C.S. Lewis, in his introduction to The Great Divorce, recalls a science fiction story featuring a man who is able to return to the past. There he encounters a startling world: the past is so concretely real that the very blades of grass he walks on are stiff and unbending. Like sharp nails, they cut into his feet. He can’t even bite into a sandwich – it is hard as rock. Perhaps we should be surprised that he could even breathe the air.
Lewis’s message is clear: history is so real that it cannot be changed. It firm and fixed, forever.
Perhaps that’s why the Left hates the past. Leftists hate reality.
In reading Saint Augustine, we see three of those hated realities in particular.
These three realities also happen to represent the first three events that we know about in the past – Creation, the Fall, and God’s promise of Redemption.
Denying all three, Karl Marx nonetheless hijacks Augustine’s groundbreaking notion that history has a direction and refashions it to suit his ideology.
Karl Marx is the godfather of modern progressivism.
For Marx, the past is evil, and the future is good – good, that is, if you follow Karl Marx.
Unlike the Christian version, socialist salvation will occur within history, not beyond it. But few of Marx’s “progressive” heirs today bother to ponder his prediction of violent revolution that must by historical necessity come before their promised Nirvana.
Yet that violence is mandatory. In his Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx condemns man’s natural desire to understand the world. “The point,” he demands, “is to change it.”
Falsehood always brings violence in its wake, Solzhenitsyn tells us. He speaks from experience.
And Marx’s view of history is a falsehood. Yet his acolytes today — liberals, progressives, garden-variety neighborhood organizers, and the like – breezily promise us a better future that will provide mankind with an escape from all the evils of the past.
But there is a price: power.
Leftists embrace and propagate Marx’s falsehoods for the same reason Marx did: to acquire and maintain power, and to destroy everything that gets in their way.
Like the Constitution.
Here a practical question arises: the lust for power, fame, and glory is sufficient motivation for the party of pride, Marx’s “vanguard of the proletariat,” but how can they recruit the masses in their struggle?
The answer is envy – the psychological engine of socialism.
Gas for the Power-Lust Machine
Politicians and preachers alike often indulge in exhortations about the danger of greed, but few ever caution us against that other Deadly Sin, envy.
Like Satan, envy doesn’t want us to know it exists.
Yet, the Catholic Catechism counts envy and pride as chief among those forces “raging among men and nations [which] constantly threaten peace and cause wars.”
Scripture constantly warns us against envy. “A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” are abominations to God. [Prov.6:19].
The progressive counters with a gospel that bombards us with falsehoods and sows discord, constantly invoking envy to keep the engine running.
Like Al Gore, progressives turn E Pluribus unum on its head: now it means “from one, many” – diversity.
With diversity, Hobbes’s State of Nature prevails. Everyone is at war with everyone else because everyone has a right to everything.
Our only hope is the all-powerful Leviathan.
Which is fine with the Leviathan – but not so fine for us.
Once the worship of “diversity” has destroyed all sense of community, envy can run rampant. As the Catechism of the Council of Trent observes, “neighborhood, which should make for friendship, is transformed by covetousness from a source of love into a source of hatred.”
Here we should note a critical distinction: envy is not jealousy. The jealous person looks at his neighbor’s new sports car and wishes he had one. Jealousy might even motivate him to work and save to acquire one.
But the envious person knows he will never have a sports car: he just resents the fact that his neighbor has one, and wants to deprive him of it.
If he cannot do so himself, he wants the Leviathan to do it for him.
Once envy prospers, the Common Good is doomed. Moreover, as Trent reminds us, “A thirst for what belongs to others is intense and insatiable.”
Envy is forever. Politicians can endlessly agitate and aggravate envious sentiments of resentment of “the rich” or the “one percent,” eroding goodwill, concord, and friendship, the golden threads that bind together the fabric of a free society.
The merchants of envy rely on the Marxist dialectic to exempt from the resentment they incite not only themselves, but their allies in Hollywood, the media, in the popular culture, and in professional sports – even though all are quite wealthy. They inject envy in every possible way “among brethren,” and, when the discord rises to a requisite level, they offer the foolproof remedy to the seething masses: vengeance.
A Thousand Points of Pain
Vengeance and hatred march hand in hand, but they often travel under cover. Quite often, they are cleverly wrapped in the banner of “rights.”
These deadly vices received a stamp of political legitimacy from Franklin Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights,” announced in his State of the Union Address of 1944, and from Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, articulated in his 1964 book, My Hope For America.
Their claim to moral legitimacy flows from the faux brand of “Social Justice” so often advocated by the religious left. This perverted version of a timeless good amputates Christian charity, a Theological Virtue, from the Cardinal Virtue of justice.
Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, states it succinctly: “The temptation can be to work for justice apart from love,” he writes, “but then justice becomes itself a formula for oppression. Justice without love is destructive, as Marxist societies, founded on equality and social justice alone, teach the world.”
Once shorn of its beating heart – love, caritas, the loving spiritual dynamic that unites the Christian with the Divine – “Social Justice” tosses the lifeless husk into the maw of the Leviathan.
No longer are works of charity voluntary – in fact, they are not charity at all: they are rights, entitlements – and they are mandatory.
The current “shutdown” has brought into the open countless instances of vengeance by the secular state against the Christian, the taxpayer, and the traditional values of the country’s past. Catholic military chaplains risk arrest if they offer Mass with their flocks. Obamacare threatens to cost married couples thousands of dollars more unless they divorce. Families of deceased veterans are cut off from their death benefits. Meanwhile, Obama invites thousands of his strongest supporters – illegal aliens – to break the law and rally on the National Mall.
For progressives, only the future is real. They hate history – its sharp realities cut their feet when they go there. They paint a past so evil that even the possibility of returning to it must arouse fear among the populace. “We can’t turn the clock back,” they prate.
History hurts progressives when they walk on it. This angers them. They resent it. They want to make history malleable, pliable, and obedient to their raised consciousness – so superior to those petty, limited minds of the past.
Thus America’s founders must be converted into a pack of greedy tyrants. Christianity must be derided as “the opiate of the masses,” And, of course, the Catholic Church must be pilloried as the apex of evil, since it has defined our past, and Western Civilization, for 2000 years.
The cure for envy is not a more powerful, more benevolent government. The cure is Christian love, caritas, which must be freely accepted, freely given, and freely shared. Augustine’s truth must prevail over Marx’s seductive falsehoods, it’s that simple.
A civilization of love requires freedom to flourish. “Progress” aims to destroy it.
That is the crux of the conflict that now rages in our culture.