By Charlie Johnston
“…in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark…”
We are all being bombarded right now. The news is coming as if out of the nozzle of a wide open power hose. Some of it is true, some of it false, almost all of it manipulated. It is incredibly hard right now to separate the wheat from the chaff. Meantime among both family and colleagues, personal crises and challenges are rising. We are in the midst of the spiritual and technological equivalent of the bombing blitzkrieg of London.
People are constantly asking for my assessment of various commentators in both the political and religious arenas. It is a good time to remind all that I have always said it is more important to be true than it is to be precisely right. The relentless search for a guru, a man who is always right and never wrong avails us nothing. There is only one guru in the universe and He is God. Each of us are poor, stumbling servants of the Most High, unless we have already turned to the darkness. Thus, what I look for in commentary and counselors is meat: do they give me deeper insight? Do they challenge me, forcing me to refine my thinking? Do they stay grounded in established facts and evidence? If they do all these things they are useful to me. That is why I can admire and value a woman like Camille Paglia, with whose interpretations I disagree over 80 percent of the time. But she is that precious rarity among the left these days: an intellectually honest liberal who does not make up her own facts to make her case.
In these terrible times, even the minds of the best among us are clouded over with some measure of confusion. The most faithful sons of the Church are heartbroken at the barnacles encrusting the body of Christ. Many of them, while working from solid facts, are making panicked diagnoses and prescriptions. The magnificent Abp. Carlo Vigano commands my deep respect and admiration. On matters of fact that he recites, I have absolute confidence. On his interpretations of how we got here and where we are headed, I consider them and often reject them. He is a devoted son of the Church whose grief at where we find ourselves colors his judgment. Michael Voris of Church Militant is doing vital work that no one else in the Church is doing near as well. I value much of his work enormously. I worry that he is over-aggressive. That makes you vulnerable to ambush that can sap your credibility. I know. I ambushed more than a few over-aggressive opponents to blow them out of the water. Whether it was good or bad, it is a fact. In fact, I used that tactic frequently here a few years back, not to damage opponents, but to reveal their character to me. I was VERY controversial for a while and it was very important to me to know who, among theologians and such, were serious critics and who were just trying to make a name for themselves without much actual wisdom. So I took to occasionally making a case that St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine made without openly acknowledging it. Turns out that both of those Doctors of the Church made some pretty startling, counter-intuitive arguments at times. The pretenders would almost invariably attack my argument, unaware that it was St. Thomas’ or St. Augustine’s argument that they were attacking. The serious men would often contact me to go into more depth. I NEVER used it to discredit anyone, except to myself. But it was a very useful tool of discernment for me. I chuckled as one critic devoted almost an entire column to demonstrating how stupid I (actually St. Thomas) was.
Most of you know I have become dear friends with the eschatologist, Desmond Birch. Sometimes we chortle with glee agreeing with each other. At others, we take turns clubbing each other upside the head in disagreement. But I always come away better for the encounter, either having confirmed or refined my thought. And after a disagreement, we chuckle over how much vigorous fun that was.
Some of the public people I rely upon to always give me serious food for thought in the religious sphere are Dr. Robert Royal, Anthony Esolen, George Weigel, Jeffrey Mirus, and Fr. Mitch Pacwa. There are a host of others that I either read or have personal contact with. I can’t think of one that I agree with all the time – but among those named here, there is not one who does not make me better for having read his stuff. That IS the critical element to me. They are all true – and so they help me to be true.
This last month I have been disturbed by another phenomenon. Some people who have done work I liked in the past have written books or series of articles that posit, with comprehensive certainty, how we got here and what will happen next. Some of them are very comforting, others are very titillating – and the vast multitude have serious theological and historical errors. I have been mildly shaken by how many good people are taken in – the ones wanting comfort taking false comfort despite profound theological errors and the ones wanting titillation certain that they know the “secret” history and “secret” plan regardless of serial errors. Then I got to thinking that, unless you have already spent serious time laying down a base of theological and historical knowledge, you really don’t have time or leisure to get up to snuff now that it is so critical. Most adult Americans know the basics of American history, so if an author wrote a book positing how fortunate we are that the British put down the American Revolution or how the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was the proximate cause of Richard Nixon’s opening of China the reader would instinctively think that is not right…and so dismiss the credibility of the rest of the author’s argument no matter how dense and detailed. Absurdities greater than this are being peddled by people that have previously done serious work. I don’t know whether it is because of the panic these days have brought or if there is a more malign interpretation, but a lot of good people are being misled either way. I think it will become increasingly clear that you should seek neither comfort nor certainty, but devote yourself to taking the next right step under God, come what may.
Last week, two friends in conversation told me that I was a better writer than prognosticator. I let it pass with the first, but got a bit aggravated at the second pass. Noting that I had taken responsibility for my actual errors instead of trying to justify them, I asked him pointedly who else, five years ago, was saying that we were headed for a global civil war fought on cultural lines? Who else was saying that the heart of collapse would not be from some disaster movie, but the complete collapse of confidence in almost all the institutions we rely on? Who else had gotten closer to the big sweep of what we face? At the last question, after an uncomfortable silence, he said nobody had described what we face better. Whether you attribute my prognostications to an intuitive brilliance or to mysticism, I have told you true. But that was only the set-up for what is now truly needful, to establish firmly the credibility of my intuition and my resolution in taking full responsibility for my inevitable errors, neither blaming it on God or some mystical argle-bargle. And what you need to know now and that I tell you firmly is that, A-this is not the end (though it is the end of an era), B-Jesus is not going to come reign over us directly as king until we get heaven, C-while many will play helpful roles in the challenge before us, there is no man on a white horse coming to rescue us, relieving us of our responsibility, and D-this disorder was not foisted on us by some malevolent other (though malevolent others were, indeed, involved) but is a result of our failure to defend the faith when we should have, of our love having grown cold and presumptuous. It is not “they” who have crucified Christ, but “we.”
That being said, this is the hour of the hobbits. God has entrusted the renewal of the faith to His ordinary people. There is no place of safety, there is no place where we can avoid our duty before God now. We must each stand and publicly declare ourselves. We are called to be the heralds of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart – which will renew the faith of the world, a perfectly normal world in which we are given a renewed chance, with the fullness of our free will intact. It is entirely up to us what we will make of it. But we won’t have it until we make our stand before God – and before the world. Some of us will die in the process, either as martyrs or because God has better use for us in the eternal realm than the temporal. Do not desire to be a martyr or a king or unnoticed. Desire only to discern what God wants of you and to live it fully. He will choose our role if we acknowledge him in every moment and action. We will live the fullness of the communion of the saints as the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant work in tandem for the renewal of the faith and the world.
Each one of us will make errors in judgment as we go. If we try to justify them rather than candidly own up to our feet of clay, we will mutilate our souls a little and draw farther from God. Take counsel with each other and value those who tell you true, even when they are errant above those who want to convince you that they are gurus just like God.
Now we are at the penultimate point of a coup attempt in America that has been going on for four years. The media, all the institutions including much of the hierarchy, and social tech titans are all in censoring and silencing everyone who does not toe the line, even censoring the president. Everything is in suspense. Whether these institutions succeed in the coup or whether the American Jedi mount a serious defense of the Constitution and civil liberty; of faith, family and freedom will not resolve the conflict. Rather it is the beginning of the great battle.
You have been drafted into God’s army. Unlike with men’s rules, you are free to choose to accept or reject the invitation. But the battle will commence whatever you do. If you accept, you will not do battle as men do. Oh yes, there will be physical fighting in defense of liberty. But you are called to participate with Christ our Brother in calling the dead souls, those who have replaced all hope and joy with bitterness and anger, back to the peace and joy that is within Him. But there is no place of neutrality left. (Note: through some glitch, the original of this post simply repeated the last two lines of the previous paragraph. I have since replaced those last two lines with what I actually wrote – CJ)
We have been called to be heralds of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Each of us will live the consequences of what we choose – and the best of us, like Christ on the road to Golgotha, will sometimes stumble. Now is the time to choose or perish.