Spiritual Warfare

Debating the 1990s

There's a bit of a back-and-forth going on at Bleeding Fool over the worth of the 1990s.

I think the perception of any period is heavily colored by one's personal experience of it - either having lived through it, or its art, politics, and entertainment.

It's hard to separate a time of personal misery from the larger zeitgeist.  Still, I think my take is an objective one.  The pre-9/11 world was a better one, and while I found myself frustrated and depressed during that period, I still had a lot of fun.  Indeed, I recognize that with better judgement, I'd have had a better decade.

The other issue with sitting in judgement is that culture and life don't simply flip with the page of a calendar.  The decades bleed into each other, and what one thinks of as the epitome of a particular era may have happened before or after the actual dates in question.

For example, the decay of Protestantism didn't start in the 1990s, it was merely revealed then.

One can't look at the cultural tides in music, art, entertainment and politics in isolation.

At the same time, it is easy to fall into the trap of overdeterminism - the notion that the out come of a recent event was inexorably set in motion by a distant one.  I see a lot of otherwise reasonable people insist that the Union victory in the Civil War is the direct, inevitable cause of all our contemporary problems.  Apparently the people living and ruling in intervening decades were denied any form of agency.  It's very much a Calvinist approach to history.

It is true that historical writers often were able to predict the future by examining contemporary trends.  C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and even J.R.R. Tolkien did this.  But as Tolkien in particular might admit, nothing was fixed - no one was forced to follow that path.  It's also true that many dangers fail to materialize, or that their impact is mitigated.

There are many currents in the stream of history, and some of them are hard to see.  It's also the case that there are other powers at work, the Unseen who most analysts completely ignore.

Combine a purely secular materialist frame with overdeterminism and the result will likely be devoid of any useful analysis.

The Remarkably Respectful Song of Bernadette

Being a convert, I'm still getting up to speed on what might call "modern" Catholic history.  For example, I assumed the famed healing waters at Lourdes was an ancient shrine, not something that came into existence less than two centuries ago.

Because I'm building out my religious film collection, I decided to grab a disc of The Song of Bernadette, starring Jennifer Jones.  Made in 1943, this film sets itself squarely on the side of the titular saint.  There are lots of "direct to video" films of that nature, but this was an Academy Award-winning mainstream film with an excellent cast.

Vincent Price is his usually brilliant self as a secular businessman who has no use for "superstition."  At first, the skeptics seem to have a point, because like many mystics, Bernadette speaks to persons unseen and sometimes seems completely lost in a world of her own.  To those who have closed themselves off from the spirit realm, there is nothing to see.  But the more I open myself to it, the more I feel its presence, often in strange and unexpected ways.

By strange coincidence (or was it?) I also recently attended a funeral one of my past employers, a good man with every mark of success who was well-loved.  The church was packed, and extra seating had to be set out in the hallways and into the lobby.

I mention this because it was a Baptist "celebration of life," and felt more like a variety show whose guest of honor was absent.  The church itself was typical of the type - utilitarian and sparsely decorated.  The main chamber (I hesitate to call it a sanctuary) had white walls, natural wood support beams and single austere wooden cross in the center.  The dais had four comfy, high-backed armchairs flanking a podium, which I assume was considered to be a pulpit.  To video screens flanks the cross, and offered photos and even a family video celebrating the deceased.

The whole thing seemed strangely sterile, and true to doctrine, the emphasis of the service was that all one had to do was believe in Christ in order to straight to heaven when death came.

There is no place in such a worldview for saints, relics, sacraments or mysticism.  No place for healing springs or sacred spaces.  It was very much "of this world," and the presiding pastor was the son-in-law of the recently departed.

One line the pastor said particularly struck me, which was how the success and prosperity, wonderful (and believing!) family showed God's favor.  Is there a space for someone like St. Bernadette in such a faith?  What would happen if a young Baptist girl dug a hole and clean, healing water came out of it?  Would it be witchcraft?  Would someone's brother-in-law bring a backhoe in to fill it?

Then again, God knows what He is going, and bestows signs on those who can understand them.

Easter illness

I had big plans for Easter.  We'd all go to the 11 o'clock Mass and then come home to a hearty brunch.  Afterwards, the Easter egg hunt.  We'd close out the festivities with lamb stew.

Alas, it was not to be.  There are a bunch of nasty bugs about, and our family has collected most of them.  I rarely get sick, but even I have been afflicted.

In days gone by, I'd still go to Mass, but the priests have actually been urging people to stay home if they are sick, lest the rest of the parish be stricken.  I will obey, but with a certain amount of sadness.  Easter is one of my favorite Masses, a source of many happy memories.

In some ways, it's better than Christmas because it lacks the many fraught emotions common at that time.  It also is why Christmas even matters, and Christ's triumph over death is something we should all keep in mind.

I'm also having flashbacks to 2020, when the vicious statists closed the churches.  Those materialist narcissists consider faith to be something of a hobby, discarded when it is inconvenient. 

It is not, for it transcends life itself.  I will accept this loss secure in the knowledge that I can go to Mass during the week and of course next Sunday, once I am well.

In the mean time, have a blessed Easter.

The theological impact of the 1990s

One of my colleagues at Bleeding Fool has written an essay condemning the 1990s and the associated nostalgia for it.

I'm working on a rebuttal (I did a similar one over his take on Underworld), but I wanted to do a deeper dive into one of the most consequential aspects of the 1990s, which was the most dramatic overhaul of Christian theology since the Reformation.  In fact, I would argue that this is even bigger.

It doesn't seem that way because it took place gradually, and without violent upheaval, but while we were discovering the internet and the wonder of smart phones, the very essence of faith has been completely re-written. 

How else to describe the speed with which so many mainline Christian denominations abandoned ancient theology regarding sex and marriage in an attempt to legitimize homosexuality and other deviant behavior?  Christian sexual norms survived the rise and fall of empires, plagues and famines, but crashed down before America's hyper-individualistic culture and modern decadence.  It's nothing short of amazing.

The strangest thing was that there was nothing behind the change other than the desire to be seen and nice and compassionate.  Salvation went from submitting to God's laws to changing them to suit human pleasures.

As the formerly dominant religious authorities embraced sodomy, even to the point of elevating practitioners to their hierarchies, the ground work was laid for the subsequent redefinition of marriage.  The unthinkable became inevitable.

After "gay" liberation was achieved, the "trans" movement came forward, which has inflicted untold harm on vulnerable children who have been mutilated in the cause of "affirming care," all with the blessing of the old mainline churches.

Yes, this triumph has been immensely destructive to the same bodies that pushed it.  One would think that the United Methodists, Anglican Communion, etc. would be flooded with converts as a result of their "compassionate" and "tolerant" pivot on morality.  Instead they are rent by schisms and their membership has collapsed.

But a lot of damaged came about because of this rapid surrender to heresy, and unwinding it will not be easy.




I guess this year's Easter ambush is "Christ is King"

Back when I paid attention to the news, it seemed that every Easter stories would appear attempting to debunk or otherwise throw shade on Christianity.  Fake Bible scholars would announce a shocking new discovery that totally destroyed Christian teachings.

I thought of these as the "Easter ambush," specifically designed to demoralize Christians.

Since I've given up on mainstream news, I'm unaware if any of that is going on, but over the past few days, social media (particularly Twitter/X) was having a time of it over the phrase "Christ is King."

I'm not sure what the backstory is (or if there really is one), but the anti-Christians immediately latched onto this phrase as proof of both racism and anti-semitism, i.e. Nazis.

How does a basic expression of Christian faith make one a Nazi?  Well, apparently people who are racist and/or anti-semites or perhaps Nazis have used this phrase.  Thus, if you use it, that can only mean you want to be associated with those people.   It is yet another "right-wing dog whistle" that only leftists can hear.

The expectation was that Christians - who above all want to be thought of as nice - would drop the expression, and the usual Quislings sprang into action.

However, we've seen this movie many times before, and complying with the latest woke demand only gets one more demands in the future.  Thus, instead of obeying, Christians happily spread the word and "Christ is King" actually trended.

Christians have at long last realized that these attempts to suppress expressions of faith or morality have nothing to do with sensitivity or politeness and everything to do with silencing God's word.  If you're someone who gets upset when you hear "Christ is King," you are the one with the problem.

This is a welcome development and further proof that "nice" Christianity is indeed dead.


Is the Church of England ashamed of Christianity?

The Church of England is in a state of total collapse.  It has been reduced to hiring out its stolen cathedrals as nightspots.  Sacred ground trodden by saints and martyrs now are converted into mini-golf arenas.

Theologically, it is nothing but wokeness wrapped in tattered religious garb.   It's latest fetish is apologizing for all the evils of history.  This is the new hotness with liberals.  Rather than take personal responsibility for something in the present, they puff themselves up by denouncing their ancestors. 

But an apology requires an offense and redress.  Mostly they're just condemning their ancestors for not being as hip as they are.

A draft version of their plan to atone for the evils of the past includes this remarkable passage:

Penitence: We call for the Church of England to apologise publicly for denying that Black Africans are made in the image of God and for seeking to destroy diverse African traditional religious belief systems. This act of repair should intentionally facilitate ongoing and new sociological, historical and theological research into spiritual traditions in Africa and the diaspora, thereby enabling a fresh dialogue between African traditional belief systems and the Gospel.

This is absolutely hilarious, indeed beyond parody.  A Christian church is apologizing for bringing people to Christ!

The line about diversity is also priceless.  So much for the unity of the Holy Church!  I mean, I suppose Church of England is now finally preaching what it practices.  Having broken from the Western Church, it's now breaking from itself.

The bit about "dialogue" with traditional belief systems is also great.  Protestants have long (falsely) accused the Catholic Church of incorporating pagan elements into its doctrine as a means of converting people, but here the Church of England is seeking to do exactly that.  I'm curious as to how they'll work cannibalism and human sacrifice into that dialogue.

What this document demonstrates is a lack of faith in the faith.  The Church of England does not believe its own teachings, and deeply regrets sharing them with others.  The Africans were better off with their old "diverse traditions" than with the Gospel of Our Lord. 

During my conversion, I remember the exhilaration I felt when I realized that the Church was real; her authority was real; her morals and teachings were real.  I had grown up with irreligious parents and lived in a town where intentions superseded results.  Good people doing their best to be good was the ideal and if things went awry, who was I to judge?

The Church changed all that.  There was intrinsic good and intrinsic evil, and one could speak clearly and truthfully about right and wrong.  For a time, even Catholics tried to be "nice," but that time is passing, if not already passed.

The Church of England, however, has embraced "nice" over faith.  They worship the Spirit of the Age, and I suspect the ultimate act of this will be its disestablishment, which cannot be that distant.

I think this is a good thing, because it was founded in adultery and heresy, aggressively persecuted people who refused to partake in it, and is now nothing but cult of wokeness led by people LARPing being dissident Catholic clergy.  Good riddens.


Why aren't there many Protestant-themed horror movies?

I'm not a fan of horror films, but being something of a movie nerd, I'm well aware of the genre, especially its standout entries.

I've seen The Exorcist a couple of times and it's unnerving.  Exorcists, demons, possessed people - all of these are staple of horror cinema, but there isn't much in the way of Protestant-centered films.

Why is that?

The obvious first take is that it's simply a matter of optics.  An ancient church filled with icons, gargoyles and all the trappings of the Catholic faith is simply more visually interesting than the traditional stripped-down Protestant aesthetic, let along a megachurch.  

Indeed, the only Protestant locales I recall tend to be decrepit Baptist churches or - even scarier! - Pentecostal ones.  In that case, though, the actual faith is secondary to the traditional urban fear of the wilderness.  The notion that those backwoods simpletons are actually holding Black Masses and summoning demons goes back to H.P. Lovecraft at least.

Catholic horror, by contrast, seems rooted in antipathy towards the faith itself, and Hollywood has long has both traditional Protestant and of course Jewish influences in its content creation.

At the same time, there seems to be an unspoken assumption even among Protestants that when it comes to the supernatural, the Catholics are the experts.

Indeed, much of modern Protestantism denies ghosts, demons, spirits and even to a certain extent angels.  Anything that reeks of polytheism or questions the singularity of God is suspect and likely satanic.  Some Protestants are so zealous in this regard that they flirt with heresy in regards to the Holy Trinity.

Catholics, on the other hand, are right at home with this sort of thing, and have rites and even relics to aid in the struggle against the Unseen.  Some readers may recall the visit of the relic of St Jude, which is styled to look like a forearm with fingers extended in a permanent blessing.

Such numinous objects naturally lend themselves to visual storytelling.

One area where Protestantism has historically accepted the supernatural is witches, and there are films in this line, but - at least in the United States - the existence of functional witchcraft is officially disavowed by most mainstream Protestants.  This is partly the legacy of the infamous Salem Witch Trials and partly the softening of mainline Protestant faith, which is more likely to ordain clergy that practice witchcraft than to condemn it.

The Baptists and Pentecostals will denounce it, but in practical terms, I'm unaware of any protocols to solve it on a purely spiritual level.

And, as mentioned above, zealous ministers of those faiths are more likely to be portrayed as villains than heroes.

This was not lost on me when I was younger.  In fact as well as fiction, everyone seems to turn to the Catholic Church when things get truly otherworldly. 

As they should.


Were St. Patrick's prayers answered?

There was some heartening news from Ireland last week.  The latest progressive reforms, which would have changed the constitution to redefine the family, failed spectacularly at the ballot box.

Perhaps the Irish are beginning to appreciate their culture again and rebelling against the soulless globalization movement.

The decline of Irish culture and religious has been shockingly fast.  The central idea of making Ireland a tax haven and global service center was always flawed because no one considered that when the world came to Ireland, it would remake the Emerald Isle in its own flat, commerce-centered image.

The corporations have colonized Ireland more quickly and more thoroughly than the English ever could.

And yet, a limit has (at least for the moment) been reached.  I think that much of the cultural destruction we've seen over the last decades has been seen as inevitable, the flip side of globalism.  However, it is now clear that decline is a choice, and one actually can "turn back the clock" by embracing tradition and choosing family-centered economic policies.

The current controversies in the Catholic Church prove this.  The remarkable thing isn't that Pope Francis has started pushing heresy and sowing division, it is the the Church is vehemently and successfully resisting.  His successor will be made of different cloth and the folly of trying to "get along" with the Spirit of the Age was demonstrated by the Anglican schism.

Here's hoping that the Irish (and the rest of Christendom) continue to resist the secular pressure to conform to what is actually demonic influence.  St. Patrick, pray for us.

The ruin of Pope Francis' legacy

The damage from the ill-considered Fiducia Supplicans continues to grow.  I discussed this a bit in January, but the controversy shows no sign of going away.

Last week the Coptic Orthodox Church announced it was freezing talks of entering into communion with Rome as a result of the document.  Released in December and modified in January, Fiducia Supplicans authorizes priests to bless "irregular" - that is to say, openly sinful - couples.  One cannot bless sin, and telling sinners their sin is okay is itself a sin.

I believe at least 20 bishops' conferences and the entire continent of Africa have condemned the document, and now the Copts have done the same.

This is a crippling blow to Pope Francis' legacy.  To this point, reconciliation withe Coptic Church was one of the few brights spots remaining in his pontificate.  I feel great pity for him, because the mounting scandals - covering up and defending abusers, threatened schisms in Germany, confusion within the Universal Church - must be a terrible burden on him.

For a man who preaches humility, he seems possessed by the need to have his way in everything.

The weird thing is that it's not actually his letter, it comes from Cardinal Fernandez, so for him to order it withdrawn would show maturity and wisdom.  Yet instead of adding 10 million Copts to the Church and bringing more of God's children together, he is driving them apart.

I will continue to pray that he - and those like him - give up their pride and cease with their attempts to change fundamental aspects of the Church's teaching.


The myth of White Christian Nationalism

I guess calling everyone who disagreed with you a Nazi isn't working out, so the new hotness is "Christian Nationalism," or even "White Christian Nationalism."

Yes, it's all about politics, which bores me to death, but I am interested in the theological aspect of this - which is to say, the multiple contradictions in the label.

The first is the business about being "white."  I suppose there may be some isolated corners of Christendom that still appeal to the old heresy about non-white people being the Children of Cain or eternally cursed, but they are on the outer edge of the most distant fringe of the faith.

The only large-scale denomination I know of that adhered to this was the Church of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons.  I believe there were some American Baptist sects that did in the 19th Century, but American Protestantism has long been a confusing swirl of various denominations that splinter, recombine, and then split again, and it's hard to keep track.

In any rate, it's an archetypal straw man, a scandalous libel that is easily dismissed by serious people, but since its purpose is to reassure the wavering Yard Sign Calvinists, it won't go away anytime soon.

If there was a kernel of truth in the white smear, there's no substance whatsoever in the concept of a Christian Nationalism.   This should be blindingly obvious to anyone who has ever even glanced at the ecumenical movement.

Even within the various denominations there is spirited disagreement.  How can one form a monolithic Christian state when even the Catholic Church is absorbed with internal doctrinal debates?  The same is true in Protestant circles, with major denominations roiled by controversy over how much sexual deviancy is acceptable and female ordination.

There can be no Christian Nationalism because there is no "Christian Nation."

This is the sort of hysteria that moves people to dress like characters from The Handmaid's Tale, folks who are likely blissfully unaware that the dystopian world of the novel (and TV show) is already here, courtesy of the Democrats, who even now are pushing hard to further normalize the buying and selling of human infants.   I guess mothers for hire (or human incubators) are super-bad when there's a religious element, but compassionate and necessary when used to farm out babies to gay couples.

It is possible that Christian Nationalism is supposed to indicate a fear that there might be Christians who also love their country, though - based on military recruiting numbers - this group seems to be getting smaller by the day.

Is Nationalism a Biblical virtue?  Absolutely.  It is rooted in the Ten Commandments: "Honor thy father and thy mother."  This not only covers respecting them while they are alive but also retaining their customs and culture after they are gone.  

When one mocks one's ancestors, denounces their language, heritage, and casts down their monuments, this commandment is being broken. 

The Bible is the story of a people that becomes a nation, and nowhere in Christian theology is there an admonition to cast aside one's culture and worship commerce, or innovation.

It is a mark of the strange state of the world where loving one's country is now considered subversive and sinister, where honoring one's ancestors is bigoted and reprehensible.

But there we are.

Upon reflection, this isn't that new.  G.K. Chesterton was commenting on it a century ago.  It's just yet another recycled heresy.

If we want to go even deeper, the same situation rose in Republican Spain, where churches were attacked and clergy lynched (even their graves were desecrated) and of course Communist China unleashed the Cultural Revolution that went much farther.  The Killing Fields of Cambodia is the ultimate embodiment of this nihilist belief.

The label is clearly a smear, but also partly cover for people who actually want to erase both Christianity and the nations.  As to what will replace them, I don't think even they know. Remember, Yard Sign Calvinism is never about results.  The pose is the point.

Still, it is interesting to note that the Chinese Communist Party is now ardently promoting nationalism.  I won't hold my breath for columns warning of Marxist Nationalism, but it's both more real and more lethal than White Christian Nationalism.

And yes, I am aware that there are people who are saying "Yes, it exists and it's a good thing!"  This is of a piece with my previous posts about people defending the Confederacy.  There will always be people trying to profit from a hot take on something.

As a practical matter, however, the term exists to discredit what used to be healthy, normal attitudes towards one faith and country.  Pretending it is some sort of radical new thing is nonsense.