The great novelist, Flannery O’Connor wrote, “In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. And tenderness leads to the gas chamber.” I think what she meant by tenderness we would define as misdirected compassion; compassion with no grounding in any Absolute Truth or Ultimate Accountability; compassion without wisdom or self-sacrificing love based entirely on shallow emotion; compassion that almost always carries a political agenda. To demagogues, manipulating emotion among the masses toward such compassion is vital in accomplishing their larger goals.
On the bottom-floor level of the masses, O’Connor’s misdirected compassion becomes an expression of mass distributed “cheap grace”, defined so well by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as grace that we bestow on ourselves, grace that justifies the sin, but not the sinner. Demagogues invite us to apply this kind of “cheap grace” compassion to a faceless group of “others” because it conveniently facilitates their objectives, while making us feel righteous at the lowest possible cost, usually to assuage a free-floating, false guilt that they implanted in the first place. You can tell a demagogue’s false guilt because usually it has the word “shame” embedded in it. (By the way let’s be clear, false guilt is nothing but a distraction designed to keep us from confronting our real guilt, part of which is in making fools and wolves our leaders.) It’s important for the compassion promoted by demagogues to remain vague. Very often it turns into something quite ugly when viewed on the level of messy specifics.
So how does this play out? In 1930’s Germany we are invited to show tender compassion to the Nordic races suffering under the oppression of International Jewry – which leads to a very literal gas chamber for Jews. In our day, we are invited to show tender compassion for a faceless collective called “women who have gotten pregnant and don’t want to be” – which leads to the gas chamber for millions of unborn children. (On the level of messy specifics, most of these poor young women have been manipulated into a decision that they will regret, unaware that their collective value is in the creation of fetal “product” for the giant Abortion Machine, and in assisting in the redefinition of human rights to include the murder of unborn children. This calls for real compassion for specific people who fall into this evil trap and are themselves victims of a demagogic political culture.) In fact, here in the second decade of the 21st Century we have advanced so far in our moral sophistication that we are anxious to show tender compassion for every perversion destroying the human race. Most terrible of all, misdirected compassion attempts to bind and silence real compassion that always speaks truth.
At this moment, Europe faces a perfect storm of tender compassion without wisdom. In the face of a culture-changing, mass invasion of pitiful refugees, foolish leaders ignore the growing concern of their own citizens. They ignore the very real potential for thousands of guerilla fighters to enter their countries hidden among legitimate refugees. They ignore the fact that this has happened already. Those who question their wisdom are labeled heartless, right-wing wretches, a typical tactic of demagogues. The only strategy they know is to isolate, incriminate and emasculate. But the people will not suffer this foolishness forever. There should be real fear of the leaderless masses that can arise. Caught in the middle are the true sufferers, impoverished families who have run from bloody horror. These people just want to raise their children in peace and can’t find a way to do it. They really do need help. Because we are led by arrogant fools and ignorant tyrants who insist on governing by fiat and confrontation, those who have suffered much already will suffer much more.
The disaster is not just for the refugees. It is for all of us because what is happening attacks the historic strengths of western civilization and turns them into weaknesses. Our openness, freedom and desire to show true compassion are being used against us. And in the middle of this crisis, we do not have a single leader who is trusted to speak truth to everyone, not a single leader with a shred of greatness, not a single leader who has expressed an ounce of real, untainted compassion with wisdom – certainly not the strange man in the White House. At this desperate moment in history, no more divisive individual could hold that office. For so long the strategy of all our leaders has been to divide and conquer. Well, now we are divided. The only question is who’s going to do the conquering?
Where does that leave all of us? Caught between the terror caused by massacres, false guilt, misplaced compassion, ridiculous military strategies and real physical need, it is difficult for people of intelligent goodwill to remain clear-headed. The temptation is to rage. But the worst decisions are made in rage and we are in a political season where voting out of rage will only hasten our destruction. Rage could very well elect either Hillary Clinton or her ethical soulmate, Donald Trump, both of whom ooze a noxious odor of entitlement and both of whom are equally capable of telling massive lies in order advance their causes. They are the very definition of demagogue. In a sense, both are icons of our real crisis, mercenary purveyors of the rot that is gagging us.
The western world is in the middle of a great societal transition with profound consequences that will affect every, single person. We in the United States need to ask ourselves some elemental questions. Does western civilization deserve to survive? What is there of virtue in our culture that deserves to exist for the next 100 years? And don’t talk to me about what we have been, our great traditions, etc. Don’t talk to me about being a “city on a hill”. No patriotic tear-jerking platitudes. Talk about what we have become, what we are right now. If you are old enough to remember back half a century, think about how much the United States has changed. Given our clearly established trajectory, what will we be like in 100 years? What area of our society has not been corrupted? Business? Politics? Government? The law? The military? Education? Entertainment? Religion? The home? The family? The mind? What is there of virtue worth bequeathing to generations yet unborn?
Virtue! Once the word was in common use here in the United States, but we no longer know its meaning. It means moral excellence, having high moral standards. Synonyms are righteousness, integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, worthiness, purity. Whether it was achieved or not, once virtue was considered by almost everyone to be a vital goal, necessary for the existence of our nation. Can anyone tell me with a straight face that virtue is at the heart of western civilization, that it’s at the heart of 21st century America? If you try, I will respond with the image of a recent, very popular President, the father of his country, whose moral legacy is that he introduced the concept of blow jobs down to the grade school level while abusing a morally vacuous, young woman with a high quality cigar. Through it all we were told the very great lie that a person’s private moral life has nothing to do with his wisdom and ability to govern. Placing our faith in this outrageous stupidity, we now apply it in a thousand ways, which has led us to the current dark comedy of Hillary and The Donald.
But for a single moment, let me be “nice”, because being “nice” has replaced virtue as one of the most important values of western society. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t many good and decent people doing good and decent things in our culture. Thank God, there are. But on the scales of Eternal Justice, which side is weighing down? I ask again, why does western civilization, why does the United States, deserve to exist for another 100 years?
Clearly, many of our young, educated elite see no reason. A new generation has arisen on our college campuses. They are the privileged children of intellectual and moral turpitude. Shrill and vapid, the only freedom they demand is the freedom to end freedom for others. Who are they really? The craven, non-religious, western version of ISIS. Just like the Islamic fanatics, they demand to live lives of purity, unoffended in their ever-broadening “safe spaces” by anything that might taint their carefully cultivated sensibilities. What they desire is to establish their own non-theistic version of Sharia Law within all of our institutions. Make no mistake about it, they did not arise out of a vacuum. They are the offspring of a “higher” educational system that has trashed every historic value of western civilization. But the fools in academia who have educated their “sensibilities” to such a high level of insanity are going to pay the price. Not only will these shrieking little “activists” bite the hands that have fed them, they’ll tear them off and gnaw on the knuckles. In the face of such pompous little martinets, it is tempting to say to those who believe in abortion on demand, you aborted the wrong ones.
I ask again, what is there in our culture that deserves to exist for another 100 years. Perhaps the only ones who could have given us an answer, we cut from the womb and distributed for parts. Recently, a friend asked how I thought history would judge us. I replied that I’m not concerned about how history will judge us. I fear how God has judged us. We’ll find out on the dark road ahead.