Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: Internet Apologetics and the law of diminishing returns
Posted on 04/14/2002 8:01:03 PM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM
The law of diminishing returns is a business/economics concept that has application in our apostolates, and maybe specifically the FR Catholic Caucus' efforts here.
It refers to the fact that, in the short run, as the amount of one variable input increases, all other inputs held constant, the addition to output from each new input diminishes. This production law cannot be avoided -- if it could, we could feed the world from a flower pot!
What does this all mean?
In application to our energies and efforts here, it means spend your time where your efforts will bear the most fruit.
It is increasingly obvious that the segregation of the FR Forum has driven religious discussion into a "Religion Forum" ghetto.
Previously, religious discussions were posted within the General/News forum under Culture/Society: Discussion of health, education, welfare, drugs, abortion, environment, housing, unions, employment, social security, religion, arts, humanity, sports, and other cultural and societal issues. topic.
Thus, religious discussions were visible to all on the Free Republic Forum, and policing for bigotry and vile attacks and outright lies was more even and appropriately applied.
Now that religious discussions have been exiled to the Religion Forum ghetto, for all intents and purposes, we are no longer part of the vast majority of discussions and interchanges on the overall Free Republic forum.
Furthermore, because they finally exiled us here so that these discussions will not "bother" the rest of the Forum, they have applied a "hands off" policy that allows behavior and words that never would have been tolerated while religious discussions were part of the general Free Republic Forum.
some would say, with some merit, that we are all adults and that we should be allowed and able to engage in bare knuckled debate here.
There is a case to be made for this.
Yet this same bare knuckled debate will only scandalize the folks we really need to reach. See below for a review of "who" our real enemy is and thus where our most energy and efforts should be spent.
Previous to the exile of religion to the Religion Forum ghetto there were vibrant and intense threads on culture of life issues here on the general/news forum. These threads seemingly are few now, with all of us fighting for our lives on pointless theological debate and disparage threads, within the Religion Forum ghetto, and the culture wars are remaining unfought in the general/news forum, and religion has disappeared from that forum.
Admittedly, the scandals have served to cause this as much as the forum structure change.
My humble recommendation?
If you are truly changing someone's heart within a Religion Forum thread or have reason to think you must defend some aspect of our belief against yet another set of lies and slanders, then by all means, engage the fight. Remember though, the more they attack without charity, the more they undercut their own cause.
However, if the thread does nothing but make ALL Christians look like uncharitable folk, kooks and cranks, who are a bunch of infighting hypocrites, shake the dust off your feet, leave quietably, humbly, and charitably, and don't look back. (I've made the mistake far too many times of descending into the mire myself.)
Take a brief respite in those threads where we have been given our marching orders by our very own FR Chaplain, Father Elijah (especially Roman Catholic Concern: Action Plan Repost). Call upon our Patroness for her intercession.
Then break out of this Religion Forum ghetto.
Search all your favorite sites for articles that are appropriate for the General/News forum, stressing culture of life issues. Enter the secular threads about the scandals, pray for wisdom and understanding, and engage the debate there.
Cultivate the General/News forum threads you post or those in which you engage so that, by intellectual debate and informed discussion on their turf, you can still convey the eternal truths this world needs to hear.
Its time to break out of this Religion Forum ghetto, hold your head high as a soldier in Christ's Church Militant, and take back the field.
The scandals are not going to end soon.
But neither can we be idle waiting for a "chance" or a "change" in order to fulfill our mandate to preach the gospel. We have the only thing available to help this world. Lets share it unashamedly, without embarassment, and with Pride to call ourselves members of Christ's True Church!
I think the point has been reached in the the Religion Forum ghetto where the law of diminishing returns takes effect. It does not matter how much more effort we expend in this Religion Forum ghetto, our victories are limited by the small number of those on Religion Forum threads, and our Christian witness is undermined by the vitriol and violence of others calling themselves "Christian." (Incidentally, it was the same recalcitrant and unrepentant vitriol and violence of others calling themselves "Christian" that drove all of us into this ghetto in the first place. Let them stay here and debate how many Calvinistic angels can dance on the head of a pin. We have work to do.)
Below are two excerpts we must read and apply to our efforts here.
To win any war, the three most necessary things to know are (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him. You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.
Here is a three point checklist for the culture wars. I assume you would not be reading a magazine called Crisis if you thought all was well. If you dont know that our entire civilization is in crisis, I hope you had a nice vacation on the moon.
Many minds do seem moonstruck, however, blissfully unaware of the crisisespecially the intellectuals, who are supposed to be the most on top of current events. I was dumbfounded to read a cover article in Time devoted to the question: Why is everything getting better? Why is life so good today? Why does everybody feel so satisfied about the quality of life? Time never questioned the assumption, it just wondered why the music on the Titanic sounded so nice.
It turned out, on reading the article, that every single aspect of life that was mentioned, every single reason for life getting better, was economic. People are richer. End of discussion.
Perhaps Time is just Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great big whorehouse. For another kind, its one great big piggy bank. For both, things are getting better and better.
There is a scientific refutation of the Pig Philosophy: the statistical fact that suicide, the most in-your-face index of unhappiness, is directly proportionate to wealth. The richer you are, the richer your family is, and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains apart.
Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5000% since the happy days of the 50s. If suicide, especially among the coming generation, is not an index of crisis, nothing is.
Night is falling. What Chuck Colson has labeled a new Dark Ages is looming. And its Brave New World proved to be only a Cowardly Old Dream. We can see this now, at the end of the century of genocide that was christened the Christian century at its birth.
Weve had prophets who warned us: Kierkegaard, 150 years ago, in The Present Age; and Spengler, 100 years ago, in The Decline of the West; and Aldous Huxley, seventy years ago, in Brave New World; and C. S. Lewis, forty years ago, in The Abolition of Man; and above all our popes: Leo XIII and Pius IX and Pius X and above all John Paul the Great, the greatest man in the world, the greatest man of the worst century. He had even more chutzpah than Ronald Reagan, who dared to call Them the evil empire: He called Us the culture of death. Thats our culture, and his, including Italy, with the lowest birth rate in the world, and Poland, which now wants to share in the rest of the Wests abortion holocaust.
If the God of life does not respond to this culture of death with judgment, God is not God. If God does not honor the blood of the hundreds of millions of innocent victims then the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the God of orphans and widows, the Defender of the defenseless, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale.
But is not God forgiving?
He is, but the unrepentant refuse forgiveness. How can forgiveness be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive except a lack of self-esteem, nothing to judge but judgmentalism? How can a Pharisee or a pop psychologist be saved?
But is not God compassionate?
He is not compassionate to Moloch and Baal and Ashtaroth, and to Caananites who do their work, who cause their children to walk through the fire. Perhaps your God isthe God of your dreams, the God of your religious preferencebut not the God revealed in the Bible.
But is not the God of the Bible revealed most fully and finally in the New Testament rather than the Old? In sweet and gentle Jesus rather than wrathful and warlike Jehovah?
The opposition is heretical: the old Gnostic-Manichaean-Marcionite heresy, as immortal as the demons who inspired it. For I and the Father are one. The opposition between nice Jesus and nasty Jehovah denies the very essence of Christianity: Christs identity as the Son of God. Lets remember our theology and our biology: like Father, like Son.
But is not God a lover rather than a warrior?
No, God is a lover who is a warrior. The question fails to understand what love is, what the love that God is, is. Love is at war with hate, betrayal, selfishness, and all loves enemies. Love fights. Ask any parent. Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely compassion (the fashionable word today), but father-love and mother-love are war.
In fact, every page of the Bible bristles with spears, from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20. The road from Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained is soaked in blood. At the very center of the story is a cross, a symbol of conflict if there ever was one. The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in scripture, and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint. But it is never present in the religious education of any of my Catholic students at Boston College. Whenever I speak of it, they are stunned and silent, as if they have suddenly entered another world. They have. They have gone past the warm fuzzies, the fur coats of psychology-disguised-as-religion, into a world where they meet Christ the King, not Christ the Kitten.
Welcome back from the moon, kids.
Where is the culture of death coming from? Here. America is the center of the culture of death. America is the worlds one and only cultural superpower.
If I havent shocked you yet, I will now. Do you know what Muslims call us? They call us The Great Satan. And do you know what I call them? I call them right.
But America has the most just, and moral, and wise, and biblical historical and constitutional foundation in all the world. America is one of the most religious countries in the world. The Church is big and rich and free in America.
Yes. Just like ancient Israel. And if God still loves his Church in America, he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted, as he did to ancient Israel, so that he can keep it alive. If he loves us, he will prune us, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again, and a second spring will comebut not without blood. It never happens without blood, sacrifice, and suffering. The continuation of Christs workif it is really Christs work and not a comfortable counterfeitcan never happen without the Cross.
I dont mean merely that Western civilization will die. Thats a piece of trivia. I mean eternal souls will die. Billions of Ramons and Vladamirs and Janes and Tiffanies will go to Hell. Thats whats at stake in this war: not just whether America will become a banana republic, or whether well forget Shakespeare, or even whether some nuclear terrorist will incinerate half of humanity, but whether our children and our childrens children will see God forever. Thats whats at stake in Hollywood versus America. Thats why we must wake up and smell the rotting souls. Knowing we are at war is the first requirement for winning it.
The next thing we must do to win a war is to know our enemy.
Who is our enemy?
Not Protestants. For almost half a millennium, many of us thought our enemies were Protestant heretics, and addressed that problem by consigning their bodies to battlefields and their souls to Hell. (Echoes of this strategy can still be heard in Northern Ireland.) Gradually, the light dawned: Protestants are not our enemies, they are our separated brethren. They will fight with us.
Not Jews. For almost two millennia many of us thought that, and did such Christless things to our fathers in the faith that we made it almost impossible for the Jews to see their Godthe true Godin us.
Not Muslims, who are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ, who often live more godly lives following their fallible scriptures and their fallible prophet than we do following our infallible scriptures and our infallible prophet.
The same is true of the Mormons and the Jehovahs Witnesses and the Quakers.
Our enemies are not the liberals. For one thing, the term is almost meaninglessly flexible. For another, its a political term, not a religious one. Whatever is good or bad about political liberalism, its neither the cause nor the cure of our present spiritual decay. Spiritual wars are not decided by whether welfare checks increase or decrease.
Our enemies are not anti-Catholic bigots who want to crucify us. They are the ones were trying to save. They are our patients, not our disease. Our word for them is Christs: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. We say this of the Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Catholics, and to the Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Catholics. They are not our enemies, they are our patients. We are Christs nurses. The patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses know better.
Our enemies are not even the media of the culture of death, not even Ted Turner or Larry Flynt or Howard Stern or Disney or Time-Warner. They too are victims, patients, though on a rampage against the hospital, poisoning other patients. But the poisoners are our patients too. So are homosexual activists, feminist witches, and abortionists. We go into gutters and pick up the spiritually dying and kiss those who spit at us, if we are cells in our Lords Body. If we do not physically go into gutters, we go into spiritual gutters, for we go where the need is.
Our enemies are not heretics within the Church, cafeteria Catholics, Kennedy Catholics, I Did It My Way Catholics. They are also our patients, though they are Quislings. They are the victims of our enemy, not our enemy.
Our enemies are not theologians in so-called Catholic theology departments who have sold their souls for thirty pieces of scholarship and prefer the plaudits of their peers to the praise of God. They are also our patients.
Our enemy is not even the few really bad priests and bishops, candidates for Christs Millstone of the Month Award, the modern Pharisees. They too are victims, in need of healing.
Who, then, is our enemy?
There are two answers. All the saints and popes throughout the Churchs history have given the same two answers, for these answers come from the Word of God on paper in the New Testament and the Word of God in flesh in Jesus Christ.
Yet they are not well known. In fact, the first answer is almost never mentioned today. Not once in my life have I ever heard a homily on it, or a lecture by a Catholic theologian.
Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.
So says Jesus Christ: Do not fear those who can kill the body and then has no more power over you. I will tell you whom to fear. Fear him who has power to destroy both body and soul in Hell.
So says St. Peter, the first pope: The Devil, like a roaring lion, is going through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.
So says St. Paul: We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of wickedness in high places.
So said Pope Leo the XIII, who received a vision of the 20th century that history has proved terrifyingly true. He saw Satan, at the beginning of time, allowed one century in which to do his worst work, and he chose the 20th. This pope with the name and heart of a lion was so overcome by the terror of this vision that he fell into a trance. When he awoke, he composed a prayer for the whole Church to use to get it through the 20th century. The prayer was widely known and prayed after every Massuntil the 60s: exactly when the Church was struck with that incomparably swift disaster that we have not yet named (but which future historians will), the disaster that has destroyed a third of our priests, two-thirds of our nuns, and nine-tenths of our childrens theological knowledge; the disaster that has turned the faith of our fathers into the doubts of our dissenters, the wine of the Gospel into the water of psychobabble.
The restoration of the Church, and thus the world, might well begin with the restoration of the Lions prayer and the Lions vision, because this is the vision of all the popes and all the saints and our Lord himself: the vision of a real Hell, a real Satan, and real spiritual warfare.
I said there were two enemies. The second is even more terrifying than the first. There is one nightmare even more terrible than being chased and caught and tortured by the Devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil. The horror outside your soul is terrible enough; how can you bear to face the horror inside your soul?
What is the horror inside your soul? Sin. All sin is the Devils work, though he usually uses the flesh and the world as his instruments. Sin means inviting the Devil in. And we do it. Thats the only reason why he can do his awful work; God wont let him do it without our free consent. And thats why the Church is weak and the world is dying: because we are not saints.
And thus we have our third Necessary Thing: the weapon that will win the war and defeat our enemy.
All it takes is saints.
Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for the world? Can you imagine what would happen if just twelve readers of this article offered Christ 100% of their hearts and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?
No, you cant imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You cant imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. It is your free choice. Here is one of the truest and most terrifying sentences I have ever read (from William Laws Serious Call): If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be.
That insight is terrifying because it is an indictment. But it is also thrillingly hopeful because it is an offer, an open door. Each of us can become a saint. We really can.
What holds us back? Fear of paying the price.
What is the price? The answer is simple. T.S. Eliot defines the Christian life as: A condition of complete simplicity/Costing not less than/Everything. The price is everything: 100%. A worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake: the martyrdom of dying daily, dying to all your desires and plans, including your plans about how to become a saint. A blank check to God. Complete submission, islam, fiatMarys thing. Look what that simple Mary-thing did 2000 years ago: It brought God down and saved the world.
It was meant to continue.
If we do that Mary-thingand only if we do thatthen all our apostolates will work: our missioning and catechizing and fathering and mothering and teaching and studying and nursing and businessing and priesting and bishopingeverything.
A bishop asked one of the priests of his diocese for recommendations on ways to increase vocations. The priest replied: The best way to attract men in this diocese to the priesthood, Your Excellency, would be your canonization.
Why not yours?
Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. Crisis Magazine.
Vol. 16 - No.6 - June 1998
Section XII. The Triumph of Humility.
SECTION XII. --The Triumph of Humility.
To the souls which are faithful to Him, God promises a glorious victory over the powers of the world and of hell.
If the divine action is hidden here below under the appearance of weakness, it is in order to increase the merit of souls which are faithful to it; but its triumph is none the less certain.
The history of the world from the beginning is but the history of the struggle between the powers of the world, and of hell, against the souls which are humbly devoted to the divine action. In this struggle all the advantage seems to be on the side of pride, yet the victory always remains with humility. The image of the world is always presented to our eyes as a statue of gold, brass, iron, and clay. This mystery of iniquity, shown in a dream to Nabuchodonosor, is nothing but a confused medley of all the actions, interior and exterior, of the children of darkness. This is also typified by the beast coming out of the pit to make war, from the beginning of time, against the interior and spiritual life of man. All that takes place in our days in the consequence of this war. Monster follows monster out of the pit, which swallows, and vomits them forth again amidst incessant clouds of smoke. The combat between St. Michael and Lucifer, that began in Heaven, still continues. The heart of this once magnificent angel, has become, through envy, an inexhaustible abyss of every kind of evil. He made angel revolt against angel in Heaven, and from the creation of the world his whole energy is exerted to make more criminals among men to fill the ranks of those who have been swallowed up in the pit. Lucifer is the chief of those who refuse obedience to the Almighty. This mystery of iniquity is the very inversion of the order of God; it is the order, or rather, the disorder of the devil.
This disorder is a mystery because, under a false appearance of good, it hides irremediable and infinite evil. Every wicked man, who, from the time of Cain, up to the present moment, has
Those who practise iniquity imagine themselves invincible. O God! who can resist You? If a single soul has the whole world and all hell against it, it need have no fear if, by abandonment, it takes its stand on the side of God and His order.
The monstrous spectacle of wickedness armed with so much power, the head of gold, the body of silver, brass, and iron, is nothing more than the image of clay; a small stone cast at it will scatter it to the four winds of Heaven.
How wonderfully has the Holy Spirit illustrated the centuries of the world! So many startling revelations! so many renowned heroes following each other like so many brilliant stars! So many wonderful events!
All this is like the dream of Nabuchodonosor, forgotten on awaking, however terrible the impression it made at the time.
All these monsters only come into the world to exercise the courage of the children of God, and if these are well trained, God gives them the pleasure of slaying the monsters, and sends fresh athletes into the arena.
And this life is a spectacle to angels, causing continual joy in Heaven, work for saints on earth, and confusion to the devils in hell.
So all that is opposed to the order of God renders it only the more to be adored. All workers of iniquity are slaves of justice, and the divine action builds the heavenly Jerusalem on the ruins of Babylon.
I just think it is more important for me to be involved with threads that discuss the sanctity of life, the fate of Palestinian Catholics, etc. I have now sworn off the Neverending Nightmare Thread. And for my own spiritual health, I will not be posting to some folks. However, I do want to remain in dialogue with lapsed Catholics who are in pain but still seem to have an interest in the Church -- I want to love them back into the Church -- even though at times I want to strangle them.
Sometimes I am just a curmudgeon and a hot head, but what I want to do is to be an encourager for my fellow Catholics and to be a sound witness on secular themed threads. I pray.
Mary, Queen of All Saints, pray for us.
I have seen a number of threads deleted from the NEWS FORUM and banished to the Religion Forum because one or two individuals whined that the threads were too religious and pinged the moderators, who seem only too happy to continue this segregation.
Where is that? Wait, I'll answer.
Out in the real world.
With real people.
No, not at all. There are some things that obviously belong on the Religion Forum, as the FRee Republic system is now established.
Unfortunately, those same threads, previously, would have been an integral part of the News Forum, posted under the Culture/Society topic heading, and the thread and all posts to it would have been viewed by all FReepers viewing the latest threads and latest messages pages, not just those who now visit the Religion Forum.
There is still a need to post threads to the Religion Forum (as no other forum exists here and the moderators pull these threads from the news forums with an iron fist) and there is still the need to post on the religion forum threads.
However, the need for evangelization may be better served, and our limited time better utilized, by moving away from the Religion Forum into the New Forums where there is not only more exposure to the ideas but more need of them! Most on the Religion Forum are already committed Christians. And most on The NeverEnding Story threads are Type A personalities who are not interested in honest dialogue.
I certainly agree, and speak about God with everyone who will listen. Yet those visiting these forums are real people too.
Does "[nazi] stormtrooper," and "the Jack Chick of Roman Catholics" count?
.....and with little to no effort.
Sharing something that provides ineffable joy is a natural consequence of being human. And to think...it is just a foretaste!
Especially thankful for the Kreft article, which I've never read. Have copied for future use. I recommend to anyone interested in the topic the "Unseen Warfare" series of books, by Fr. Jack Sparks, available from Light and Life Press.
Anyone truly interested will not find a better KINDER, group of people then the regulars on TNS. We welcome all newcomers who have a topic for serious discussion. The regulars have been posting for over a year and yes, at times we get silly and have fun, but when an honest discussion is brought forward we have lively discussion. It might get hot but we all respect each other.
I was rasied catholic and am now a Fundamentalist. The posts from catholics on these threads makes me think you all have persecution complexes. Most generally when some one disagrees with a catholic they immediatly yell "Catholic basher/hater, bigot, anti-catholic. You all are the ones who do not like serious discussion, because you can't discuss the bible, only catechism which doesn't hold up to the bible.