we can toss traditional morality

In her towering masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, portending a world very much akin to the one we find ourselves living, Ayn Rand begins by introducing Eddie Willers, an everyman who senses ominous doom and acute dread with neither the answers as to why nor the ability to change the way things are or the way they are becoming. It is that sense of the unknowable and the indiscernible that makes Eddie and us uncomfortable. “Eddie Willers walked on, wondering why he always felt it at this time of day, this sense of dread without reason.“

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

We find ourselves living in an age and a place that we find increasingly uncomfortable and disconcerting. Seldom can we comprehend the root cause of our anxiousness even though we can often point to this issue or that and say with some level of confidence “that is just plain wrong.”

In an article entitled Empire of Desire, in the June/July 2014 issue of First Things, R. R. Reno writes “Yet, underneath all this we find an antinomian sensibility. We are trained to be suspicious of longstanding moral traditions; we are told to adopt a critical attitude toward inherited norms. That’s not just an academic habit of mind. It serves a moral conviction, widespread though often tacit: that human beings flourish to the degree that they’re free to satisfy their personal desires.”

First, a digression, if you will allow: Reno uses the word ‘antinomian’ of which I must confess I was unfamiliar so I looked it up. Within Christianity, an antinomian is “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation.” This may sound vaguely familiar, especially when rephrased as “Salvation comes from faith alone, nothing further is required.”

What Reno is describing is a culture and a philosophy steeped in the notion that it is better to feel good than to be good, that antiquated moral principles and archaic biblical commandments of human social norms are without merit or value. “Life is better, more humane, and more just to the degree that we succeed in relaxing the grip of traditional morality over our interior lives so that our desires can be more freely satisfied.”

Reno concludes by warning that the greatest threat we face is not terrorism, climate change, nuclear proliferation, genocide, or poverty, but rather it is “the antinomian revolution in the postmodern West that poses a more fundamental existential threat to the human future, because it erodes the cultural capital necessary to respond to these challenges, and to others. The richest and most powerful countries in the world are dominated by an intellectual class that, however individually self-disciplined and well intentioned and personally influenced by inherited moral traditions, give metaphysical priority to desire. They train us to live as docile, dutiful citizens in the Empire of Desire, asking never what is right and true but instead what is ‘healthy’ and ‘empowering’.

It is that “dread without reason” that permeates our souls when we find so many believing that we are ruled solely by desire, accepting innate moral law as a myth and a hindrance to maximizing our own satisfaction. God has become irrelevant. Faith has become irrelevant. Desire is all that matters.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

1 Comment

  1. Spot on Deacon Chuck…

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