Foggy Times

There is something eerie or unsettling about fog. Various movies have been made that strike fear into minds of viewers such as the 1980 movie, The Fog, and its many offshoots including the 2007 thriller by Stephen King, The Mist. Fog generally scares us. But why?

Fog seems to be that one thing that light has the most difficulty in penetrating. A single candle can light up a dark room, but even in the middle of the day, fog can be an impediment to a clear path. It keeps us from knowing what is just in front of us and that can strike fear into our hearts.

It is driving down the highway and not knowing if there is a tree across the road just a few hundred feet up. It is sailing on the open seas and not knowing if an iceberg is just ahead of you that you can’t steer clear of in time. But it really isn’t the fog, or the dark itself, that scares us.

We fear the dark, not necessarily because it is dark, but because we can’t see. We were made to see and clarity of vision is an objective that we will pay vast sums of money to obtain, from glasses to contact lenses to Lasik surgery. It is by no mere coincidence that one of the most often cited miracles Jesus performed in the Gospels is the healing of the blind. Probably because blindness is one of the things we fear the most.

With this in mind, we appear to be living in an age where clarity of thought and purpose are continually diminishing. Numerous supposedly “new ideas” are running rampant in our culture that really only serve to confuse and befuddle those who pause even briefly to actually think critically about them. And our culture continues to tear down every barrier it comes across without giving even a seconds thought about why it was there in the first place.

It is no wonder that there is a growing sense of unease in our culture. Through the power of social media, in just a very short period of time, entire swaths of the public can shift their views, and with not much more coaxing than a mere 280 characters on Twitter. Words and concepts are redefined faster than the dictionary can print them. Truth is relative, people are dazed and confused, and we can’t even talk about it for fear of upsetting the thought police. Language is obscured, thoughts clouded and the ship is sailing so fast, we are not much better off than the Titanic on that fateful night, with masses of people oblivious to the impending doom. We are certainly living in foggy times.

But regardless of how foggy things get, reality remains. The laws of physics certainly don’t cease to exist in the midst of the fog. Just because you can’t see the cliff ahead does not mean you won’t fall off of it if you step out too far. In the same way, the laws of nature and morality don’t cease to exist just because someone says they do. The more confusing the world gets, the more fearful people become and the effects are disastrous.

1 John 4:18 says “[t]here is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This implies in a metaphysical sense that as fear invades the soul, it can conversely cast out love. Two dissimilar things cannot occupy the same space. As the confusion sets in, fear begins to take hold and root out the very love in our hearts. Although some may question the cause, few can doubt that we are living in times where hatred is becoming the new normal. So how do we get out of it?

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

St. Paul provides us a clue, namely that with virtue comes clarity and understanding. But we can’t read this statement in a vacuum to imply that love is all we need, to quote the Beatles. The secular culture would have us believe that love is just simply the answer to all as evidenced by many of the newer movements such as the “love not H8″ movement. However, as mentioned before, the words themselves have lost meaning. The love that they speak of is not really love in its truest form. It is a mere shadow of the love of which we, as Christians, speak.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 14:4-8 (NAB)

The love that St. Paul speaks of is certainly not the love of which our secular culture speaks. Our culture generally does not admit of a love that sacrifices. Secular love does not bear all things, only some things. Secular love is quick-tempered and broods over injury, just look at any divorce statistic. The vows of love in modern marriage have been reduced to promises to “love” one another in sickness and in health, but only so long as the sickness doesn’t require me to sacrifice too much. Secular love cannot endure all things, only those that do not conflict with individual needs. Secular love also does not rejoice in the truth. By the contrary, it dispenses with it at once if it runs counter to the passions.

Our problem is exacerbated even by some in our Church who, whether it be to avoid discord or worse, out of malice, speak of the same type of love, a love void of truth. In recent times, even priests and bishops have been complicit in this tactic. But this has the ultimate end of achieving anything but love. As we’ve stated, confusion actually begets the opposite. As Catholics who recite and sign the Trinitarian formula with regularity, this should not be hard to understand.

As God is love (1 John 4:8), Jesus is truth (John 14:6). One cannot exist without the other without tumbling down the path of heresy. Truth without love may often be a weapon, but love without truth is nothing but a lie. It is Satan’s trick. He is never so bold as to tell an outright lie. That would be too easy to see. Instead, he empties words of their meaning, creates confusion and promulgates half-truths. In this case, love emptied of truth.

To find our way, we must seek out the Christian truth and clarity in our times. With clarity of mind and thought, we will find in short order that fear can be cast out in favor of God’s love, the love that is one with the truth. It is time that Catholics begin to seek out that truth with fervor, and speak it in love. That is the light that will cut through the darkness. We’ve been here before, we’ve done it before. Jesus gave us a Church and promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail. It is that Church, the same one that defeated the Arians of the fourth century that is our last best hope for defeating the Arians of the 21st.

Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes. The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves. The truth about the Catholic attitude towards heresy, or as some would say, towards liberty, can best be expressed perhaps by the metaphor of a map. The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is, in fact, a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel.

There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially; nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.

G.K. Chesterton, Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds (1926); reprinted in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. 3 Ignatius Press, 1990