Charlie's Blog: May 2016


Government: Limited and Unlimited

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I believe that most people are conservative. They just don't know it. They never bothered to reflect on it. They may care more about politics than political philosophy. They may vote for people on the basis of a soundbite or whether they have a full head of hair. This shallow thinking is what produces the mess we find ourselves in today. The way out is to be conservative, and I usually convince people to identify as conservatives by asking very elemental questions. In this essay, the question is this. Do you believe in limited or unlimited government?

A progressive is someone who believes in unlimited government. There is no sphere of life that they do not believe government cannot intrude upon. They may pay lip service to staying out of a mother's womb in defense of baby killing or staying out of a bedroom in defense of sodomy, but these are cynical arguments to be discarded later such as when they want to allow perverts into the women's restroom.

Sane people believe that there should be limits on government. They may disagree on what those limits should be, but they still believe in principle that there should be spheres of life where government does not belong. This is the cornerstone of conservatism. Once this cornerstone is laid, everything flows from there. If you believe in limited government, you are a conservative.

The enemies of conservatism are those people who champion unlimited government. Why do they champion unlimited government? This is because they think they have the solution to all problems. The only problem is getting compliance with those solutions. This is where government becomes their blunt instrument. When 100% compliance is reached, you have Utopia! We recognize non-compliance as "freedom." Progressives are the enemies of freedom.

Freedom is a bad thing to progressives because people make bad choices. This is why people can't be trusted with freedom. They are too stupid to know what is good for them. But this argument becomes self-defeating when you point out the follies and failures of government. You may do a bad job of running your life, but government usually does it worse.

If you believe in limited government, you are already heading down the road to conservatism. Before you know it, you will be reading the US Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and Russell Kirk. I know. There are many more arguments to be made between here and there. But if you side with limited government, you are pointed in the right direction.


In Memory Of Those Who Gave All

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.

The body that lies in rest in the Tomb of the Unknowns belongs to a solider who died in WWI. We do not know his name because the madness of war makes it impossible to identify many of the dead. This solider and his tomb has become the memorial to all those who die in war who cannot be identified. May God grant rest to their souls.

Today is Memorial Day when this country honors those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country and what she stands for. We can only repay them with honor since we cannot give to them all that they gave to us. The least we can do to make their sacrifices not be in vain is to be a good and honorable nation.

How does our nation remember our fallen today? With graffiti on a war memorial. It just blows my mind that the scum of this nation would do this. This is where we are at as a country. The sacrifice of these noble men and women has been nothing more than a street canvas for thugs to desecrate at will. I sincerely wish they made such a crime a felony punishable by at least a decade in federal prison.

We are not a good nation. When this is the repayment we give to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us, what does that say about this country? Why would anyone fight for this country today? This is what sacrifice is worth today. You die for this country, and it will mock and ridicule you in death. This is an abomination.

This country needs to get back to a certain level of respect. We need to honor God, families, the flag, the Constitution, and those who served and died in defense of our country. I lay the current moral decline at the feet of our political leaders who have turned everything we believe in into so much cynical game playing for the sake of money and power. The worst enemy we have today is us.

For all those who have fallen and those who have served, thank you for all that you have done. You are the best that America produced, and I appreciate all that you have done. My prayer is that others will also have the same appreciation.


Travails of the Grand Old Party

The Republican and Democratic parties both feed out of the same bag provided by the monied system, and where the list frequently differs the same interests are represented.

To say the rise of Donald Trump has caused some concern among the Republican establishment is to understate the seismic shift that has happened in the Grand Old Party. The simple fact is that the GOP has been deluged by a gang of party crashers who will break the furniture, bust out the windows, drown the cat, and leave the toilet backed up and overflowing as the living room and front lawn are littered with beer cans and liquor bottles. Trumpism has arrived like a judgment from Almighty God, and the Republican Party has no one to blame but itself.

How did things get to this sorry state of affairs? The answer can be summed up in two words--Mitt Romney. Mitt was a terrible choice back in 2012 and blew an election that should have been won easily. In that defeat, the Trump campaign was born. Donald Trump had supported Mitt Romney, but Romney lost mostly by his own incompetence. He didn't even try to win. So, Trump decided to do what Romney could not do. Trump decided to win.

It is important to keep these two in mind because their fight is ongoing even as I write this. Bill Kristol is practically begging Romney to run third party to ensure that Trump loses to Hillary. The fact that someone like Kristol would rather see Hillary as president instead of Donald Trump says a lot. Forgotten in this melee are Ted Cruz and his supporters who lost this round but will continue to fight on.

There are essentially two camps within the GOP. The first and most powerful camp is the Establishment that is comprised of mostly big government Republicans and neoconservatives. They are best represented by the Bushes, a dynasty of Establishment nasties. This Establishment group goes way back in the history of the GOP before Goldwater and Reagan. Their main interest is money. That's about it. Policies that advance the interests of these moneyed factions are what the Establishment is all about.

The second and less powerful camp are the conservatives. These are the Goldwater/Reagan people. They care more about ideas and liberty and religion than they do about money. You have a smattering of libertarians, Ron Paul types, and Pat Buchananites, but they tend to ally with these true conservatives. These people found a place in the Republican Party primarily because of the disgrace of Richard Nixon and the humiliation of Gerald Ford who pardoned him. This made it possible for Ronald Reagan to come in over the hackles of the Establishment and to literally change this country and the world. Reagan remains the greatest president in my living memory. His greatest mistake was in picking George H.W. Bush to be his running mate as a way to keep peace in the party.

When Bush the Elder became president, he allowed the Establishment to get back in charge.  Despite having the Reagan legacy behind him and a fresh victory in Desert Storm, Bush was a popular president that could not lose but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This was not because of a philandering governor from Arkansas so much as the efforts of Ross Perot.

H. Ross Perot was the proto-Trump. He was Donald Trump before there was a Donald Trump. If you,listen to Perot's speeches, he touches on the same issues as Trump does today. Perot would cost Bush the election and do similar damage to Bob Dole in 1996. These same people who supported Perot would also go on to support guys like Jesse Ventura and Pat Buchanan. As third party candidates, these Perot people could not win a national election, but they had the numbers to spoil that election. This is where Donald Trump comes in.

Trump tapped into these people who tend to be blue collar and anti-establishment. The genius of Trump is that he convinced these people to vote in Republican caucuses and primaries. Most Republicans don't want Trump, but they couldn't stop fighting amongst themselves to support a better candidate like Ted Cruz. Now, at this stage of game, they are stuck with Trump. He is going to be their guy whether they want him or not. Where did the Republican Party go wrong to end up with this clown?

In all of this lurks the ghost of Ronald Reagan. The simple fact is that the GOP has not seen a man like him since he left the White House. Every presidential candidate since has been an Establishment candidate. Establishment candidates provoke hostility and a sense of frustration among those who are conservative. The Tea Party was an outgrowth of this frustration. Tea Partiers are the true conservatives, and their guy this time around was Ted Cruz. Cruz is the closest thing the GOP has had to another Ronald Reagan. He should have beaten Trump, but the Establishment refused to embrace Cruz in much the same way they never embraced Ronald Reagan. Now, they are going to pay for it.

There is actually very little difference between Trump and the Establishment types. That is the irony of it all. Ultimately, they are about money. The difference is in perspective. Establishment Republicans are global in their thinking. Trump, like Perot before him, is a nationalist. If you consider the three groups together, you have globalists, nationalists, and patriots. What's the difference?

Globalists are married to an agenda that sees the USA as either the leader or a prime component of a global empire. This is why neoconservatives find common cause with the Establishment and explains Bill Kristol's man crush on Mitt Romney. These people want to run the world. Without a doubt, these people are evil. They are the Empire.

Nationalists want to retreat from the world stage and concentrate effort within the borders of Fortress America. This is why Trump keeps talking about that wall on the southern border. That wall is a potent symbol of what Trump wants. It is also why he finds so much sympathy for Vladimir Putin. Basically, Trump wants to put America first. This is why that slogan about making America Great Again is so catchy because it is about America. It isn't about the UN or the American Empire.

Patriots are different. There is a key difference between nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is wedded to a country. Patriotism is wedded to a set of principles and ideas. Nationalism and globalism are merely flavors of fascism. Patriotism simply believes in liberty. Conservatism is patriotism which is a belief in limited government, free enterprise, Christian virtue, and ordered liberty. These are the things which actually made America great. Unfortunately, the one guy who talked about these things just dropped out of the race.

What has consumed the Republican Party is a form of political nihilism that has rejected patriotism. The GOP has not really stood for anything since Reagan except to pay lip service to a few conservative issues like abortion which they ignore once in power. This cynicism amongst the Establishment was all that a guy like Trump needed to walk in and crash the party. As C.S. Lewis put it, "We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst." Trump is that traitor that their mockery of honor has produced.

Where does the GOP go from here? That is simple. They will dance with Trump. Trump will hurt them in their most sensitive spots--their wallets. I prefer nationalism to globalism, so I am willing to go with Trump over the Establishment. But I really want to see the GOP become the party of conservatism and patriotism again. Sometimes, you need a nightmare to wake you up. Trump is that nightmare.


King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” 

Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”

The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’

But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions."
1 KINGS 12:6-11 NASB

There are basically two types of leaders. There are those you embrace, and there are those you endure. To give an example, I embraced Ronald Reagan in my teens. I endure Barack Obama in my middle age. The truth is that I have endured virtually every president except Reagan. I would love to see another Ronald Reagan, but I am naive to think his kind will come again.

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel had a similar embrace/endure thing. They had embraced King David, but they had endured King Solomon. By the time Rehoboam took the throne, they wanted a break. Being a fool, Rehoboam promised to be even worse than his father. Ten of the twelve tribes revolted and followed Jeroboam instead. The civil war that ensued would be a permanent break that lasts until the present day with those breakaway Israelites becoming the hated Samaritans you read about in the New Testament.

Without a doubt, Rehoboam was a fool. But the promises rested with him and his descendants. This would be the line that would bring us Jesus of Nazareth. As for Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12 relates which way he went:
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 
So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 
He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense. 
1 KINGS 12:25-33 NASB
Jeroboam was popular, but he knew he had erred. By rebelling, he had forfeited Jerusalem and the Temple. He had forsaken God. Knowing this would not end well, he instituted a new religion of idolatry to serve as a counterfeit to the true religion given through Moses. So, there you have it. You have a popular leader embraced by the people who lead them into error while the unpopular leader was the Lord's anointed that He picked. Why did God do this? The same chapter gives us a clue:
Thus says the Lord, “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.” So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord. 
1 KINGS 12:24 NASB
Basically, sticking with the unpopular and stupid Rehoboam was a test of obedience. If you believed in the Lord, you did not have the option to go with Jeroboam. Your fortunes and life were with Rehoboam. And Rehoboam was an awful king. Here is what he did:
Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen from all the tribes of Israel to put His name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess. Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed. For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 
1 KINGS 14:21-24 NASB
As you can read, Rehoboam was as abominable as his brother Jeroboam in the North.  We can see parallels in this episode with other schisms and splits in the Church especially the Protestant Revolt. Our fidelity does not depend upon the quality of the leaders but a belief in God's promises. Now, God continued to deal with the breakaway Israelites, but they would eventually fall away completely. God never forgot His promises to them which is why Jesus and His disciples reached out to those Samaritans. You may reject God, but God does not reject you.

When it comes to leaders, you can revolt, or you can embrace or endure. The simple fact is that God allows both good leaders and bad leaders, but we owe the same respect and obedience to both not for the sake of the leader but for the sake of God. This is an important point to consider in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church and this disastrous pontificate that is causing a new schism.

I embraced Benedict. I endure Francis. The fact is that there have been worse popes than Francis such that you might think Martin Luther had the right idea. But Luther did not have the right idea. He was wrong, and he led many astray with his heresies. As bad as a pope can be, the promise rests with the Chair of Peter. As such, regardless of who occupies that chair, you are required to be in submission to that authority because that authority comes from God Himself.

One does not need instruction on how to embrace a pontiff. Enduring a pontiff is another matter. St. Catherine of Siena lays it out:
Even if [the Pope an incarnate devil], we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom... He who rebels against our Father is condemned to death, for that which we do to him we do to Christ: we honor Christ if we honor the Pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the Pope.
St. Catherine nails it. Unfortunately, many Catholics are not getting it. You have the modernist heretics more than willing to embrace this pope because he is their guy. With Francis, the wind is at their backs as they pursue their modernist agenda. Do they do right? Of course not. They embrace the pope while rejecting Christ. The simple fact is that you never embrace a bad leader, and this includes the pope. You endure them while remaining steadfast to principle and the commands of Christ.

The flip side of the modernists are the Traddies who refer to the Holy Father as "Bergoglio." This is a deep insult and an affront to Our Lord Himself. You don't call the Queen "Lizzie." You don't call the President "Barry." Yet, these people insist on demeaning the Vicar of Christ. This is sin.

Enduring a pope means that you respect his office and respect him as a person. Where he does right, you support. Where he errs, you resist. But you don't do things like suggest he isn't the pope or that he turn in his resignation. Instead, you abandon yourself to God's divine providence and trust that He knows His business.

Faithful and true Catholics are left with a problem though. Should you ever speak out to correct an erring pontiff? St. Paul gives us the answer:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 
In this passage, St. Paul calls out St. Peter. Now, St. Peter taught correctly, but he did not always live correctly. Who among us hasn't done the same thing? So, St. Paul lets the man know his error. From all I know, St. Peter took the rebuke. This is why Paul shares the episode not because he is bragging but to dispel controversy and scandal. Obviously, there had been confusion over the issue especially considering St. Peter's behavior. But by relating the episode, St. Paul shows that Peter was the authority since only Peter could definitively clear up the matter. Basically, Paul reminded Peter of what Peter had already been teaching and doing.

The Roman Catholic Church faces a similar controversy with the teaching on communion for divorce and remarried. Some Pauls got together and confronted Peter with Remaining in the Truth of Christ. By doing this, these brave prelates resisted an erring pontiff and corrected him. He doesn't seem to have listened, but that is beside the point. Ever since Martin Luther, many in the Church have been leery of such confrontations, but they shouldn't be. Speak the truth and let it go at that. What a pope does after that is on him.

Speaking the truth is one thing. Acting on it is another. This is the error of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the SSPX. Lefebvre was orthodox but disobedient which earned him automatic excommunication. Lefebvre refused to be subject to the pope when ordered to disband the SSPX and also when he consecrated bishops in defiance of Pope St. John Paul II. This excommunication on Lefebvre has never been lifted. Meanwhile, the FSSP and its members are obedient and show what proper resistance should be.

I doubt I will run into the Holy Father in the near future to tell him my thoughts on Amoris Laetitia, but I do deal with prelates and priests on the diocesan and parish level respectively. When they err, I let them know, but that's it. So far, I have been spared having to sit through an interpretive dance at Mass or deal with rainbow flags in the sanctuary. As a layperson, I can only express the truth to those who clearly don't know it or disregard it. Beyond that, there is nothing I can do except pray for these people.

Someone once asked me what I would do if I caught a priest in the act of molesting a child. My answer was simple. I would call an ambulance to come treat whatever remained of that pervert after I had beaten him into the floor. But I would still remain a Catholic and go to Mass and confession. I wouldn't even talk about it except to the police.

Is it wrong to beat a pervert in the act? I would say that it would be wrong not to beat that pervert. Likewise, a priest is definitely not acting In persona Christi at that moment. This is one of the reasons we have a sex abuse crisis in the Church. Good people did nothing. Somehow, cradle Catholics have gotten the idea that these men are allowed to do whatever they like, and they have to put up with it. This isn't true.

What many laypeople do instead is engage in gossip, calumny, and detraction. When they have a problem with a priest, they don't say anything to him, but they do say it to everyone else that will listen. This is wrong. Or, they will go to that priest's bishop and nag the prelate until they get the priest reassigned. The priest never gets to mend his ways or defend himself. Often, the priest is in the right, and the parishioner is just being a crackpot.

Finally, there is the tyrant. Today, prelates hold virtually no temporal power. This was not always the case, and that power could and was abused. The most famous case is the trial of St. Joan of Arc who literally was killed by the Church that canonized her. Like Christ, she was obedient unto death. In more modern times, we have St. Padre Pio who was not condemned to death but suffered severe restrictions upon his ministry. He could have easily gone Martin Luther, but he did not. In both cases, they show what saints do. They are always obedient to Christ. You cannot be obedient to Christ and not obedient to His Church.



. . .we have to mount some kind of strategic withdrawal. . .

Sometimes, it helps to quote someone out of context to truly understand them. Naturally, they will respond that they were quoted out of context because all those words somehow put the idea in its proper place. But simple ideas don't really need explanation. The explanation comes when that simple idea is the wrong idea. The additional words are there to try and magically turn that wrong into a right. Rod Dreher has the wrong idea.

The Benedict Option is the hottest thing in the Catholic and conservative blogosphere. It has gained an attraction and a fascination among people who are tempted to withdraw from society and from civic engagement. I can understand that temptation because it is difficult, frustrating, and exhausting fighting it out day after day in the public arena for something that mere days ago was common sense but has now fallen out of politically correct fashion. I am in agreement with Dreher that the USA is a post-Christian society. I do not doubt this in the least. But this realization begs the question. What now? Dreher's answer is the Benedict Option, a strategic withdrawal by Christians to regroup and refocus. I quote Dreher in context now:
My thesis is this: These are not normal times for Christians in America. Our country has become post-Christian, meaning not that people don’t go to church, but that the ideals and principles of normative Christianity have ceased to guide society, and that the culture’s move away from Christianity is accelerating, even moving swiftly from post-Christianity to anti-Christianity. This is not only because of the faith’s enemies, political and otherwise, but also — even mostly — because of a host of uncritical assumptions many Christians make about what it means to be faithful. The triumphal march of gay rights may be a catalyst at the present moment, but it is by no means the biggest story here. In fact, if there were no gay marriage at all, Christianity would still be in crisis, still be at a major turning point, because of deep currents of modern thought pushing the historic faith to irrelevance.
We are entering a period in which the state and private entities (e.g., businesses, universities, media) are going to be further stigmatizing and undermining the institutions and ideas of orthodox Christianity. And the response to this by Christians and their leaders has been by and large grossly inadequate. It is no longer sufficient, I say, to fight as we always fought. Yes, we must fight for our right to practice our religion, but that will be meaningless if our children leave the faith because it has come to mean nothing to them. And leave the faith they will.
My argument is that we need to realize the radical nature of the present moment, which requires a radical response — a kind of deliberate, strategic retreat so that we can tend our own gardens, so to speak, and cultivate the deep roots that our kids and their kids, and their kids’ kids will need to hold on to the faith through the dark times ahead. We are not giving this to them now. We are not giving it to ourselves. We are like the rabbit in Philip Larkin’s poem Myxomatosis, who believes everything might come right again if we just sit still and wait.
We need to construct alternative forms of community in which the life of faith and virtue, as we see it, can be lived out in a healthy, sustainable manner, amid a hostile culture. We need to build some kind of walls to make a quiet space, so to speak, so that we can tell the church’s story, and our kids can hear it told. We need to have a barrier between ourselves and the village, so that the barbarism of the village doesn’t overwhelm us, and — this is crucial — so that we can be a source of light, of love, and of plain sanity to the people who are chewed up by the barbarism, and are seeking shelter and community.
In short, we have to mount some kind of strategic withdrawal so we can remember, so we can pray, so we can teach, so we can pass on what we’ve been given in a time of chaos and destruction of memory — and so we can be what the church is meant to be for the life of the world.  
Arguing About the Benedict Option
Now, Dreher spends a great deal arguing about this idea. This is because he is writing a book about the idea, and he insists on talking about a book he hasn't finished writing or gotten published. Naturally, critics of the idea are accused of misrepresentation or straw man arguments. But you can't complain about misrepresentation until you at least have a presentation. What Dreher possesses with this idea is a speculation. He is thinking out loud, so I must respond to those things he has actually written and uttered.

My understanding of the Benedict Option is that Christians should withdraw from secular society and become more of what we already are. Dreher derives this idea from Alasdair MacIntyre's book, After Virtue, which coined the term "Benedict Option" but never elucidated it. If MacIntyre had done this, Dreher wouldn't be writing a book about it. He is attempting to fill in the blank that MacIntyre left. I have not read the book and probably won't. But I have read the Bible, and this verse springs readily to mind:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  
Christians are to be the salt of the earth. Salt in antiquity was a preservative. It was what kept food from rotting in the pre-refrigeration era. It also flavored food, but the salt in Jesus's day was not the pure table salt that we know but a mix of salt and other minerals. Sometimes, that "salt" would become damp, and the actual salt would leech out leaving the minerals behind. It looked like salt, but it was flavorless and useless. You couldn't and wouldn't put the "saltiness" back in this mixture, so it got tossed out. It was worthless. The lesson in this? Be worth your salt.

The light of the world part is also important because Jesus gives to His church a mission to be distinct from the world but also visible to the world. This light would be an attraction to those in the darkness and show them the way out of that darkness into the light of God's love. Subsequent history shows that Christianity has been the light in the darkness of this world and established Western Civilization, the greatest in human history. That civilization is now under attack as the darkness tries to swallow the light as if such a thing could ever be possible.

It is helpful to point out that the Church has been here before and in various countries and societies. This is nothing new. Even Jesus said that He was sending out lambs to wolves. Our present troubles aren't that big of a deal in light of things like the French Revolution, Lepanto, the Crusades, the Spanish Revolution, the Cristero War in Mexico, or Soviet Communism. Until the guillotine, the scaffold, and the firing squads come out, we are riding pretty easy especially in light of what ISIS and China are doing to Christians.

My belief is that Dreher has the salt portion of our Bible quote in mind but has neglected the light portion. His model for strategic withdrawal is Benedictine Monasticism which carried Christian culture like Noah's Ark through the dark ages of barbarism to emerge once more when the floodwaters of paganism receded. Without a doubt, Christendom owes a debt to Benedict and other religious who preserved the faith to flower again in a later time. But are we really in such a barbaric time today? We haven't even reached the level of the Recusant period in the UK when Catholicism was outlawed.

How did we get here? That is the important question. It is important to point out that the world has always been messed up. This is the default setting for life under the sun. Left to itself, human society automatically descends into chaos and barbarism. The world hates God in general and Jesus Christ in particular. The Roman Empire was the most hostile environment imaginable to establish the Christian religion, yet this is where Our Lord chose to put His feet on the ground and establish His kingdom. And He conquered. It is hard to believe it, but this is what happened.

The world has not changed. It is the same as it has always been. What has changed is the Church especially the Roman Catholic Church. The simple fact is that Christianity as a whole and Catholicism especially has lost its saltiness. Christians no longer act as preservatives, so the rot has overtaken the bloated corpse of this evil world. A better book to read on this issue is not anything from the keyboard of Rod Dreher but Ross Douthat's superb Bad Religion that argues that the Christians in the USA have become a community of heretics. If anything, a hostile world is necessary to purify the Church through persecution and not vice versa. Any reading of the Old Testament or church history shows that time and time again, God uses the scourge of a hostile world to purify His kingdom on earth. Today, the Roman Catholic Church with its heresies, nominalism, sex abuse scandals, and the like is in deep need of purification.

At this point, it is important to note that Rod Dreher is a schismatic. He converted to Eastern Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism. I do not present this as an ad hominem attack but to point out what I consider to be the real genesis of this Benedict Option. Dreher converted to Catholicism from Methodism, and he was an enthusiastic Catholic. I think this enthusiasm persists today because of Dreher's constant fascination with All Things Catholic. But Dreher hit a crisis when the sex abuse scandal broke in the Catholic Church. I can understand his heartbreak over this crisis. Imagine converting to the Church in the light of this scandal. That was my story. For Dreher, he did not want to cease being a Christian, but he didn't want to stay in the Catholic Church and endure this trial. This is when he decided upon the Benedict Option. Dreher didn't call it that and would consider his decision to leave Catholicism and my tethering it to the Benedict Option to be a non sequitur. But the two are the same when I give the Benedict Option its actual name which is "Quit and Split."

People love Quit and Split. Marriage on the rocks? Quit and split. Job got you down? Quit and split. Don't like the boring music or the annoying pastor at your traditional church or parish? Quit and split. On and on, When things get rough, you quit and split. The Quit and Split Option is very appealing because it is the easy path out of a rough patch. This is the lure of the Benedict Option because it is the backdoor out of a bar fight you know is going to get ugly.

Dreher employed the Quit and Split Option for his problem, so it stands to reason that he would find it an answer to be applied more widely to a Christian community that suddenly finds itself in an increasingly post-Christian world. This option comes not from deep seated Christian conviction but a technological and media saturated world that tells you to change the channel or Google something else if you don't like what you see. The problem is that some things just aren't optional. One of those things is ceasing to be Catholic. Once you recognize the Catholic Church as possessing the One True Faith, you are obligated to get in it and stay in it forever. This includes when it is mired in apostasy, scandal, and the like. There are no Orthodox or Lutheran Options on this. Remain Catholic or be damned. Here is St. Augustine on the matter:
No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church.
I cannot read these words and not see Rod Dreher in my mind. Dreher left Catholicism for Eastern Orthodoxy. By doing this, he was able to enjoy almost all of the benefits of Catholicism without any of the negatives. He didn't have to make apologies for perverted priests or sit through some less than reverential Masses. In making this move, Dreher showed that he was still Protestant at heart. When I became Catholic, I knew exactly what I was getting into. I was getting into something I would never have the option to leave. I am now and will always remain Catholic or suffer the consequences of eternal damnation.

I am not the judge of the state of Rod Dreher's soul. That is a matter between him and the Almighty. But the Quit and Split Option is one that I can and must address. It is doubtful that forming an intentional Christian community will have the same consequences as schism from the One True Faith and may actually be a help to those who enter these communities. Such a move may save their souls, and I can say they already have. This is because this option has always been around since the beginning of the Church and even before if you include John the Baptist and the Essenes. We know this as religious life and demands things like celibacy, poverty, and obedience. We don't have to contemplate the Benedict Option because it is already being done by Benedictines, Carmelites, Trappists, and the like.

The novelty of Dreher's Benedict Option is as a religious life option for those in the lay vocation. The problem with this is that laypersons are laypersons. They are not religious. The Catholic Church recognizes three vocations--lay, priestly, and religious. A person can be both a priest and a religious. But you can't also be a layperson. No such creature exists. Dreher offers us a hybrid of fish and mammal. He suggests being both in the world and also not in the world. This doesn't work.

Now, there are movements that look like what Dreher is talking about. This would be Catholic private schools and colleges, Catholic homeschoolers, and Catholic homesteaders. These efforts are not so much withdrawals as competitive alternatives to the debased culture. Mom and dad might send their sons and daughters to the Catholic parochial school, but they still make their livings in the regular world. None of these things are new but have been regular parts of Catholic family life for quite some time. These are not strategic withdrawals so much as strategic alternatives. What makes them so difficult is when those same Christian families have to pay taxes to support a corrupt system they no longer use.

So, what exactly is Dreher asking people to do? Are Christians supposed to become survival preppers and escape to the hills and await the Pagan Zombie Apocalypse? Or, do they move to a state and take over like libertarians with the Free State Project in New Hampshire or Mormons in Utah? Or do we become like the Amish? Perhaps he will clear this up in his forthcoming book. I doubt it.

The simple fact is that laypersons are in the world. This is not going to change unless they elect for religious life and maybe a cloistered convent. It also assumes that the world will let you be should you elect for a strategic withdrawal. Finally, what would this withdrawal actually accomplish?

From what I can gather, the Benedict Option is simply deciding not to vote or engage in political and cultural life. You are still going to live in the same place and do the same things. The difference is that you are going to shut your mouth and become invisible. Basically, you are going to take that light you have that makes you different from the world and put it under a basket. Unfortunately, this is not an option as our Lord expects us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You are not allowed to Quit and Split. You have to take up your cross on this and carry it.

The real option for Christians and for Catholics is what Austin Ruse calls the Escriva Option after Saint Josemaria Escriva. Basically, this option is about being salty instead of invisible. It attacks what is the real problem which is the fact that Catholics aren't so Catholic. Escriva believed in the Universal Call to Holiness which has always been there but was diminished over the ages by clericalism. Laypersons are supposed to be saints, and the movement of Opus Dei which Escriva founded has this mission as its purpose. Opus Dei is not a political organization nor is it a religious order like the Dominicans or the Benedictines. It simply seeks to turn ordinary believers into extraordinary saints through simple devotion to our Lord, our Lady, the Holy Father, and the norms as prescribed by Escriva. There are varying levels of commitment to the Work as befitting a person's availability from celibate numeraries to supernumeraries with families to cooperators who simply pray and give financial support to the Work. One does not have to be a member of Opus Dei to enjoy its benefits and many people already enjoy those benefits without knowing the source. I think the Escriva Option is the way out for the problems in the Catholic Church. We need saints especially lay saints.

As for the political side of things, Father James Schall offers the Aristotelian Option which is a rejection of the Benedict Option which he equates to the "Epicurean Option." Here is how Schall puts it:
In the light of these considerations, is there yet another option that we might call “the Aristotelian Option”? Aristotle lived in a sophisticated but turbulent age. He observed wars, corrupt and demagogic politicians. He knew the passions of the great majority in any society. He knew how tyrants rose out of the unlimited freedom of democratic citizens who had no principle of order in their own souls.
Yet he taught that the good man did have responsibilities in society.  He defined man as a “political animal”.  Man found his greatest dignity and fulfillment when he participated courageously in affairs of state. For Aristotle that meant serving in the government of Athens or fighting in its army. He did not think that a rational being ought to retreat from engagement in public life. But he was realistic enough to acknowledge that good regimes do fail and there is an order to their failure. He also could envision, with a change in the souls of the citizens, a return to good order. But immediately, Aristotle is most helpful for us today in his description of what happens in democracies in which the souls of the citizens are not ruled by anything but their own desires. He saw how quickly tyrants would arise within such regimes and impose their own arbitrary rule. 
Bede the Venerable, the Anglo-Saxon monk who wrote An Ecclesiastical History of the English People about the year 730AD, had harsh words for British Christians who failed in their duty to convert the Saxons, Angles and Jute invaders from the Continent: “Among other most wicked actions … which their own historian, Gildas, mournfully takes notice of, they added this - that they never preached the faith to the Saxons, or English, who dwelt amongst them.” But the context of conversion today is not that of pagan tribes who were open to Christianity. In 12 centuries, very, very few Muslims have been converted, while whole nations once Christian are now Muslim. The imposition of understandings of human life directly contrary to the natural law is now almost the norm of public life in the West. Christians are being driven out of public life if they do not change their views and accept the politics of the state.
Basically, Schall says what Plato said.  "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." Neither the Christian faith nor worldly wisdom tell us to withdraw from civic engagement. Such a withdrawal is an abdication of duty and common sense. The reason such madness is happening now is precisely because that withdrawal has already taken place. Dreher would obviously argue that he is not throwing in the towel on this fight, yet if no towel hits the canvas, we can safely conclude the fight is ended when the fighter has taken off the gloves and left the ring.

Quit and Split. At the end of it all, this is what Dreher is telling us to do. As such, Dreher is a sort of heretic in ignorant collusion with the world. We can salve our consciences with the assurance that we will come back to the fight again when things are more favorable, but this overlooks one glaring fact. It has never been favorable for the Church in the world. The storm is always raging, and the winds and the rain never stop even when you Quit and Split. They only stop when you surrender and become like the world that hates you because it hated Him first.


The Twilight Zone of Sheer Exhaustion

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.

Jesus was a man who burned the candle at both ends. This is an insight I come across again and again in my reading of the Gospels. The popular notion of Jesus is that He engaged in some sort of relaxing pastoral ministry walking gently through the countryside and preaching sermons from hilltops. The reality is that He was a man who was mobbed by a crowd of desperate people longing for physical healing and words of hope in a world dominated by a brutal empire that left corpses to rot on crucifixes to instill fear in the populace. And Jesus did all that He could to deliver. He spent Himself daily ministering to these people. He poured Himself out. He was so thronged that He had to labor to get away from people, so that He could pray. When we get to the story of the storm and the boat, we see Jesus dead from exhaustion lying asleep in a storm that terrified His disciples. How could He sleep at a time like that? The answer is simple. He was exhausted.

I contemplate exhaustion often. This is because I am exhausted often. Some people may find exhaustion to be a negative, but I do not. Exhaustion is your friend. It has a double blessing. The first is that it allows you to sleep well when you actually find time to sleep. It doesn't matter where you are even if it is the stern of a boat in a stormy sea. A few idle moments is all that it takes for lights outs.

The second blessing of exhaustion is that it lets you know that you are living life fully. When I am lazy, I have regret, but I have no regrets when I am living in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion. Exhaustion lets you know that you are doing all that you can humanly do. In the race of life, you want to cross the finish line on fumes. Leave nothing in the tank.

The disciples of Jesus learned this and lived this lesson of exhaustion. Jesus commissioned them with the same healing gifts and message that He had and sent them out to do what He did. I suspect that these disciples were thronged by the same crowds that followed Jesus. By the time you come to the episode of Gethsemane, you get this:
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”  And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” 
It is easy to jump all over the disciples for their failure to watch and pray at this crucial hour, but I tend to cut them a lot of slack. Most readers see them as lazy, but I see them as exhausted. If you have ever fell asleep while praying the rosary, then you know what these disciples were dealing with. But considering the hindsight of these disciples and the Gospel writers, they obviously lamented this failure to watch with our Lord. With the death and resurrection of our Lord and Pentecost behind them, these disciples would go on to be veritable workaholics for the Lord. I love these words from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:27,  "I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." What did St. Paul do during those sleepless nights? He prayed, of course.

I love the example of St. Paul's life as a model of living. He was an apostle working fervently to spread the faith among the Gentiles. He had a life of the mind as evidenced by his erudition and his many letters. But he was also blue collar making tents to support himself and not be a burden upon his faithful flock. Now, anyone can work, but who works so he can do other work? This is what St. Paul did. He poured himself out as a living sacrifice. His was a life definitely lived in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion.

People fear exhaustion. This is why they avoid work except that which is necessary. But I like to remind myself and others that work is not the curse. Frustration is the curse. It is when you till the soil and it yields weeds instead of crops that you want to give it up. But one of the blessings of the advent of the Messiah is the removal of that curse of frustration found in Genesis 3:18. Yes, the ground still yields thorns and thistles. Your car may not start in the morning. That term paper you spent all night writing might be lost in a computer crash. But when Jesus lets his disciples fish all night to catch nothing then blesses them with an abundant haul of fish in the morning, He removed that curse of frustration. We may not always see the fruits of our labors for the Kingdom of God in this life, but that work will not be frustrated. It will not be for nought.

Frustration is our number one reason for not endeavoring in a project. No one wants to waste their time, money, and energy on things that are not profitable. Yet, when people find something profitable, they will pour themselves into it wholeheartedly working to the point of utter fatigue and exhaustion. Many are the tales of artists and entrepreneurs pouring themselves out for things that are here today and gone tomorrow. If such persons can give so much to the chaff, should we not give as much or more for the sake of the wheat?

The well rested life of leisure is a life without faith. Faith is the difference between a sleepy headed disciple and a workaholic apostle. We would do well to remember the words of our Lord in Luke 10:2, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Jesus call us to work. We are to pray for workers but also become workers. This is the work of apostolate. We are to do it, to do it well, to do it vigorously, and to do it to the point of exhaustion. How do I know this? Because Jesus and His apostles did this.

If frustration is one excuse for not working, the other popular excuse is specialization. Specialization is the belief that the work should be done but not by me. Lazy people at my work like to reply, "That is not in my job description." This is a cop out and a way to shirk duty. People are quite adept at finding themselves out of doing work than doing work. In time, they are out of work completely and on the unemployment line. Similarly, Jesus gives more work to those faithful in their duties but takes away work from the faithless. This is the parable of the talents. St. Paul could have rested in his specialization as an apostle, but he still made those tents.

Saints are workaholics for the Lord. Of course, this workaholism is tempered by worship and leisure. St. Paul wrote eloquently,
. . .I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 
There is nothing wrong with taking leisure and rest. Obviously, Jesus enjoyed leisure and rest. God commands us to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. If God can take a break, we can, too. But I think an important point needs to be remembered about rest. It is something earned. Rest is not a lifestyle. It is a respite from labor. And the best rest is the rest that is earned.

Sleep is better at the end of a day of work. Food tastes better after working up an appetite from labor and exercise. And a cold beer is simply awesome after a hot day in the field. I think this is what St. Paul was getting at with his words on contentment in circumstances. In our time of extremes, we opt for one polar extreme or the other. Then, people tell us to find "balance" which is never balance. The true way is syzygy. Embrace both polar opposites. Work hard and sleep well. As hard as St. Paul worked, I see him taking a nap once in awhile or enjoying a nice cup of wine with friends.

These are the lessons I have learned in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion. The happiest times of my life have been the ones when I have worked the hardest. There is no joy in idleness. And when the Lord returns, may He catch us working instead of loafing. And may He catch us happy in our labor because work is happiness.

We have reminded Christians of the wonderful words of Genesis which tell us that God created man so that he might work, and we have concentrated on the example of Christ, who spent most of His life on earth working as a craftsman in a village. We love human work which He chose as His state in life, which He cultivated and sanctified. We see in work, in men’s noble creative toil, not only one of the highest human values, an indispensable means to social progress and to greater justice in the relations between men, but also a sign of God’s Love for His creatures, and of men’s love for each other and for God: we see in work a means of perfection, a way to sanctity.
Hence, the sole objective of Opus Dei has always been to see to it that there be men and women of all races and social conditions who endeavour to love and to serve God and the rest of mankind in and through their ordinary work, in the midst of the realities and interests of the world.


Mad Dog Catholics

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.  When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.
LUKE 9:51-56 NASB

St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, earned a nickname from Jesus. Our Lord called them the "sons of thunder." He did not rebuke their thinking or call them out for lack of loyalty or orthodoxy but for something entirely different--excessive zeal. Excessive zeal is when love turns to anger which then turns into hatred. Imagine a husband who loves his wife, but he loves her so much that he would rather see her dead than unfaithful, So, like Shakespeare's Othello, he kills his beloved in his rage. Likewise, there are those who love Christ and the Roman Catholic Church so much that their zeal turns them into destroyers as they jettison charity in favor of evil and go down the path of the deadly sin of wrath. I call these zealous defenders "Mad Dog Catholics."

When I think of Mad Dog Catholics, one celebrity springs to mind. I will not mention his name since to do so puts me in danger of detraction. But readers will probably have figured out his identity already because of his infamy. All I can say is that this individual has great love for the Church and has produced fine films that I highly recommend to Catholics. But he is literally more Catholic than the pope embracing the heresy of sedeprivationism which teaches that the Holy Father can be so defective in his office as to not actually be the Holy Father. Don't ask me how that trick can be pulled off. Then, our mad dog added racial hatred and fornication to his sins which ended up on public display. Finally, I heard him say in an interview that he did not think transubstantiation occurs in a Mass not said in Latin. What can I say? The foam drips heavy from the mouth of this mad dog.

I understand this man and pray for him. I get his anger over the modernism that has overtaken much of the Roman Catholic Church. I agree with much of what he and others like him say. I am angry over these things, but I also remind myself to not let that anger destroy me. It is easy to let anger turn to the dark side of things such that the initial love we have for Christ makes us end up hating Him indirectly by hating our fellow men and women. Here are the words of St. Francis de Sales on true and false zeal:
True zeal is the child of charity as being its ardour; wherefore, like to charity, it is patient, is kind, envieth not, dealeth not perversely, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, rejoiceth in the truth. The ardour of true zeal resembles that of the huntsman, being diligent, careful, active, industrious, eager in pursuit, but without passion, anger or disquiet, for if the huntsman's work were done in anger, bad temper and vexation, it would not be so much loved and desired. Zeal in like manner has ardours which are extreme, but constant, solid, sweet, industrious, equally agreeable and untiring; whereas on the contrary, false zeal is turbulent, troubled, insolent, arrogant, choleric, transient, equally impetuous and inconstant.
It is one thing to hate sin and error. It is another thing to hate the sinner. This seems like an easy distinction to make in theory, but it can be very difficult in practice. It is most difficult when it comes to calling out those in leadership positions because they lead others into error. To use an example from self-defense, you always aim for center mass and shoot to kill. But when you drop the bad guy, your next move is to immediately call for an ambulance and try to save his life. Likewise, you have to do what you must to protect sinners and others from their own sin and errors, but you should always pray for and seek their redemption not their destruction.

The greatest example of false zeal is St. Paul the Apostle. As Saul of Tarsus, Paul was zealous for the Jewish faith and set out to destroy the heresy of the followers of Jesus. He was convinced these Christians had it wrong. Then, he discovered his error on the road to Damascus and turned his zeal in the opposite direction. His was not so much a conversion so much as a redirection. His zeal came from a good place, but his brain was infected with theological rabies. Fortunately, the love of Christ is the cure for this sort of thing. And St. Paul gives us these great lines on love:
 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
My mother-in-law told my wife and I something very profound. We want mercy for yesterday but justice for today. In other words, we love Jesus for letting us off the hook for our transgressions, but we really want Him to stick it to our enemies. This is not love. This is not forgiveness. The soul that cannot forgive the transgressions of others will find itself damned.

Mad Dog Catholics imperil their own souls in their misguided zeal. But we must also be wise in discerning who is an MDC, and who isn't. Someone who is fervent for the faith and tells the truth even when it offends is not automatically an MDC. It is usually when they have already demonstrated zeal and courage in telling the truth that they become frustrated that their words were not heeded. So, they turn up the volume. They go for the deliberately shocking instead of the merely honest. They attack people resorting to insults and invective more suitable to a men's locker room or even a Klan rally than fraternal correction. A certain Catholic blogger springs to mind as I write this who goes for the rhetorical jugular each time she posts using coarse language, profanity, insults, and the like. She is akin to the pro-lifer who opts for the pipe bomb over the picket sign not seeing the self-defeating nature of such a move.

Of course, there is the way of the wimp that opts for non-confrontation mistaking cowardice for charity. The man who best exemplified a sort of middle path between wimpery and mad doggery was the brilliant G.K. Chesterton who loved a good argument but was always charitable to those he debated. As Chesterton put it, "People generally quarrel because they cannot argue." This quarreling is usually because it is easier to scorch the earth than to reason. As Chesterton expressed it, "If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment." The best example of the madman in action would be our current presidential campaign with insults replacing discourse.

When you get angry, I recommend following the path I call "constructive anger." We are already familiar with destructive anger which is to annihilate one's enemy into oblivion by any and all means necessary. Constructive anger follows the strategy that the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend. You may or may not succeed in this endeavor, but this charitable path is the one advocated by our Lord who destroyed us, His enemies, by making us His friends. When you turn the other cheek and show charity to those who hate you, you confound your enemies because they do not know how to deal with it. It is always the move they never see coming.

Finally, I don't consider myself a Mad Dog Catholic, but I have been a Mad Dog Atheist and a Mad Dog Calvinist in years past. I learned something from all that stupidity. It is much easier to hate than love, but it is never satisfying. Hate merely compounds the hate and brings more misery. I see this double down effect with any and all Mad Dogs including Mad Dog Catholics. It is good to remember St. Peter's words that love covers a multitude of sins. I have fought people, and I have forgiven people. Forgiveness feels a lot better. As for the Church, if you think a few heretics and a lot of scoundrels can undo the faith, then your faith is also deficient and in error. We are to love the Church but not so much that we would burn it to the ground. Speak the truth in charity and believe that God knows what He is doing. And clean up your own messes before you decide to tackle the Augean Stables of the world and the Roman Catholic Church.


Death Support System

In the long run, we are all dead.

Hotblack Desiato is a character from the satirical otherworld Douglas Adams created in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who spends a year dead for "tax reasons." This state of perpetual non-life was achieved by Desiato being hooked up to a "death support system." Our economy is on a similar death support system, and we call it the Federal Reserve.

I spend a lot of time listening to various economic thinkers warn of the impending economic collapse that never comes. It may or may not come, but so far, it has worn my patience thin. A bubble burst would be a good thing because it would end the calamity we find ourselves in today. This is the calamity of stagnation.

I suspect that the predicted collapse is never coming. This is based upon the fact that Japan has been in stagnation since the end of the 1980's as the Bank of Japan has followed Keynesian stimulation policies that amount to putting a cattle prod to a corpse. Nothing they do can bring or has brought their dead economy back to life. Now, the USA has been following the same program.

A widespread collapse would occur if Janet Yellen decided to hike interest rates much higher than where they are today. This is how the tech bubble and the housing bubble collapsed. The Fed gave a pin prick to the bubbles they helped create. But it is obvious today that no such pricking will ever occur by the Federal Reserve. They will keep propping up the failures and printing money and papering it all over. This is simply never going to end.

Capitalism needs failure in order to work. Malinvestment must be corrected. Bad businesses need to go out of business. People need to eat their losses. In short, capitalism needs the creative destruction of Joseph Schumpeter. The Federal Reserve is opposed to this creative destruction. Between Wall Street and Washington, all these friends of the Feddies want this spigot of free money to keep pouring. Not only is Janet Yellen not inclined to close the spigot, she has removed the handle and tossed it in the garbage.

If you are a rich one percenter, a government worker, or some other parasite, this is all great news. The Federal Reserve has your back. It will debase the currency continuously in order to prop you up for the forseeable future. The belief here is that success is not failing. An economy that never experiences a downturn is a good economy. You're not really dead until the rancid smell of decay hits the hallway, so keep those air fresheners handy.

The economy could and would come to life if they ever turned off this death support system. But failure is subsidized and rewarded while productivity and common sense are punished. Why work hard to earn your dollars when the Federal Reserve and the federal government simply hand them over in interest free loans?

How long can this madness last? It can last a long time. I suspect that it can last forever. This is because death is forever. The Japanese death support system has kept Japan in perpetual death for twenty years. They are in their third decade of stagnation with no sign of it ever ending. Consequently, a lot of economists of the Austrian school need to rethink their system. You are witnessing what they say could never be which is an economy without failure. Japan has it, and we have it, now.

What could change this? A currency collapse is one possibility. If hyperinflation ever hit, that calamity would cause a great deal of upheaval. Another possibility is that an Andrew Jackson style president could jawbone the Fed out of existence. But you would have to elect Ron Paul or Rand Paul to achieve this. Their moment has come and gone. Donald Trump will not end the Fed and neither will Hillary. This leaves the pitchfork mob to riot and burn down buildings, kill politicians in the streets, and cause a massive civil unrest. Unfortunately, this will amount to a great deal of misdirected anger.

I have personally suffered from this stagnation, and I have believed that it began with the collapse in 2007. But I see now that I was wrong. This stagnation has been with us since at least 2000. 2007 was merely a bump in the road that made the Fed commit to money printing for the rest of time. What I got wrong was when this stagnation began and the belief that another bubble bursting was on the near horizon. Now, I see that the economy has been in stagnation for the last 16 years and will probably continue for a long time to come.

I don't have a strategy for stagnation except the distributist answer of creating your own economy. You can protect yourself against currency collapse and inflation theft by buying gold. You can avoid stocks, bonds, and other inflated assets. But I have no strategy when it comes to buying a properly valued home, an affordable college education, or starting a business. Anything touched by debt in this economy is warped and demolished. What we know about physics breaks down in a black hole, and what we know about economics also breaks down in a world with a central bank committed to extreme money printing forever.

Yes, a reckoning must come. The problem is that you will either be very old or very dead when that reckoning arrives. The madness can outlast you. John Maynard Keynes has possessed the minds of everyone at the Federal Reserve and in Washington, DC. The argument that Keynesians like Paul Krugman has made for years is that the creation of paper and debt has not been robust enough. Prior Keynesian stimulus was only halfhearted which is why it failed. In order to really succeed, you need to triple the national debt relative to GDP. We are already headed to double. The logic is simple. You are only broke when you run out of money, and the Federal Reserve can never run out of money.


Sleeping With One Eye Open

Better is the poor man walking in his simplicity, than the rich in crooked ways.

In The Professional, the main character has an unusual habit of sleeping. He puts on his sunglasses, sits straight in a chair, and turns out the light with a weapon at hand. The reason for this unusual way of sleeping comes from the fact that the character is a hit man, and he never knows when the hit may be on him. Consequently, he attempts to sleep with one eye open. That seems like a steep price for such a violent career.

A similar thing can be found in American Gangster where Denzel Washington learns the ropes from an older but wiser gangster to live a modest and unassuming lifestyle. This meant not going out to clubs, driving fancy cars, and wearing gaudy fashions. Basically, to get away with being the head of a gangster outfit over the long haul, you have to live the simple life of a private old man much like many retirees live today. Why bother being a gangster if you can never enjoy the perks of such a lifestyle? Washington's character gives in to the temptation by wearing a chinchilla coat to a boxing match which attracts attention and becomes his undoing.

The lesson in both these movies is that a life of crime and violence is not a good life. It is a life of a few pleasures and unending paranoia. I cannot fathom why anyone would ever want such a life. To a lesser degree, there are all sorts of powerful and rich people in various fields that play Machiavellian games. They probably don't sweat being murdered or arrested, but they can't look at themselves in the mirror for too long. They know what they are, and it isn't pretty.

The problem is that people want things. They want money. They want to be rich. Somehow, being rich takes care of problems. It creates "security." Yet, this security seems like one gigantic illusion. This is why I learned a long time ago to prefer simplicity in matters of lifestyle and profession. I like sleeping with both eyes closed. I like being able to live with myself.

I understand that some people can't accept the simple path. Their values are misaligned. Maybe they wanted nice things. Maybe they wanted to be somebody. These things are vanities. These people would rather die than be simple. And, then, they die. Their lives end up being not much different than the life of a simpler and humbler sort of person. If poverty has any real blessing, it lets you sleep. As for the paranoid, they will see sleep when they are dead.


Apocalypse Delayed

My view is that radical monetary policy is pretty much here to stay.

Sometime ago, I penned a post entitled Apocalypse Now that looks rather absurd since the time I wrote it. It isn't that my opinions about central banking and bubbles has changed. They haven't. But my expectations have changed. I am in the position of Jim Grant who I respect greatly who frankly admits that the inevitability of the economic collapse is taking its sweet time getting here. It is taking so long that one wonders if it will ever get here. And those who predict the collapse look more and more like Chicken Little with each passing day.

I think it would be helpful to actually read the story of Chicken Little again.

Chicken Little likes to walk in the woods. She likes to look at the trees. She likes to smell the flowers. She likes to listen to the birds singing.
One day while she is walking an acorn falls from a tree, and hits the top of her little head.
"My, oh, my, the sky is falling. I must run and tell the lion about it," says Chicken Little and begins to run.
She runs and runs. By and by she meets the hen.
"Where are you going?" asks the hen.
"Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling and I am going to the lion to tell him about it."
"How do you know it?" asks Henny Penny.
" It hit me on the head, so I know it must be so," says Chicken Little.
"Let me go with you!" says Henny Penny. "Run, run."
So the two run and run until they meet Ducky Lucky.
"The sky is falling," says Henny Penny. "We are going to the lion to tell him about it."
"How do you know that?" asks Ducky Lucky.
"It hit Chicken Little on the head," says Henny Penny.
"May I come with you?" asks Ducky Lucky.
"Come," says Henny Penny.
So all three of them run on and on until they meet Foxey Loxey.
"Where are you going?" asks Foxey Loxey.  
"The sky is falling and we are going to the lion to tell him about it," says Ducky Lucky.
"Do you know where he lives?" asks the fox.
"I don't," says Chicken Little.
"I don't," says Henny Penny.
"I don't," says Ducky Lucky.
"I do," says Foxey Loxey. "Come with me and I can show you the way."
He walks on and on until he comes to his den.
"Come right in," says Foxey Loxey.
They all go in, but they never, never come out again.
This story with the sinister ending basically teaches us about the foolishness of apocalyptic thinking. See, the thing people forget is that the end really did come for Chicken Little and the others. Their paranoia was justified but misdirected. It reminds me of how trends forecaster Gerald Celente who is always warning about the "white shoe boys" ended up getting ripped off in the MF Global scandal. Can you say "Foxey Loxey?" Maybe Celente should have saw that one coming, but he didn't. It reminds me of that joke about the guy who saw the fortune teller who replied that if she could really see the future she wouldn't have taken his check.

I don't wish to mock Celente because his criticisms of the system are basically correct. The system is corrupt from top to bottom. It is a rigged game, and you will lose as a retail investor if you play it. He should know because he lost. The fact is that you can guess right in the market, but your bank or your broker may rip you off by raiding your account directly. This is how messed up things are right now. When they can't steal anymore indirectly through money printing, they will simply take your money directly through theft. This is called a "bail in" which actually exists as a thing in Europe. Here, we have FDIC which is reportedly bankrupt. Basically, we, the American people, get to pay ourselves back for our losses.

It is not news that the world of finance, crony capitalism, and all the rest is crooked. This is the known. The unknown has to do with the end of this sordid mess. When does the Day of Reckoning come? When do these Fed manufactured bubbles pop? When does this house of cards finally collapse? Apparently, the answer is that it never will.

It gets tiring waiting for Doomsday to arrive. I thought the end was last year, but it wasn't. Now, I hear it will be this year. Buy your gold, get your beans, and run for the hills. Yet, another trading day comes and goes. Sometimes, it drops. Other times, it rallies. I expect another collapse like 2007-08, but it just never comes. Why does it not come?

Jim Grant has the answer. The reason the housing bubble collapsed was because the Fed pricked the bubble it created with an adjustment to its interest rates. The lesson the Fed learned was to never raise interest rates. It's like the drunk who discovered the hangover cure was to stay drunk. Jim Grant nails it here:
They’re pushing back failure. We must have failure in capitalism in order to allow new things to come and develop. So, the minimization of failure is paradoxically a problem with the ruling monetary regime.
The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to zero and will keep them on the floor forever. Do you doubt this? Japan's central bank has kept its discount interest rate below 1% since 1995. The only real change today is that Japan now has negative interest rates.

The rest of the central banks around the world have adopted the same central banking policies as Japan. China is doing much the same thing. The reason Japan matters is because Japan shows just how long central bank lunacy can last. So far, they have been riding low interest rates for 20+ years. It stands to reason that the other central banks can and will do the same thing.

The result of this central banking policy gone mad is malinvestment to extreme levels. There is no point to saving money in a bank because inflation and even negative interest rates will erode those savings to nothing. The markets are bubbles that may collapse at any time. Hedge funds, investment banks, and the like are all crooked. Much of this madness could be fixed if things were allowed to fail. The central banks will not allow failure. And as Japan has shown, the result is a stagnating economy. Japan's economy has had virtually no growth and even shrank during the last 20+ years. Their debt is over twice their GDP. Japan is the poster child of bad policy, yet they still continue with the madness. If they haven't learned anything, it is doubtful that other central banks will learn either.

There is not going to be a collapse because the Federal Reserve won't allow it. The result will be an economy in perpetual stagnation for the foreseeable future. As for the numbers, they are rigged and no longer represent reality. The thieves are allowed to keep their own books. Amazing. The economy we live in today is best represented by the economies of the Antebellum South or feudal serfdom. The majority live in perpetual debt bondage while a minority live in cushy opulence. It doesn't matter if the economy is hell for the masses as long as that moneyed minority can continue being on top. This is the Servile State that Hilaire Belloc predicted. As Belloc wrote, "If we do not restore the Institution of Property we cannot escape restoring the Institution of Slavery; there is no third course." Belloc was right. We are there. We are in the Servile State, and it can last indefinitely.