Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On Being A Child Of This Age

G. K. Chesterton
The great G.K. Chesterton said of the Catholic Church: “ It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” If you doubt that the slavery of our particular age is getting more degrading by the day, consider the following random samples from the unraveling of our once-Christian culture:

- The big news from last week, of course, was the U.S. Supreme Court’s “finding” that the Constitution of the United States mandates that states may not exclude same-sex couples from their definition of marriage.  In his dissent from the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts  wrote “The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.” No, but it is perfectly attuned to the Spirit of this Age.

- A major newspaper in Pennsylvania announces that it “will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage”, with the grudging exception that it would “for a limited time, accept letters and op-Eds on the high court's decision and its legal merits.”  Journalists in the United States may claim to have an unshakable commitment to free speech, but the Spirit of our Age does not tolerate opposition.

- It is equally intolerant of any disagreement on the new conventional wisdom that sex, or “gender”, is not something inborn, but a thing we can create for ourselves and change at will. Actress Alice Eve learned this the hard way after she pointed out via social media the seemingly obvious fact that cosmetic surgery can’t turn male Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner into an actual woman.  After a torrent of abuse from the forces of tolerance, she was soon sounding uncannily like the victim of one of Stalin’s show trials: “Maybe this needs a little thought. I felt confused and now I feel enlightened and like I know what education I need to move forward.” 

-Since “gender reassignment” surgery is such a good thing, how can we withhold it from anyone? The New York Times, in an article celebrating surgical intervention of this sort for teens, reports that in Oregon 15 year-olds can undergo this mutilating, life-changing procedure at state expense . . . and without parental consent. The Times reports that “advocates say that extending treatment to teenagers will alleviate depression and suicide”, although it concedes that “The evidence is mixed. A large-scale Swedish study at the Karolinska Institute found that starting about a decade after gender reassignment surgery, transgender people were still more than 19 times as likely to die by suicide as the general population [link here, which the NYT somehow forgot to include].”  Other researchers have published similarly grim results, such as this U.S. study that found more than four out of ten transsexuals have attempted suicide. Perhaps it would more “mixed” if they could point to other studies  demonstrating an upside?

     - This article at Life Site News reports on Laura, a healthy, 24 year-old woman in Belgium who will be killed by lethal injection this summer, simply because she doesn’t want to live.  She says, “Life, that’s not for me.”  Well, to each his or her own, I suppose.  After all, she has received official approval. Interestingly, one of the psychiatrists who signed off on her case is currently hawking a book touting “euthanasia for psychological reasons”, so Laura can get what she wants and give the doc a little publicity as well.  The Spirit of the Age calls that a win-win!

I could go on, but you get the idea.  The proverbial Visitor From Another World could only conclude that we are in the midst of some sort of suicidal societal dementia, or possessed by a malevolent demon that renders us incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy, and that is intent on destroying not only us as individuals but also the institutions that sustain us.  Or perhaps, if he’s familiar with Earth literature, he might see us as an entire world full of Victor Frankensteins who, like the eponymous protagonist of Mary Shelley’s novel, seek to usurp God’s power of creation, only to spawn a destructive force beyond our control.  It would be easy to look at the Signs of the Times and despair.

    Despair, however, is not an option for us, because despair means giving up hope. Christian hope is the confidence that God will fulfill his promises of mercy and salvation, and if we surrender that trust, we are giving up on God; we are in fact, committing a grave sin. Instead, St. Paul instructs us to “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).  In other words, if we stay connected to our Lord, and endure our present hardships with His help, we will be with Him in His final victory. That’s not a bad deal.
    Clinging to the Lord, of course, is not simply a personal matter; we are called to be witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Who knows? Our wayward countrymen may yet amaze us like the Ninevites surprised Jonah when they repented in sackcloth and ashes (see Jonah 3).  Short of that happy but unlikely outcome, we might at least rescue some fortunate individuals; as scripture tells us,“whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).  Finally, by remaining faithful to Christ we can serve as one of his instruments in preserving his Church, which will be a source of healing after today’s craziness has run its course.  As the future Pope Benedict XVI said in a famous radio address almost half a century ago, “when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.”
    Which brings us back to where we started. Chesterton tells us that the Catholic Church is the only thing that frees us from enslavement to whatever the current foolishness happens to be.  But it is not a freedom for our own sake alone, it is freedom for service: service to our Lord and our fellow men and women, and service to the Truth . . . and the truth about humanity is and always has been that we were made to love and serve the Lord in this world, and to be eternally happy with him in the next.  Isn’t that infinitely better than anything the Spirit of This Age has to offer?