The two excerpts below were taken from the book A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett. I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and am enjoying it thus far. To set the scene for the passages below:
It is 1928. Max Hofmannswaldau, a Prussian-born count who is half-Jewish, half-Protestant (but in name only…the family was primarily secular), is visiting with his old high school teacher Dr. Fischer, a Catholic, in Breslau, Germany, where they both reside and Max as a pre-law student. Post-WWI Germany as a republic is struggling and the centrist government is beginning to be challenged by both the Communist party and the new fascists calling themselves Nazis.
“The certainties within which people used to grow up have gone. Everyone now who has any education or reads a newspaper has to make up his own mind about everything. Of most people, that is asking too much, so they find ways of allowing other people to make up their minds for them, and they will choose whatever will make them feel better. The present is difficult—when, it reality, is it not?—so the promise of a golden future is what they’re inclined to choose: this is the secret of the success of both the left and the right.”
Dr. Fischer, p. 337
“You see, what is blasphemous about both the promise of the left and the promise of the right is that neither will acknowledge the fallibility of man, his dependence on God. Both of them suppose that man can do everything for himself and therefore that there was no need for the Incarnation, no need for Christ to come into the world and die and be raised from death. That is the heart of the blasphemy, because once man has no need of God and is permitted to do everything for himself, that is precisely what he will do. The self, what I want, what I can get at the other fellow’s expense, what a few of us can get at the expense of the many, … the will of the self now has no bounds, and cruelty will be sanctioned on the right by the idea that the strongest have the right to prevail, and on the left by the idea that the strongest will deliver paradise to the weak. Which they will not.
Meanwhile, there must be judgement, exercised every day, about small things and great, exercised in the light of Christ, with reference to the absolutes, the goodness, the truth, the beauty of God, and people must be able to look to the Church for help in making these judgements. And the Church more than ever will need priests with educated minds to give people with less ability, less good fortune, the capacity to make such judgements for themselves. God does not sleep.”
“The court of the Lord is never closed, in the here or in the hereafter.”
“That is precisely right.”
Dr. Fischer and Max Hofmannswaldau, pp. 338-9
I contend that what was true in 1928 is true today in 2015 America. History does repeat, and we continue making the mistakes of the past precisely because man is in fact fallible.
When I read those passages the current presidential electioneering came to mind. Both sides of the political aisle see themselves as infallible and contend that things will be all better if the great unwashed would only see and understand how awesome they are. While there are still those who do not buy into these assertions it seems that more and more of our population looks to a political party to resolve their problems and usher in a mindless utopia. I don’t know if it’s a modern trend thanks to social media, or if the deranged have always been with us, but more and more people seem all to eager and at ease with resorting to violence to achieve their utopian ends. I saw the following, for example, only last night. It’s but one of hundreds I’m sure I could post from either side of the aisle.
The American political process has always involved a fascination with a candidate’s personality (or lack thereof) to an extent, but over the last decade it has increasingly become a contest between two cults of personality. Two parties and seemingly two different viewpoints (liberal or conservative) but more and more they are two sides of the same coin. It’s not just in politics that we have adapted this mindset when it comes to personalities/celebrities, but it is politics where its consequences are the most dangerous.
I remain perplexed by the fact that more people haven’t seen this for themselves or figured it out. When I do so the blowback I receive is largely of the sort that tells me God is not welcome in such conversations. I do not bring it up in order to steer debate towards the merits of a theocracy, so-called. I bring it up in the context of the value of man. Of virtue. Of his heart. Of the dignity and respect due to all. But once anything related to God is uttered their ears close and a reactionary defensive position is assumed. Considering they worship the self and government as idols the irony is lot on them.
I’ve sensed myself begin to develop a detachment from the world of politics and government as a result. These debates and battles have gone on for much longer than I’ve been around, and will continue long after. Men and women better than I and with more of a voice/platform have fought it but to no avail. There will always be those ready to direct the construction of a golden calf at the foot of the mountain.
We, like so many nations before us, have made government our god. Too many, as acolytes of this god, are prepared to do violence on its behalf.
It’s happened before.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.
Oct. 6 – Memorial of St. Bruno