In “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis identified a factor in the astonishing growth of pornography.

“There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips…. We grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity.  There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us.  Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance.  God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.”

The Weight of Glory

In The Weight of Glory he summarizes a man’s battle with pornography. 

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.

“Lying on that study sofa…I had sensations which you can imagine.  And at once I knew that the Enemy would take advantage of the vague longings and tendernesses to try and make me believe later on that he had the fulfillment that I really wanted.  So I balked him by letting the longings go even deeper and turning my mind to the One, the real object of all desire, which (you know my view) is what we are really wanting in all wants… “

In some letters, Lewis writes:

“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.

“And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman.

“For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.

“Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.

“In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself…After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in.  Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process.  The danger is that of coming to love the prison.

“The evidence seems to be that God sometimes works such a complete metamorphosis and sometimes not.  We don’t know why: God forbid we should presume it went by merit.

“He never in my unmarried days did it for me.  He gave me –- at least and after many ups and down, the power to resist the temptation so far as the act was concerned.  Never did he stop the recurrent temptations, nor was I guarded from the sin of mental consent.  I don’t mean I wasn’t given sufficient grace.  I mean that I sometimes fell into it, grace or no…

“The great discovery for me was that the attack does not last forever.  It is the devil’s lie that the only escape from the tension is through yielding.”

The Present Moment Has Set Blacks Back a Half-Century

According to the make-believe world of the left, we are experiencing a great moment in American racial history. For the first time, the story goes, more whites than ever are coming to realize how racist America is, how racist cops are and how systemically racist everything in America is. Only now do many Americans understand just how racist Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, Ulysses Grant, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, “whitening” agents, meritocracy, Western culture, Christianity, jailing blacks and the NFL are. The bestselling book in America is about alleged “white fragility” — the term for any rational response to the irrational charge that all whites are racist.

All this is supposed to be good for America’s blacks.

But none of it is. In fact, it is all destructive.

Take the movement to defund police departments and the incessant charges of “police brutality” and “racist police.” Only those who don’t care about blacks other than using them to advance their power — Democrats and the rest of the left, both black and white — argue this war against the police is good for blacks. Already the increase in the number of blacks murdered, not to mention injured, is reaching levels unseen in decades. And there is every reason to assume, as police pull back from high-crime areas, it will get worse.

Take the left-wing mantra that all whites are racist. If I wanted to obstruct black progress, and especially damage black children, I couldn’t come up with a more effective idea. To believe from early childhood that you walk through life held in contempt by all of your fellow citizens who are white is to walk through life with much more than a chip on your shoulder. It is more like a heavy boulder.CARTOONS | Tom Stiglich View Cartoon

It means that you will walk through life with two paralyzing burdens: anger and victimhood. Either one is enough to ruin your life. Combined they’re devastating. It gives one an idea of how cynical the left is that it would want to cultivate both of these life-ruining emotions in as many blacks as possible.

Anger and victimhood not only ruin the individual’s life but also destroy one’s relationships with others. Everyone who has an angry individual in their family knows not only how unhappy that person is but also how much havoc they wreak on the rest of the family. The same holds true for the relative who sees him or herself as a perpetual victim. Such people are both miserable and miserable to be around. And since victimhood is a major cause of evil — people who see themselves as victims usually think they are not nearly as bound by moral rules as others are — they are more likely to hurt others.

The “protesters” who destroy and loot think their victim status allows them to destroy and loot. The man identified as the president of the greater New York Black Lives Matter, Hawk Newsome, recently told Fox News: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right? And I could be speaking … figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation.”

In a report yesterday on a police shooting of a robber who resisted arrest and reached for an object in his waistband, the San Diego Union-Tribune quoted a protest organizer: “If this young man was robbing, that means his state and his government failed to provide him with the resources he needs.” When you feel you are a victim, you are allowed to rob.

Take the constant, often absurd, charges of racism at the most benign comments. If you say, for example, that you see nothing wrong with the picture of Uncle Ben on a box of rice, you will be accused of racism. As a result, most whites understand they can no longer speak truthfully or from the heart in the presence of a black American. It is hard to imagine a worse recipe for genuine relationships between the races. Whereas the great majority of whites, and even most blacks, thought white-black relations were good and improving when Barack Obama assumed office, a minority of both groups think so today.

Take the assault on merit-based advancement in the name of racial equality. Will this help or hinder blacks? It will obviously help some blacks in the short run. But over the long term, telling any group they needn’t meet a universal standard of excellence can only harm that group — not to mention harm the way their success will be viewed by others. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine a more condescending view of a group than to argue that standards must be lowered for them to succeed.

The damage the left is doing to America may be mortal. When it is widely deemed OK to destroy statues of Abraham Lincoln, society is experiencing a moral earthquake which may eventually destroy it. But the damage the left is doing to so many blacks — to their moral compass, to their happiness and to their relations with their white fellow citizens — is not in the realm of “may do.” It is done.

Pelosi Orders Four Portraits of Former Democratic Speakers Removed From U.S. Capitol

On Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered the removal from the Capitol Building of four portraits of former Democratic House speakers who had ties to the Confederacy. Robert Hunter of Virginia, James Orr of South Carolina, Howell Cobb and Charles Crisp of Georgia. The removal of the portraits is the latest meaningless gesture from the speaker and Democrats following the death of George Floyd. 

Pelosi sent a letter to House Clerk Cheryl Johnson ordering the removal of the four portraits in observance of Juneteenth, an unofficial holiday commemorating the Republican’s emancipation of the last slaves in the Confederacy.  

“There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy,” Pelosi proclaimed. 

Just hours after Pelosi’s letter to the House clerk, the portraits were taken down and carried away. 

Pelosi claims she didn’t know the former speakers had ties to the Confederacy until it was pointed out to her by a Capitol curator, ABC News reported. Wait until she learns the history of her own political party.

When exactly will the Democratic Party — which defended slavery, the Confederacy, and, most recently, segregation — be removing itself from the Capitol?  

The Capitol has a lot of other portraits and symbols in its halls that surely the left finds problematic. Former generations will never be as woke as today’s radicals. Historic symbols don’t tell us where our nation is headed. They tell us where it’s been.

Widespread outrage following the death of George Floyd has been politically weaponized into amorphous accusations of so-called systemic racism, white privilege, and white supremacy. We still don’t know what motivated former officer Derek Chauvin to treat George Floyd the way he did. Maybe there was personal animosity between the two from when they worked together at a nightclub. 

Tearing down statues and erasing our history accomplishes nothing other than making people like Nancy Pelosi even more ignorant about their nation’s history than they already were.

Why Economics Alone Will Not Make America Great Again

There is a major problem with books written solely from an economic prism.

Consider the fact that the American economy is booming by all major indicators. Unemployment is down to record lows. Inflation is minimal. Consumer confidence is up. We have not seen times like this for decades. Admittedly, wages are still low, and debt levels are off the charts. Other major economic problems lurk on the horizon, but, for now, everything seems to be running well.

Indeed, for some, never in recent memory have we been so prosperous. However, at no time in postwar history have we been so divided, unhappy, or lonely. If economics is so important, we should be happy … or happier than we are.

Economics as a Secondary Perspective
Of course, books written under an economic prism do provide insights into reality. However, it is a partial perspective—and a secondary one.

The Republican Workers Party: How the Trump Victory Drove Everyone Crazy, and Why It Was Just What We Needed is a book that attempts to explain the last general election and present administration from this partial yet secondary perspective.

Author F. H. Buckley, a Foundation Professor at George Mason University, readily admits his economic outlook and even likes to define himself as a “right-wing Marxist.” He expresses the American Dream in economic terms as a “mobile and classless society” now gone awry. The author imagines a new class struggle between a rich liberal establishment now holding power and the more conservative yet forgotten working class representing the oppressed. He thinks we are living in revolutionary times, not unlike 1917, and he is on the side of the new proletariat.

\Provocative Positions
In all fairness to Prof. Buckley, he does agree that culture matters and that things like two-parent families and strong communities make economic sense. However, he does not see these moral issues as matters of public policy. He takes a seek-ye-first-real-jobs attitude and “after that, we can take care of ourselves.”

The Canadian now American citizen is provocative. He claims the American Dream is not dead but has migrated to the more upwardly-mobile-friendly Canada (under Justin Trudeau). He likewise proposes a single-tier one-size-fits-all university system, again like in his native Canada, instead of our multi-tiered ”elitist” system.

His Pikettyesque dislike for accumulated generational wealth, especially when parked in private foundations, sparks a call to repeat Henry VIII’s looting of the accumulated wealth of English sixteenth-century monasteries. Social conservatives will disagree with his conclusion that they have accepted same-sex “marriage” because it did not “pick anyone’s pocket.”

The Proper Role of Economics
Such provocative views are to be expected since a solely economic prism will always be unavoidably materialistic, religiously indifferent, and painfully egalitarian. Economics is a pragmatic practice and science that deals with the production, administration, and exchange of goods and services. It involves concrete realities that tend to exclude other human considerations. It can be brutal and without nuance.

Economics tends to be considered the most important human field. Such an attitude is risky; as sociologist Georg Simmel once wrote: “Money is not content with being just another final purpose of life alongside wisdom and art, personal significance and strength, beauty and love. But in so far as money does adopt this position, it gains the power to reduce the other purposes to the level of means.”

An Angle Often Ignored
Those holding a solely economic perspective often fail to realize that man has another side that is spiritual and superior. Conservatives have long acknowledged this. Barry Goldwater’s classic manifesto, The Conscience of a Conservative, ghostwritten by William F. Buckley’s brother-in-law, Catholic convert L. Brent Bozell, Jr., affirms that every man is a unique and “spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires.”

This superior side of man’s nature makes us unique and establishes our dignity. This side gives rise to political, social, cultural, and religious activities and sciences that tower above mere material economic production. These endeavors help satisfy our spiritual needs and ultimately lead to our eternal salvation.

A Focus that Fails to Consider the Spiritual
The Republican Workers Party suffers from its failure to consider this spiritual dimension seriously. The author focuses on workers and jobs, politics and power, and special interests and privileges. It is a prism that relegates the spiritual to poetic longings for a Christian past with little connection to modernity.

However, we must note that the material perspective offers nothing new, and is itself guilty of nostalgia. The author echoes a typical Enlightenment perspective that waxes lyrical about the brutal trilogy of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Prof. Buckley recognizes no specific metaphysical order and notes his disappointment that we have failed to move beyond the times “when people look to theologians rather than scientists to make sense of a confusing world.”

Thus, this dominant materialistic narrative weighs heavily upon the book since economics needs norms outside itself to judge its ethical value. Church teaching is that economics must be subject to and seek orientation from those higher normative sciences like ethics, logic, and moral philosophy which have as their focus all human activity. Economics is a science that is intertwined with all others and should belong to a worldview since it seeks to understand human action. It is no coincidence that Adam Smith taught moral philosophy and not statistical analysis or macro-economics.

Looking for the Whole Picture
This is not to say that Prof. Buckley does not have valuable insights into what has happened in American politics over the last few decades. He knows many of the characters of the 2016 election and his book is full of anecdotes about the great drama of that campaign which readers will certainly welcome.

However, we are left desirous of the whole picture. The author forgets that America is a religious nation that still clings to its moral values despite pockets of secularism in urban centers and elite circles. Concern for a moral Supreme Court justice figured higher than employment statistics for many of those who voted in 2016. It is all well and good to remember the forgotten worker who lost a job to outsourcing. However, we must also remember the ever-forgotten Christian whose values (including traditional marriage) tend to be treated as bargaining chips on the road to power and deemed inferior to consumer confidence and job creation. Even Prof. Buckley would agree that the fringe campaign agenda of Hillary Clinton (e.g., transgender bathrooms) alienated some of her own base and contributed to her defeat.

While it is true that the ruling class has been increasingly unresponsive to the needs of workers in traditional industries and, especially, religious voters, the author’s scathing generalizations against all elites are likely to unfairly target the competent ones. True self-sacrificing elites have always played a leadership role in American society—especially the Founders. America cannot be reduced to a Labor Party. The Christian soul desires the social harmony of all social classes, both true elites and workers. We are all equally American.

Federal power can only do so much to inspire spiritual renewal, as Prof. Buckley would no doubt insist. Yet that same power should not impede spiritual renewal (as the courts have actively tried to do) and could encourage and inspire state and local efforts to strengthen the social fabric. Indeed, the author’s attempt to explain the present administration in secular terms runs counter to the president’s own references to God and religious imagery. While few would claim the president is a deeply religious man, he is clearly aware of the abiding religious character of the nation. Despite our secular times, we still see ourselves as “a nation under God.” The phrase is found on our coinage and written on countless American hearts. We cannot help but think that so many of the problems that Prof. Buckley mentions in his book could be better resolved if we would get right with God.

Can Halloween be Christianized Again?

As Halloween approaches, the debate over whether people should join in the celebrations has reignited. Many claim it is a harmless holiday for children that Catholics may freely participate in. Others affirm that it has now descended into dark regions with the return of pagan and Satanic imagery; it should thus be off limits.

And then there are those who look for a third way to approach it somewhere in-between. They propose alternative celebrations, All Saints Day commemorations or fall festivals. In this way, Halloween, an originally Catholic feast, can be “re-Christianized” and re-purposed to promote the Faith. They hope to turn Halloween into a teaching moment for all good Christians.

Halloween Cannot be Ignored
Finding a Christian way to celebrate Halloween is a problem for many parents. Halloween cannot be ignored. Their children will necessarily be exposed to it.

It has become a festival that is only surpassed by Christmas in economic terms. Many households now have Halloween decorations inside and outside their homes. It is a huge party night for which Americans spend billions of dollars on costumes and events. It is a big night adventure for children who engage in their traditional quest for “trick or treat.

However, another point cannot be ignored. The darker celebrations of Halloween glorify the occult, the bizarre and the macabre. New developments in costumes make zombie-like outfits much more realistic and horrifying. The increasing popularity of Satanic movements like Wicca has helped popularize Halloween as sacred. The modern focus of Halloween is increasingly focused on a fascination with evil, horror, and gore.

Ironically, a liberal society that deplores the rise of violence and abuse in other fields makes few objections to this bloody and macabre holiday.

Halloween’s Pagan Roots
Thus, finding a third way can only succeed if a Christian purpose and meaning of Halloween can prevail over today’s setting of the tone by the macabre. Those looking for alternatives need to go back to the festival’s roots, both pagan and Christian, to see if something might be salvaged.

The remote origins of Halloween are problematic. There is no denying that Halloween is rooted in the Celtic fall festival of Samhain. It involved many superstitions and occult ceremonies directed toward the Druid lord of death. Some historians claim the Druids practiced human or animal sacrifice and even occult orgies to mark special festivals. In this case, dressing up as evil spirits and demons was part of the celebration.

The ghastly and even toxic aspects of the pagan feast certainly stood in need of being baptized. Indeed, the Church responded to such opportunities to overturn the idols and rid peoples of superstitions. Many times, missionaries would take advantage of the habit of celebrating special pagan feast days to institute Christian feasts or holy days in their stead.

Halloween, a Feast of Charity to the Poor
This is exactly what the Church did to Halloween. In the ninth century, this pagan festival was replaced by a double day celebration remembering all the dead who are saved: All Saints Day remembers those who are uncanonized in heaven so that they might have their feast, too. All Souls Day remembers the poor souls who are saved from the eternal fires of hell yet are suffering for a time in purgatory.

On the eve of these two feasts, the bells would ring, and town criers would remind all to pray for the poor souls. Thus, on All Hallows Eve, later Halloween, children from poor families would go door-to-door, receiving food and sweets in exchange for praying for the souls of the dead. This “souling” as it was called, gave rise to canvassing for “soul” cakes which became part of the tradition. Harmless pranks awaited the stingy givers.

The revelers would sing:

Soul! Soul! Soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
Apple, pear, plum or cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

Halloween was thus a feast that benefited the poor on earth and those who were so much poorer in purgatory. It was a time of mirth but also great charity.

The Church as Mother
While there are times of penance and fasting in the liturgical year, there are also times of joy. The Church as a true mother provides the faithful with festive days of feasting and merrymaking. Thus, the Church has no problem with merrymaking with people dressed up in costumes to visit neighbors.

In medieval Europe, it was very popular for people “to go mummering,” the practice of visiting neighborhoods while dressed up in disguises. The revelers would sing, feast, and play tricks in return for refreshment, money or good wishes. Such mummering was very popular on major feast days, of which there were many, in the Middle Ages. They did not degenerate into rowdy or bawdy festivals like those which plague today’s de-Christianized Mardi Gras or other such feasts.

Protestant Prohibition and Eventual Acceptance
In Protestant Europe and America, Halloween was on the prohibited index of religious practices in colonial times, a list that some radical sects extended to Christmas. It was not observed until Irish Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth century brought the custom with them to their new homeland. In the twenties, a secularized version of Halloween was introduced with the practice of trick or treating. It gradually gained traction and acceptance by the fifties.

However, the more recent celebrations have stressed its pagan origins with its preternatural and ghoulish overtones. It has combined with slasher and horror films and zombie-themed parties and events to make it a festival of darkness embracing the evil side of the spiritual world.

Thus, Halloween has returned to its pagan origins and abandoned those of Christian charity. It no longer belongs to the poor but to those engaging in amusement and self-indulgence. Once the feast of innocent little children, it now includes reveling adults. Those who celebrate do not pray for the salvation of poor souls but harbor instead a diabolical glee over damned souls.

Can Halloween be Re-Christianized?
The question remains if Halloween can be re-Christianized in today’s world.

Resourceful clergy and parents have found alternatives that capture the imagination of children. Many of these include parties in which children dress up as saints or religious figures as a way of celebrating All Saints Day. These alternative events can be helpful in imparting some Catholic culture to children. But they can only go so far.

Such celebrations cannot compete with the super-charged media promotion of today’s neo-pagan Halloween. Children will be exposed to the ghoulish side of Halloween in stores, schools or the house decorations in their neighborhood. Like other aspects of modern culture, they cannot be ignored, or Benedict Optioned out.

Arranging a peaceful co-existence between Catholic and pagan celebrations of Halloween is bound to fail since it does not address the need to fight against evil. It prepares the child for defeat later in life, since all must eventually confront the reality of evil without the help of others.

Re-Christianizing Halloween
That is why the only real way to re-Christianize Halloween is to reject any peaceful co-existence in these cultural matters. This will happen when clergy and parents teach children to confront the world they cannot ignore or avoid. They must delve deeply into the Faith. Children must be fortified by sacramental life and prayer to engage in this battle in a manner appropriate to their age.

Thus, any Christianized celebration of Halloween needs to reinforce the idea that there is a cultural battle going on between the forces of good and evil. Hell exists, and its fires must be avoided. What better way to demonstrate these truths than to point out the macabre manifestations of evil that appear everywhere during Halloween.

It could also serve as an occasion to point out the victory of the saints over the evils of their day. The eve of the Church’s two holy days may once again become a time to make merry and eat sweet soul cakes while praying for the poor souls suffering in purgatory.

A Soul Cake recipe can be found here.

The Roots of American Alienation

After the 2016 elections, many tried to explain what happened. Some theories are not convincing since they seem to hide a darker reality of which we dare not speak. Others appear a bit too simplified to explain what we experience in daily life.

To start the process of understanding our crisis, we need a clear vision. One book that manages to sift through the simplifications and penetrate some dark mysteries is Alienated America, Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse (2019) written by journalist Timothy Carney.

Straddling the Line Between Two Americas
The book does not aspire to be a major scholarly work of sociological analysis. Although well documented, Mr. Carney lets others do the heavy lifting. He borrows liberally from the theses of sociologists like Charles Murray and Charles Putnam, who have convincingly described the emergence of two separate Americas after the 1960s.

One America consists of a more vibrant sector that prospers with its networks and social institutions. The other is a shattered, dysfunctional America lacking sufficient community links and well-constituted families.

Mr. Carney manages to straddle the line between the two Americas in observing the 2016 elections. We can identify with his observations, experiences, and anecdotes. He describes vividly how a massive collapse of civil society is destroying the America we once knew.

The book raises important questions about where we went wrong in our society and culture. More importantly, it also provides insights upon which we might ruminate and ponder.

The Concept of Alienation
The concept of alienation is one such point to ponder. Mr. Carney makes use of sociologist Robert Nisbet’s definition of alienation as “The state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom or even hostility.”

Large sectors of America are alienated. This notion helps explain the great disconnection of those all across the political spectrum who no longer participate in civil society. No one prevents them from associating with others, but they have lost their desire or interest in being part of a social order.

The author invites us to think about the causes for this alienation—whether it be hyper-individualism, social media, trade policies, lost jobs, opioid abuse, secularization, or the Sexual Revolution. He shows how all these influences have played their role in fragmenting America, although they are not the causes.

Not Collapsing but Disintegrating
Mr. Carney goes to great lengths to prove that the real cause of our crisis is the collapse of civil society. “America is the land of opportunity because it is the land of civil society,” he affirms.

Those opportunities are now dying out.  In some places, the moral institutions of family, community, and faith are not just collapsing but disintegrating before our eyes.

The gravity of the problem is highlighted by the fact that restoring civil society cannot be done by simply bringing back jobs, government programs, or tweaking the system. In many places, there is no system upon which to build. In others, individual self-interest reigns supreme.

This is especially true in areas where the family is in shambles. Without this basic social unit, no society can be rebuilt. Consequently, communities are also missing. There are no longer those intermediary associations that protect the family and its members from an intrusive state.

The Disintegration of Religion
However, Mr. Carney has the courage to say that the most important cause of alienation is the collapse of religion. He rightly proclaims it as “the largest and most important institution of civil society.”

From his purely natural perspective, he notes that the church has always been America’s indispensable institution. Tocqueville said that Americans value their churches as the first of their political institutions. Where churches are shuttered, communities crumble. The author does not hesitate to say that “The erosion of civil society is largely [due to] the collapse of churches.”

This makes sense. Religion is the institution that establishes and maintains the norms of right and wrong. It should defend the natural law, which is so well laid out by the Ten Commandments. Society will maintain order to the extent that it follows this objective law suited to the nature God gave us so that we might prosper.

Mr. Carney’s vision is limited to his sociological treatment of the subject. Although a Catholic, he does not enter into the role of the Church as the guardian of the moral law. He does not consider the supernatural action of grace that facilitates enormously the practice of virtue in common.

He only deals with the decay of this institution which clashes so violently with our self-destructing culture.

Abandoning God
Hence it should be no mystery as to why so many Americans are alienated. We have abandoned God and violated his law. Historically, this turning away from God has always had drastic social and economic consequences. Of course, The Washington Examiner journalist does not put it in these almost biblical terms. However, his conclusion does give special meaning to the culture wars since one side seeks to call Americans back to God and his law.

The author’s more immediate conclusion is that the moral wasteland of an alienated America explains the victory of President Trump, who appealed to those who feel that society does not make sense anymore. He makes a compelling case that the alienated vote—especially the vote of the unchurched—favored the president.

The Other America
Mr. Carney also presents the other America: those who are not alienated. This is an America in which the moral institutions of family, community, and faith survive. Its properly constituted families all but guarantee some degree of prosperity. These families build networks and vibrant faith communities.

Their rates of divorce, drug use, criminality, and other negative social indicators are all low. These successful families tend to cluster themselves as elites in exclusive neighborhoods or super zipcodes. They might also be found in certain closely-knit ethnic and rural communities with strong personal ties.

The author tends to agree with the conclusions of Charles Murray and Robert Putnam who portray this other America as almost immune to the moral crisis that devastates the nation. Such communities survive in enclaves and bubbles that seem to mock the alienated.

A Generalized Crisis Affecting Everyone
From a material perspective, this evaluation might appear to be true, for there are rich neighborhoods and excellent schools. These visible signs perpetuate the idea of a better life.

However, from a spiritual perspective, this conclusion ignores the upheaval of the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s which devastated relationships and public morals. No family is exempt from the effects of this vast destruction. Social networks might mitigate its effects, slow down the processes of decay, or change the way social rot manifests itself. However, it does not change the generalized crisis affecting everyone.

Indeed, all is not well in the other America. Studies show that unhappiness is a universal postmodern phenomenon that respects neither education nor income level.

More Not Less Social Capital
By framing the debate in terms of social network haves and have-nots, it is hard not to construct a class struggle narrative. However, Mr. Carney resists the temptation. He sees the need to create more social capital—not less—between the social classes.

He laments the formation of “elite bubbles” that cluster those in leadership positions within exclusive neighborhoods, thus depriving other areas of the organic leadership structures they need.

Efforts to help the less fortunate are further hampered by a militant egalitarian culture that leads elites to what he calls “infertile virtue.” They suffer from an unwillingness to spread good habits and practices lest they reveal their advantages. Delegating such tasks to the government avoids this embarrassment.

In addition, the author stresses the need for involved local communities fortified by religious ties, as these have proven rich in social capital and innovative in providing solutions.

A Need for Spiritual Regeneration
However, it is one thing to point out the need for leaders and local communities; it is another to create them. Thus, Alienated America proposes a return to a society where everyone gets along without resolving the essential differences that caused the problem in the first place. Such solutions try to satisfy everyone but usually convince no one.

Nothing can avoid the conclusion that this is a moral crisis and not an economic one. We must return to God whom we have abandoned. The Church with her immense treasury of social teachings has a vital role to play in any eventual restoration of the social order. The more we flee from such solutions, the more we deceive ourselves and adopt schemes that increase the ranks of the alienated.

The role of the alienated in the 2016 elections should give us pause to ponder the kind of America we need. What ails us will not be easily resolved. It will take much courage and a resolve to suffer in order to set things aright

How Socialists Will Usher in a New Hell on Earth

Americans are a generous people ready to lend a hand to those in need. When God blesses us with prosperity, we naturally want to practice acts of charity to help the less fortunate.

However, this charitable spirit is now threatened. There are those who hate this charity and desire to destroy the structures from which these material blessings flow. Indeed, we may face the coming hell of an America without charity.

One might ask what kind of heartless person could be against helping the poor. How could such people exert enough power in America to extinguish the light of charity?

“I Don’t Believe in Charities”
The answer comes from an anecdote of a popular political figure who spoke at a United Way charity benefit dinner many years ago

“I don’t believe in charities,” he said gruffly, adding that he did not “believe in the fundamental concepts on which charities are based and contend[s] that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for charity programs.”

The outspoken figure was then-Mayor Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist. The comment was quoted in a 1981 New York Times article that recently resurfaced. As the ranks of socialist politicians are increasing, ideas like this one now blanket the nation and are gaining some traction.

Some might object that it seems exaggerated to link the comment of Bernie Sanders to the demise of charity in America. The Vermont senator is known for his outspokenness that may not always reflect socialist thought.

However, socialists do not “believe in the fundamental concepts on which charities are based.” By their toxic ideology, they are the natural enemies of private charity, and above all Christian charity. Thus, we do well to fear the terrible specter of a socialist America without charity.

No Such Thing as Socialist Charity
Indeed, socialist charity is an oxymoron. Most socialists hold that charity is a capitalist structure used to keep the poor downtrodden. Socialist literature is hostile to charity. Ironically, the greater the charity, the greater is the hostility since they do not want charity to solve social problems. They want the government to take control.

“Seize the charities!” writes Patrick Stall on the radical Jacobin website. “Private charity will never cure capitalism’s ills.”

There are three reasons why socialists hate charity.

A Toxic Egalitarian Ideology
First, socialists hate charity because their egalitarian ideology demands economic equality above all things. To them, all inequality is unjust. Charity will always participate in this injustice since there can be no charity when everyone is equal.

When someone aids another, it presupposes that one person has more than another. Worse yet, this person has excessive wealth that might be given without harming his or her fortune. Thus, superfluous wealth, inherited wealth, and accumulated wealth are hateful because they represent an unjust system of excess that exploits the worker and facilitates inequality … and charity.

This is why socialists seek state ownership or regulation of the means of production. It is better to refuse the goodwill of the rich than perpetuate this system. It is better to overtax the rich and allow the government to redistribute these “ill-gotten” funds than to allow the rich to give them freely.

The Humiliation of Receiving
Socialists also hate charity because it creates receivers of aid. Socialists hate the idea of contingency. They cannot bear the idea of people accepting gifts from others because they believe the needy are always victims of injustice. The poor can never be the victims of misfortunes, disasters, or their vices. Thus, socialists believe charity humiliates the poor who are forced to ask for what is rightfully theirs. Private charity perpetuates the structures of poverty. The poor must demand the fruits of another’s success as a right not as a gift.

Moreover, the nature of charity creates another injustice in that it distributes wealth to the poor unequally. Those who receive support must “humiliate” themselves by asking for aid conditioned by the decision of the givers who give as they will. Rather than favor a system in which the needy are dependent on the wealthy, even if the benefits the poor receive from the rich are better, socialists prefer to construct huge government programs to distribute equally scarce tax dollars.

Socialists Hate Social Harmony
Finally, socialists hate the idea of charity because it undermines their concept of history as class struggle. The socialists do not want the harmony of the social classes but want to pit one class against another as a means of bringing about major social change. Their system presupposes and desires class strife.

To do this, they must break any links between the social classes, especially those of charity. Normally, the rich and poor live separate lives with little contact between them. Charity manages to unite rich with poor by creating bonds of affection. The rich extend compassion to the poor whom they seek to help. The poor on their part respond with gratitude to those who help them. These rich personal relationships have historically united the social classes that would otherwise be divided.

Socialists hate these mutual relationships and prefer the cold machinery of the state. Consistent with their class struggle philosophies, socialists desire to create disharmony. By using the power of the state to distribute wealth, socialism destroys the bonds of charity and replaces them with resentment. The rich resent being overtaxed and forced to help the poor. The poor see government assistance as entitlements and thus have no gratitude. This attitude breeds resentment when there are not enough benefits—as often happens.

This resentment on both sides facilitates the class struggle that will bring about further socialist change.

An Incapacity to Understand Charity
All these are natural reasons why socialists hate charity; they are based on a misguided and distorted vision of the world.

However, the greatest obstacle to the socialist acceptance of the concept of charity is much more spiritual and theological. From their limited materialist perspective, socialists cannot understand true charity. They cannot grasp the enormous scope and efficacy of Christian charity. They only believe in power and self-interest; they cannot admit an order in which people might freely help one another for a higher cause. Socialists do not think of helping their neighbors since they do not recognize others as neighbors but only equal comrades. They erroneously think that only cold, brutal state systems can ensure the proper distribution of wealth—although they usually distribute corruption and misery as well.

The True Nature of Charity
The Church teaches that charity is that habit that disposes us to love God above all things and love our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God. Thus, we who gratuitously receive blessings from God become capable of gratuitously giving to others without expecting anything in return. By grace, we overcome our selfishness and our repugnance of suffering to help others. We become capable of deeds that are beyond our fallen human nature. This action multiplies our capacity for giving, and in doing so it allows us to achieve things that are admirable, heroic, and sublime. This explains the incredible accomplishments of the saints and heroes who performed marvelous deeds and transformed society.

This spirit of charity gave rise to Christian civilization. Ancient pagan culture nor even today’s neo-pagan culture has been or is able to practice charity to the high degree achieved by the Church. This is due to the limitations of defective first principles that do not recognize our human dignity as endowed with an immortal soul.

There is no greater social unity than that produced by Christian charity which perfects the practice of justice and allows us to put the greater good over the lesser. It serves to quell the desire for personal gain and disordered passions. The practice of Christian charity creates a true union of heart and mind as all is directed toward the love of God, the source of all Good. Thus, we see our neighbors as brothers and sisters in Christ and not as faceless wards of the State.

A Hell on Earth
The socialist worldview could not be more contrary. Socialists deny any contingency on God and his Providence and embrace the state completely. A socialist society is a materialistic society without a higher purpose or meaning. Since the structure of society determines individual conduct, there can be no moral responsibility for one’s acts—including infanticide. Since the primary injustice is inequality, society is doomed to an eternal class struggle against the natural accumulation of property. Such an immoral society built on resentment is a hell on earth—and this happens whenever socialism is fully implemented.

Thus, the rise of socialism in America today represents a grave danger to the America we know and love. The rhetoric of socialist politicians must not deceive us. Wherever socialism rules, charity is suppressed. Should socialism triumph in America, we will then see the establishment of a cruel and savage hell without charity

When the Dark Screams of Death Metal Corrode the Culture

Extreme Noise, Terror, Pungent Stench and Pestilence are all disagreeable topics of conversation for most people. They should be avoided in polite company. However, these repugnant things enjoy some favor in today’s postmodern society.

The four topics are actually the names of death metal bands casually mentioned in a recent newspaper article. These names are joined by others like Hate Storm Annihilation, Arch Enemy, and Misery Index. Their songs are characterized by screams, screeching and guttural groans. Some of the song titles include “First Day in Hell,” “Regurgitated Guts,” “Slowly We Rot” or “Masked in Leeches.”

Such group names and song titles are typical in the world of heavy metal and death metal bands, as are band members wearing studded leather jackets or blue-streaked hair. Their music is accessible to any who want to find it, and the genre enjoys a large following. The band names that would be disgusting topics of conversation are apparently desirable branding labels.

Culture Doesn’t Matter
All of this hurts the national culture. However, few people express concern about the influence of the bands’ violent and morbid messages upon the nation. Some might even dismiss objections as prudish and exaggerated. After all, they claim, it is all about freedom. The music is not hurting anyone. The names, while disgusting, really don’t matter.

The reason for such a dismissive attitude is that most people really don’t think culture matters. For them, culture is only about personal fun, gratification, and entertainment.

Politics, business and money do matter. However, culture merely represents individual choices separated from those things that matter. One can see, hear or do anything cultural without real consequences.

This culture-doesn’t-matter mantra facilitates the extremes reached by postmodern phenomena like death metal bands as it allows a cultural revolution to progress unimpeded. While everyone is talking about politics, business, and money, postmodernism’s dark messages corrode the culture and gradually destroy society.

The Postmodern Worldview
Czech poet Vaclav Havel once defined postmodernism as a state in which everything is possible and almost nothing is certain. Indeed, the postmodern worldview holds nothing need have any definition and meaning. Everything, even the most blaring contradictions, must be accepted. There are no narratives into which things can be inserted. Rules must be broken to prove that nothing has consequences.

The example of the death metal bands is a typical expression of this definition in action. For postmoderns, bands can be called Extreme Noise, Terror, Pungent Stench and Pestilence since they are just words that annihilate meaning. The band names are made to shock by their powerful associations that defy convention and propriety. When a band sings “First Day in Hell,” it challenges everything that is related to Heaven.

Likewise, the bands’ morbid imagery and bizarre acts shock the sensibilities by the lack of rational connection to the real world. They create instead a macabre fantasy world, which undermines the rules and conventions of modern society.

Finally, postmodern music need not be beautiful; it is enough that it be presented as “music.” The most irrational and blasphemous lyrics are not meant to be understood. Its screeching melodies need not be harmonious because harmony itself must be challenged.

Indeed, the only sensation left is that of sensation itself. Sensations must be ever more brutal and violent to impress the numbed soul.

Art Upside Down
Postmodern culture is not true culture. It does not represent art or beauty. Postmodernism turns art upside down. It is anti-beauty disconnected from truth. It is music expressed as “extreme noise.”

The purpose of any art is to lead to the good, the true and the beautiful. Postmodernism celebrates the evil, false and ugly by destroying art’s metaphysical foundation in truth, logic and order. By its dynamism, it naturally tends toward the most radical manifestations of all that is disordered and offensive.

Hence, Extreme Noise, Terror, Pungent Stench and Pestilence present themselves in this bizarre context.

The Culture Does Have Consequences
Such considerations do not impress those who think culture doesn’t matter. Heavy metal bands do not determine elections, create jobs or boost economic productivity. They claim that how people entertain themselves is no one’s business, however outrageous it might seem.

And yet these same people will lament the decline of civility, family and community. They will complain that the “social capital” that kept society and markets together isn’t working like it used to work and that society is coming apart.

This is why culture does matter. Culture is by definition not restricted to individual preferences. It embraces the breadth of human knowledge as reflected in the arts, economy, politics and education. Culture affirms values that permeate all society. It contributes to the structuring of all human relationships, institutions and the State itself. Its action is often subtle and indirect, but it nevertheless has consequences.

Postmodernism Destroys Order
In fact, culture is much more powerful than political or economic forces. This is because culture is the glue that keeps things together in order. Russell Kirk maintained that freedom, justice, law, and virtue are all very important, but “order is the first and most basic need.”

Postmodernism destroys order by depriving a society of certainties, logic and identity. It corrupts art by depriving it of its proper end in beauty.

While death metal bands alone will not destroy order, they do contribute to it. They raise a standard of chaos toward which society slowly marches. They push the envelope of what is tolerable ever farther. When a society fails to see terror, stench and pestilence as evils, it works contrary to its ordered nature. To use the title of one of the death metal bands’ songs, “Slowly We Rot.”

The natural result of this cultural rot is the breakdown of society today. When people are exposed to crazy things, they will do crazy things. When ugliness and bizarre fashion dominate, they will take over the public square. When all cultural restraints are lifted, people lose control and kill others. All of these are effects of a culture gone awry.

Culture does matter. It should be the principal battleground upon which conservatives and Christians fight—not a sideshow to generate votes.

The Correct Orientation of a Culture War
To be effective, this Culture War must be properly oriented.

Both modernity and postmodernism fail to recognized culture’s ultimate end. Secular modernity looks upon culture as an ordering influence leading to prosperity. Postmodernism sees it as a way of facilitating gratification.

The end of culture, especially when expressed by the arts, is to serve as a means to the knowledge and love of God. The corruption of culture will inevitably lead to its ugly and repulsive contrary. This anti-culture will always find its way to the greatest evils, often found openly in its Satanic references and imagery.

Culture should be properly understood as Christian and oriented by the Church. Saint Paul calls upon Christians to look to “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”(Phil. 4:8).

Saint Bonaventure magnificently states that such a worldview allows Christians to clearly see “art as productive, exemplifying and ordering, given to us for looking upon God.” Thus art serves to “lead the mind of the one contemplating and attaining wisdom to the Eternal God.”

The Lives of All God’s Children Matter

Honest dialogue on race in America requires involving both sides of our divide. For many years, too many have cowered into politically correct comments designed to keep them safe from charges of racism. That is not honest dialogue. Those who demonstrate see the numbers marching and may assume overwhelming support for their issues far beyond the killing of George Floyd. That could be an illusion.

Progressives demand orthodoxy—you must say “black lives matter” or face consequences. Any variation is viciously attacked! People have been fired; others have resigned with forced apologies for saying “all lives matter.” 

Of course black lives matter, but the phrase now brings baggage and political implications that many Americans don’t support. Many blacks are not marching in lockstep and renounce the “Black Lives Matter” agenda. There is no one black voice. It takes no guts to spout progressive orthodoxy; you are praised in the media. It takes courage for blacks like Candice Owens, Larry Elder, Ben Carson, and others to face the attacks for standing against the left’s agenda.

It’s time citizens of all races to take off their politically correct muzzle. There is no room for attacks, but a strong need for consistent, rational, and measured responses. We also need to be part of the call for positive solutions.

Affirming my Christian faith, I state with conviction that all God’s children matter! All are created in God’s image. We must affirm the constitutional rights of every citizen. Stating “Black Lives Matter” while not including everyone else risks supporting yet another version of racism that makes one select group worthy of special treatment.CARTOONS | AF Branco View Cartoon

Demand a just and swift criminal prosecution of those who killed George Floyd. We join the overwhelming majority of Americans who call for justice. The officers involved have been charged and are due fair trials. You don’t honor one victim by making others the victims of hate. Uphold the rule of law and let it run its course!

Demand that looters and domestic terrorists who used legal demonstrators as cover be apprehended, prosecuted, and convicted for their crimes if proven guilty. Their actions are an embarrassment to their country. Martin Luther King Jr. and the great civil rights leaders who gave their all in support of equal rights must be screaming from the grave—“This is not what we marched for!”

Don’t defund police; defend your police. Dismiss radical demands to dismantle or defund the police force in your community.This is madness! Black-on-black crime makes black neighborhoods even more dependent on competent and engaged law enforcement. We need to stand with our responsible police officers, not attack them for the actions of a few.

It’s time to work together to get rid of bad cops. Police unions have power and must work with city leadership to hold racist officers accountable. Bad cops should be systematically documented, fired and prosecuted if warranted. No good cop wants to work with bad cops. Rebuilding trust requires action, not promises and platitudes.

Use background checks, validated tests, and probationary periods to keep racist cops out of law enforcement. Don’t settle for racist officers and expect them to change. They likely won’t.

Acknowledge that both white and black racists exist. Racists come in all colors. There is no honest dialogue without each race facing and addressing the racism on their own side of the divide.

Continue Criminal Justice Reform. Both parties have made a good start. Criminals of any race who have paid the price for their crimes and showed evidence of changed behavior, should be able to earn the right to expunge their criminal record which helps secure good jobs. America should be about second chances.

Expand support for opportunity zones in disadvantaged areas. Both parties should work to help businesses bounce back from the destructions perpetrated by the rioting mobs. Make funds available to business owners who are ready to rebuild businesses and bring back jobs to distressed communities.

Give all parents school choice and the funds to go with it. Stop forcing parents to send their children to underperforming schools. Minority parents are crying out for school choice and the funds to make it happen. Parents of all races want schools that help their children succeed. End direct funding for public schools. Let all schools compete for students on the basis of results by letting parents choose where their school funds go!

Instead of just giving the megaphones to only black victims, it’s time to focus on the thousands of black Americans who faced racism and succeeded anyway. Let them share what they did to claim their own American Dream. The solution to racism is never victim thinking, more government regulations, and racial entitlements.

Racists exist, but claiming that all whites share collective guilt for those racists is itself a form of racism. Few whites today are racist, and the vast majority have never been racists and don’t associate or support people who are. As Victor Frankl has said, “There are only two races, the decent and the indecent.” Amen! It’s time for the decent Americans of all races to join together to stand against racism of any kind. We must all do our part to contribute to the unfolding story of America’s challenge to live up to its promise of equal rights for all.

What If Obama Were President and KKK Terrorists Took Control of an American City?

First, let’s start with the new name of downtown Seattle. The communist-anarchist terrorists call it “CHAZ” for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. I’ve changed the name to “CATZ” for Communist Anarchist Terrorist Zone.

I’m talking, of course, about the new “country” formerly known as Seattle. The domestic antifa terrorists clearly in charge have set up borders, roadblocks and armed guards. They are holding six blocks of an American city hostage as a “no-go zone.” There is a wave of robberies, assaults and rapes going on inside that “zone,” according to the Seattle police. It’s all being run by a “warlord” — a Soundcloud rapper. You can’t make this stuff up.

This insanity is happening in America.

Then there are the liberal and obviously mentally ill politicians in charge. The Democratic governor claims he knows nothing about it. He’s doing his best imitation of Sgt. Schultz from the old TV series “Hogan’s Heroes” — “I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing.” The governor pretends he doesn’t know the biggest city in his state has been seized by communist-anarchist terrorists.

The Democratic mayor of Seattle calls the terrorists “patriotic.” I kid you not.

The leading councilperson in Seattle — also a Democrat — gave the radical terrorists the keys to city hall. 

Now she’s demanding the police surrender to the terrorists, while introducing legislation to permanently hand six city blocks to domestic terrorists. The lunatics are running the asylum.

Statue of Lenin Seattle.jpg

This isn’t an American city. It’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

How is this different than a violent bank robbery? When a bank is robbed, do the police surrender and permanently hand the bank to the bank robbers?

How is this different than an Islamic terrorist attack? If Islamic terrorists held a portion of Seattle hostage, wouldn’t we send in the U.S. Marines to take it back?

But let me give you the best example of all. Substitute my hometown of Las Vegas for Seattle. Downtown Vegas has been seized and occupied by domestic terrorists. But instead of communist anarchists, these are armed white extremists, Ku Klux Klan terrorists. Just picture that scenario under Democratic former President Barack Obama, with Vegas under the control of a Republican governor, Republican mayor and Republican city council.

Now picture the Republican Nevada governor saying: “What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about it. I haven’t heard about any takeover.” Picture the Republican mayor calling the takeover “patriotic.” Picture a Republican councilperson demanding police “surrender” the Vegas downtown permanently to the KKK terrorists.

How would President Obama react? How about the liberal mainstream media, or leading Democratic politicians, or the NAACP? Would they all demand President Obama send in the U.S. Marines to retake downtown Las Vegas from terrorists? You can bet your last dollar they would.

And the Republican governor, mayor and councilperson who took the side of the KKK terrorists would also be charged with either treason or aiding and abetting terrorism.

So, why is the media responding so differently to an antifa terrorist takeover of Seattle? It’s time for action. Domestic terrorists have invaded and taken over an American city. They are holding it hostage. American citizens are being terrorized.

So, there are two options, Mr. President: Send in the SWAT team, National Guard or U.S. Marines to take back Seattle from the terrorists.

Or, here’s my solution, a peaceful option that won’t endanger innocent lives: Surround the “autonomous zone” now called CHAZ, formerly known as downtown Seattle, with a massive show of law enforcement, FBI SWAT teams and either the National Guard or Marines.

Next, bring in the U.S. Army Core of Engineers. Construct a fence with barbed wire on top around the entire six blocks. Seal the terrorists in.

Next, cut off all electricity, gas, water and sewage. Prohibit supplies from being brought in. The terrorists are trapped.

Give them a few days with no food, water, electricity or toilets. Watch them walk out with hands up, holding white flags.

Immediately arrest them; put them in handcuffs and leg irons; and fly them to Guantanamo, where they will await trial for terrorism charges. If convicted, be sure they receive life in prison.

That’s a strong message sent to future rioters, hostage takers, invaders and various terrorist groups.

Isn’t this what President Obama would have done to KKK terrorists holding a city hostage? You’re damn right.

Go get ’em, President Trump.