broadside Books, 2019) that even Karl Marx incorporated this into his scheme, and despite Marx's rhetoric of "seizing capital from the bourgeosie" in order to centralize it all into the hands of the state, his scheme needed willing benefactors to make it work, and many of his successors have indeed sought the "unholy alliance" of the corporate tycoon with the statist ideologue, which involved putting at the disposal of the big corporations such apparati as the "eminent domain" privelege, etc.  Also, getting Big Business on-board with a leftist agenda is paramount - the small business which holds to traditional values is then seen as an obstacle, and in order for the corporation to further advance its frontiers, the small business must be closed by legal means, and greasing the palms of the right politicians with cash is a sure way of making that happen.  It is one reason today, as a matter of fact, why big corporations are often unaffected by stringent regulations while small businesses are often forced to comply or close.  As Shapiro notes further in his book on page 140, the catalyst to make all this happen was in the personage of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), although it could be added that Georges Sorel (1847-1922), a Marxist philosopher, equally contributed to this as both of them introduced social Darwinism into economics - this meant a "survival of the fittest" mentality applied to economics in which the stronger multi-national corporation could prevail over and devour smaller business entities, and for the state's economic stability a corporation could use (abuse) state legislation to accomplish doing just that.  It is from this that abominations such as "eminent domain" and over-regulation of industries emerged, and a corporate oligarchy benefitted from codified (albeit unjust) laws.  Therefore statism and corporatism join forces at this point, and to insure corporate interests were advanced and protected, major financial players even from the time of Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan sought to place leadership in power to advance their own interests, and it worked.  It is also another reason why the moguls of huge corporations are often the chief financial backers of very leftist causes - the abortion industry, the LGBT agenda, the teaching of evolution in schools, etc.   Like the spokes of a wheel, all of these things go back to one source, and that source is malevolent to the core.  Plineo Correa de Oliviera, in his text Revolution and Counter-Revolution, points out specifically why this conflicts with the Judeo-Christian worldview - on page 80, he notes that the Judeo-Christian worldview and its social manifestations (which he called the Counter-Revolution) does not ally itself with what he called "today's hyper-trophied technicalism," which is characterized by its adoration of novelty, speed, and mechanics, and it also opposes the tendency of such a system to organize human society mechanistically (al a Huxley's Brave New World scenario).  Spiritual values, Oliviera notes, must take precedence over material considerations.  If they don't, then what happens is essentially (and precisely) what de Chosal notes on page 53 of his book - in time, world governments will no longer be the actions of major decisions affecting nations, but rather an oligarchy of major money powers.  The opinions of voters then effectively carry no weight because the voters don't have the money - but, the big corporate entities do.  As he notes on the same page, "democracy" is a political system that enables organized minorities to hold ultimate power, more so if they have limitless financial assets to do so. The needs of the "little guy" are jettisoned in favor of the oligarchy of corporate execs, and hence the problems.  As we will see, it trickles down to how workers are treated as well.

The above is also the reason why I am a Monarchist rather than a Democrat - democracy starts out with mob rule and anarchy, and then a strong force takes it over and turns it into a tyranny.  In the case of monarchy, the king is seen rightly as both servant and father to his people, and he is therefore subject to a higher law with a corporate oligarch fails to recognize.   Monarchy is tied to tradition, a moral code, and a sense of common decency that the corporate exec or political autocrat in a democracy lacks, and the good of others is the main concern of the monarch, and to note this good - also known as the common good - the monarch appeals to something higher than himself.  That something is a combination of divine Revelation and natural law, both of which make a monarch more accountable than either a career politician or corporate executive can be.  Once that order is restored and realized, then a fair advantage is given for the small business to thrive as it should.  Corporations can exist, and in and of themselves are not evil, provided their motivation is honorable.  But, forcing small business competition out of the way by dishonest means, treating employees like automaton droids, and being so greedy that one can't see the higher good doesn't constitute ethical business etiquette, something many of the "Fortune 500" entities have forgotten.  It is high time to recover that sense of decency and honor, and to check the unbridled power of billionaire corporate moguls - they are not above divine law, natural law, nor even state law.

Here is the bottom line to all of this.  First, it is not necessarily wrong to accumulate wealth, as no one should be hindered.  Secondly, in principle large corporations are not wrong either - there are some fine multi-billion dollar corporations out there which provide good services.  Third, however, is that the wealth of individuals and corporations should not be based on practices which are unethical, illegal, or dehumanizing to employees or other businesses.  Fourth, while responsible government is necessary, no government official should be bought, paid-for, and in the back pockets of any corporate entity.  Fifth, all people of creative mind and proper talent should be encouraged to pursue their dreams, free from corporate greed or political interference.   If those five things are recognized and practiced, it could effectively end corporatism and instead lead to a rise in both social betterment and economic growth.  This, I feel, can also only be achieved by one form of governance, and that is Christian monarchy.

Christian monarchy is based on a balance of power - the worker works, the soldier defends, and the noble leads.  This is not to be done in a superior manner that either diminishes personhood, but rather in a way that values contribution.  Such a system, under Biblical precepts would also provide the virtue of charity to those who lack certain abilities through no fault of their own, and in doing so, it shows everyone has value as a creation in God's image.  The corporatist model lacks this in so many ways, in that it stresses the production-based operation, and the result is that only in true Social Darwinian fashion only the most productive carry value while anyone is expendable.  The corporatist model is greed-based and lacks authentic charity, and thus it falls short.  It is the reason why movies such as 1998's Office Space and the film Outsourced from a few years later are popular.  It is also why country singer Johnny Paycheck sang a hit song in the 1970's called "Take This Job and Shove It."  The corporation does not address dignity of personhood (other than a skewered politically-correct version of it, or a lawsuit compels them to) but rather asks "how is this good for the company?"  Also, the stranglehold Corporate America has gained over the American economy has choked the life out of having passion for what one does - people are reflexively programmed to get up at the same time and then sit in little cubicles from the majority of their days, with only one purpose - paying the month's living expenses.  Corporations have stripped quality of life from so many, and it has created a less-inspiring environment in many offices and other workplaces.  Pieper notes the word for such apathy is acedia - basically, this translates as a stick-in-the-mud apathy (Pieper, p. 44).  This acedia is a discontented feeling many of us have, and St. Thomas Aquinas called it a sin against the Third Commandment - taking God's name in vain.   That bears a whole discussion of its own, but what Pieper is saying is that the pursuit of work eventually robs us of reflecting on who and what we are in God, and faith in God is taken for granted or even in vain.  Good point, and the potential source point of a future article!  Essentially, in reading further in Pieper's book, it is adequate to say that leisure and idleness are not the same - you can essentially be busy and idle at the same time, and indeed we get so caught up in working and paying bills this day and age that it makes us complacent and idle in other areas.  We forget things, housework suffers, and Christian service is seen as fruitless and not profitable.   I can definitely see the wisdom in what Pieper says.

In short, Corporate America forces us to sin against the Third Commandment by holding a pink slip over our heads - if we dare pursue higher things, we can lose our livelihood and means of survival.  It is, essentially, tantamount to a form of paid serfdom, but in some aspects feudal serfs were much better off than today's average employees in corporations.

The idea of how Corporate America is exploiting both the personhood of workers as well as national economy is not lost on many writers.  One in particular, political commentator Pat Buchanan, gives a discussion on that in his book The Death of the West (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002).  On pages 32-38, Buchanan makes the following observations about this:

1.  The post-industrial economy has wreaked havoc on the family due to a necessity of two-income households.

2.  Women, being forced into the workplace by economics, are causing an inbalance as many qualified men are losing out due to a combination of radical leftism and greed-driven corporatism.

3.  Birth rates are down in Western society due to the inbalance caused by more women in the workplace.

4.  Because young men are stripped of their fatherhood and family duties, many are left in bad situations, and they are often under-employed or even unemployable.

This inbalance is in line with Pieper's acedia, where large mega-corporations are forcing people into "ruts" and the primary outcome of this is detrimental on a lot of dimensions.  What I have called corporatism earlier is given another name by Buchanan - economism.   Buchanan defines economism as a mirror-Marxist ideology that many is a mere economic animal, and that free-market capitalism is abused to benefit some at the expense of others - the beneficiaries then begin to embrace Horvat's definition of "frenetic intemperance," and an inbalance results.  All of this is orchestrated by the hands of mega-corporations, and their "billionaire boys' club" of leaders have used their influence to manipulate national economies for at least the past 150 years or so.  A lot of it can also be attributed to the theories of the flaming homosexual economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), whose economic theories blended corporate interests with big government, and in a lot of ways Keynes is the progenitor of Corporate America and its excesses. 

This witches-brew of Keynes, Comte, a bunch of corporate billionaires, and their big-government beneficiaries constitutes the main culprit for the nasty inbalance we see in our modern economics, especially when it comes to the personal lives of the average worker.   It is a system that is fundamentally flawed, has the wrong focus, and it violates so many things in regard to the Biblical and Magisterial concepts of dignity of personhood as well as transcendental properties of being such as truth, beauty, and goodness.   Obsession with production and dollars diminishes an appreciation for the greater good and what constitutes it, and in doing so, it diminishes the quality of life God intended for us to have.  On that, we close with a short Scripture lesson.

In Luke 10, Jesus is visiting the home of His good friends Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, whom He'd raised from the dead.  The apparent scenario here was that Jesus was invited by His friends to a dinner at their home, and while Jesus is visiting and imparting some eternal wisdom in informal pre-dinner conversation to others there, Martha is busying herself in the kitchen and is also getting flustered with her sister Mary for not giving her a hand.  Martha finally basically tells Jesus to tell Mary to get the lead out and help her, and Jesus responds in this way (to paraphrase) - "Martha, stop a minute and smell the roses, girl!  Your sister is getting some good stuff here, and you could use it too.  You are so busy you are missing out."   Martha demonstrates a perfect example of Pieper's definition of acedia in his book, as he defines that on page 45 as a deep-seated lack of calm that makes leisure impossible, which eventually manifests outwardly as visible frustration and despair.   Leisure, in the true sense on the other hand, is not equivalent to "being busy," and instead is roughly related to "going with the flow."   It is further defined as a serenity that allows for productive action, but not at the expense of the more important things in life.  Mary in the story exemplifies that leisure - she was not being lazy or shirking her responsibilities, but rather saw a bigger picture and decided to explore it.  This gives an important lesson then for us.

We as a culture are caught up in a malaise of consumer-driven busy-ness, which only serves to enrich the oligarchial "Billionaire Boys' Club" of corporate moguls.  It is rife with distractions, deadlines, and other clutter, and it has gotten us severely out of focus.  As Catholic Christians, it is time to reclaim the focus, and a paradigm shift back towards the family-centered business - true capitalism, in other words - needs to happen.   If it did, I believe people would be more fulfilled.  It is obviously not practical to totally eliminate big corporations, but rather, they need to be kept in check so that they don't violate the opportunities of others.  Until we are able to get it in check, society suffers, and only a radical shift will restore what once was.  Thanks for allowing me to share this lengthy discourse, and hopefully some of this will be a beacon of encouragement to those caught in the corporate "rat race." 

(originally written 9/11/2019)

Avoiding the Extremes

If one wanders around in theological discussion groups on social media or elsewhere, it is inevitable that at some point there will be someo...