It’s the culture, stupid
2017 has been kind of a train wreck, hasn’t it?
Lately it seems like each week has brought news of another mass shooting, another massive sex scandal, another round of accusations and tarnished reputations and fresh outrage and calls for … something.
But I can’t help noticing that we seem to want to have our cake and eat it too, collectively speaking.
Frankly, this is the culture we’ve built for ourselves, constructed on promises of sex without commitment or consequence, violence as entertainment, and the pursuit of personal appetites at any cost.
We lament the violence done to women and the apparent backsliding of decades of feminist progress in our nightly newscasts, but the commercials between segments are filled with soft core porn using women’s bodies to hawk products.
We flinch at each new accusation of predatory sexual violence that hits our newsfeeds, many coming to light decades after the fact, while we meanwhile hound our elected officials for greater access to abortion and contraception, those necessary components fueling the sexual revolution.
We reject God and His laws, written into our very bodies, and then we rail against the cruelty and evil that springs up in the absence of a moral compass.
In short: this culture is one of our own making.
And it cannot be cured in Washington.
America – the entire world – can only return to greatness by falling to her knees.
Until and unless we get serious about pursuing personal conversion and cultivating holiness, this is what the world will look like.
This is what the world was like, before Christ, and this is the natural state to which it will return as we reject Christ. You might call it the human equilibrium, determined by the introduction of Original Sin and remedied by one thing alone:
The world can be saved, one soul at a time, by Christians willing to live out their faith without counting the cost, leading people to Him. But as long as Christians play at the game of going along to get along with the world, whether that means an outright rejection of the faith or a lazy complacency where we drift through life in a haze of busyness and Netflix, then this is the new reality.
Life with Christ is, as St. John Paul II was fond of joyfully reminding us, “a wonderful adventure.”
But life without Him is a nightmare.
Guys, we’re living the nightmare right now.
I have some ideas.
First, we have to get serious about our own personal prayer lives (looks meaningfully into mirror). I am the first to admit that falling into bed with my Kindle at 10 pm is immeasurably preferable to spending time with my Bible or rosary. That’s because my spiritual muscles are flabby and undisciplined, worn down by years of parenting small people and self-medicating with mindless entertainment and distraction in the evenings. I have to commit to at least a solid 15 minutes of serious mental prayer at some point in the day, offering back to God a fraction of the time He has given me. I know this, but actually doing it is another matter entirely.
Second, there are areas in my life where I have not fully given Christ Lordship. I’m thinking of a few novels I’ve read lately, grimacing and skimming over the explicit sex scenes and degraded morality but justifying continuing to read because “most of the book is fine.”
But it’s not fine. It’s not fine for me to read a book that is 10% pornographic content, justifying that the other 90% is Tolstoy (which it sure as hell ain’t). I’m no prude, and there is a place for realism and grit in literature, but what I’ve been encountering with increasing frequency in modern fiction is straight up smut: graphic, gratuitous, and worst of all, conscience-numbing. How silly to be striving to form my conscience and conform my mind to Christ’s while continuing to fill it with garbage. Maybe your garbage takes another form, but you probably know exactly what it is.
Which brings me to…tv. And movies. There’s a lot to choose from and a veritably limitless array of options, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary to just turn the thing off. I spend a good amount of time and energy devising ways to protect my kids from sexual deviance and premature exposure, and we put a lot of effort into forming this area of their personalities to be receptive to goodness and beauty. How can we spend a hour or two in the evenings fast forwarding through garbage, letting our own consciences become dulled by repeated exposure to pornographic content, homosexuality, adultery, sexual violence, witchcraft, and abortion and expect that there will be no long-term effects?
What goes into us very much affects what comes out of us.
Our consciences can become deadened and dulled by repeated exposure to garbage. What is shocking the first or seventh time it is encountered might not even raise the blood pressure the 40th or 100th time. Try popping in a DVD of a popular sitcom or drama from the 90s and then contrast it with, mmm, pretty much anything that’s popular in primetime in 2017.
You may be astonished at how much has changed in a relatively short time. By how “tame” the innuendo and violence, and how seemingly chaste the onscreen depictions of intimacy.
We’ve come a long way in a short time, thanks in large part to the internet, and very few of us have taken the time to step back and ask “is this okay?” rather than getting pulled along with the tide. It’s a small, necessary sacrifice I can – and must – make, as a parent, as an adult.
Finally, we need to be heeding Our Lady’s call to the children of Fatima and making regular sacrifices in reparation for our own sins and for the sins of others.
We each have a role to play in the sorry state of affairs of the modern world. We have been asked to pray, to make sacrifices, and to offer up suffering for the good of our neighbors. Those neighbors are our own family members, the people across the street, and the monster who shot up a church last weekend.
We live in a kind of modern fantasy of autonomy and individual freedom, when in reality, we are all intimately connected to one another by virtue of our brotherhood in the family of God.
Look, I am the absolute worst at fasting and making sacrifices. Happily, God has given me a tidy pile of stuff to offer up in the course of living out my actual life, if only I would consent to suffer willingly and intentionally rather than always proceeding directly to “thrashing about like a wounded animal railing at the injustice of it all,” which seems to be my default setting when confronted with pain.
But I needn’t waste it. I can offer up those midnight wakings, the stomach flu, the broken down cars and zeroed out bank accounts, the wrecked out bodies and the agonizing, lonely hours of solo parenting during business trips or endless Tuesdays. I can offer my little loaves and fishes to God to do whatever He pleases with, and perhaps it pleases Him to do something insanely miraculous with the crumbs.
But first I have to offer them.
Finally, we must be unashamed in our witness of faith in the public square.
Christians in the early Church were set apart form the depraved pagan culture from which they sprang because of the way they loved one another. Because of their marriages, their charity, their civic engagement and their unwavering witness to the truth.
And yes, some of them were killed for it. And they went joyfully to their martyrdoms not for love of pain, but for love of Jesus. We will probably not be martyred in a literal sense of shedding blood. But our careers? Our reputations? Our friendships and social status and financial stability?
Yeah, those are all up for grabs. We ought to be prepared to offer them willingly, if He asks. We should absolutely fight for just laws and morally sound legislation, but we should also be prepared to be increasingly marginalized as the cultural free fall – which shows little sign of halting – continues. We know how this game ends, but it might be a hell of a fourth quarter, so to speak.
I keep coming back to JPII’s most oft-repeated phrase when I read the news lately: Be not afraid.
That’s the hope we can offer to a world that is bleeding out in self-anihilation, seeming to crumble before our very eyes.
Be not afraid.
Be not afraid.
Be not afraid.
But also, be not an idiot. Be not caught doing nothing, when the Master returns. Be not a complicit accomplice in the carnage that is laying waste to a civilization.
I can’t save the world with my one little life, but I can offer it to God to do with it what He sees fit. And when He asks for something, I can give it to Him without hesitation, knowing that the steely core of the Christian identity must be a readiness and willingness to suffer as He did.
Yes, to all of this. It’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Thank you for the prompting!
ok literally the only people who can change this is you, so instead of complaining about, try to help fix it
This is a strange response, because that’s exactly what Jenny is calling for in the post! Yet it sounds like you’re suggesting we change ourselves in opposition to whatever you got out of the post. Does it not sound to you like the point of this post is to effect personal change in each of us, author and readers alike?
Thank you for this. I am right there with you. These truths are important and need to be heard.
All I can say is the biggest AMEN I have ever said!!! Thank you so much for taking the time and having the courage to write this! It’s everything we should all be doing! I will be sharing and forwarding this and trying to also do a better job! Again thank you for standing up for JESUS!
Bless you, Jenny! And be not afraid.
Now let’s get to it.
I. LOVE. THIS. Thank you for writing this, Jenny!
Amen! Thank you for the write up. May God help us all!
This says what I’ve been thinking. I’m one of the authors at http://www.CatholicTeenBooks.com It’s why we write what we write: counter-cultural, with themes and elements that point readers to deeper, meaningful truth. No smut or other soul-destroying content. But highly entertaining!
Theresa, is there a way to get these books at a discount price? This lowly catholic school teacher, 1 income, homeschool family is struggling to make ends meet.
My thoughts exactly, and well stated. Thank you.
Hubby and I were just talking about this earlier today… People outraged over a culture’s misbehavior caused by the culture they’ve all voluntarily created. And everyone is staring at the train wreck, gawking and gossiping, horrified, but not looking for a cause. But thing is… People are broken. They self-medicate, some through sexual addiction, or substance abuse. Others may indulge in violent forms of acting out. But at the heart of it, we need Jesus. We need to know who we are in Him, despite how our earthly family may have let us down. The only healthy way to self-Medicate is through developing ones own prayer life and clinging to our Lord, the divine healer. So, yes to this Jenny! So glad to hear someone calling us all out. I do hate that we have to pass up so many options on Netflix and Prime. But the hundreds of shows delivering pornography and violence are contributing to today’s sexual criminality and violent tragedies. Ironically, many celebrities are seemingly disgusted by the sexual predatory behaviors that are being uncovered and yet, has it occurred to them that they work for an industry that intentionally creates and profits from programming and print that lures its consumers via sex and violence? And let’s not overlook that at least one reason many victims in the entertainment industry stayed quiet so long was to avoid tanking their showbiz career. Dr. Conrad Baars (Catholic, deceased https://baarsinstitute.com/product/born-only-once-the-miracle-of-affirmation/) worked extensively in studying the human need to be affirmed. And he pointed out in his book (or audio book!), Born Only Once, that many celebs are drawn to the spotlight because they were unaffirmed in their family life and seek it in the entertainment industry, which of course cannot suffice. This perhaps also gives some explanation for the many substance abuse and failed relationships in that industry as well. Anyway, my husband and I agreed that all this will likely play out, scandal after scandal, but psychological professionals probably won’t speak out to share the reason behind such a rise in sexual addiction (the root of sexual predator behavior) and if any religious authorities reach out, offering Jesus as the answer, it will fall on deaf ears. Because as a native southern Californian I can tell you, in Hollywood, success is King, self promotion is religion, and emptiness is filled behind closed doors with a false remedy that eventually results in death or prison time. I’m with you, Jenny. I need to do a better job of offering up sufferings while they happen. I tend to think of it after the storm blows over. It is up to the faithful to be the spiritual support for the masses. Let’s unite in prayer that Truth is revealed to victims and predators. That somehow the suffering brought about in today’s many cultural woes will draw those who are far, close to Jesus. That Mary may gather her children and guide them to her son. That all people can acknowledge their brokenness and seek The Savior to meet their needs and pursue spending eternity with Him.
I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now but never commented. I want to scream everything you just said at the top of my lungs! I could not agree with you more and have felt this way for years. As a mom of a 15, 13 and 10 year old, work and a husband, I do not have time for tv – but if it is on, it is a sports game and even at that, I need the remote close by to change for the awful commercials they show, even before 8 pm . We don’t have Netflix and if I do read, it is only the bible or other faith based books. If I feed my soul garbage then I will slowly become numb to it. I try so very very very hard to instill this in my kids even though it goes against everything society is telling them. When they will let me, I play Christian rock music and they all have some on their phones/ipods. We are fighting against society right now. Jenny, thank you for the courage it takes to write amazing articles like this. Thank you for putting your self out there to go against what we are told is right, which is really evil. Thank you for letting me know that there are people out there that think the same way I do and are trying to convey to our children how off track this world has turned. Keep the faith and keep up the great work. You are giving us the gift of knowing we are not alone and we are all fighting together to go against this tide we are up against right now. Thank you Jenny!
Jenny, many people complain about the culture . . .while on their way to the store to pick up an even bigger entertainment center to deliver that culture to their families. So, I would say, rather than, “It’s the culture, stupid,” “It’s the parents, stupid.”
As a 75 yr old I remember very clearly when TV came into our home, in about 1956. We were a Catholic family then. Of course, everyone now is shocked, shocked, shocked by the sort of thing you mention in your post, but it began along time ago, a walkdown of our morals that has been relentless. For example, I can remember staying up late as a sophomore in high school to watch the Jack Paar Show, where something would be said that was offensive to Catholic morals. Yet, it was not so offensive as to prompt one to get up, cross the room and turn off the TV. One did not want to be a prude. And, besides, was that not up to Mom and Dad? So, we all sat through it, our family, the parish, the Church. And a week later, something else would be said, just a little bit raunchier, but the principle had been established: We were not prudes. And our consciences were sufficiently hardened to bear this further insult. Do you know I can still remember some of the double entendres. This was the supposedly innocent 50’s when things began to go to hell in a very big way.
And it was not only a question of WHAT we were watching, but that we were watching watching, watching-typically three and four hours a night of being mesmerized by the TV. Now, at my age I am in mourning over what my life might have been. Had that beast not been in our home, I might well have become a priest, but it played a very large part in my corruption. I would resolve to study, but the sound of excitement and laughter would reach my room and I would have to go down to see what it was all about. Yes, of course, this was my fault, but still, where were my parents, our priests, the bishops? And if one took a walk in the evening, the scene was the same in every home, the grey light flickering behind the curtains.
Yes, we were watching, watching, watching, and long about 1968 the first generation raised on TV came of age. At this point, the moment a sit-com or western came on, one knew within minutes what the plot would be, so large numbers of my age cohort turned to sex, drugs and rock and roll, for in taking marijuana is not one also being passively entertained? Isn’t pornography and illicit sex simply an intensification and an acting out of the demonic spirituality we were being fed? For an account of all this see The Plug-in Drug by Marie Winn.
What an excellent response. Thank you for sharing it. I am much, much younger than you, and I often wonder what the older generation thinks about these things.
Even though we are in a culture war and have been for 60 yrs that I know of, no bishop has to my knowledge suggested that we should get the main vector of that hostile culture out of our homes. To me it is almost laughable that we complain about secularists being secularists, when we will not get the main instruments of our own secularization out of our homes, namely the secular media.
We argue with the secular propagandist but will not throw him out of our homes. Brilliant. What a strategy! Contend with the enemy on his own turf and according to his rules and then wonder why we are being crushed, why our children are leaving the Church in droves.
So now, as a remedy, we have the New Evangellization, which might have amounted to something if we had first overcome the old De-Evangelization. But no, smile, be winsome. Be positive. As for Hell, as for eternal punishment, as for the worm that does not die and the fire that is not quenched . . .shhhh.
Is it really a culture war after all, or a battle between Heaven and Hell? Does “culture war ” even belong in the Evangelist’s lexicon? Even that term is a secularization of the gospel and a euphemism. We are in a transcendental battle between two kingdoms, the issue of which will be eternal blessedness for the few, and eternal damnation for the many- salvation or damnation- and the key, effective phrase not yet found in the mouth of the New Evangelists is “Save yourself from this perverse generation.
In my view, at least, the parents of Solanus Casey ( Capuchin priest of Detroit to be beatified Nov 18th), Bernard and Ellen Casey, deserve a very close look on the part of the Church, at least here in the United States. As you may know, Jennie, in response to the vocations crisis those in the vocation promotions biz have been pushing the “culture of vocation,” which has come to mean “the vocations cross” being handed off to a new family at Sunday Mass every week, “come and see” weekends and the like. Yet in Avvenire many years ago I saw in Italian an article heading which illuminated our situation vis a vis vocations perfectly: “The Culture of Vocation vs. The Culture of Distraction.”
The Caseys implemented an authentic culture of vocation perfectly, with almost predictable results. And one might presume that a similar culture in many Catholic homes of that era gave many priests and nuns to the Church. Then came movies, radio, TV, the internet, Distraction on steroids. So, perhaps we have mistaken our crisis altogether and do not have a vocations crisis so much as a parenting crisis. One looks into the home of Louis and Zellie Martin some years earlier, and finds the same sort of thing in the evening,a family gathering around the parents, the lives of the saints being read . . .a culture of vocation.
“At a time when television and movies were not even imagined…stories and songs provided the Casey family with sufficient entertainment. Especially when snows landlocked the family, this kind of entertainment kept spirits from becoming morose. Often the children played games. Other times Barney Sr. and Ellen gathered everyone around the dining room for an evening of literature. Barney Sr. would read the poems of Tom Moore besides those of Longfellow and Whittier. Stories like Cooper’s The Deerslayer held the children fascinated for long periods of time.
“Bernard and Ellen Casey were creating a caring environment which enabled young Casey to become well-integrated and balanced. For their role in his spiritual formation, the future Solanus would be forever grateful… In many ways Solanus was able to be who he was precisely because of the way his parents nourished him in his youth.” (from a life of Solanus casey)
THAT is the culture of vocation. It was surely the seedbed of Solanus Casey’s vocation, the sine qua non of his sanctity and of his being raised to the altars.
Jennie, I have had the same struggles you are having, only thirty and forty years earlier. In my experience, the notion of ratcheting back one’s involvement in secular media or elevating one’s principle of choice of secular media is essentially illusory. Ultimately, it doesn’t fill the void, nor can it. So I would strongly suggest to you and your readers that you get the bad stuff out of your homes altogether and get the good stuff in to entirely displace it, that you create a culture of vocation in your homes. Not only so that your children can hear the call to the priesthood or religious life, but so that they can hear a vocation to marriage, for that matter, but most importantly, a vocation to holiness. How can you or your children hear the voice of God in the midst of secularizing clamor?
How could you go wrong, in terms of getting to Heaven, by simply throwing out the TV? Or reducing it to a vector of good Catholic dvd’s? By purging your home of secular novels? Etc. And getting lives of the saints in?
And whatever would comport with Family Evenings Together.
Great post, as always! First to admit that I almost didn’t read it because I can’t take another “here’s what’s wrong with the culture explanation.” It’s like, I KNOW, I KNOW, why doesn’t anyone else in this world get it?? It’s so frustrating to have a majority of non-religious family & friends who think you’re insane for using nfp but then you see the newest group text message pop up about the outrage regarding the latest sexual scandal… and the complete inability for most people to connect the dots. I feel like we are at evangelization square one as most people I know are not lapsed or lukewarm in their faith… they just never received any faith formation in any capacity to begin with! However, since christianity is so culturally “familiar” no one seems to be receptive to wanting to learn. I feel like my frustration has been bordering on despair so it was so refreshing to see your post about looking inward first.
One Holy family can change the world. I love that you brought up the Fatima message. I wanted to add that in the Fatima message Our Lady also talks about First Saturday’s. Check out the First Saturday devotion. Our family just started it. It is something we can do to change the world!❤️
I’m with you, Jenny!
This Gina is also with you Jenny! 😀
Well put!!! Also so one thousand percent agree about the books! I feel like I cannot trust any recommendations because of the lack of rating. Do you have a book club of books that don’t even have to be religious just no smut? It’s crazy present in literally everything.
Check out Well-Read Mom! There are classics, spiritual reads, plus some selections from newer authors. It was developed by a Catholic mom and has become quite popular in the US and abroad. I’ve been a part of a group for about 5 years now and it’s awesome! https://www.wellreadmom.com/
“15 minutes of serious mental prayer at some point in the day, offering back to God a fraction of the time He has given me.”
Easily done for the Catholic: The Divine Office. Sing lauds and vespers, and that is about 2o minutes per, so 40 minutes in the day.
This “senior citizen,” age 76 will be heading for our parish Adoration Hour this evening. My husband and I are retired and figure that our retirement job is one done on our knees. As one respondent mentioned above, I also have tickets to the Fr. Solanus Mass in Detroit on Saturday. We are blessed after a long wait! Great post. Thank you.