"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The undying light in the darkness

Today, in the calendar for the Roman liturgy according to the ordinary form, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In the New Testament, the Baptism of the Lord affords the only occasion when all three persons of the Trinity were sensibly manifest. I love that partly because I love trinitarian theology, but more because our world is in ever-more desperate need of the undying light that pre-existed and, for those with eyes to see, suffuses it.

Two news items today bring home the darkness for me, and a third brings out the light.

The first bit of darkness that enveloped my spirit, out of the countless ones that could have, is what's been going on in Gaza this month. It seems like pure darkness not because either side is purely evil—as Solzhenitsyn said, the line between good and evil runs through each human heart—but because the evil in each side so much obscures what's truly good about them.

The Palestinians cannot be faulted for desiring their own homeland, or for resenting the Israeli blockade of Gaza that persisted even during the fragile cease-fire of the last six months of 2008. But the Gaza Palestinians are governed—if one can call it government—by people whose avowed aim is to destroy Israel, not to live alongside it. They hate Israel more than they love their own children whom, forsooth, they educate to glorify "martyrdom" for the cause. One Hamas leader has agreed with an al-Qaedist's proclamation that "we are going to win, because they [the opponents of radical Islam] love life and we love death."

When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it tore down synagogues and left behind greenhouses. Instead of turning the greenhouses into farms, the Palestinians tore them down too. Instead of turning other buildings into factories for goods to be exported for sale, Hamas turned them into factories for making Qassams to rain down on Israeli homes and schools. As soon as last year's ceasefire expired, they started shooting other rockets, imported from Syria and Iran, that reach further and explode in a wider radius. Now that the Israelis have become so fed up that they've gone into Gaza to destroy Hamas' military capability, the Palestinian civilian toll mounts because Hamas fights mostly from civilian areas and structures. If you want to attack Hamas militants, you often can do so only at the cost of shooting or blowing up the children and women all around them. It's a brilliantly, fiendishly cynical Hamas tactic—as evidenced by the fact that there's far more media attention to and world outrage about Palestinian civilian casualties caused collaterally by the Israelis than about Israeli civilian casualties caused deliberately by Hamas.

Not that the Israelis avoid all sin, mind you. Not everything done by the soldiers of a country at war is right. But exactly what, in the grander scheme, is Israel supposed to do about an enemy that attacks its territory daily as a putative religious duty, sometimes causing civilian deaths? Another ceasefire that leaves the Hamas infrastructure intact will only allow Hamas to rearm for the next round while being protected and motivated by all the outrage over this one. And that's exactly what most of the world seems to want. Once again, the Jews are expected to acquiesce in their own slaughter. Only Satan is laughing.

Another bit of darkness is of interest mostly to that minority of the world's population which either loves or hates the Catholic faith. Apparently, the Dutch foreign minister has summoned the papal nuncio for that country to "explain" the Pope's opposition to the proposed UN declaration on human rights and homosexuality. Now I doubt that the Dutch government is particularly concerned about the Vatican's stance on homosexuality; rather, the homosexualist lobby is so angry that it's become politically necessary for the government to appear concerned about the Vatican's stance. This is really depressing. I have only recently digested the fact that, in my lifetime, the majority of Westerners with higher education have moved from regarding sodomy as immoral to regarding opposition to its sanctification by the state as immoral. The Netherlands in particular has had gay "marriage" for years. But now the Vatican arouses fury there by suggesting that countries which still penalize sodomites should not be penalized in their turn by the United Nations. All pretense of tolerance is dissipating. It won't be long before churches which still preach against sodomy, or even use the term, are persecuted in the name of an enlightenment which is really an endarkenment.

There is a bit of light, however. With hat tip to Taylor Marshall of Canterbury Tales, I note that Dr. Carl Djerassi, a co-inventor of the birth-control pill, has now repudiated it. Dr. Djerassi merely points out the obvious: we now have a "demographic catastrophe" in Western Europe. Of course this is not a bit of light. The light shines from the fact—on which I have often remarked—that by the end of this century, the only surviving Westerners will be those whose parents had enough faith in God and creation to replace themselves. Next to its parents, that generation will have the Catholic Church to thank for its existence. For she is the only Christian body that has not only maintained the ancient ecclesial consensus against contraception but also articulated the purely spiritual reasons for that consensus.

"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him."
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