Even as anarchy seems to spread like wildfire to every corner of the globe, the most vociferous defenders of liberal democracy seem to retreat ever deeper into abject denial. One recent example: When the mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold was asked in an interview whether she believed in the existence of evil, she paused then replied, “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I do.” But what really sent a chill down my spine watching that clip was her utter, and I believe genuine, sincerity. Obviously there had to be a disconnect from reality somewhere in her process of logic. Nor am I singling out Ms. Klebold who, I believe, is only echoing a more widespread disconnect that seems to have pervaded the entire Western society.
Headlines daily confirm the reality of existential evil at every level, and yet it seems that all the media and political classes want to do is to shift the discussion to social conditions, poverty, guns. or mental illness. The one subject that is rarely raised in any of these discussions is morality, specifically personal moral responsibility. How did we land in this quagmire? Meanwhile acts of indiscriminate violence spiral out of control worldwide. Expanded personal freedoms were supposed to liberate the human spirit and usher in a new era of happiness and peace. Instead they appear to have brought society to the brink of political and social anarchy.
I believe this phenomenon is only symptomatic of a deeper malaise systemic to our modern liberal democracies. The exaltation of the individual, via an ever expanding “culture of rights,” has, in fact, produced a kind of spiritual anarchy which now reigns in the souls of countless men and women. It is precisely the failure of our democratic systems to hold “free spirits” morally accountable that permits and encourages individuals to indulge in ever more destructive behaviors. In short a secularized, personalized type of moral relativism has been steadily the undoing of the West, and by extension the whole world. If a woman is permitted to butcher an innocent child in her womb then why should the jihadist flinch at butchering a hoard of innocent bystanders on a beach? The only difference is the body count, but the principle remains the same. If we refuse to identify evil for what it is close to home then it will inevitably filter into other places that we never imagined. Warping or bending the truth to suit our own ends will invariably backfire. Truth is an objective reality, not some relativistic proposition. So in order to live in an orderly, peaceful world it becomes essential to subscribe to an absolute, not merely relativistic, truth.
But is there such a thing as absolute truth? Well, if the mind can apprehend the idea of truth, that in itself is a pretty good clue that such a thing may well exist. For if truth does not really exist then what is the point of our possessing such inquisitive and complex minds? The object which the mind naturally seeks out is truth, just as the object which the heart invariably seeks out is love. Truth and love then are what we as humans naturally desire. In a sense they become our deepest connection with reality.
Truth speaks to the mind just as love speaks to the heart, and in fact these are the only two things that have the power to mend our broken world, Truth and Love. Not surprisingly, these are also the two primary attributes of God who is both all truthful and all loving. It is only mankind’s retreat away from the one true God, who revealed himself in the Incarnation, that has brought us to the present crisis. Every evil action in the world today can be rightly ascribed to a lack of truth, a lack of love, or both. To deny truth or to deny love, even in those little activities of life, is to deny the all good God. The consequences of such denials are that evil will fill the void where truth and love were meant to be.
The greatest threat to our existence may not be the modern terrorist but the modern skeptic whose denial of absolute truth has had a toxic effect on today’s world. If truth is only relative, then morality itself is equally plastic and relative. By asserting mankind’s faith to be in “progress” over faith in God, skeptics have bequeathed us a world of increasing uncertainty about our loving God, about ourselves, even about reality itself. That perhaps explains why the mother of a mass killer can innocently, though irrationally, muse about the non-existence of evil. Evil is real, but fortunately for us it is also transient. The only reality which is both unchanging and immortal is the objective reality of God. It is God, and not ourselves, who defines absolute reality. To deny God is de facto to deny reality itself.
The true battleground is not between terrorists and governments, socialists and capitalists, cops and criminals. It is between Truth and those who would deny or dissemble the Truth. We must choose which side of that spiritual battle line we intend to stand; which general we intend to follow. Truth, after all, is not just an idea it is a person, the Incarnate Word of God who himself proclaimed, “I am the Way the Truth, and the Life.” This is the greatest of all realities.
Fran Pierson +a.m.d.g.
Read my new book, Word Without End, The Mass, Splendor of the Incarnation, which can be ordered through piersonworks.com