Two things occured this week that convinced me that we in the West have truly entered the age of Aquarius; a politically correct era in which only feminine virtues are valued whilst masculine virtues are demonised. The first was when a healthy debate was deleted on Facebook because one side felt hurt by the argument put forth. The second when I read about a highly respected American theologian and philosopher having his knuckles rapped by his seniors- again for hurting feelings with considered and reasonable argument.
How difficult to talk sense, or encourage free thinking, when virtues are turned into vices within the vox populi. Holding a strong opinion, for example, is now deemed a sin, something socially unacceptable, whilst toleration at all costs, even of the morally questionable or plain wrong, is upheld as only good. It creates a confusing topsy-turvy narrative in which fact must give way to feelings, and truth opened up to personal interpretation, that ‘me and my story’ need never be threatened. Else I scream and scream and stamp my foot! So there!
It is pathetic. If you doubt that consider how young men in 1944 heroically took to the beaches of Normandy to fight for our freedom on D-Day whilst today’s young people, in American Universities, require “safe spaces” – zones where those with hurt feelings can retreat without fear of being questioned- should viewpoints other than their own dismay them. Clearly academic challenge is no longer desired. Actually the situation is beyond pathetic. It is sick; a symptom of an over indulgent, narcissistic culture. One that has clearly abandoned truth in favour of massaging bruised egos. One that has abandoned God for self. Why should the natural law and divine law govern the meta narrative when my personal feelings could dictate?
And alas the virus has infected the church. In fact it is particularly manifest in ecclesial circles. Meaning that whilst the Saints and Martyrs of old were celebrated for being strident in defence of the faith, we might consider St. Catherine of Sienna or St. Nicholas, today’s clergy are pressured at all costs to be “nice” and inoffensive. Clerics need not fear bishops if they denounce doctrine or preach heresy..but woe betide the person whose “tone is wrong” or who is “rigid” in upholding the truth of the Gospel and thereby rocks the boat regarding modern sensitivities! They will almost certainly be cast to the margins, to serve on Craggy Island, whilst vanilla middle manager types become the golden boys; the wetter the better it seems.
It is a truth I discovered courtesy of this blog. Never has anybody pointed out doctoral error but I have been ticked off before now for causing offence! What happens is that somebody (almost always a high Anglican who did not embrace the Ordinariate) reads a viewpoint they do not like. Instead of simply avoiding the blog, which is after all an opt-in medium, or debating in civilised but robust manner, they go running in tears to a hierarch. “That nasty man hurt my feelings”. The hierarchy inevitably attempt to placate the sore loser of debate and give a friendly warning- “It isn’y your message but your tone”, which, when you unpack it, boils down to the point above: ‘by all means state your case but please ensure you give credence to all argument”. That is don’t uphold the old fashioned notion of truth which, by its definition, puts someone in the wrong and thereby could hurt their feelings!!
it happened again this week when a healthy debate on social media was closed down and deleted. Why? Because an ex-Anglican became “hurt” when I insisted, politely I should add, that the creation of the Ordinariate, coupled with decisions made by the Church of England’s General Synod, mean that the argument of a via media is defunct. One might choose with integrity to be high church protestant but any suggestion of authentic Catholic life residing within 21st Century Anglicanism is spurious. The post was deleted lest it “offend” which thoroughly depressed me- I mean what hope the ordinariate of succeeding, in the face of stiff opposition, if its leadership is frightened of debate? If we do not go into those places where we actually challenge in love then we are doomed. It is a serious problem and not only for the Ordinariate but for all.
Now please note this isn’t an attack on the decision in that instance. The cleric involved is a good priest whom I admire, as were all who took part in the debate. And there was arguably wisdom in ensuring bridges are maintained not burnt. But, nonetheless, there is an issue at the heart of this matter worthy of consideration. Should we be afraid of offending others on the path to seeking the truth?
Why do we think tone so important? Why do we seem so afraid of strident viewpoint and rigorous debate? Why take so personally points made theoretically? Jesus was hardly charitable when speaking with those he disagreed with; he came to bring a sword, he assured us, to divide even brother against brother. Nor were the majority of saints and martyrs agents of compromise. Rather they died for their beliefs. And historically we have celebrated that fact. So why this modern demand for honey when vinegar is needed? When did we become so emasculated as to fear even debate? Why do we demonise those we simply disagree with- as was obviously the case over Brexit?
Somehow we have remind people that it is possible to be a gentleman yet vociferously debate. It is possible to love people but strongly disagree with them. But this modern tendency to be ‘nice at all costs’ must end for it is seriously damaging and demeaning the church and culture of our day.
Within the world it compels us to forget (or ignore) the rudimentary biological facts about Harold’s DNA and testicles the moment he chooses to ‘identify’ as a woman. We no longer treat the delusion with gentle compassion but actually become bit- players in the delusion. The law chastising those who do not refer to him as her, or her as him, and all according to their personal whim. In the church it feeds a capitulating narrative that dare not question ecumenical partners or those who do not adhere to the faith… whilst routinely demonising, as rigid and unwelcome and uncaring, those actually attempting to live out the faith. It is a form of gushy madness. It has to end if the year following 2016 is not to become 1984.
So if you don’t like this post. Tough! By all means tell me I am wrong in the comments below. You could well be right- certainly I have many flaws. Fortunately for you I am big enough to accept such criticism so long as it doesn’t descend to personal insult. But, please, let us be big enough to disagree in love. To come to different viewpoints and yet remain friendly. Let us dare to be thought of as wrong. Let us dare to be hurt for the sake of religious freedom and genuine democracy. Otherwise philosophy and freedom will die and enforced uniformity will be all that is left to us.