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The Antichrist Of Compassion

Rene Girard and the 'other totalitarianism' now making itself manifest
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This morning I received an e-mail from a professor at a Catholic university. I won’t name it, or her, here, because I don’t have permission. But she told me a first-hand story about how the university tried to deny the pro-life student group a permit to set up a booth at a recent non-political campus event open to the public. The faculty advisor fought for the pro-life students, and won, but after it was over, one of the university’s diversity coordinator raised hell with senior administrators about how the presence of pro-lifers caused neighborhood children to weep. The professor said nobody, of course, saw or heard these triggered tots, but the diversity commissar insisted that they exist.

Another reader — this one teaches at a Catholic high school — told me yesterday that his school has approved a Gay-Straight Alliance club. He said that he told his faculty colleagues that they are deluded if they think there is not an intrinsic conflict between this club and the Catholic mission of the school. Of course it didn’t matter — the school capitulated.

I don’t see how any Christian school is going to survive this cultural revolution with its values intact unless it has deep confidence in its Christian identity and mission, and massive reserves of courage upon which to draw. A Christian academic friend told me that, and he’s right. And even then the soft totalitarian regime — the state, accreditation authorities, corporations, and so on — will try to crush them.

It’s here. It’s happening now. The collapse is happening all around us. I want to point you to a piece I wrote last year, “The Age Of Antichrist.”  It was inspired in part by a Catholic cardinal’s frank admission that we might well be in the Last Days. And I would like you to see this post I wrote last year quoting the late, great Catholic thinker Rene Girard; I quote some of this in Live Not By Lies:

Now, here is where Girard becomes especially interesting, and relevant to our moment. He says that today, “we hear repeated in every way that we no longer have an absolute,” but in fact the concern for victims “is our absolute.” That is, it is the basis for our morality: “it is the concern for victims that determines what is most important.” This is the case because all other sources of absolute value have been lost. More:

The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition. … We are living through a caricatural “ultra-Christianity” that tries to escape from the Judeo-Christian orbit by “radicalizing” the concern for victims in an anti-Christian manner. … The intellectuals and other cultural elites have promoted Christianity to the role of number one scapegoat.

Girard says we are at the advent of what he calls “the other totalitarianism,” saying that it is

the most cunning and malicious of the two, the one with the greatest future, by all evidence. At present it does not oppose Judeo-Christian aspirations but claims them as its own and questions the concern for victims on the part of Christians (not without a certain semblance of reason at the level of concrete action, given the deficiencies of historical Christianity). The other totalitarianism does not openly oppose Christianity but outflanks it on its left wing.

This is the force of what in the Christian tradition is called Antichrist. You don’t have to believe in a literal Antichrist figure to grasp what Girard is saying here. Girard points out that in the symbolic language of the New Testament, Antichrist opposes Christ by imitating him and seeking to be better than him. More:

The Antichrist boasts of bringing to human beings the peace and tolerance that Christianity promised but has failed to deliver. Actually what the radicalization of contemporary victimology produces is a return to all sorts of pagan practices: abortion euthanasia, sexual undifferentiation, Roman circus games galore but without real victims, etc.

Neo-paganism would like to turn the Ten Commandments and all of Judeo-Christian morality into some alleged intolerable violence, and indeed its primary objective is their complete abolition. Faithful observance of the moral law is perceived as complicity with the forces of persecution that are essentially religious. Since the Christian denominations have become only tardily aware of their failings in charity, their connivance with established political orders in the past and present world that are always “sacrificial,” they are particularly vulnerable to the ongoing blackmail of contemporary neo-paganism.

Notice that at the unnamed Catholic university, the diversity commissar was attempting to suppress the pro-life group in the name of compassion to children. At the unnamed Catholic high school, the administration approved the Gay-Straight Alliance because compassion and tolerance demanded violating Catholic teaching. These woke Catholics are going to be more compassionate than Jesus, you see.

This is the kind of thing I wrote Live Not By Lies to warn Christians about, and to urge them to fight, and to prepare to endure faithfully. We will not be able to count on our institutions and our leaders. This alien and malign spirit is conquering the institutions. We need to be ready to see, judge, and act. Let those with ears to hear, hear.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

My Catholic high school had a GSA when I was a student there (2008-2012). Every teacher was obliged to wear an “Ally” badge on Pride Day.
That didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I joined the GSA, because I very sincerely thought that Christians ought to be more compassionate towards gay people. I was raised in the liberal Presbyterian and Episcopal churches, but was politically very conservative; I wasn’t there to support the gay agenda, but I didn’t really care what two men did in the privacy of their own bedrooms, either. I just thought “Building a Bridge” was a good idea long before I’d heard of Father Martin. It never occurred to me that one had to imbibe the whole LGBT agenda in order to be an “Ally.” Silly me!

I was president of our Young Republicans club and an officer in the GSA at the same time. Then, the 2012 election rolled around. At a GSA meeting, I mentioned nonchalantly that I was supporting Romney, in part, because he upheld traditional marriage. The other members were appalled. Our faculty advisor flew off the handle. I sputtered, “But the Catholic Church opposes gay marriage!” He—a former seminarian, teaching at a Catholic school—went into a long tirade against the Church’s teaching being bigoted, homophobic, etc. I was furious and immediately resigned from the GSA.
Now, I can remember three teachers openly disagreeing with Church teaching, two of whom were openly in relationships with other men, and they would bring their partners to school events. It didn’t surprise me that the faculty advisor disagreed with me. What truly shocked me was that they would get angry and think less of me as a person.
I spoke to some friends in the Young Republicans, who had always thought I was a tool for joining the GSA but had been too afraid to say anything. One of the lads came from a legacy family. He told me that the previous headmaster—a member of the religious order that theoretically) runs the school—had been ousted by the board of alumni for not letting a transgendered student bring his boyfriend to prom. They still let him teach science—”like you’d throw a dog a bone,” as Johnny Cash would say.
It still blows my mind. There I was, a doe-eyed Republican youff thinking that progressives wouldn’t hate my guts just because I disagreed with their definition of marriage. I will never make that mistake again. I will never, ever fall for the “building bridges” spiel again.
I look back at how blind I was, and it still bothers me. How many students just lapped it up, assuming (naturally) that a Catholic school would teach Catholic truths? How many parents had any idea it was going on—and why would they think to ask?



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