Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More old reflections--salvation and freedom

Added 4/28/05:

Salvation is love, but freedom is the deepest description of the movement of that love. The providence of God is the salvation of the world, of all Creation; it is indeed the enacting of his will in and through history, but the will of God is a *possibilizing* will. Thus all of God's movements in history, in the service of love, are also in the service of freedom.

It is not simply that God desires the love of his creation and that this love requires freedom as a logical condition of possibility, thereby compelling God to reluctantly sacrifice certain souls so that he might settle to have only a portion of his creation be saved.

Rather, salvation, love, and freedom are much the same thing. Salvation without freedom is not merely a logical impossibility; it is absolute contradiction, and God cannot contradict himself. The notion that there is any distinction between God's universal salfivic will, and his liberating, possibilizing will, is an illusion.

The consequence of this is that, if God were to reject or deny any freedom--even the most petty kind, for any reason--he would in the same act be denying that person's salvation. Overpowering someone's will, God displaces the will with his own; and without a will, the person ceases to be a creature in any way open to the love that salvation is.

The last free act that any creature of God's can ever do is to definitively renounce its own freedom. This is damnation itself, but it is precisely God's universal salvific will that makes this free act possible. For God to contradict the mortal sinner's free self-condemnation would be annihilation of the sinner (which is not a mercy) and a contradiction of Himself. Either a person renounces his own freedom, which he can only do incompletely yet also permanently, or God takes it away to prevent him from doing so himself, annihilating the will. The damned, to whom all of this is revealed, become totally enslaved to the vain desire to destroy themselves, to destroy God, and everything else. Their failure to do so increases their hunger for more destruction, and they are not free to desire anything else (hence Hell is everlasting). But to be annihilated is not to be a permanent slave to everlasting self-destruction; it is to be a slave to the only thing which is worse: void.

Added April 29th:

The whole business of God 'annihilating' a person deserves elaboration. The obvious objection is that God would not have to destroy a person, or destroy his free will, in order to prevent him from doing something self-destructive. I grant this. There is, however, a more basic question of whether a person rejects or accepts his own freedom. This transforms the issue.

The forfeiture of freedom is not a mere extrinsic act among many. It ... [interrupted]

Last year's reflection part 2: Lower vs. higher desires

An important question to ask is what I mean when I speak of "higher" desires. It would be totally undue to simply assume that there are such things, particularly in a discussion with an intelligent and rigorous determinist. More commonly, should we not assume that the perception of "grades" of value or joy are themselves mere anthropomorphic hypostasizations of immediate pleasures into/onto mediating objects? Hierarchies of more/less successful disavowals and sublimations of our graspings for food, sex, and power? Aren't all 'hierarchies' of goodness in the world ultimately an illusion crafted by a brain which has tricked itself into thinking that its levels of meaning correspond to any objective reality?

Let's pull a "Husserl" here and forget about the objective world for a moment. We know as a basic fact that, objectively substantial or not, each of us prefers some goods to other goods; and more often than not these preferences have wide similarities across large populations. Consider the effectiveness of beer advertisements: very often, a beer ad will place the subject male in a dillemma between a beer and a woman. A beer that a man chooses over a woman must be a VERY good beer. Of course, such ads delight with their irony (because the ad-makers know that the better-than-a-woman beer will never fail to surprise). Even if a beer ad has the man choose the woman (to distinguish itself from other, more predictable beer ads), the dillemma itself is sufficient to inflate the value of the beer.

The point is that we take for granted that a beer is inferior to a woman. Why? A Fruedian would speak of the "overvaluation" that occurs when we take the pleasure of genital climax and associate it, in various and diffuse ways, with the proximate signs the woman carries about herself--the rest of her body, her fashion tastes, even her politics.

Yet there is something disingenuous about this idea. The critique against it takes the same shape as the critique against the reduction of all desires to "happiness". Consider the following thought experiment: an amatuer writer has two options placed before him by a brilliant scientist: he can either (1) take a pill that will make him believe he is a brilliant and well-loved writer, no matter what, in spite of the fact that he is not (thereby granting him happiness), or (2) not take the pill, and work towards becoming a brilliant and well-loved writer. The results of such an experiment, idiosynchratic exceptions notwithstanding, yield that the first option is revolting. It is not merely the happiness of being an accomplished writer the writer wants; he truly wants to write and write well.

The point is that our desires are what they are; they are not something else in disguise. When a man wants the company of a woman, it is not just a sublimation of genital lust to the level of a relationship--it is a genuine desire for companionship.

Now, real, authentic comanionship, few would disagree, is almost universally more desired than a beer--unless the subject in question is a far-gone acoholic, and such people cannot be representative.

But why is companionship valued more? I would suggest two virtually indisputable reasons. First, the goods that result from 'companionship' are experienced on a level on which they can coexist with deprivation on several other levels, and yet still be preferred to the converse scenario in which companionship is lacking but the competing goods are met. This is what is first meant by its being "higher."

The second reason is that the goods that result from 'comanionship' are experienced as being more enduring, and experienced in time. Companions are found and established across time, and they are received as embodiments of history, not only of past memory and present attention, but future expectation as well. Other goods--such as the buzz from a beer--are strictly "now" goods; the memory of a past buzz has no real desireable effect when there is none present now. This is to say nothing of the desolation resulting from a genital sexual release removed totally from the context of companionship.

Standing back now and surveying the wide expanse of all the sorts of things people may decide they want, we can see that the grades of desires are, in fact, real. They are real, not only in the drastically differing subjective experiences of their benefits, but in the immanent demand that the benefits not be experienced apart from their sources. In other words, the amateur writer does not want to merely 'believe' that he is great; he wants to become great; and neither is he willing to substitute more easily-gained pleasures of sex or food for his goal of becoming a great writer.

This brings up another important point: 'higher' desires are naturally more difficult to attain with any certainty. A relationship requires more devotion, more skill, and more perseverance than the enjoyment of a hamburger. It does not necessarily follow that whichever desires demand the most effort are thereby higher; a drug addict may have to brave fearsome obstacles over long periods of time in order to get his fix. However, the converse is never true; there is no art, no friendship, and no romance that is had cheaply.

Reflection on freedom from last year...

"The Truth shall set you free," says Christ. Free from what? Free from sin, is the "correct" answer. That is all well and good, but are there not more unpleasant things than sin we would like to be freed from? At the start, I would much rather be freed from pain, from lonliness, from the viscious complexities of everyday life, from the burdens of work, and from my own psychological torments. I would rather be freed from these, than I would like to be freed from breaking the ten commandments so that I can have some "pie in the sky when I die." Oh, if only I could spend the days enjoying myself, burning my textbooks and papers, smashing my computer (at least the one not powerful enough for video games), taking walks in the forest and maybe even getting drunk or masturbating now and again without anxiety, guilt, fear, and so on. In the end, isn't the Christian project one of manufacturing fear of an arbitrary list of sins, and then proceeding to offer us "salvation" from them? That sounds like a racket, to me. I would much rather not be exhorted--or extorted, as the case may be--to pay the high price of my pleasant profligation for the nebulous good of freedom from a list of evils that can't be proved objectively true or even the least bit relevant. Indeed, I would like to be freed from religion itself, and all its nagging moralistic choirs of responsibility and drudgery.

To go even deeper--isn't this Christian "freedom" a terrible, disgusting joke? At every turn, the Church is disapproving this or that or the other thing. Liberalities and choices seem crushed with an authoritarian fist at every turn. And what of the Christian? The poor fool, at every moment life presents him with two options, the "heaven" option and the "hell" option, and only ever ONE of those two options is permissable should he not want to burn alive forever and ever. What kind of freedom is that? What a crushing burden, rather, to always have everything but the most morally erect choice turned into a doorway to being raped by demons until the end of time.

When Jesus says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light," is not his divine nature laughing at us in mockery behind that human face? Is not the whole Church caught in a cycle of dupery and disappointment, shame and empty "redemption", a billions of little downward spirals of sin-confession-sin-confession-sin-confession-sin, etc., without any forseeable sainthood except for those handful of individuals who just happened to be in the right place (with the right psychological makeup) at the right time?

Lest anyone accuse me ever of not understanding the minds of postmodern non-Christians, I present the above paragraphs in my defense.

This is why, when priests and religious educators speak of "true freeom," it tends to fall flat. The brilliantly constructed 20th century tale--that the Church is, in fact, merely a pretty coral reef of colliding, self-perpetuating psycho-dramas forming an institutional hierarchy that looses its lively but immaterial shackles on all corners of the earth--shows its full persuasive glory. But I've strewn too far from the point.

Freedom is an idea that cannot be gotten rid of, even by those philosophers who cannot admit that it has any actual reality. Even determinists such as Schopenhauer felt that "freedom," as an errant spontaneous belief, has value for the human life even if it has no substance. As Jonathan Edwards said, "we can do as we please, but we cannot please as we please." But on some level, nobody is able to banish the idea that we do MORE than simply "do as we please"; that our very "pleasures" themselves are subject to some freedom, (1) in a way of which animals, which also only "do as they please", are incapable, and (2) in a way that is not reducible to a merely 'higher form' of "doing as we please" (although this notion deserves more attention).

This is a different order of freedom (whether it is real or not) than the freedom my anti-Christian self complained was threatened by Christianity. That freedom was a freedom of fearlessly "doing as I please". But this freedom is a more basic freedom than that--more basic, even than "pleasing as I please" (though it includes this). This is the freedom at stake in every debate on determinism, uniqueness of the human species, quantum physics and chaos theory, divine foreknowledge, and so on. At root, it asks: "Am I a fundamentally spontaneous center of action, of growth and change? Am I, on some level, unpredictable by science or logic, and, on some level, undeterminable by law or manipulation?"

Notice that I used the term "fundamentally", not "absolutely." No rational person who believes in this basic mode of human freedom is under any illusions that this freedom is "absolute." Nobody who has ever woken up in a different place than they went to sleep believes that this freedom is absolute--if they believe in it at all. To call it "fundamental" makes it an integral part of our deepest selves--not the totality of our selves. That would be ridiculous. The terrible irony is that those who have tried to rage against deterministic ideas by diving into the absolutes of spontaneity, unpredictability, and undeterminability, have diven into a pool of cliches characteristic of figures like Marylin Manson and all of those long-haired rock stars of the 70's who became poster-boys of sexual and drug addiction, depression, and suicide. The most unpredictable thing any of them ever did was to recover.

But the scenario that arises from this question is that, whatever our own opinions, we discover our own lives as being interior struggles between this deeper freedom, and the creeping unfreedom. That is why we cannot get rid of the idea that we have this freedom--if there were no such freedom, there would be no struggle. The very fact that we have a will and an imagination which is so frequently frustrated by determinedness and uncontrol, is the strongest testament to the existence of this basic freedom. Our unfreedom is at war with something inimical to its determinations and machinations. This nemesis of unfreedom--this "freedom"--is it an illusion? Illusions can sometimes fight wars, as we know, and be even more powerful than the real thing, as any lucid schizophrenic can tell you. But if this illusory "freedom" is a powerful enemy of unfreedom, that sometimes even wins victories, we must ask the question of whatever the determinist means when he calls it an "illusion" in the first place.


[Added later, intervening hypotheticals omitted...]

In summary of all the points made up until now:

Before we begin to speak of God, one may say that we are all determined. We can do as we please, but we cannot please as we please. However, within the deterministic framework, one perceives a difference between human beings and other animals.

Speaking of this difference in the barest terms (for wide acceptability), one notices that the first moment of a sensation of freedom is that of a dilemma and a choice. Particularly in difficult dilemmas, the sensation of freedom is keenly and acutely felt.

Yet a materialist determinist can soundly argue that this sensation--this tension between two choices that seems to be the space that calls for freedom--is itself, as such, an illusion. The actor, the determinist says, was passive to the reception of these competing psychological impulses, and passive to their integration and mutation within his subconscious. As such he is, no matter how hard he tries, still passive to their competition within his consciousness, and to the domination of one over the other. So the determinist thought experiment goes, two people with the same exact histories should make the same exact choices. (On a side note, attempts to use chaos theory or quantum theory to create a space for freedom within this framework will universally fail to do so--it would ruin the determinist thought experiment, but not determinism. The two individuals with identical histories would act differently, but this difference would still stand within a deeper conceptual bedrock of Necessity. As already established, absolute unpredictability and determinism are logically compatible.)

Yet even if this picture is accepted, it can be complicated by a discussion of the differences between the kinds of choices that constitute our dilemmas. For an animal without dilemmas (although I don't set out to argue that animals do not experience dilemmas of any kind), each immediate desire is absolutely compelling on the animal's consciousness. Although a person experiences the same immediate desires that an animal has, they are not compelled by those desires in the same way. The immediate desires are relativized to other desires which are perceived as different in some way.

These differences are experienced, on the level of consciousness, as being ultimately differences of value.


Ever think about how strange a concept freedom is? It's not one of the transcendentals--the one, the true, the good, or the beautiful. It's not one of the virtues--faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, or fortitude. Freedom kind of stands out there all by it's lonesome.

I've written before (in a private reflection I'll partially publish here later) that maybe freedom is as important a name for God as love. Love and freedom both are words worn thin by the cultural battle of Christianity and the world which is passing away. But maybe part of the reason they have decayed so much and are abused so much is that they are not thought together. That is, of course, not to speak of the ridiculous travesty of "free love," where both words are totally emptied of their authentic meaning, and the phrase realistically means its exact opposite: compulsive exploitation.

But other than that, these two words are so interrelated that they provide a corrective of one-another. Love is only as authentically loving as it is free; and freedom is only as truly free as it is loving. They are coextensive.

This deserves some unpacking, but I only have ten minutes, so let's leave it to rest for now.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Taxonomy of Conservatives, cont'd...

Taxonomy of Conservatives, Part II

[I've been writing this across several days. It might be worthless, but I might be able to extract some more unified insights by looking at it later.]

Since I'm all coffee'd up for class, and there's just appended discussion going on now, so I'll just be typing away here while the questions are going on. Hey, it's not like I'm browsing the Web or anything, right?

In my last post about Conservatives, I ended on the note that, once we get down to "religious/assenting conservative," we're talking about people who have a 'fundamental option' (much abused as that phrase is) for assent to the Catholic Church. But in spite of the fact that Catholics of this sort are a small minority in the world population at large, yet still among them there a substantial variety in approaches, basic assumptions, and taste. I've often been of the mind that the most bitter and violent personal conflicts occur not between diametric opposites, but between people who have _almost_ everything in common.

Since I am not quite sure yet about how I can systematize the differences between conservatives, let's just describe certain differences in terms of pairs:

1. Patriotic vs. Apolitical: It was once remarked to me by a friend that conservative Catholics basically fall into two groups. There are those who entertain hopes for a basic harmony between Catholic belief and governmental practice (typically, but not exclusively Republican), and those who emphasize more the other-worldliness of the Kingdom. Both assent to the Magisterium in full. And moreover, to be apolitical does not mean that one does not participate in political life or strive for government fulfillment of Catholic values. But apolitical types look at the history of sinful humanity and thus have a profound, theological distrust of all human institutions and philosophies, almost indiscriminately. More patriotic types hold hopes that human history can tend toward more and more Godly societies, and they more-or-less cautiously hold that, at least eventually, the United States government might adequately embrace a Catholic society.

Obviously, both styles here have illegitimate extremes. They can fall into their respective errors of, on the patriotic side, a presumptuous, ideological, 'realized eschatology' utopianism; or on the apolitical side, a skittish, spiritualized, dualistic, non-participatory 'gnosticism' on the other. Also, apolitical conservativism can sometimes be confused with liberalism because it will tend to stress (and sometimes exaggerate) the separation of Church and State. But since we are talking strictly about people who are already assenting to the Magisterium, the point is moot.

There is a subset in this discussion that might be considered a sort of a compromise: monarchists. They join apolitical types in being cynical about the United States government; but they join patriotic types in holding that a worldly government would be reflective of God's will. (I might write about monarchism later).

2. Jansenistic vs. Jesuitical: I use these terms descriptively, of course, but I believe they are the best ones. That they both arose in the modern era is intentional--they represent not merely orthodoxy, which is ancient, but two styles of orthodoxy's reconciliation of worldly plurality. Because I am describing two styles of _orthodoxy_, here, however, it must be emphasized that I do not imply that either kind holds any condemned propositions or liberal opinions--quite the opposite.

Fundamentally, the distinction involved here is between attitudes toward the whole intellectual dimension of faith. Thus this distinction, more than any other I am treating here, cannot be dealt with satisfactorily. It suffices to say that a Jansenistic conservative, positting a sharp disjuncture between grace and nature, therefore posits a sharp disjuncture between the wisdom of the world and special revelation. He or she therefore strives to live strictly according to the dictates of current Magisterial authority, whose words light up with a golden credibility in the midst of a worldly 'cognitive depravity'. The Jansenistic conservative will be especially concerned that no "jot or tittle" from current or past ecumenical councils or encyclicals is diminished, dismissed, forgotten, or relativized. He or she will also suspect elaborate attempts to apply reason to established doctrine in order to produce new insight. Jesuitical conservatives, while certainly not confounding nature and grace, nevertheless understand them as interwoven in a manner such that human activity is not in vain (see Trent). They have a greater confidence than Jansensistic types that Providence remains active in the development of doctrine.

Interestingly, the extremes of either style both lead to a kind of "Protestantization" of the faith--just to different styles of Protestantism. Full-blown, non-orthodox Jansenists are the Catholic fundamentalists par-excellence. And the flirtation of Jesuits of the post-Vatican II era with soviet and feminist/sexual liberation ideology represents the depravity of liberalism.

3. Affirming vs. Skeptical: What is being distinguished here is not fundamentally one's degree of critical intelligence nor one's degree of being captivated by the glory of the Holy Spirit (considering that the greatest spiritual athletes are gifted with both). But within Catholic orthodoxy there is a range of legitimate attitudes toward phenomena not ruled upon by the Magisterium nor by the human sciences--Marian apparitions, supernatural gifts of the Spirit, particular activities of demons or angels, appearances of the dead, etc. People will be more or less persuaded by Medjugoria, by accounts of possession, and so on, not because they possess or lack adequate knowledge of science or communion with God, but because of how they weigh the options of belief.

Difficulties come in when orthodox Catholics of these two styles have problems tolerating one-another. The temptation of the empirically inclined Catholic may be to scoff at the seeming child-like credulity of other Catholics to speak seriously about Marian apparitions, gifts of the Spirit, etc. Likewise, those of a more believing stance may be tempted to doubt someone else's Catholic faith on the basis of their disbelief in certain private revelations. Both temptations are erroneous. An openness to belief in paranormal phenomena is perfectly compatible with an intimidating intellectual acumen; and the inability to give credence to certain apparitions--even significant ones like Our Lady of Guadalupe--is itself compatible with vigorous faith in all of the Christian mysteries and a profound depth of relationship with the Lord and all the saints.

4. De Miseria vs. De Dignitas: I had a hard time thinking of the proper words to describe these two styles. Pessimism vs. Optimism, Tolerant vs. Admonishing, blah... I settled on these Latin words for a couple of reasons: first, because they are not common and therefore escape the prejudicial attachment of unintended connotations; second, because they refer to Innocent III's "De Miseria Humanae Conditionis," which exemplifies one of the two styles and implies the opposite style.

This is basically an attitude toward people. Any human being is going to have his or her own mechanisms and inclinations which are employed in meeting new people and for understanding the motivations. One may be of the De Dignitas style, and expect or suppose that people are generally good and have the will and capacity to do the right thing; or else one may be of the De Miseria style, and expect that people are usually mired in sin.

But this distinction can become very complex. Motivations, and all the causes of human behaviors, come in multiple layers. This not only makes it virtually impossible to pin down an individuals true motivations and responsibility for some behavior; it also allows that one's presuppositions regarding others may be extraordinarily complicated. Someone will at all times have immediate desires, conscious and subconscious habits, long-term goals, experience-conditioned abilities and presuppositions, addictions and attachments, unusual strengths, dreams and goals, a network of relationships, a material situation, and in it all, vastly unequal distrubitions of grace and the providence of God in their lives.

But of course, we can't always mentally examine all of these things before we interact with people on the day-to-day basis. Instead, we simplify. Whether one imagines that people are generally well-intentioned or ill-intentioned is a function of one's basic presuppositions about human nature; and it issues forth in how one treats others and deals with their failures and accomplishments.

Someone who is an orthodox Catholic, however--especially one in tune with the dogma of original sin--will have a part of this equation of human motivation already done for him. We can know even by nature that the most fundamental ground of any human being is good (the Greeks needed no special revelation for that!), and we know by faith that we have been corrupted by a universal disease of the will: the sin of our first parents. We also know that grace interacts and that there is a cooperation with grace that is operative in sanctification.

For this reason, it is basically unorthodox to hold any individual corrupt to the core; similarly it doesn't mesh well with the faith to expect angelic sanctity.

(Hmph, I'm hitting a wall here. I need to give it a rest for now.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Apologia contra homosexual marriage.

Here we go, just cut and paste.

The Catholic Church wants her members who are homosexual to live a happy, fruitful, unpersecuted, and fulfilled life. Her very reason for being is to preach Jesus Christ as the Living Lord and the only ultimate and trustworthy source of this life. However, although the deepest truth is what Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden light, ” still, many good people will always experience one teaching or another as terribly difficult to accept—even nearly impossible.

This is understandably the case with our faith’s absolute denial of the legitimacy of any union presented as a marriage between two men or two women. This is the universal and constant teaching of the Catholic Church, and the Magisterium does not have any ability to reverse it. But what do we do with it? As Americans and as modern people, we may be tempted to dismiss this difficult teaching. Like the disciples hearing Christ say that he is bread for us to eat, we say, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” But as Catholics we must remember that our Baptism makes us children before God the Father and pupils to Scripture and Tradition, and so at least we must be open and patient—without, of course, sacrificing our reason or concern for the good of all.

The first thing to consider is the glory of God’s creation. Not merely creation as such—but the glory of it. Here, at the beginning of time, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit conspire to bring a whole universe into being. This universe is not God; he gives it a being all its own, loving it enough to let it have its own life; yet infusing it everywhere with every kind of beautiful thing, and infusing each thing with a yearning and movement toward himself. To paraphrase the old woman Maddy from “Cold Mountain, ” ‘There's a design for each and every one of us. A bird flies somewhere, eats the seed, it comes out in dung, plant grows. Bird's got a job, dung’s got a job, seed's got a job. And you've got a job.’

The question of following nature is a question of saying “yes” or saying “no” to this glory. It is a deep issue and a question whose answer we cannot avoid or postpone an answer. It is a part of who we are not only as God’s most beautiful and beloved creations—‘We’ve got a job’—but as Christians. St. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? […] that you are not your own? […] Therefore glorify God in your body.” Not only the human body and soul and the act of sexual intercourse were a part of this human creation, but marriage as well. And marriage is no mere affectionate “shacking up” with a receipt of legitimacy. In marriage, these two bodies, their souls, their sexual intercourse (open to life), and their genders all combine to fulfill each one’s original, God-authored meaning as the two become “one flesh” and they ‘glorify God in their bodies’, and most especially in their children.

This unique and profound experience is not available to everyone. As a matter of creation it demands the union of man and woman as they have been made for one-another. But homosexuals are not alone in being called to glorify God in chaste celibacy. So also are all people, especially Catholics and Christians, who by choice, calling, or circumstance live their lives without the sacrament of marriage. The history of saints and the untold numbers of the joyfully unmarried is a testament to the happiness to be found in such a life. However, this is not to ignore a very simple and painful fact: that a permanently homosexual Catholic will have a hard burden, especially if he or she feels it has been forced by circumstance.

There are many people who have the gift of celibate life, and there are many people who have a permanent homosexual orientation, but this unequal world never promises that the two will occur in the same person. Yet even in these final cases there should be an energetic hope, not merely of success (for there will in all likelihood be some failures), but hope in the help of God, in his mercy for our weakness, in the fruitfulness for the world of this very struggle, and in the peace and joy available even in the midst of imperfection. We must recall that the things that are impossible for us are easy for God, and that in the end it is our hearts and free choices he judges, not our weaknesses.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Flagrant disobedience

I am writing this post in the teeth of Mr. Maurer, who just now demanded that I go to bed. Ha! Rebellion is so sweet.

First order of business:

Next order of business: Internet religion forums.

If you're a devout member of any religious tradition that wasn't cooked up within the last 200 years (though the most popular of which were born from a teenager's website within the last ten), and you have a hankering for some accute episodic depression, go to this forum, or better yet, just take a gander at a few pages of this thread from said forum.

Now, before you start having temptations involving 32nd floors or ancient Samurai honor customs, let me just suggest that the vast spiritual desert--nay, the wasteland--that is 'general purpose religion forums' is probably not representative of the actual youthful demography of this country. After all, the 18-35 year old general-religion-forum-addicted segment of the population isn't really scientifically representative. Leastwise, it doesn't take into account the Catholic-forum-addicted segment. :)

In one of my four (!) caffeine-induced brainstorm-during-class sessions today, I was thinking of what sort of thing, what message, what holy word could be uttered that would possibly dent this great wall of psuedo-dialogical jibber jabber. Simply quoting the Bible is pearls before swine.

But these little moppets--these atheists, agnostics, gnostics, 'non-denominational' Christians, wiccans, 3rd order priestesses of Ghiggolyidafrump, noodle-monster devotees, and self-proclaimed Jedi--are the ones I think about when I write theology papers, when I read all those textbooks, and when I think of a future Catholic parish. They're the ones that keep me on my toes. They're the ones who each individually has the power to transport me into total euphoria with but nine little words: "Oh, I hadn't thought of it that way before."

They are the ones that I am willing to study far past my quota of school years to understand. With regard to any life goals that might be called worldly, I want only to be God's instrument of grace for one of the postmodern lost, all the way up to conversion. I know any of them reading this would practically barf at my wide-eyed and condescending tone there. I don't particularly care. They deserve God, and the fact that a thousand cultural forces created these sarcastic, teeth-gnashing anti-Catholics doesn't dissuade me from believing that God serves their hearts desires and most important values--even the ones they think are anti-Christian.

Why are Internet religion forums the way they are? Maybe later--midnight now. Bed calls.