Sunday, October 16, 2016
The Attempted Murder of Morality
Certainly US politics is giving us the most distilled version of this breakdown. The heinousness of an action is now to be determined by political affiliation. It is born out of a willingness to push ahead thoroughly deficient candidates because our side must win. The willingness to surrender core moral values to further the promise of the pursuit of other moral values drives this way of thinking. "I know my candidate is an amoral or immoral individual here, here, and here...but I will overlook this because he/she promised to do this, this , and this. Furthermore I will defend the candidate and attack those who point out these failings as traitors to the 'cause' I am for." Point out the deficiencies of Trump and now you're for loading the Supreme Court with satanists who will further the advance of immorality, point out the deficiencies of Clinton and you are for women and children suffering, you hate minorities, and you want people to die on the streets for want of insurance. The ad hominum attacks pile up like mounds of fetid garbage worthy of Gehenna. Don't even talk about voting third party (not exactly a parade of the moral either) and you get attacked as a traitor and blamed for the downfall of the republic. When morality gets compromised, the compromiser needs to become more shrill in their accusations. Where morality fails, conspiracy theorists dwell.
It isn't limited to politics. That it is in politics in our country means it had to exist in the people first. In our type of government we essentially elect a reflection of our collective values. The political process exposes this and forces us to confront it. If I am the type of person that excuses my own behavior yet condemns the same exact behavior in another, then I am the microcosm of what politics is in the macrocosm. Can we be surprised that in a society where we bolster self-esteem to the point where we see an exercise in humility that is honest self-reflection as the enemy, that our body politic and society as whole ends up here? If I make excuses for my own sin, will I not make excuses for my friends and allies who also sin? This, my friends, is the road to a sociopath nation. A nation that gives license to sociopath behavior will elect sociopaths to lead it.
Within the Catholic Church in the West we have seen a complete breakdown in the Sacrament of Confession. Many churches, if they offer any confession times at all, offer them at a constrictive schedule. Most priests do that because no one comes anyway. It can be a chicken/egg argument to be sure, but it representative of the problem. When preaching and teaching were reduces to 'be nice; and hell was dismissed as a bogeyman to scare people into line, it was like lacing a stick of dynamite. Be good replaced be holy. Morality was bludgeoned with 'do what your conscience tells you' without fulfilling the duty of forming the conscience with truth. This, of course, was never the official teaching of the Church, but how is was lived on the ground. That. my friends, is how the Catholic Church went from the Body of Christ in this country to a social work agency. I am not saying social work is bad, but reducing the Church to social work is like reducing God to a sugar daddy (funny how those things go hand in hand). That is why people bristle when moral issues, sin (especially the idea of mortal sin) and confession are brought up. It is why people are fine with your bringing up someone else's sin as long as you don't preach about their pet sin.
However, look at the fruits of this tree. This nation is angry. This nation is getting angrier. We become super sensitive to having our faults exposed while we become super angry at the sins of others we want exposed. That concepts of the super sensitive like 'microagression' and 'safe space' rule us is witness to the madness. It is the madness brought on by dwelling in the extremes. If we wish to pull back from the brink of anarchy, it will come with a re-grasping of morality and truth. In the Catholic Church, the two are intertwined.
We might attempt to murder morality, but we can't kill it. True morality is a matter of God's love, of living selflessly. The road to redemption, as individuals and a society, will come from coming face to face with the challenge presented by true morality. True morality moves us beyond seeing a person as an end. True morality finds the objectification of a person as reprehensible regardless of who does it. True morality shows us that an act is good or bad based on the act and not the as to whether or not the person is part of' my side'. For example: sexual assault is sexual assault regardless of the party affiliation of the person who does the assault. Murder is murder regardless of the race of the person murdered or the race of the murderer. Yes, sometimes the person does matter. Our expectations of a child are not the same as our expectations of an adult. Our expectations of a person suffering from a disease, mental disorder, and even an addiction are not the same as those who have full faculties.
That said, we must stop with defending indefensible behavior because it furthers another end. The more we do this, the lower the standards go until there are no standards left. If we expect to do this within society, it starts with each individual. We must stop trying to explain away our sins and squash shame and guilt so as to give free reign to those sins. Shame and guilt are little more than warning lights letting us know something needs to be addressed. It is one of the beauties of Confession, it gives us a place to deal with these issues and use God's grace to start again.
Wrong does not become right by public vote. A majority of citizens might vote for genocide, slavery, brutality and such. It only makes these things legal...not moral. Legal and moral do not mean the same thing. If we want want what is legal to drift further and further away from being moral, then by all means keep up excusing behavior. If we want what is legal to be what is also moral, then the excuses must end. That is the start. Justice cannot be found independent of truth. I suggest if enough people start with the conversion of the man or woman in the mirror, we might well be able to turn the country or society around. I know, like myself, the majority of people are weary of what we see. We are weary of the hypocrisy. Okay. If the surest road to hypocrisy is to excuse our own immorality, then why don't we start there...stop making excuses with ourselves and others. Demand better of yourself and you'll find you'll want better of our leaders as well. I realize we don't elect angels, but we don't have to settle for demons either.