The Gospel for Idiots: Morally, We have Lulled Ourselves to SleepJune 24, 2012 2 Comments
June 24, 2012 / MariaNews.com
The Gospel for Idiots: Morally, We have Lulled Ourselves to Sleep
By Catholic Online
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – The Gospels distinguish between the “kingdoms of the world” and the “Kingdom of God.” Jesus, who preaches the Kingdom of God, rejects the temptation of having command of all the kingdoms of this world in exchange for worshiping the Devil. (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8) The Devil implies he has control over the kingdoms of this world, at least he claims to have control sufficient to offer it to Our Lord.
But we know the Devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). In fact, the Scriptures tell us that at the end of time, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. So it seems that the Devil does not have fee simple absolute title to the kingdoms of this world, but something less. (Rev. 11:11-15).
Famously, Augustine expanded on this theme of the Kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God in his great work The City of God. In that lengthy work he distinguished between the “City of God” and the “City of Man.” The big distinction between these is what’s loved. The City of Man is shaped by the love of self, to the exclusion of the love of God. Conversely, the City of God is shaped by the love of God, even to the exclusion of self.
It is pretty obvious that the United States–along with the West in general–is becoming, if it has not already become, a “City of Man.” Our laws–at first slowly, now more rapidly–are beginning to exhibit contempt of God, of his eternal law, and of the natural moral law which is nothing other than man’s participation in the eternal law.
Our laws, for example, protect and enshrine a “right” to divorce and remarriage, a “right” to contraception, a “right” to homosexual sex, a “right” to abortion, even in some states a “right” to homosexual “marriage.” In some states, we have the right to engage in “mercy killing,” which is a nice way of saying murder.
All of these are moral enormities, and we have them enshrined as rights. That’s legal protection given to the violation of a lot of commandments. That’s the legal equivalent of sticking your thumb in God’s eye.
What is particularly striking as it relates to the modern West is the utter banality of the version of the “City of Man” under which we live. Our government protects and defends as a positive good, the trivialization of life, a life without focus, a life without end or purpose. We are in a banal society when a highly-educated jurist such as Associate Supreme Court Justice Kennedy (supposedly a Catholic) can utter such inanities such that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s concept of existence, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Rightly did Associate Justice Scalia deride this concept of liberty (with dripping sarcasm) as the “famed-sweet-mystery-of-life” passage. It is a passage that Justice Scalia (here in dead earnest, not in sarcasm) identifies as “the passage that ate the rule of law.”
This passage eats the rule of law because it rejects any objective basis for law. Justice Kennedy’s notion of liberty is a concept of law and liberty not based upon the natural law, not based upon the eternal law, not based upon God at all. It is a law based upon man, to the exclusion of God.
What is particularly novel about the City of Man we have ushered in is its idiosyncratic nature. It is not really a republic, or a democracy, or even a republican democracy or a democratic republic. It is an idiocracy.
To have a democracy, you must have a people, a demos. To have a republic, there must be a public thing, a res publica, a common good that is being protected or promoted.
But we have no common good, because there really is no shared world among us, no koinos kosmos, as the philosopher Heraclitus put it. So there cannot be a republic.
There is no good of a people, because there is no people, no demos. So there cannot be a democracy.
Modernly, there are only private worlds, idioi kosmoi. There is only individual good, a good of one individual, the idios. There is no “our good,” there is only “my good,” and “your good,” since, if Justice Kennedy is to be believed, we define our own “concept of existence,” our own “mystery of human life,” even . . . (and, silly me, I thought only God was the creator) our own “universe.”
(By the way, the word idiot comes from the Greek word idiotes, a private individual, which comes from idios, meaning something private or one’s own. When we claim to define our own humanity, even our own universe, and build a city and write laws to support these fabrications, we are idiots. Our humanity and our universe–and the underlying natural moral law and eternal law that govern them–is what is reality, not the constructs in our mind.)
Morally, we have lulled ourselves to sleep. We are sort of like zombies, and less like humans. This is what happens when we reject a common world for a private world, a koinos kosmos for a bunch of kosmoi idioi. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is supposed to have said that the “waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.” (Diels-Kranz, B89)
In Shakespearean terms, life becomes nothing but a tale “told by an idiot, fully of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
In his excellent book The Unintended Reformation–which I recommend to anyone interested in knowing how we got to our current state–Professor Brad Gregory calls this phenomenon the “Kingdom of Whatever.” It’s a clever moniker for our condition since it encapsulates the “anything goes” attitude as well as the “who cares” attitude. And if “anything goes,” then “who cares”?
While I suppose a “Kingdom of Whatever” allows us to do anything we want, it leads to what Professor Gregory calls “agonistic hyperpluralism,” a condition where we no longer share anything in common, and so it becomes exceedingly difficult to have a civil society and a political society.
We have no common language, no common basis by which we can cooperate.
When the fetus can be denied the status of a human being and personhood, there is no such thing as a person. When marriage can be defined as a relationship between two men or two women, there is no such thing as marriage. So it’s fruitless to talk of persons or marriage when we can define them as “whatever.”
Without anything in common, we do nothing but battle each other sort of like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, yelling nothing but “mine, mine, mine.” We have no notion of the good life, so we dull ourselves with what Professor Gregory calls the “goods life.” We talk “of many things: of shoes–and ships–and sealing wax–of cabbages–and kings,” but cannot talk about the one thing necessary. (Luke 10:42) So we have not only hyperpluralism, but also hypermaterialism.
What is the cure for this state we are in?
Well, there are no easy answers. But it seems that one solution is the perennial solution. It’s to follow the divine commission: “Go you therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Matt 28:18-20)
This is what Pope Benedict XVI suggests we do in what is called the “New Evangelization.” It is not a new Gospel, it is the same Gospel preached to old ears and dull hearts. We have the Bible for Dummies and Catholicism for Dummies. Perhaps what we need is a new genre: the Gospel for Idiots. We have to preach the Gospel to people who believe “whatever.”
Now Benedict XVI does not advocate we preach the Gospel to idiots. He has far too much romanità and diplomacy for that. We have to re-propose the Gospel, he tells us, “to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.” But it’s the same thing.
To the “Kingdom of Whatever” we have to announce the “Kingdom of God.” To those who are caught up in the goods life, we have to announce the good life. We have to call the idioi into communion, into the koinonia, of the Catholic Church where we may once again share a common world.
What a challenge. It’s time seriously for all of us Catholics to become fishermen, and to start fishing for men.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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