Some thoughts occasioned by Rod Dreher’s ‘Sex after Christianity’
Rod Dreher’s 2006 departure from the Catholic Church over the clergy sexual abuse crisis saddened me, but I still read him from time to time and I almost always learn something from him. Indeed, I’d read him more often but, as Al Kresta once quipped, canon law is really all I do. Anyway, I mention this as preface to my reactions to Dreher’s recent essay about “gay marriage”. Dreher thinks the battle over the definition of marriage is lost, but then—how to put this fairly?—Dreher often thinks that the battle is lost.
Pessimism comes easily to people who believe in Original Sin, and to be sure the evidence of moral shipwreck is all around us, beginning with our very selves. But the proclivity to see the Darkness (and sometimes to see especially the Darkness) is a temptation of young and thoughtful men, and Dreher is both. But while no longer young I like to think myself thoughtful, too.
With the passing of the decades something my dad said long ago comes to me: Things rarely turn out as badly as they could have. That, mind, from a man who definitely believes in Original Sin. For my father, and more lately for me, the wonder is not that Western society is dying; the wonder is that our society is constantly arranging for its own funeral, proclaiming its obituary and presiding over its burial, and then going back to work the next day. Don’t believe me?
Consider: Dreher ably traces the unraveling of Christianity in America, as represented in a special way by the battle over “gay marriage”, to a 1993 article in The Nation, springing from forces formally noticed in a 1966 book, in part unleashed by the Enlightenment in the late 18th century. He paints a plausible scenario. But why stop at the Enlightenment?
What was the Enlightenment except an exploitation of the disorder sowed by the Protestant Revolution? What was that religious revolution except a misdirected reaction to corruption in the medieval papacy? What was that papal corruption except a pernicious consequence of Papo-caesarism? What was that unbalanced ecclesiology but a short-sighted way to protect the Church against invasion by civil rulers? What was that regal invasion but . . . and so on and on and on—all the way back to Adam’s choice to believe what was nothing less than Satan’s Lie?
Simply put, the world is always in a state of collapse. Century after century after century. Catholics, or at any rate the Catholic Church, know this. But in its wake two truths shove their way to our consciousness.
First, Christ’s promise to be with the Church unto the end of time was made by a God-Man who knew, when he said it, everything that was to occur, and I mean, everything, from the litany of events sketched above, to the clergy sexual abuse crisis and the battle over “gay marriage”—none of which caused Our Lord a second’s hesitation or should cause any in us. True, the Lord did not promise that the Church would be free, or even visible, in any given place at any given time, and Dreher’s observations on the crisis for American Christianity that “gay-marriage” represents is worth pondering, but that Christianity is seriously threatened? Hardly. Second, as for those of us who, as Dreher suggests, might well be living in the closing decades of American Christianity, well, what God has in mind for the Church in our time and in our land is His business. Our task is to remain faithful to Him, to his holy Catholic Church, and to his saving Truth, and to bring those three goods to as many people as we possibly can, no matter what odds confront us.
Toward the end of his essay, Dreher holds out some hope for a recovery of moral senses, but it’s not much hope, and it is easy to miss his point. So let me sum up my way: things don’t always turn out as badly as we think they will turn out, and even if they do, so what? Our job is to shoulder on.