I just completed a short blog on “Getting out of prison,” in which I analyzed rigid ideologies affecting the minds and actions of many persons in our uncivil-civil society. I urged self-examination and humility as means to “get out of jail free,” to escape from the prisons of our own making, or of our own choosing. Now I seek to turn reasoned analysis on myself, and wonder if what I am teaching, writing, and living may be for good or for ill.
We begin with questions. What if I am genuinely mistaken about “the Bible,” and it really is or at least contains “God’s Word,” which one may read and discover? Well, in reality I do believe that there is much wisdom in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and that anyone could gain much from reading them intelligently and thoughtfully, and apply what they learn to how they live their lives. The problem as I see it is in effect absolutizing the Bible (or the Qur’an) as unquestionable truth which must be accepted uncritically. It is the lack of thought about what is read, the lack of actively questioning its truth and place in one’s life, that most concerns me.
Second, regarding Catholic institutionalism, am I wrong to claim that the Church is not in reality as “holy” as it claims to be? Am I wrong in criticizing the notion that “Jesus founded the Church,” and set the hierarchy in place, as God the Creator set the stars in the heavens? And what underlies my impassioned criticism of Catholic clergy anyway? The short answer is this: I and no few others have experienced evil committed by Catholic clergy, and even more evil committed by bishops or by Rome making excuses for evil-doing clergy, and covering up their crimes. At the same time, many Catholic “lay persons” simply refuse to see and to deal effectively with clergy who have neglected their spiritual well-being, preached blather to them, deceived them, stolen from them, abused their children, and so on. Anger in me is aroused by the evils and deceits in the churches, all covered up beneath a plastic halo of holiness. The wrongs done to unsuspecting persons and the attempts to continue the evils under cover of “confidentiality” and naked denials should, I believe, awaken the wrath of pacified, often non-thinking Catholics. I personally believe and have said that the Christian community ought to slough off the hierarchy as a snake sloughs off its skin. On this point I may be wrong. (My goodness, could I be wrong? You bet!) And I admit that trying to reform or remake the hierarchy of the Catholic Church seems to lead nowhere, and perhaps achieves nothing good. The attempt may be a waste of time and even damaging, especially when there are at least some bishops and priests who do much good, and genuinely seek to build up Christ in the faithful. Not all clergy members are deceivers and thieves—but many are. Not every Catholic continues to sit passively in pews and unthinkingly accept evils done by clergy—but most seem to turn a blind eye to evil done in their midst.
Having made these points, is it now best to shut up? Is it futile and a waste of energy to criticize the hierarchy of the churches for the evil they do? Would it be better for me, and for others, to keep quiet and to mind our own business? Given how resistant to change Roman authorities have long been, are we just wasting time? Would it be more prudent just to seek God in the silence and peace of one’s heart, and either walk away from the institutional church or at least ignore it? Should Catholics abandon the institutional church for their own spiritual well-being? Or should they stay and seek to grow up, begin to assume responsibility for their own spiritual nourishment and growth, and speak out against evils in clergy as they arise?
Why am I angry because of human wickedness and foolishness, even done under the cover of clerical collars and pious assertions to be “other Christs”? What good comes from such anger? What good comes from the anger of “progressives,” Democrats, or Republicans, who spend so much time hating and attacking President Trump? The man has evident flaws; but who does not? Which President in our “modern history” has not had very serious flaws, and often been self-seeking, and loved power too much? As a political scientist and observer of politics, I cannot name one. If these men did not love power, why would they ever seek to be President (or seek any higher office)? The office of political leadership attracts men and women of a certain caliber: not only those who truly want to “get things done for the common good,” as they all claim, but who at the same time want power, fame, attention, financial gain, benefits for their friends and family members. Should we be surprised that as Vice President, Joe Biden practiced the vice of feathering the nest for his wayward and apparently screwed-up son with huge financial benefits? Should we be surprised that men in the oval office have sought sexual gratification even from young women within their grasp? Should we be surprised that Nixon sought to cover up the crime of the break-in at the Watergate? Or that FDR lied to the American people about the “unprovoked” attack of Japan on Pearl Harbor? Our leaders have been flawed, and often deeply flawed human beings. Do such characters deserve hatred? Is it worthwhile filling our own souls with venom at those we deem dangerous snakes? Are we Americans really so virtuous and good that we expect to elect truly virtuous men and women to the highest offices of the land? Would we even recognize or respond to genuine virtue? Perhaps we are too foolish and too self-absorbed as a people in history even to know who might lead our people in beneficial ways, without being scoundrels or “low-lifers” themselves. “We the People” seem to have become far less virtuous and deserving of good leadership than we believe. We are easily duped, because we are quite foolish.
“What about you, little man?” I know that I am not a virtuous human being—nor do I claim to be. I have never called myself a “just man,” or “a holy priest,” or a “good monk.” I am too aware of the wrongs I have done, and the good I have failed to do, to exonerate myself. Looking back on my life, there is not much of which I am genuinely proud. If I have done anyone any good in my life, it has been despite my flaws and failures, and because the all-good God can and does work in and through our human weaknesses. “Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory.” Why? Because we are not so good ourselves.
Although I know that I am neither learned nor wise, yet I write these little blogs. Why? Because I seek to share thoughts while being open to correction. Knowing that I do not have a poetic imagination, or handle symbols effectively, I still write little, mediocre or poor poems. Even though I am an impassioned man with considerable anger at injustice and untruth—as I see them—I still try to teach in some ways. Do I do harm to human beings? I am sure that I have harmed no few persons, beginning with my own family members since childhood. I can only hope that I do more good than harm; but in truth, I do not know. Nor do I hold myself blameless in any way. I certainly have never dealt with a Catholic bishop who seemed to find me anything but a pest, or worse; no bishop under whom I ever served said that I do a good job serving Christ in his people—the very thing which I sought to do. One bishop loudly and very angrily accused me of “dividing the parish” (in Kalispell, Montana), and quickly threw me out of his diocese. Together or individually, bishops and their priest personnel boards have awarded me no pension or health care in retirement. They have found me unworthy of any benefits. Nor do I ask for any money from any authority in the church—bishop or abbot—or from lay persons. I am well aware that by temperament, character, and beliefs, I do not fit well into the Catholic church, into a monastery, or into any institution. Authorities may well be right in describing me as a “trouble-maker.” And I have made trouble for some in authority, whether they deserved it or not (but I think that they did deserve questioning for their wrong deeds). As for what I believe, I was told by a priest in one diocese that the bishop there under whom I served considered me to be “non-Orthodox,” which I take to be a polite phrase for a “heretic.” I thought he was a kindly man, but entrapped in rigid dogma. No doubt he found my reservations about the dogma of “the Trinity” to be heretical. (At least he did not have me burned at the stake, as some bishops have done for those who question fixed beliefs.)
So what am I to do? I remain a Benedictine monk of St. Anselm’s Abbey, and I remain a Catholic priest. Am I proud of either position? Frankly, no. On the other hand, I firmly believe that I benefited much from being a brother monk of St. Anselm’s, and I genuinely respect and love my Abbot as a man of God. As for me, I am not worthy or suitable to live in the monastery, for my character is highly flawed, and I really am, as noted, a “trouble-maker.” I question what others do not want questioned. I am unable to live at peace with what I perceive as serious wrong-doing, deception, pretense, or unquestioned beliefs. Even as I consider myself a very poor example of being a Benedictine monk, at least I respect the life the monks attempt to live. As for being a priest in the Catholic church, here I feel much shame and disgust. We priests—myself included—have badly failed the people we were ordained to serve. Many of us are scoundrels, who steal, deceive, seek power, swallow all sorts of ideological nonsense and spew it out to others. Having seen what I have seen from some clergy, there is no way I could be proud to be serve among such men. On the other hand, I have known some wonderful and good priests—one of whom is now in prison for doing evil. And a real scoundrel and deceiver runs free to continue his deceptions, thanks to cover up from the chancery. How could anyone be proud to be counted among such human beings?
I look in the mirror, and I see a fairly old man, become rapidly older. I am thankful for my life, despite my flaws and faulty character, and despite my impassioned and unbalanced temperament. I have received much good from the all-merciful God—“far more than I deserve,” as Dave Ramsey would say. It is best that I live alone, so as not to infect others with my anger and refusal quietly to accept what I think are lies or deceptions. There is no way I could live peaceably with any human being, for I am not at peace with what and who I am; hence, I willingly and gladly accept living alone in relative isolation. And in no way do I want to function publicly in any church, or in civil society. Although no prophet or saint, I would probably be as divisive of human community as was John the Baptist—just on a smaller scale, as I am a much smaller human being than was John.
Finally, should I write and make public such statements? If not, why not? What is gained by hiding who we are? Can any good come from what I do or say? In truth, I do not know. But this I believe: “It is time for judgment to begin in the household of God.”
—Wm. Paul McKane
7 December 2019
The following is an actual email exchange I had this week with a former undergraduate student of mine. He is still young, living in the Midwest. Kris had sent me the trailer for a film scheduled to be released next month, called “The Hunt.” In it, supposed “elites” from left-wing strongholds hunt “Deplorables” from interior states for sport. The trailer was extremely graphic and disgusting. For purposes of clarification, I made a few small changes in our exchange.
On 9 August, Kris emailed me:
Greetings, Fr. Paul,
I'm not sure if you have heard of this [new film] or not but it is an example of the extreme decadence coming out of our elites in this country. The video embedded in this page is very graphic so don't feel like you need to watch it. The idea behind it is enough to sicken a person.
I hope that you are well and I hope to get the chance to communicate with you again soon. May God bless you and yours.
My response later on 9 August:
Kris, what I saw is shocking, for the same reasons you feel it. If the hunted had been blacks being lynched, there would be a very loud outcry. And this film is called a “satire”? So such politically-motivated brutality is supposed to be humorous in some way? Yes, I had heard of it on Lou Dobbs, but had no idea that it was this graphic. I am “blown away” by what I just watched. It is sickening—literally.
I rarely indulge in any Hollywood productions, and when I do, they are old movies (say, from the 1930’s to 1950’s). I have no stomach for the nonsense generated by most of the Hollywood money-makers.
How can this country have a good future? The future is unknown, but I would not bet on the development of a real culture of life and nourishment in our country. No way.
God bless you, your wife, and your little ones,
P.S. I am still with Moses and Elijah
An additional note which I wrote a little later, as the images would not leave my mind.
Kris, that movie trailer for “The Hunt” was very disturbing.
For many years Hollywood has been glorifying violence, or using it to make big money. They are surely a major factor in the preference and taste for violence that keeps tearing families and communities apart. They sold hatred, and many bought it.
Kris responded the next day.
10 August 2019
I have found that as I grow older and more withdrawn from worldly allures, I find violent images and disregard of human life to be more and more unbearable. It was difficult to watch that video without turning my eyes away. A few years ago, I attempted to read the book that inspired the popular Game of Thrones series and could not stomach the graphic sexual descriptions and inhuman violence. Perhaps it is weakness of soul. Perhaps it is also a concern for the dignity of human beings. I do not know how I would react in a battlefield scenario. I would hope that I could do my duty without flinching and defend my family, home, and friends.
The reason this particular film stood out to me was its plot of progressive elites herding up Trump supporting “deplorables” and murdering them, scratch that, butchering them for sport. To these elites, any who disagree with their agenda (be it environmentalism, gender fluidity, sexual liberation, LGBT progress, unconditional choice, absolute progressivism, etc.) is not even worthy of being human and should be treated as animals; worse than animals for animals are our innocent friends and deserve to inherit the earth after human beings pass away into oblivion. This mentality of the elites has been growing steadily since the Obama era and came to a head with the rise of Trump. Now we see their hearts' desire portrayed in a film where they can finally rid the world of those who would hinder their progress. It is terrifying.
We do not turn on the television in our home and so our children are shielded from much of the media's influence. Every time I hear a news report or read an article in a mainstream publication, I think of the scene in Orwell's 1984 where the company workers are required to participate in the two-minute hate. An image of the enemy (Trump) is shown on the screen and all participators are required to curse, jeer, and yell at that image. It is no wonder that the extreme on both sides of the political spectrum are coming out into the spotlight.
I know that I am young (32) and I have not seen much of the history in our country, but has the polarization and conflict between the two parties ever been so poignant before? The rift between left and right, progressive and conservative, republican and democrat is so deep and intense that one is almost forced to choose a side. Could it escalate to a civil war? If so, do the conservatives have a hope of surviving? We feel as if we are constantly on the defense. What would happen if a conservative cause went on the offense? What would that look like?
Is there enough goodness left in this country to try to conserve?
After the conglomeration of big government and semi-socialism that we have experienced, is it possible to return to a republic of states grounded in enduring liberties? How long would it take to return to order and how much more will we lose before that happens?
When society falls, will the Church of Christ be strong enough to carry the survivors? If not, to what or to whom shall we turn?
The weight of the disorder is heavy and oppressing. How does one become more like St. Lawrence and laugh in light of the persecution? How do we stay light-hearted as much of the world seeks to tear us down?
The perplexities of a young father striving to find light in the darkness.
10 August 2019
I feel for your situation with a family and young children living in the midst of this culture of decadence, now intensified by sheer hatred and murderous thoughts. The trailer you sent did not change my thinking at all, but only brought a wave of anguished feelings into my heart. It is not just the scenario of leftists hunting down Trumpian “deplorables” as sport that so sickens me, but my recurring sense, previously noted, that Hollywood has immersed our population in scenes of violence, cruelty, hatred, and depravity for years now—all to make money, and to change us into the image that these movie-makers seek: a godless society without spiritual, intellectual, or moral standards. Hollywood has helped to tear down whatever has been good and noble in our people, much as leftist idiots have run loose and torn down historical statues of figures from our past now deemed “unacceptable” to their own “woke consciousness.”
I do not wish to alarm you, but you already voiced your strong and grounded concern for raising a problem in the midst of our culture morass. Often a thought returns to my mind, “America is dying.” If this is not what a decadent and dying society looks like, what could it be? What we are going through reminds me of Weimar Germany, and how it gave rise to National Socialism. Once God and right reason are rejected (and even hated), “all hell breaks loose.” The worst forces that dwell submerged in the human spirit come to the surface and find expression. Without either a genuine spiritual life or noetic controls (from right reason), what can hold a society together except force?
When I was a child, I probably did not object to seeing violence on the screen. But when I was ten or eleven, my father took my family to see “Psycho”, and soon thereafter another highly violent film called, I believe, “Homocidal.” And we viewed other such violent films. To this day, whenever I travel and must stay in a motel room, I have spontaneous flashbacks from “Psycho,” in which a blond woman is attacked and killed by repeated blows of a knife while taking a shower. One thing I learned is that these Hollywood money-making spectacles have real and lasting effects on human beings—on psyches and their lives. Such movies are not innocuous. There are various forces that have contributed to making our society a cesspool of hatred, violence, and various perversions, but surely Hollywood has played a leading role—and should give itself an Academy Aware for the most corrupting. You are wise indeed not to allow your children to watch television. My family gathered around the TV nightly. Some shows in the 1950’s were either harmless or even uplifting, but the standards and tastes kept sinking downhill. And now we have a movie about liberals hunting conservatives for sport. And we should think that such evil movies will have no effect on our citizens?
I share your concern that the political divide in our country is reaching a very dangerous point. As I see it, we are on the verge of tearing ourselves apart by hatred and violence. The divisions were indeed present and real during the Obama era, which you mentioned, but the hard core left in this country hates President Trump so vehemently and irrationally that they seem to be willing to stop at nothing to destroy him, or at least his Presidency. Their ferocity and viciousness is, I think, unrivaled in our country’s history. Or if such passions were nearly as strong before, the means to magnify and to implement hatred and other evils in human hearts were not nearly as great. The immense power of the State to spy on and destroy Trump, employed by highly partisan and lawless individuals in the FBI, CIA, and other departments and agencies, has never been used to the same extent before in our history, to the best of my knowledge, although some Presidents (FDR, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon) did use State powers against political opponents. Now the wickedness of Obama officials and leftist extremists (and a large part of the GOP establishment) has been joined by most of the mass media (NYT, CNN, ABC, and so on) in a steady and unashamed assault on Trump in every way they can concoct. In this sense, the leftists have been hunting down “deplorables” for at least three years now—but really much longer. We are repeatedly branded as “racist” and “white supremacists” just for appreciating a number of President Trump’s policies—as I surely do as a political scientist and as a citizen. We are smeared and vilified for supporting the President in any way. Perhaps you have experienced such smearing personally; I surely have. But I recall being branded as “an extremist” in my youth when I supported and campaigned for Barry Goldwater for President. The intensity and degree of the hatred and willingness to assassinate a man’s character (and the man himself, at least in violent speech) have reached a new depth of depravity. For just one example, think of the so-called “comedian” who carried around an image of a severed, bloody head of Donald Trump. Verbalizing assaults on him and members of his family have been frequent—and publicly tolerated by the leftist “elites.” Hence, the film showing leftists hunting down conservatives for sport is actually not unexpected. It is another case of left-wing, nascent totalitarian hatred for those who think differently than they do. These “progressives” have been engaged in “search and destroy” by other means up to the present. If you wish for a concrete example, think of the corrupt and wicked little FBI agent, Peter Strzok. When I listened to him testify before Congress, I saw a shrunken, deceitful, wicked little soul on public display, and seemingly getting away with his antics. Unfortunately for Strzok and other such “Progressives” (who can “smell” Trump voters), truth will out, sooner or later. Or so one must hope in order to see justice done. But to be honest, I am not holding my breath, because these “elite” types have protected each other for years. Again, leading GOP figures and party donors have shared in this charade.
What is one to do? Hiding one’s head in the sand, or packing up and moving, or trying to live in a cocoon are not viable solutions. One must prepare one’s soul, one’s mind, to be tested and under assault if one seeks to live a good life, to act justly, to speak the truth. You will suffer for goodness in a corrupt society such as ours. That much we know, and so one must be prepared. Lightheartedness is not, I dare say, a rational response to being roasted (as was St. Lawrence). But nor is defeatism or melancholy. What comes to mind is a teaching from the prophet Jeremiah to the effect that through struggle one must gain one’s soul. One finds the same in the Gita—life is a battlefield, in which one must do one’s duty and act aright, regardless of the personal consequences. Here is a real hero to study and to imitate: the Austrian farmer, husband, and father, Franz Jägerstätter. Without choosing to speak the truth, to act justly, to refrain from evil, over and again, one loses himself. And saintly and wise Franz was pressed even by his priest and bishop to play along with the Nazis, and he refused—knowing that his family would suffer. For not being willing to fight in a war of aggression for Nazi Germany, Jägerstätter, abandoned by the Catholic hierarchy, was murdered by the totalitarian regime.
You ask, “When society falls, will the Church of Christ be strong enough to carry the survivors? If not, to what or to whom shall we turn?” If by “Church” one means the official church, then I put far less faith in “the Church of Christ” than you may do. To gain my own soul and live in dignity, I had to withstand corrupt powers within the Church—and especially from members of the clergy. For nearly 40 years now I have served within the Church as a monk, and as a priest, but receive no benefits (pension or health care), in large part because I dared to uncover and speak out against a priest who indulged in various crimes, grand theft. He was given a pension and health care, and still functions in parishes. His bishop promised our finance council that this priest would never function again; the same bishop restored this corrupt man’s faculties a few months later. Why? Was the bishop bought off? No answer was given. You can imagine the agony that such clergy have caused many lay persons who know of the deceits, stealing, and cover-up. But If by the “Church of Christ” you mean Christ, his teaching, and the faithful who are genuinely struggling to live in Christ—such as my spiritual friend, Franz Jägerstätter—then yes, for them and with them we can have hope. But the hierarchy as an institution has shown itself to be as decadent as our American culture—and both are dying. (I often think that the Body of Christ must slough off the hierarchy as a snake sheds its old skin.) At times one must even bear with foolishness from Popes, as we frequently do even now. Again from Jeremiah, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man; blessed the man who trusts in God.” And the hierarchy is “human, all too human,” so beware of trusting it. If I am truthful, respect me for it, but please do not respect me because I am an “ordained priest.” The very title of “priest” has become a source of shame to me, given what I have experienced. Titles worth having are “courageous,” “truthful,” “just,” “reliable.” In short, “Beware of wolves who come in sheep’s clothing,” even when dressed in priestly clothes and fancy liturgical vestments.
So, dear Kris, if you have felt yourself hunted at times by self-styled “Progressives” and “elites,” and by the self-proclaimed “learned professors” and by clerical hierarchs, do not be surprised. If you have not felt the tentacles of corruption reaching into you, or even dwelling in your own heart, wonder why. “For out of the heart proceeds murderous thoughts…” The only cure for corruption is virtuous activity, and acceptance of the consequences for choosing life over death, and goodness over evil.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. Kris, if you do not mind, I will post our exchange on this video on my website. The only personal information on you is your first name; I omitted your wife’s name, and made no reference to where you live. As for me, the hunters know where to find me!
Perhaps fifty years ago, the philosopher Eric Voegelin wrote that living in a modern western society often feels as though one is living in an insane asylum. That was true then, and is considerably more true today. But it seems fitting to take the underlying thought and its engendering experience in a different but related direction: If western societies had some of the feel of insane asylums, they also had and have the feel of becoming concentration camps, set up and run by quasi-totalitarian governments and their instruments of control. Specifically, who can be alive and conscious in our American society today and not realize that increasingly we see elements of totalitarian political culture growing up and firmly lodged in our society?
At the present time, the United States of America is not essentially identical to Nazi Germany, to the Soviet Union, or to Communist China; but are we not heading in a similar direction? The degree to which political power is amplified by mass media and by mass education is startling and disturbing. The political culture of our country is no longer republican, as we were at the time of our Founding in the late 18th century; nor are we the kind of largely egalitarian-democratic society that emerged in the era of Jefferson and Jackson; nor are we simply a culture dominated by plutocrats—already visible during and just after the Civil War. Increasingly, the political power of the Federal Government—and to a lesser extent, the power of the State and local governments—has grown to such enormous scope and magnitude that none of our Founders would recognize in our regime the spirit and essence of the Constitution of 1787. They would recognize certain names, such as “the Congress,” “the Presidency,” and the “Supreme Court,” but the institutions that have developed have dwarfed and virtually drowned out the institutions set up by the Constitution as it was written and promulgated. We have broken the spirit of the Constitution by amassing largely unchecked power in the hands of the rulers and the power elite.
Even more disturbing is what has happened to the body politic, and to individual citizens under the law. For the most part, we Americans have become a nearly lawless people, who refuse to govern ourselves. We are manipulated by media and “education,” dominated by governments and self-important politicians, and nearly impervious to the call of virtue and right living in our own souls. Indeed, most Americans today either do not know, or do not want to know, that they have souls—that they are ensouled bodies. The Hobbesian belief in man as a “body in motion” has become part of the uncoded civil religion. We interpret ourselves as a people in history, with no destiny beyond what is achievable on earth. “The new order of the ages” has swallowed up the life of the spirit in the United States; we are “new men,” not perhaps in Marx’s sense of “Socialist Man” who “creates himself,” but virtually the same thing in reality. Our society does not so much inculcate individual liberty grounded on individual responsibility and acquired virtues, but on the “right” to follow one’s whims and wishes and willing wheresoever they may lead. Observe the way we Americans act, and especially among those under about age fifty or so, and one finds that as a whole, we are a virtually lawless people. Or rather, we are a “law unto ourselves”—noisy self-driven actors governed by passions which are dominated and ruled, not by reason dwelling in one’s soul, but by the powers that be, especially in the mass media, entertainment world, manipulative corporations and their “social media,” and of course, the power of the elites, whether elected or appointed.
Thinking ourselves free and a “free people,” we are in fact enslaved to mass manipulators, and to our own lower passions. We Americans are enslaved. We are slaves to ideologies, to fads, to Hollywood, to Silicon Valley, to Wall Street, to K Street (in Washington, DC), to the noise and bombast of a degenerate mass culture that exists at an astonishingly low level. But worse than this, whatever good qualities we as a people possessed one hundred or even fifty years ago seem all but bleached out now. We need to ask ourselves: Can we sink much lower as a people in history? As a people under God? (“Under God!” some would scream. “Hell, you can’t say that. We are not under God because either there is no God, or God is irrelevant in our lives, and in the destiny of our country. We are free and equal! We are our own creators and rulers.”) Are we indeed our own creators? We are so “free” that many resort to violence or violent speech against those who disagree with them. “Freedom” apparently is becoming a synonym for self-slavery. Rejecting God and reason, we Americans are creating a godless concentration-camp society in our own image.
It is more than disturbing to see and to feel what America is becoming. Many of us in the second half of our lives are painfully aware of destructive changes. Rather than “making America great again,” by our actions, inactions, and words, we are becoming neo-totalitarians, generally driven by a godless “progressive” ideology, in which “nothing is real,” except what one “chooses to believe.” We are so blind, that, even with our science, we cannot recognize the image of God in the womb of a mother, or on the face of one’s political opponent. We see nothing of any genuine worth except what serves our own purposes, what enhances our own power, or what is “convenient,” or “politically correct,” or “acceptable” to the least rational elements among us. As a recent American President rather fiendishly advised his supporters, “Get in the face” of your opponents, and “take a gun to a knife fight.” Having preached in this manner, and had his effects, it is not surprising that we have an actual Fascist group that labels itself “Antifa” (short for “Anti-Fascist”) to hide its intent, to dupe people, but in reality uses tactics similar to the Nazis and Communists in Weimar Germany: threatening others, using violence against opponents, destroys property, deceives by slogans, and seeks to overturn and destroy whatever does not suit their criteria for being “progressive.” In other words, “Antifa” is a fitting symbol of the the New Society, the “Progressive America” that is emerging in our midst. It seeks to dominate, to destroy, to inflict its will on others just as completely as the abortionist inflicts his will on the unborn human being. Indeed, in the new Progressive America, abortion is in reality the model for the new society: whatever these people deem “inhuman” or “unwanted,” can be destroyed in the name of their god, “Progress.” Abortion, euthanasia, killing the “unwanted” or “socially useless,” such as the elderly, and destroying one’s personal or political opponents by “any means necessary” to achieve their end—these are their achievements. Their goal is complete domination of our culture and society, and in true totalitarian fashion, build a “new society” and a “new humanity.” And their dream is now far advanced.
All things that enter being must perish; everything that is born, dies. Political societies are no exception. America was born several centuries ago, and in time, it will perish, despite popular illusions and beliefs. Our task, however, is not to hasten our country’s demise, but to preserve and protect the best in us and in our political society, and to uproot from our own hearts the evil that hastens the destruction of all things good and beautiful. Our country’s fate is in the balance, and so is our own.
—Wm. P. McKane
27 July 2019
11 Feb 2019
Presently I have little of anything to add to what I wrote yesterday. The thoughts that come to mind you may not wish to hear. The most difficult question you raise is, I believe, in effect a classical question of political philosophy: “Then what is to be done?”
We do not wish to have recourse to Romantic solutions: pretending that there are no truly serious problems in our political culture, social institutions, the churches, and so on. There is also the Romantic solution of the Hippie movement, that broke from society and formed communes based on “free love” and hallucinogenic drugs. A more common Romantic or escapist solution shows up in our mass culture, with so much mindless “entertainment” absorbing the interests and time of a large portion of our society. Then there is the escapist movement in the churches; I have seen this first hand from the (usually) young clergy who want to “go back” to the supposedly good old days of the Latin liturgy. In the process, they alienate many of the older folks, who had the style of liturgy to which they had been accustomed ripped from them in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Now some want to restore what was stripped away, but in a more artificial form (more detached from historical evolution in Christianity). In my view, to attempt the kind of removal from society that Benedict of Nursia achieved in the 6th century (based on generations of monks before him) would also be a Romantic revival, an escape that is fruitless because not possible or likely to succeed in this culture. Then there is the seemingly contrary escapism into social activism in politics, society, the churches. Not truly knowing the good or what is to be done, many dabble in all sorts of “social programs.” Often enough, they do more harm than good.
So what is to be done? For society as a whole, and for millions of peoples, I do not know, nor do I pretend to know. Even for some concrete individuals, I would be hesitant to recommend any course of action, beyond the most obvious: seek to develop one’s own character to the best of one’s ability; to seek not to be “contaminated by the world,” in the sense of the Letter of James; to break from mass culture, mass media, and crumbling political and social institutions to the extent possible; not to get caught up in apocalyptic or Gnostic dreaming; to face reality as honestly and as truthfully as one can. One must cultivate one’s own life in the spirit through study and meditation.
What I recommend not doing is clearly related, but I can be more explicit: avoid attachment to any ideology, including political or religious; avoid attachment to such crumbling institutions as the American political order, mass education, the Christian churches; avoid dependence on institutions to provide for one’s intellectual and spiritual life to the extent possible; avoid immersion in the products of mass entertainment (movies, television, pop music); avoid addictions in all forms. The task is enormous; it is not easy. Much personal effort is required.
On a more speculative note, I wonder how long Western civilization and specifically our political order will survive. An empire such as ours makes many enemies. The most powerful enemy now is Communist China. Although I may be wrong, and hope that I am, it seems that a catastrophic and extremely destructive war between these two “super-powers” could easily occur within the present generation (within twenty years or so). As I see it, we have been digging our own graves, giving the Chinese the technology and weapons to defeat us, or at least to murder millions. But then, we Americans keep murdering millions of our own infants through abortion: all in the name of convenience, which is an embodiment of the god of self. (America is absorbed in self-worship, as anyone with eyes to see can see.)
I shall continue to wrestle with the question, “What is to be done,” but I expect no easy or quick solution at all. We are “too far gone” to be spared by easy adjustments. As I wrote recently, our country is committing self-murder. The disease will run its course, with likely death of the civilization as it has emerged in history. I claim no certain or definite knowledge of the future.
07 Feb 2019
I’ll be very brief. If you did not watch Trump’s State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday 05 Feb 2019, I encourage you to do so. Using search engines, it was needlessly difficult to find the speech, rather than edited versions or critical commentary I used a link from Newt Gingrich, who posted the entire speech on his FaceBook page watch it online
If nothing else, watch the last 20 minutes of the long speech. It includes the peroration, the part of a speech that brings the whole together, and lifts it to its height. The use of a Holocaust survivor; a man from the Pittsburgh synagogue slaughter; the officer who took seven shots taking down the synagogue attacker; and a US soldier who had parachuted into France, and who later helped to liberate Dachau was most effectively done. And then Trump pulled the speech together (the peroration) with some of the most inspiring words I have heard him utter. Even Speaker Pelosi’s face, which had been frozen during most of the speech, registered a faint smile.
I do not know who wrote the speech, but I am sure that Trump had his hand in it. The delivery was excellent, with Trump’s ability to respond to the moment, without being scripted at every moment. His very gifted son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka, may have had input into the speech (they are both Orthodox Jews, as you probably know). In any case, as a close confidant of Reagan said last evening, this is one of the greatest state of the union addresses.
I will not send this out to those I know who hate Trump. Their hatred prevents them from seeing the good. Hatred blinds. Let’s not waste time dealing with hatred, because it is a free choice of the will, and only the hater himself or herself can unlock the frozen choice and be open to the truth of reality. No one can do it for them. So I avoid entering into political arguments with haters of any stripe.
Peace and good will,
What follows is neither fully known nor unknown. It is, as is so often the case, an experiment, an attempt to clarify certain problems of the mind in our contemporary culture. Nothing here needs to be taken too seriously, or rather, too literally. Any question may be raised. Nothing is out of bounds in this thought experiment.
What is one to do, living or dying in a society such as ours? Is it responsible merely to live one’s daily life as if…? As if what? As if it just continues, as if one’s life is whole or wholesome, as if this society is fundamentally good or healthy or life-affirming. What is one to do, living in the midst of so much spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical disorder? What does one do living blindly among the blind? Well, open one’s eyes, perhaps.
How can one responsibly turn to our political leaders, looking for guidance, or justice, or an example of goodness? How can one responsibly turn to our religious leaders, expecting truthfulness and uprightness? Is there any individual, any group, in this society, that is not tainted with our diseases of spirit and mind? Love your beloved spouse or friend despite his or her flaws, but do not pretend that he or she is what that person is not. We are all not only wounded, but wounding, and corruption is found everywhere one turns—even in one’s heart.
Perhaps one expected to find some peace, some goodness in one’s faith tradition, in church or synagogue or temple, or in one’s sangha. And what shows up? So much illusion and delusion, deceitfulness, lying, hatred, desires for gain, for power. No one can escape the self in its illusions, greed, lust, foolishness. One must strive to rise above one’s lower self, one’s own impurities and flaws. And the flaws of others.
What seems reasonable and fitting in our society is to suspend one’s attachment from all institutions: state, church, police, schools, laws, various groupings. Those often thought noble or capable of leading others have shown themselves to be blind guides indeed, or worse: deceivers seeking to “rip off” anyone and everyone. Some of the worst spectacles of deceit show up in the church hierarchy. But plenty show up in our so-called “Department of Justice,” which in many cases is as much a department of injustice as one would find in a totalitarian society.
Has our country become a totalitarian society? If not, we have been moving in that direction for decades, and the pace seems to be accelerating. We are building a prison for human beings, for minds, from which escape becomes increasingly difficult and unlikely.
To repeat for clarity: we are building ourselves a prison-culture of mindlessness, of diseases of the spirit, of destruction. When will it occur to the so-called learned elites who rule us by their vicious opinions of how evil we have become, even to the point of murdering infants in the womb, and proclaiming ourselves “enlightened” for doing so? When will it occur to our citizens that proclaiming ourselves free and equal, we have enslaved ourselves to the worst drives and passions in our souls? Future generations may well see how like we were to the Soviet Union, to Nazi Germany, to Maoist China, even while puffing ourselves up on being “a free society,” “a democracy,” “a land of liberty and equality.” How we deceive ourselves, we Americans. We are one of the most destructive societies in history. How many human beings have we allowed to be killed in the name of someone’s “right to choose”? Right to choose what? To choose to have a human being destroyed in the most brutal ways. And how proud we are of ourselves for this so-called “life-style.” America has made itself a society of mass-murder in which the most powerless are destroyed by those with power. And all dressed up in “rights,” in “our needs,” in our “freedom and equality.” If America is not a prison society of the mind, where the most base opinions and actions are held up as good and right, what could a human prison possibly look like? If America has not become a culture of death, what would one look like?
A wicked ruler in our country is mass opinion: the slogans, the biases, the diseases, the infected breath of so many. At every turn one encounters the triumph of the worst in us, and among us—and at the same time, pretending that we are “basically good.” How deceived and deceiving we are in this prison-society.
What is one to do? First, suspend all loyalty, all attachment, to our “way of life,” to our culture, to our governments, to our institutions of “higher learning,” to our churches. To all that this society holds dear or of value, one must hold oneself back. Second, one must not seek to destroy anything, not even the corrupt leadership in politics or in churches or in “science,” but one must make a spiritual-mental break. Hatred breaks from nothing, but further incarcerates oneself. Love for what is evil is neither good nor truly possible. Hence, suspend, let go, stand back. Third, one must be ruthlessly honest with oneself, and seek to root out all evil from one’s mind and soul and character. One must not make excuses. If you have killed your parent by hatred or your unborn by “convenience,” at least admit the evil you have done, and cease coddling yourself, your criminal self, your self-deceptive self.
One could wish that sweet and gentle words were also truthful: just “love your enemy,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” with the misinterpreted implication that one should “love oneself” as one is, calling evil good. The problem is that we have so much self-love, and so much self-delusion. The self we love is often ourselves at our worst—our will to power, to pleasure, to gain. To love what we have become as a people in history is not a virtue, but foolishness and wickedness. We have become a shameful, deluded people. “The ugly American” has grown into America the ugly—into an empire of death. If one doubts the truthfulness of the term, “empire of death,” ask yourself: How many human beings have been murdered behind the walls of abortion mills? And virtually no awareness of what we are doing. How many human minds are killed by mass propaganda—from schools, mass media, popular music, entertainment?
If someone fifty years from now were to ask, “Why were you so silent?,” consider this: so many voices are heard, so much screaming, so many sounds that drown out thinking, that reason’s voice cannot be heard, is not heard, and so, is not heeded. America is hell-bent on doing what it wants. And so we keep murdering the unborn, perverting the minds of our children, deceiving each other under cover of suits and vestments. Where in America can reason speak and be heard? Perhaps only in the solitude of a hidden mountain valley, or on the open plains, by the sea—but then, even there, our culture of death penetrates through mass media, and mass opinions, and noises coming from every direction. We have made ourselves a people in history that hates quiet, hates solitude, hates aloneness. We bundle ourselves together in echo chambers, and drown out the whispers of silence and of emptiness.
Our society is becoming a living nightmare. How many realize this? Some sense it, but have no idea what to do. Our ideologies deceive us into thinking that every decadent act, every weird desire, is somehow a step towards “human progress.” Men try to make themselves women, and women try to become men. Children think that they are the centers of the universe, and parents think that their children are little gods. Good grief, so much stupidity and foolishness. Can we become worse as a people?
It seems possible, perhaps likely, that in the perspective of another century or two, some thoughtful human beings will look back on what had been “the United States of America,” and wonder how so many human beings could have been so self-deceived, so wicked, so degenerate, so destructive of themselves and of others.
America is killing itself. And we share in the act of murder.
24 Jan 2019
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