Charlie's Blog: SOC 32


SOC 32

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.

When I have been away from the blog for awhile, I find these SOC posts are a great way to get back in the blogging groove. It hearkens back to the days in high school when one of my English teachers would have us free write in some journals. It is a good exercise in the same way that fingerpainting is a great first leap into making art. Kids should feel free to make a mess of it as they discover their creativity. In the same way, I think people would learn to write better if they could be given the space to write badly. The SOC posts are the space I give myself to write badly.

What is on my mind? The thing that occupies my mind the most these days is a recent convert to Catholicism who has gone from being a Backsliding Baptist to becoming a Cafeteria Catholic. A backslider is the name we would give to someone back in my days as a Southern Baptist for someone who got saved by watching a Billy Graham Crusade on TV or answering the altar call at church then getting baptized. This person gave his heart to Jesus but ends up giving it back to the world a few months later as he returns to drinking and whoring and not going to church on Sundays. Sometimes, the backslider would feel regret over the backsliding, and he would rededicate his life to Christ at a future altar call maybe when the local church had a revival. This is virtually identical to the way Catholics go to confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation before returning to Mass. In this way, Southern Baptists reinvent what already exists in Catholicism.

I am fond of Baptists especially the faithful ones that never miss church and endeavor mightily to live for Jesus. I truly believe the Lord reaps where He did not sow, and many of these Protestants are more faithful in their ignorance than many Roman Catholics in their full knowledge of the apostolic faith. The Jews had a saying about being "circumcised in your heart." It amounts to the same thing. You either love the Lord, or you don't. I think having correct doctrine and being in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church matters greatly. Once you know the truth about the Catholic Church, you have a duty to get in it and stay in it. But by the same token, I don't see how anyone in friendship with the Lord can ever be lost. God knows those who love Him and are sincerely ignorant versus those who do not love Him and persist in willful ignorance.

Before my conversion, I was sincerely ignorant. I didn't know. When I found out, I fixed it by becoming a Roman Catholic. I was denied the knowledge because of having the misfortune of being born Protestant and having two parents who didn't give a damn about religion. I have no hope in their conversion and salvation despite many prayers for them. But I know God in His providence was looking out for me because I appreciate dearly what others have received so generously and easily and regard as nothing. It's the difference between someone born poor and someone born rich. I consider it one of the great calamities of life to be born rich. It's not how you start but how you finish that matters. Rich kids usually don't finish well. Likewise, cradle Catholics are generally a sorry bunch. If you doubt this, look no further than your typical Catholic Democrat politician who never let his religion interfere with his politics or his adulteries. Let me say for the record that Jack Kennedy and his entire family have been a disgrace to Catholicism.

You have real Catholics, and you have fake Catholics. A Cafeteria Catholic is a fake Catholic and is no different than a Protestant. In fact, the Cafeteria Catholic is worse than a Protestant because most Protestants can claim ignorance. Cafeteria Catholics know better but choose which teachings they will follow and which ones they won't. The biggest ignored teachings involve artificial contraception, abortion, fornication, masturbation, sodomy, and divorce and remarriage. As our Lady said at Fatima, more people go to Hell for sexual sins than for any other.

Our born again Cafeteria Catholic has decided that he can ignore what the Church teaches concerning masturbation, pornography, and fornication. Things like this should be discussed the first day in RCIA, but the Catholic Church soft pedals the truth in all its catechesis. Priests never mention these things in their homilies. Now, we have a pope who thinks adherence to these teachings is "Pelagian." It is a real mindblower for me.

I go really easy on sinners, but I have no mercy for heretics. It is one thing to get burned. It is quite another to lock the exit door of the movie theater and toss in a Molotov cocktail. It infuriates me to see the truth watered down, hidden, or denied. Not only do you damn yourself with these actions, but you attempt to damn others as well. This is wickedness at a high level.

Dolce and Gabbana are famous for their fashions but also famous for being out of the closet sodomites. They live wicked lifestyles. But I actually like them and respect them because they oppose gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples. They are sinners, but they refuse to deny the truth. This truth is Catholic truth. God bless them. I have more respect for these honest sinners than I do for many of the wicked priests and prelates like Father James Martin who deny the truth or twist it.

In the day-to-day, there are really only two heresies. The first heresy is that there is no sin. The second heresy is that there is no forgiveness. There are other heresies like Arianism or Docetism or Albigensianism. But most people don't know what any of these things are about. But we all know people who sin boldly and don't think they sin. Then, there are those who are more Catholic than the pope who create new sins to add to the list of the ones that we already know and keep an attendance record in their heads of who shows up to Mass each week.

I follow two simple rules. The first is to be a saint. The second is to never claim to be a saint. I am a sinner. Others may tell you that I'm a saint, but I know better. My wife knows better. My confessor knows better. May I never forget the wretchedness from which I came. May it always humble me and remind me that without Christ I am nothing.

Pride always lurks nearby. Pride is what brought down Lucifer. The greatest antidote to pride I know is the Jesus Prayer. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. What an awesome prayer. It is practiced in the East among the Orthodox, and they recite it on their chokti or prayer ropes. I don't own a chotki, but I use my rosary beads to count the prayers. I've also started to include the Jesus prayer after the Fatima prayer when I do my rosary for the day.

The reason the Jesus Prayer is so humbling is because it comes from the story in the Bible of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee bragged about his righteousness while the tax collector lamented his sin and asked for forgiveness. The tax collector left justified while the Pharisee did not.

I find myself caught between the Sinless and the Merciless. The Sinless are those who deny sin and deny the need for forgiveness. The Merciless deny forgiveness and spend more time tending to the sins of others than tending to their own. The Sinless are nothing new and are quite common in this antinomian age. But I am surprised when I stumble across one of the Merciless. I will share a story of what I mean.

A certain fellow thought it foolish that the offering envelopes at our parish had check boxes for amounts less than $50. Now, I don't know of a single parish that would turn down even the pennies offered by children at Mass. But this fellow's declaration was meant to tell two things. The first was that he always gave $50 or more in his weekly offering. That would be a minimum of $2600 a year to the Church. It was also a way to deride all those who gave less. He was the proud Pharisee looking down his nose at all those inferior Catholics who gave less.

People like this are not my people. I admired this fellow until I discovered this about him. Now, I see him as a warning to myself to not become like him. It is amazing how sin can find its way in even in people who are otherwise holy and devout. The Black Angels have a song called "Sniper at the Gates of Heaven." I don't know what the song is about because the lyrics are ambiguous. But the title always paints a picture in my head. I think of demonic snipers always having you in the crosshairs of temptation. Just when you think you've gotten somewhere, they drop you with a single bullet like a deer at the step of the front door.

I know of no saint that ever admitted to being one. It is one thing to be justified. It is another thing to be self-justified. That is what the two basic heresies have in common. They deny justification by denying sin and forgiveness. All saints declare that they are forgiven sinners. I am no saint, but I am a forgiven sinner. I sin. God forgives. If I forget either of those two facts, I am damned.

I would like to write a truly epic SOC post, so I will switch topics to a familiar one. I was goofing around on social media when I read a story about a business that decided to ditch social media. That's the irony of social media. Even social media will tell you that you need to get off of social media. It's like when the education lottery has a gambling addiction warning.

This business was in the UK and decided to delete all of its social media accounts especially Facebook and Instagram. The point of being on social media was to promote the business. When they got off social media, they found their productivity went up which was better for the business than all that social media promotion. There is a lesson there, and I am learning it.

I go back and forth on the issue of self-promotion. Right now, there is this hot shot real estate guy who has ads all over the city and on the radio. I assume his business is awesome because he says so. But it would not surprise me if he went bankrupt tomorrow in disgrace probably because he blew all his profits on advertising. This time last year, I never even heard of the guy. Now, he may be legit. He may not. But I can say that he is not the type of the guy to let his work speak for itself.

Should you let your work speak for itself? Here's a nice quotation on the matter from Matshona Dhliwayo:
Let your work speak for itself:
If poor, it will remain silent.
If average, it will whisper.
If good, it will talk.
If great, it will shout.
If genius, it will sing.
This is wisdom. Yet, if you Google this topic, there are countless others who will tell you that you won't get far in life without promoting yourself. You have to sell yourself. You have to be your own hype man.

I have been on both sides of this issue. I think it pays to advertise, but there is a difference between putting a sign out in front of your business versus fertilizing the airways and cyberspace with your sales pitch. One wants to inform while the other tries to persuade. I think the persuasion path is verboten. People should be able to make informed decisions. The hype men seek for people to make misinformed decisions.

I went to the real estate guy's website for more information about him. I got this garbage about core values that I thought was too good not to share:
We hold all of our team members accountable to embrace the following core values:
CRUSH IT:  We are committed to excellence and embrace change
COMMUNICATION:  We seek to understand and communicate clearly
RESPECT:  We respect the thoughts and time of those around us
INTEGRITY:  We always choose to do the right thing and operate professionally
LEADERSHIP:  We seek to edify, motivate and inspire others
HUMBLE:  We are grateful and check our ego's at the door
OWN IT:  We are accountable and are accountable for our actions
WELL BALANCED:  With our commitments and our temperaments
PROACTIVE:  We innovate and constantly improve
UNITY:  We have fun, encourage and celebrate the journey TOGETHER!
I can't read garbage like this without suppressing my gag reflex. I encounter stuff like this all the time in the business world. It is corporatespeak. This is the stuff of mission statements and motivational posters. I hate this stuff.

When I do any self-promotion, I do it with a certain bit of irony. For instance, I would never say THE BEST BLOG ON THE INTERNET! I would say something like ONLY THE SECOND WORST BLOG ON THE INTERNET! I like self-deprecating jokes like that. But I am reminded of this advice from Saint Josemaria on false humility:
Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you.
Even self-deprecation can be a form of pride. When I first read this, it stung a bit because it is a strategy I have used for years. I saw it as humility, but I know better now. This path is simply beating people to the punch. The better way is to let people talk bad about you and bear it with equanimity.

True humility is to be indifferent about your status and reputation. Basically, you need to let your work speak for itself. You need not add or subtract from it. Let others promote it if they find value in it.

After reading about the business that deleted its social media presence, I decided that I should delete my own social media presence. On balance, I can say that on a purely personal level that your life would be better off without social media. I am working up a dedicated blog post on the topic, so I will save my fire for that one. But you will have more time for the things that truly matter if you get off of Facebook and Twitter.

For me, the question was a political one. How can you make a difference without being on social media? The obvious answer would be to create a blog like this one and use it. I have never had the ambivalence and doublemindedness about blogging that I have had about social media. Social media promises the power to make change in the world, but I see it as a false promise now. Social media is like the Ring of Power from Lord of the Rings. The Ring seems like it could be a powerful force for good, but it ends up enslaving you. Social media does the same thing.

The fight matters and should be fought. You just can't use the Ring of Power. It all boils down to time horizons. The temptation to use the Ring of Power comes from the fact that it seems quick and easy. Why work hard to make a well-crafted blog post when you can just repost a silly meme on Facebook?

Blogging about the important things is way more work than merely tweeting about them. Yet, the weight of that work lasts longer and achieves more in the long term than a mere sentence on some social media platform. The bottom line is that social media eats up my time, and I end up writing nothing.

When you blog, you write something that feels permanent. The writing works for you after that as people discover it. You don't have to write it again. You build up a body of work, and it remains there like some megalithic structure. Tweets and Facebook posts are not like that. They are ephemeral and short-lived which is why people feel the constant need to be on social media. Social media has all the substance of cotton candy. When substance does hit social media, it comes as a link to a blog or website.

Social media is a mechanism for hype. It seems easy, but it demands your constant time and attention. Blogging takes longer, but it actually eats up less time. That is very ironic.

Returning to the business that abandoned Facebook, I think it is important that a business have a website. There is nothing wrong with informing people about your business. That information is a form of service. I think commercials can do the same thing when they inform the public. I like those sorts of commercials better than hype commercials that appeal to appetites or emotions.

Social media can't really inform or educate. This is because of its inherent brevity. In terms of politics and religion and the fight for right, social media can only yield a pyrrhic victory. Donald Trump is an example of this as both he and his supporters tend to have not done any reading whatsoever and have no abiding political philosophy like true conservatives have.

I think I am finally at an end to my issues with social media. It is easy to focus on the negatives of social media, but I contemplated the positives of social media to discover that they were empty. It is like knowing that hamburgers are bad for you, but you can't give them up until you discover that your favorite burger joint is using horse meat for beef. When you get to that point, disgust takes you much further than careful reflection.

I think the larger world is becoming disgusted with social media. There is already backlash against Facebook with people like Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak electing to delete their pages on Facebook. They found the horse meat in the burgers. In this case, it is the fact that Facebook sells you to third parties even without your consent.

It is hard for me to generate much outrage over Facebook because I escaped that platform years ago. And that, folks, is the quickest fix to that problem. Do a permanent delete of your Facebook account. It can be done because I did it. Just Google it and get it done.