The Jabberwocky Strikes Again
For the sake of one’s personal peace it is tempting to turn away from the outrages and absurdities that daily assault us by way of the media. The discretion of the turtle maneuver (withdrawing into one’s own shell) often appears to be the better part of valor. But some affronts to common sense are so provokingly egregious that a response cannot be resisted.
Yesterday brought us the text of the Pope’s Lenten Message for 2019. As all the headlines declare, Francis has chosen an “environmental” theme. The Pope who denounced the evils of air-conditioning, the failure to recycle enough paper, and manmade greenhouse gases; who seems to value the ecologue above the decalogue, is now telling us that Lent is an opportunity to redeem nature.
Francis has taken for the text of his exhortation the words of St. Paul to the Romans: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”
As with many passages in St. Paul, the precise meaning of this verse is not immediately evident. It is always good to start with the literal meaning and, if that makes no sense, then to consider an analogical one. Some commentators say the word “creation” refers primarily to us, to human nature in its fallen state, and that our transformation in Christ is what is eagerly awaited. Others accept a more literal meaning and believe “creation” refers to nature – minerals, plants and animals. The imputation of eagerness to the creation must then be interpreted as a poetic expression, a human personification of the sub-human.
This second and broader meaning also entails a vision of nature as somehow having been deformed by the Fall. It is then suggested that when we are redeemed, the world itself will be redeemed, so to speak. Just how this is to manifest can only be a matter for speculation. Perhaps, the lamb and the lion will lie side by side in peace, as in the image from Isaiah. Perhaps roses will lose their thorns. Who can say?
The principal thing St. Paul wants to impress upon us is that we can become children of God in Christ. That the world is created for us and its harmony or disharmony is somehow a reflection of our spiritual condition may prove an edifying thought, but it is not the essential thought of St. Paul. If our salvation transforms the world of minerals, plants and animals, that is a secondary benefit, not one that can or should be our motivation for sanctity. Francis, although he says some orthodox things, strikes a strange tone in his Lenten message. He not only puts the cart before the horse, he puts the horse before the man.
The Pope appears primarily to stress our responsibility to nature, not to our own redemption in Christ. It is our sin that wounds nature, and nature longs to be free from our predations. The Pope says that he hopes this Lent will bring “the hope of Christ also to creation, so that it may be ‘set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God’.”
With the best will in the world, it is not possible to make sense of the Pope’s interpretation of St. Paul. We cannot imagine how vegetable and animal creation can have hope of any kind, let alone the hope of Christ. Nor is it possible to imagine creation as chafing under its “bondage to decay” and longing for liberty. The Pope appears to make the redemption of nature, however that might be imagined, an obligation that is laid upon us, and our own redemption a means to this end.
St. Paul’s words are often mysterious to us, for he speaks out of a vision of Christ that is as real and immediate to him as physical perception is to ordinary men. He does not see the world as separate from Christ in any sense. All is an expression of the Logos. And it may be that St. Paul was given the knowledge of how a new Heaven and a new Earth will appear. But such mysteries must be approached cautiously by those of us who have not been granted St. Paul’s vision. To reduce these words to the Romans as an endorsement of contemporary environmentalism is to make a mockery of the sacred.
The minerals and plants and animals are not spiritual beings. They have no intellectual life or moral aspirations. Environmentalists often speak as though rocks and plants and animals are superior to human beings. The calculus used in such an assessment is understandable: we look at nature and find there an absence of the malice we see in men. But this does not make the creatures virtuous or superior. They are simply incapable of the higher life of the soul. We cannot imitate a daffodil or aspire to the complacency of a cow. We are men made in the image of God, endowed with free will and struggling toward our salvation.
One reason we turn to nature when we are in distress is that we find in its placidity a welcome relief from the turbulence of human emotion. When we look upon a mountain landscape or walk through a forest, we experience a sense of Divine order and beauty. We do not detect an impatience among the trees and rocks directed at us, urging us to get on with the business of redeeming them. We are not reproached by the flowers as being responsible for their imminent decay. The animals do not look at us imploringly as their potential liberators, whatever that may mean. This cannot be what St. Paul intends us to understand, even if Francis implies it.
Why does the Pope use Lent to push the Leftist agenda? Environmentalism has become synonymous with virtue for the Left. It can be made an excuse for extending the reach of government into the lives of individuals and effectively assuming control of private property by regulating its usage. The Earth becomes a god, and we become saints or sinners based on how well we serve the Earth. “Environmentalists” become the priests of this religion and they are given the power to issue commandments and punishments for “sinners” – those who resist the agenda. The agenda, of course, is government power.
Environmentalism is a rationale for globalism. The planet must be protected from the smaller interests of nations and individuals and that requires a global authority. The Paris Climate Accord was an attempt to further global government. President Trump’s withdrawal and the Yellow Vest protests in France represent a temporary setback, but we have several presidential hopefuls in the United States saying Climate Change is an imminent existential threat to humanity. Public school children are now taught this as a matter of fact. It is presented as “settled science” and laws criminalizing dissent are in the offing.
And we have the Pope telling us now that the holy season of Lent offers us an opportunity to liberate the plants and animals from the bondage imposed upon them by our sins. The Pope does this because the Pope is a Leftist. He serves the globalist agenda.
One thing that we must always bear in mind in trying to understand the Left is that its ideology is its religion. Everything must be subordinated to its agenda. This is why the Pope cannot speak about Christ or the Catholic Faith without making it about immigration or environmentalism or racism or xenophobia. Francis may be the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, but he is a loyal Leftist. The god of the Left is the god of the New World Order, and it is a jealous deity.
If Lent is about environmentalism, what part of the Leftist agenda will Easter serve? We can be certain that the Pope will tie it to a political cause that will advance globalism. We can be certain that so long as Francis has the papal bully pulpit, he will use it to subordinate the Faith to the rising power of globalist rule. Heaven help us, because Rome won’t.