The first of a multi-part series on the sorry state of the secular world, how we got here (including who’s to blame), and how we can win it back to Christ.
- We had projected onto God virtues (such as wisdom, love, and providence for the future) that man must cultivate.
- We had ceded to God control over human destiny, embracing passivity instead of energetic activism.
- We had used a fantasy of divine justice meted out in the next life to assuage the effects of injustice in this life, thus blunting the impulse for change.
- We had allowed human life to be stunted, cramped, and ridden with guilt and fear of an invisible, all-powerful, punitive father-figure.
- We had “alienated” the best that was in man by locating God as the source, summit, and telos of all our earthly efforts, which must seem tainted and futile compared to their imagined unearthly perfections.
The “heroic” humanists got support from outside their ranks, from men who claimed no such broad philosophical project, but merely claimed to report on the outcome of their empirical, scientific research – employing a method which for centuries had been gradually displacing religion and speculative thought as the source most people looked to for intellectual certainty. (Indeed, the very word “science” – which once referred to every mode of knowledge, including theology – had by the late 19th century been narrowed in common use to refer mainly to strictly empirical studies.) So when Darwin’s theory offered an alternative explanation for the rise of life – even human life – his assertions provided explosive ammunition to those who wanted to free mankind from the shadow of God. Freud’s explanation of the workings of the human psyche – an idiosyncratic, highly anecdotal account based on a fantastically limited sample of wealthy Viennese – passed as science on the same model as Darwin’s. Freud’s insights were canny and persuasive, and offered a powerful new explanation for the perversities and frustrations of human life, displacing for many what had been the dominant theory: a scheme of sin, grace, and repentance that St. Augustine had developed from the writings of St. Paul.
Over the course of the next five columns, we will examine each of the assertions, A) through E), see to what degree it is valid, and try to understand how each idea became dominant in what used to be the Christian West. Most often, we’ll see that it has often been the sins of Christians, and the abuse of theological truths by zealots or cynics, that “scandalized” believers and made the tenets of subhumanism attractive. Our sins polished the apple and helped it catch Eve’s eye. We have the power, if we speak and act with a consistent respect for the sanctity and dignity of each person in every life situation, to win the culture back to a true humanism, one which will lead people gently but almost irresistibly to Christ.
Jason Jones is a producer in Hollywood. His films include Bella, Eyes to See, and Crescendo. Learn more about his human rights initiatives at www.iamwholelife.com.
John Zmirak is the author of The Bad Catholics Guide to the Catechism and blogs regularly at The Bad Catholics Bingo Hall. This column is from Jones’ and Zmirak’s upcoming book, The Race to Save Our Century (Crossroad, 2014).