Charlie's Blog: March 2019


Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.

When people discuss the problem of suffering, they tend to link it to the problem of evil. But this linkage is an error as we see much good comes out of suffering such as our redemption in the cross of Christ. And there is much evil in pleasure and prosperity. Granted, the existence of evil produces suffering, but suffering is not evil in itself. The problem of evil will have to be the subject of another essay. In this essay, we are going to deal with the problem of suffering. Why does God allow suffering?

Everyone suffers. From the moment you are born until the day you die, you will be afflicted in this world. Even in the womb, unborn children are murdered and experience pain. In life, even the prosperous and those blessed with good fortune experience the hatred of enemies and the emptiness and vanity of the good fortune. And those who place their faith in God seem to be even more afflicted than those who give no thought to God whatsoever. It is so bad that even those with faith often ponder the mystery of it all. Why would a loving God allow so much pain and misery? You probably ask this question yourself. You wish there was a satisfying answer, but there seems to be none. At some point, the mystery of suffering causes us more grief than the suffering itself. What is the answer to this mystery?

The Atheist Answer

The atheist answer to the problem of suffering is very straightforward. God does not allow suffering because God does not exist. It is the universe that exists, and the universe does not care. As Stanley Kubrick put it, "The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent." The universe does not care about your happiness, your sadness, your pleasure, or your pain. In these stark terms, the problem of suffering is a meaningless issue. In a life of randomness, pleasure is fleeting while pain is a constant. Pain is what motivates us to better our situation.

The pain that the atheist overlooks is the existential suffering created as we seek some sort of meaning in an indifferent universe. We can understand why someone with bone cancer might opt for suicide. It is another when someone who is in a relatively painless position opts for suicide to extinguish the feeling of emptiness in life. The fact is that people who lack nothing in material and sensual terms are afflicted with a great deal of suffering that emanates from the mind. Other people like religious ascetics of old seek out suffering in search of deeper truths and meaning. Why would an indifferent universe produce beings that seek out things that do not exist?

The Protestant Answer

There are a variety of opinions in the Protestant world when it comes to suffering. John Calvin's views are close to the Catholic view which is understandable considering his place in church history being merely a recent heretic as opposed to those centuries removed from the Church of Rome. The problem for the Protestant comes from that doctrine of sola fide and forensic justification. The gist of this error is that our salvation is by faith alone, and we contribute nothing to our salvation except our faith. Consequently, our sufferings and trials count for nothing. They earn us no merit, and they contribute nothing to our sanctification. If we are justified and forgiven for all of our sins, why does God insist on punishing us?

Protestants of a prospetarian bent will take the seat of Job's false comforters insisting that our suffering is self-inflicted. God allows us to suffer as a consequence of our lack of faith or negative thinking or whatever. If we do right, God will do right by us. If we do wrong, God will smack us hard. The problem with this view has already been addressed in the book of Job. The innocent do suffer.

Mature Protestants like Philip Yancey offer a solution that sounds kinda Catholic as they delve into the Bible. They acknowledge the problem and the message of Job. But their answer comes up short as a consequence of their Protestant theology. I remember reading Where is God When It Hurts as an evangelical Protestant and appreciating the fact that the book gave an unflinching look at the problem. But it does not give a satisfying answer. C.S. Lewis does not do much better in his treatment of the subject in The Problem of Pain.

I remember Yancey giving the illustration of people with Hansen's disease which we know as leprosy. This infection has the effect of removing a person's ability to feel pain. Without this ability to feel pain, the leper becomes disfigured from repeated injuries and untreated infections. From this horror, Yancey concludes that pain is a gift of sorts. I remember reading this and thinking that this illustration makes no sense whatsoever. Essentially, pain is a necessary evil. We suffer in life to avoid something worse down the road. But if we are justified by faith and not by works and have assurance of this salvation which we can never lose, why would we need to suffer?

Both Yancey and Lewis suffer from the ignorance created from being Protestant. Because of sola fide, our suffering is unnecessary. God allows us to suffer without any necessary reason whatsoever, and this suffering counts for nothing. This is why Protestantism comes up short and so many Protestants end up growing cold in their faith or becoming total atheists like I did. When confronted with meaningless suffering, you must conclude that God is evil or that God just doesn't exist. But suffering does have meaning and value, but you have to be Catholic to understand this.

The Temptation of Christ in the Desert

Many people are familiar with the story of how Jesus went to the desert to fast for 40 nights and days and was given the famous three temptations from Satan which Jesus resisted. What gets overlooked in the story is the beginning of the story in Matthew 4:1, "Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil." Luke 4:1 says much the same thing, "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the desert." It should be firmly established that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to suffer temptation.

Now, the Holy Spirit does not tempt us to do evil. This would be blasphemy. Satan is the one who does the dirty work on these things along with the world and our own flesh. But the Spirit led Jesus to the desert for what we can only consider to be a form of trial. From this, we can safely conclude one thing. God wills our suffering. For some people, this may be a shocker. Why would a good God will that I suffer? Is God some sort of sick sadist?

This is a hard truth to hear, but it needs to be heard. It sounds like a kind of blasphemy except that it isn't. If God didn't want Jesus to suffer temptation, He would not have led Jesus into that desert. And if suffering is just a necessary evil and a byproduct of living in a fallen world, why would the Bible make such explicit mention of the Spirit leading Jesus into the desert?

It is God's will that you suffer. It is not God's will that you fall into sin and evil. So, why does God will our suffering, but He does not will evil? The answer is obvious. Suffering is not evil.

I know this is a mindblower. We link suffering to evil which is why we have a problem with suffering. But once we do this, we are left with insurmountable intellectual and theological difficulties. The first and most basic one is that God allows evil in the form of suffering. Yet, we see that suffering can be avoided. We can choose to eat instead of fasting. Yet, God calls us to fast and practice other forms of mortification. Jesus demands that we take up our crosses. This leads us to the next issue of necessary evil.

The argument can be made that God allows us to suffer for the sake of the good. In other words, God allows evil for the sake of the good. This becomes a form of consequentialism. We are not permitted to do evil for the sake of the good. Likewise, God does not allow us to suffer evil for the sake of the greater good. This would be the end justifying the means. And when we consider that many fall away as a consequence of their trials and temptations, that bad end is enough to condemn the bad means.

Suffering is not evil. If it was, God would not will it. It is God's will that you suffer. If that truth makes you recoil, you will now learn the truth about why you suffer.

Obedience Through Suffering

Suffering comes in two forms--pleasure and pain. The fact that pain is suffering is without question. The pleasure thing is a headscratcher. How is pleasure suffering? Pleasure is suffering when we are not allowed to partake in it. We know this as temptation. When we want pleasure that is forbidden to us, we experience pain and suffering. Is the suffering that a married man experiences when he refuses to commit adultery an evil? Of course not. But the pleasure of sex is a good thing except when it is experienced outside of the marital bond. Then, it is a bad thing and an evil. Or, is it?

Evil does not come from pleasure or pain. It comes from disobedience to God. This issue of obedience is paramount. God wants and demands our obedience. This obedience is what produces suffering. We learn obedience through suffering. How do I know this? Because it says so in the Bible:
As he saith also in another place: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech. Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence. And whereas indeed he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered: And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation. Called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech. 
Jesus was always obedient. He was sinless. Why did He have to learn obedience through suffering? Did He not already know obedience? Of course He did. But He did not know suffering. By the Incarnation, Jesus learned suffering just as we know it. This is why it is important to stress the full humanity of Christ including having a human nature. Jesus knew all our sufferings including depression and anxiety in the depths of His soul. Jesus was no Stoic sage who possessed some inner citadel removed from life. He was not the Buddha who had "freed" himself from all desire through some trick of the mind. The Bible makes this clear:
For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the church will I praise thee. And again: I will put my trust in him. And again: Behold I and my children, whom God hath given me. Therefore because the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner hath been partaker of the same: that, through death, he might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil: And might deliver them, who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to servitude.
For no where doth he take hold of the angels: but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold. Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful priest before God, that he might be a propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that, wherein he himself hath suffered and been tempted, he is able to succour them also that are tempted. 
In Heaven, one does not suffer for obedience. There is only suffering for disobedience which is what Satan learned when he was cast into Hell for his refusal to serve. But in the world, the opposite is the case. Our obedience to God comes with suffering, and our suffering is a consequence of our obedience.

Obedience in Heaven is perfect. But obedience in this world which comes with suffering is something more than perfect. This is the argument that Satan made to God concerning Job. Yes, Job is obedient, but this is because of the reward. But if he suffers, he will become disobedient and curse God to His face. The fact that Job was obedient in his suffering leads us to admit that he is owed something. We can call it honor, respect, or what have you. We know this as merit.

Merit is a mysterious thing, but this world is the only place where merit can be gained. Here's an illustration of merit. One man spends his entire life in the country he loves. He salutes the flag and says the Pledge of Allegiance. He loves his country. Another man does the same thing, but he also goes into battle on behalf of his country. Another man goes into battle and gets his leg blown off. Another man goes into battle and dies. All of these men are patriots, but we must admit that they are not all equal in their patriotism. For the men who live and do not fight, they enjoy the freedom bought by the sacrifice of the others. But for those who fought and died, we owe a debt of gratitude and duty to honor their memories and sacrifices.

Like a patriot in regard to his country, a saint gains merit by suffering for his or her obedience. This world is the battlefield where we can display our love and gain merit through our sufferings for Christ. These sufferings are sacrifices. They are offerings of reparation and love to God. God is always pleased by our obedience, but He is especially pleased when that obedience comes with suffering. It elevates the obedience.

Temptations and Trials

The reason obedience and suffering is a package deal in this world is because suffering entails the denial of the things we want. Generally, the things we want are to enjoy pleasure and to avoid pain. In Gethsemane, Jesus did not want to be beaten and crucified. It would be kind of masochistic to want these things. But Jesus wanted to be obedient. His human will took a backseat to the Divine Will. It was God's will that His only begotten Son should suffer and die in atonement for the sins of the world. Likewise, it is God's will that we suffer and endure everything in this life in perfect obedience to His will.

The trial is a recurring feature in the Bible and the lives of the saints. For Adam and Eve, the trial was the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. They blew that one. For Noah, the trial was building that big boat. That was a lot of work and derision from the neighbors. But Noah did it out of obedience. Likewise, Abraham had one son he had waited his whole life to have, and God told him to put that son on an altar as a sacrifice. Abraham suffered that trial and was obedient.

God tests our obedience. All trials are essentially being deprived of the things we want or suffering the things we wish to avoid. God is not a dog trainer, and we are not mere pets doing tricks for treats. We are more than that. We are better than that. We have free will. We have the ability to choose. When we choose obedience to God regardless of the costs, we demonstrate our love to Him in a way that no perfectly obedient angel ever could.

Our ultimate desire is obedience to God. Some of us just don't know this or realize this. This is why those estranged from God live lives of misery no matter the good or bad fortunes they experience in life. Likewise, those obedient to God experience a profound happiness in spite of all circumstances. As Jesus put it in John 4:34, " My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, that I may perfect His work." In this mysterious statement, Jesus is saying that His worldly concerns and desires took a backseat to His obedience to God's will made perfect through suffering.

Our ultimate hunger and thirst is to do the will of God. Once we know this and realize this and pursue this, we take on a quality displayed in the life of Jesus and all His saints. This is the trait known as "holy indifference."

Holy Indifference

Indifference is where you don't care about a thing. It's like a friend who calls you up to brag about the new Camaro that he bought, but you don't care because you are a Mustang fan. You don't envy the guy because you don't value what he has. But if he had a new Mustang, you might feel differently. But as it stands, you are indifferent.

The same thing applies to holy indifference. Holy indifference is where you care about God's will and being obedient to that will without regard to the consequences both good and bad. This is a quality of saints where it makes them courageous against tyranny, allows them to bear pain and suffering with equanimity, to part with material goods joyfully, and to accept calamity and scandal without despair or losing faith in God. St. Paul explains holy indifference beautifully when he wrote,
I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith. I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: (everywhere, and in all things I am instructed) both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need. I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me. 
For Paul, it didn't matter what condition he found himself or what happened to him. The one thing that mattered was God and obedience to His will. When you have great love, you can endure many hardships and withstand many temptations.

Saint Faustina records this prayer of holy indifference:
Lord, I surrender to You all my selfish preferences in life.  I give You complete freedom to do whatever You will in my life.  No matter what You ask of me, I accept, and no matter what You take from me, I give to You.  Give me, dear Lord, the grace of a holy indifference so that I may be free to love You and Your holy Will more than life itself.  Jesus, I trust in You.
That is a prayer of perfect trust and obedience. It is scary to pray such a thing because it demands a complete abandonment to God's will in our lives. St. Ignatius of Loyola records a similar strain of thought concerning holy indifference in his Spiritual Exercises:
Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed by free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short. The same holds for all other things.
This attitude goes against all human instincts for self-preservation and enlargement in the world. Such a state of holy indifference must come through grace. It is only when we find our supreme satisfaction in God that we can treat the cares of this world with holy indifference. Once you have found the source of true happiness, nothing else matters.

Protestants and Atheists and Suffering

It is clear to see why Protestants and atheists are not good when it comes to suffering. Both share the opinion that suffering is pointless. For the atheist, suffering is just a good excuse for suicide which is why they can't even endure prosperity and good fortune. Likewise, the Protestant has a messed up theology that places no merit or value on suffering rendering all trials a pointless waste.

It is well known what happens to children who are spoiled. They become disobedient. Children who suffer end up being obedient. It is counterintuitive, but there you have it. Character and virtue are worth considerably more than toys or opportunities or advantages or the riches of this life. From these things, we would have to conclude that suffering is good while the lack of suffering is evil. But they are really indifferent. What matters is obedience.

Your suffering matters. If it didn't, God would not allow it. God not only allows it, but He has ordained it and sanctified it in the cross of Christ. The reason both atheists and Protestants despise the cross is because they are fundamentally disobedient. They live in rebellion mad at the God who did not cater to their wills. But God does not live in submission to us. We live in submission to God.


God allows suffering as a test of our obedience and love for Him. When we endure trials and resist temptations, we show with our free wills that we truly love God. We want what God wants. As St. Sebastian Valfre put it, "'When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly." This awful world is an opportunity that will vanish in the next life. When we see Jesus, we will see the scars He received for us. It will be a great privilege to show Him the scars we have received for Him. In suffering, God enlarges our capacity for love. And there is no greater love than to die for the one Who died for us.


Arts: Liberal and Servile

The more people who are humanely educated, the better. But the more people we have who are half-educated or quarter-educated, the worse for them and for the republic. Really educated people, rather than forming presumptuous elites, will permeate society, leavening the lump through their professions, their teaching, their preaching, their participation in commerce and industry, their public offices at every level of the commonwealth. And being educated, they will know that they do not know everything; and that there exist objects in life besides power and money and sensual gratification; they will take long views; they will look forward to posterity and backward toward their ancestors. For them, education will not terminate on commencement day.

Basket weaving majors have always had a hard time and had to endure much derision for pursuing a field of study that was considered to be a waste of time and money. But I have to point out that basket weaving is not a liberal art like history or philosophy but a servile art yielding a skill more marketable than anything you will find in a transgender studies curriculum. In today's world of inflated tuition and crushing student loan debts, all majors short of a medical degree are foolish. I have lived long enough to see a man who majored in English lit and get a master's degree in art go on to make more money than a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Clemson University who was lucky to get the job he has now.

The student loan bubble in higher education has wreaked a great deal of havoc. The ultimate rotten fruit of this catastrophe is that we have educated a generation primed and ready to embrace socialism if for no other reason than to escape their student loan debts. The reality is that higher education has always been a gamble for people, but the stakes were smaller in previous decades. Today, those unlucky bets will hamstring a graduate for the rest of his or her life.

Much of the blame for this debacle is misplaced. No one looks at the federal government tossing out student loans like raindrops in a monsoon, or the bloated university administrations who act as giant sponges for those raindrops. The blame is placed on students for majoring in the wrong fields of study. These kids should have majored in STEM subjects which really means computer programming--a field open to anyone willing to buy a few books on coding from Amazon and work through them. Credentials don't matter in a field that changes yearly.

The sad thing in this gigantic mess is that people now miss the purpose of education. Originally, universities grew out of religion and the need for an educated clergy to serve believers. In those days, being hunched over a book seemed superior to being hunched over a plow. And this is where the divide between the liberal and the servile arts appeared.

The liberal arts served the higher ends of man such as the spirit and the intellect while the servile arts served the lower needs of man such as his need for food, water, clothing, transportation, and shelter. As such, these two arts were put in an antagonistic relationship. Without the servile arts, the scholar would not eat or even have a book to etch his thoughts or the candle to see his work in his cloistered cell. Likewise, without the higher ends of the liberal arts and religion, the servile arts amounted to nothing more than what ants do to survive. Surely, men are worth more than ants.

Both the liberal arts and the servile arts are of vital importance. You can't have one without the other. The engineer's profession relies upon mathematics which is a liberal art. And a poet's work would matter little if it was not for the printer putting those beautiful words on the page. But despite the fact that the two arts need each other, one thing should be established. The liberal arts are superior to the servile arts. There would be poetry without the printer, but there would be no printing without the poetry. The servile arts have always been and always will be the servant to the liberal arts. This is why they are called "servile."

The relationship between the liberal and servile arts has become fractured and distorted. This comes as a consequence of atheistic materialism, science, industrialization, technology, and capitalism. In ages past, the stone mason knew that his work was for the sake of the work of the priest. In a secular age, that work has been reduced to the bricklayer building something mundane to house something even more mundane. The skyscraper has replaced the cathedral, and it has descended into mediocrity and absurdity as the centuries have become increasingly material and secular.

The liberal arts have given way to the humanities and social sciences which sees religion as merely a cultural phenomenon. The arts being just another cultural phenomenon has descended into the sort of play you find in a kindergarten, and I mean that literally. Take a trip to any modern museum of art and compare it to what you see in a preschool program. At least the preschoolers don't descend into making art from their poop. This is left to the grown ups.

When they were informed by Christianity, the liberal arts were awesome. Now, they suffer from the taint of guilt by association with the cultural marxists and queer theorists who have infiltrated their ranks. The real liberal arts can only be found now in small colleges devoted to classical education. The staff at these schools tend to be conservatives and Christians. They represent the Alamo of Western Civilization.

Once upon a time, art was beautiful. Music was sublime. History mattered.  Philosophy was wise. And literature elevated its readers beyond mere entertainment. They reflected the permanent things which are the things that really matter. These things are not lost. They are simply forgotten waiting to be rediscovered by people today. And when you discover them, their value becomes self-evident.

It was Russell Kirk who revealed to me the treasures of the liberal arts and made me unashamed to be a liberal arts major. In his essay "The Conservative Purpose of a Liberal Education," this is how Kirk put it,
Our term “liberal education” is far older than the use of the word “liberal” as a term of politics. What we now call “liberal studies” go back to classical times, while political liberalism commences only in the first decade of the nineteenth century. By “liberal education” we mean an ordering and integrating of knowledge for the benefit of the free person—as contrasted with technical or professional schooling, now somewhat vaingloriously called “career education.”
Kirk points out the difference between the liberal arts and the servile arts. You should never be ashamed to be intelligent or wise even if you are not necessarily wealthy or well remunerated. Today, a video game playing surgeon with a six figure salary is seen as superior to an English professor at a private college. Yet, both pale in comparison to the millionaire basketball player who has no cultural enrichment beyond the latest rap song currently popular on the urban contemporary stations. If money is the only signifier of value, the drug dealing hood rat is superior to the adjunct professor scraping by on his meager salary.

Kirk predicts our own times in this telling quotation, 
If all schools, colleges, and universities were abolished tomorrow, still most young people would find lucrative employment, and means would exist, or would be developed, for training them for their particular types of work. Instead, a highly beneficial result of liberal education, conservative again, is that it gives to society a body of young people, introduced in some degree to wisdom and virtue, who may become honest leaders in many walks of life.
Our educational apparatus has been rearing up not a class of liberally educated young people of humane outlook, but instead a series of degree-dignified elites, an alleged meritocracy of confined views and dubious intellectual and moral credentials, puffed up by that little learning, which is most truly described by that mordant Tory Alexander Pope as a dangerous thing.
Russell Kirk was a greater prophet than he realized because the schools have been abolished and replaced with a wing that teaches moral relativism and marxism and another wing that is an overpriced trade school. Both look for the credential and neither care for actually knowing anything unless it will earn them a large paycheck. The result is that we do not produce intelligent people but merely clever people doing tricks for money. They are the human equivalent of a chicken who plays tic-tac-toe for pieces of corn.

The chicken has no idea what he is doing except the cause-and-effect relationship between his action and his reward. Likewise, so many intelligent people occupy that spot where if they turn out the right code or pull off the right trick or mouth off on the correct talking points, they will receive financial compensation. This class represents what I call the "clever idiots."

A clever idiot would be the nuclear bomb scientist smart enough to split the atom but not smart enough to figure out that his work will result in the deaths of millions of people. Another example would be the socialist technocrat that pushes communism while ignoring the last century of history or current events in the newspaper showing that Marxist delusions always end in tyranny and failure. What these clever idiots share in common is an inability to see the larger picture. They are hyperspecialized and deprived of the wisdom a classical liberal arts education provides.

The clever idiocy reaches its zenith in that queer creature on the autistic spectrum known as the Asperger's Syndrome geek. Asperger's is not a real condition derived from genetics. It is a condition created in the vacuum of the liberal arts. Basically, someone with Asperger's Syndrome is mentally retarded on everything except their one special trick. This could be anything from doing mathematical equations, coding, or playing the piano. Some people claim that Glenn Gould was on this autistic spectrum except when the man spoke. He was very erudite possessing a superior vocabulary and a profound knowledge of things. He also had a deep emotional connection to his music which became deeper with age. This man was no idiot savant.

Thanks to the public library and the internet, the world of the liberal arts is open to anyone with basic reading comprehension and the time to explore this valuable world. This means turning off the television set and the video games and committing to reading books found on the list of classics. This vein of gold will last anyone a lifetime and enrich them far more than watching endless reruns of Friends. If Abraham Lincoln could avail himself of his meager opportunities and scant time, you can do the same or even better.

It is a tragedy if a man or woman goes through life without this deeper knowledge that the liberal arts offers virtually free of charge. Yet, even people possessing advanced degrees do not avail themselves of this knowledge. They can tell you who won last night's wrestling match but not who won at Waterloo.

If Russell Kirk elevated my understanding and appreciation of the liberal arts, philosopher and motorcycle mechanic Matthew Crawford did the same for me in appreciation of the servile arts. Crawford is that rare bird who has a foot in both worlds. He has advanced degrees but also can turn a wrench. He writes books and builds custom parts for motorcycles. I think that is pure awesome.

There is deep satisfaction in losing yourself in a real world project. Servile work of skilled and unskilled varieties requires its own knowledge and proficiency. It takes one set of skills to play the violin but a very impressive set of skills to make a violin as well. A relationship exists between the builder and the performer. Their relationship is one of mutual appreciation.

Somewhere, our society developed a disdain for blue collar work and the trades. This coincides with its disdain for the liberal arts. Matthew Crawford is a man despicable on both counts because he is a philosopher with dirt under his fingernails. But I like him because he shows that you can be blue collar and brilliant. It also shows how those with a love for the liberal arts can also make a decent and satisfying living when they can't find a career in the modern academy.

I also have a great love for St. Josemaria Escriva who taught his followers that the ordinary work of life can be elevated to the spiritual plane as we offer our labor done well as a gift to God. We are all laborers in the fields of the Lord. That field can be a lecture hall, a laboratory, a garage, a kitchen, or even a literal field.

The problem of our age is that we have become divorced from God and reality. This is why the liberal and servile arts have fallen into their present state. We can blame it on the pursuit of money or a disdain for the ordinary. But the rejection of both come from the rejection of the Christian religion that gave dignity to both arts. In a world of atheism and materialism, I don't see how they will ever recover.


Keep Off the Grass

The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug - a violent narcotic - an unspeakable scourge - The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden violent, uncontrollable laughter, then come dangerous hallucinations - space expands - time slows down, almost stands still... fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances - followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions... leading finally to acts of shocking violence... ending often in incurable insanity. In picturing its soul- destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionized for the purposes of this story, are based upon actual research into the results of Marihuana addiction. If their stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then the picture will not have failed in its purpose... Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter... or yours... or YOURS!

The biggest propaganda film for legalizing marijuana is actually a film produced as propaganda for outlawing marijuana. Reefer Madness is a film that grossly exaggerates the effects and consequences of marijuana use. Consequently, people watch it today for a laugh. The sad thing is that marijuana really is a bad thing. It just isn't as bad as an earlier generation made it out to be. So, today's generation sees marijuana as a good thing. And this is a bad thing.

Canada and many states in the USA have now legalized marijuana to a greater or lesser extent. I find it amusing that people in Colorado claim that if they could vote on the measure again that it would not pass today. Apparently, people in Colorado have become angry that their state has become a magnet for transient potheads who spend all day high on reefer and mooching the rest of the time.

The legalization of marijuana began with the ridiculous "medical marijuana" movement that extolled the health benefits of weed. Marijuana proved effective in the treatment of a variety of maladies like glaucoma, nausea from chemotherapy, and chronic pain. But the number one medical condition marijuana seemed to cure was the condition known as not being high.

One of the arguments potheads make is that weed is not as bad as hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, LSD, and crystal meth. No one ever died from smoking too much reefer. This is true. The argument goes that whatever doesn't kill you must be a good thing. With that argument, weed is better than tobacco, fast food, and alcohol.

Another argument comes from the libertarians who argue that Prohibition did not eradicate drinking, but it did provide profits for organized crime which made the liquor hard and killed a lot of people who threatened their business. The problem with that argument is that organized crime did not go away after the end of Prohibition. You reach a point where some things can never be legalized for which there will be a market. These would be things like contract killing, insurance fraud, child pornography, and on and on. As a former libertarian, I knew my arguments for legalizing prostitution and drugs reached a dead end when the subject of age limits came up. The simple fact is that crime does not disappear when you get rid of the laws.

All drug legalization arguments come down to one issue--the victimless crime. Ultimately, you can't protect people against themselves. And no crime is ever victimless. Drunkenness is a victimless crime until you consider battered wives, abused children, and the scores of people injured and killed by drunk drivers. The truth is that these things would never have been criminalized in the first place if they didn't create problems for other people. This is why virtually every country in the world has made drugs illegal.

Now, it is draconian to destroy a young person's entire life for taking a hit off of a joint. The ultimate aim of the law should be the good of the person and not their destruction. Today's drug laws aim for the destruction of the user. And this is something that should be changed. Reducing drug offenses to the level of a misdemeanor is fine by me. I favor decriminalization instead of legalization.

What is the difference between decriminalization and legalization? Legalization means what it says. What is illegal is made legal. Decriminalization does not make the activity legal but reduces the penalties for the crime. Where you might go to jail for the offense, the penalty is reduced to a fine and court mandated drug treatment. 

The problem with outright legalization is that it serves to promote the behavior. This is what you see now in Colorado as potheads flood into the state, and families are sickened by reefer smoke on the ski slopes and city streets. Even in places like Amsterdam where hash and prostitution are legal, these things have become a national embarrassment and a magnet for the worst kinds of tourists.

Decriminalization reduces the consequences of an activity without eliminating the stigma of the activity. We already follow this path with things like speeding, drunk driving, and littering. These are things we would never legalize because our highways would become trash filled lanes of wrecked cars and dead bodies. But if these things become felonies with long jail terms, the roads would be desolate of drivers afraid that a speed trap would be the end of their freedom.

Portugal is the one country that has tried decriminalization for all drugs, and this experiment seems to have worked for them. Drug usage has declined along with deaths from drug overdoses and a reduction in the spread of HIV from contaminated needles. Where current drug policies in the USA and most other countries attack drug abuse from the supply side of things, Portugal has gone after the demand side of the problem. And this has been cheaper than filling prisons with non-violent offenders.
Colorado has gone with the legalization route. The stats are being collected now, and the experiment seems to be a failure as Colorado still has a huge black market in marijuana production as it has become a supply point for other places where it remains illegal. Instead of organized crime moving out of the state, it has moved in finding cover behind the legal marijuana industry. The simple fact is that every solution breeds new problems.

Libertarians support marijuana legalization because they support legalization of all drugs. They will tell you that the destruction of a free market results in a black market. This is true. But do we really want dispensaries handing out cocaine and heroin? In the USA, opioid drugs which are legal with a prescription has created an epidemic of overdose deaths that now surpasses traffic fatalities. This is what happens when you legalize and destigmatize a substance.

Marijuana gets the pass because you can't overdose on it. And because it has some salutary benefits for some people, some proponents think smoking weed is now part of a healthy lifestyle like eating vegetables or exercising. But this isn't true.

The fact is that marijuana makes you stupid. All those stereotypes about stoners being unmotivated and slow in the head are totally true. I remember reading an article about a daughter with a pothead father who forgot her birthday one year and remembered her birthday twice the next year giving her gifts on different days. He would do things like take her to school and forget to pick her back up in the afternoon. She would walk home in tears to find her dad stoned on the couch.

I have never smoked marijuana in my life, so I cannot report firsthand on the effects of cannabis on the cerebral cortex. But I have been surrounded by potheads for most of my life in the workplace and among family members. Every one of them was stupid. They could not make the connections that the rest of us take for granted as common sense.

My favorite pothead story involves a guy in my workplace in the nineties who was the identical twin brother of Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He had the long blonde hair and the same stoner tone of voice and manner of speaking. And he spent the bulk of his days high from smoking large amounts of marijuana. One day, he told me that he wanted to get a better job that paid more money except they had a drug test which he was not going to pass unless there was some way to clean up his urine. He asked me what to do. I told him to drink a gallon of white vinegar. And he did. And he failed that drug test spectacularly. This is because I made up that crap about the white vinegar to see if he was dumb enough to do it.

That was a mean thing to do to the guy, and I don't do things like that anymore. But the fact that this guy was dumb enough to try it and gag on a gallon of vinegar is all you need to know about the intellectual damage that marijuana does to you. But this sort of thing is universal among all the potheads that I know. They aren't smart people.

People will point out some articles and studies that show that marijuana does not make you stupid. But this would be the recreational user who takes a few hits off a joint at a Doobie Brothers show. Longer term studies of habitual users show that weed makes you stupid. Basically, the effects are determined by amount of use and the length of use. You will see the same sort of thing with tobacco use and alcohol.

Smoking dope is not a smart thing to do, and the government should not encourage it. In time, you will see the places that legalized weed regret the decision. Instead of looking at the substance, people should look at the users of that substance. Would you want to live in a society full of potheads and stoners? The fact that employers go out of their way to exclude these people from their payrolls is enough to tell you that weed is not good for you or for society. The focus should be on making these people better not worse. The best way to do this would be decriminalization not legalization or the war on drugs.