This is really it. We’ve lost, and the Left has won. My grandchildren will be brought up to despise everything I venerate. All trace of the sacred will be lost. Age after age of atheist hedonism, a spiritual night without end. I see it all so vividly, and I feel oppressed by the weight of it. How do I carry on?
Don’t you think you’re being a bit premature?
What about differential fertility? ”The future goes to those who show up for it” and all that.
They control the schools, the media, and the culture. It doesn’t matter how many children we have, because they’ll just take them from us. That’s the worst part–our own children turned against us.
What about the Muslims? I’m sure they won’t give up without a fight.
I’m sure they will. They’re already reliable communist voters throughout Europe and Obama supporters here.
That’s just because the Left offers them the most goodies.
Exactly. They could stand up to atheism or they could pursue their material self-interest and indulge their urge to stick it to the white man. That will always be the choice, and the Left will lead them by it to destruction.
Still, you can’t extrapolate from current trends. Something might happen that would cause humanity to change course.
It hasn’t changed course in the two and a half centuries since liberalism appeared. There are good reasons to think it can’t.
But what about Leftism itself? Many conservatives, even among our friends here, think Leftism is inherently unstable. In that case, it must eventually give way to something else.
It’s all wishful thinking. Leftism is the most solid and stable social force that’s ever existed. Prosperity enhances it. Hardship enhances it. Upper class snobbery and lower class resentment both feed it. It succeeds deftly in making powerful groups–government bureaucracies, client minorities, etc–dependent upon it. All the most energetic and intelligent sectors of society are committed to it. It is almost infallibly successful in passing itself off from generation to generation. Economic, demographic, and ecological disasters may come, and Leftism may even be their cause, but it doesn’t matter, because Leftism is optimally situated to profit from them.
All right, suppose–for the sake of argument–that all this is true. Why does it bother you so much?
Why? Because my enemies own the future!
And you, being a conservative, own the past. Doesn’t that make you even?
The past doesn’t exist. It’s gone.
It exists as much as the future. In fact, I would say that owning the past is better, because knowledge of it, and thus “ownership”, is a surer thing. I suppose one might say that really neither past nor future exist at all, except as remembered or anticipated by the present, but that view has some troubles. It would imply a preferred reference frame, and the laws of physics as we know them show no evidence for such a thing. Plus, there would be no way to make sense of God’s eternity. Worst of all, it would mean that that statements about the past can’t really be true or false (except as statements about what is remembered), because there is no existing past to make them true or false. Then crimes forgotten by everyone really never happened, which is immoral as well as absurd to imagine. Let us say, therefore, that both the past and the future exist, but, like distant points in space, they are simply not present to us. Let us say, as our Faith and reason require us to, that eternity also exists, as the mode of being (or even–to stretch it a bit–the perspective) in which all times are simultaneously present. Don’t you see how progressive you’re being, thinking that the future is automatically some sort of preferred time, a time that’s somehow more important than any other time?
Isn’t the future more important, at least in terms of meaning? The end of a story says a lot about its meaning. Victory retroactively redeems the sacrifices made for it, and defeat retroactively makes them futile. God Himself sees things this way. A man who lives a saintly life and then apostasizes before death is damned, while a shameless sinner who repents at the moment of death is saved. At that moment, God makes a judgement on the man’s life. The first man’s life is a story of a tragic fall; the second man’s life is a story of redemption. It was that last moment that determined what kind of story the whole thing would be. I say that history is like that as well. If the Left owns the future, it in some sense owns the past as well, because it owns the meaning of the past.
You are confusing very different things. At death, God does not judge a man’s life as a whole; He judges the current state of that man’s soul. You must remember that the unity of meaning imposed in a drama is a peculiarity of that art form. In a well-structured tragedy, all elements of the plot are locked together and produce a sense of necessity. It is this overall dramatic logic that determines the end, both how the plot resolves itself and what that resolution means, not vice versa. A man’s real life, however, is full of “subplots” whose meanings don’t have to match each other or some overall narrative arc. Let us take the case of the man who lives a good life until the end, when he turns away from God. Is it true that his earlier good deeds are stripped of their meaning and value?
Certainly they lose all the value they would have had for him. He might as well have spent his life drinking and fornicating, for all the difference it ended up making to his salvation.
True, but is that the only measure? Does “good” always have to mean “good for…”? Can we not also say of an act of charity or courage that it is good that it happened–not good for anyone or anything necessarily, but good in itself? Such acts, I would say, have their own value and beauty. Even when all their effects are wiped out and they are totally forgotten, it will always be good that they happened.
Let me propose a thought experiment. Suppose in one hundred years, Leftism has completely won. It is so successful in getting people to join its rebellion against God that every human being alive is born reprobate. Then some natural catastrophe strikes and the human race is obliterated. Then the Left’s “ownership of the future” would consist in ownership of one century. Would you really be so jealous of that?
No, but the fact that humanity has not yet suffered such an extinction event shows that the chance of one happening on any particular century is pretty small. It is likely that humanity has much more time than that left.
Yes, but the point is that that time is finite. Every man’s life ends in the grave, and species are no different. Setting aside Christ’s physical return to Earth–which would end any anti-religious victory pretty decisively–humanity must eventually go extinct, even if it takes millions or billions of years. Eventually, the last sentient being will die, and time and erosion will erase even the physical traces of the dead civilization. It will be as if humanity, and all its loves and aspirations, had never existed. So don’t talk to me about “ownership of the future”. Move the flag far enough forward on a timeline, and no one can claim it except inanimate matter. Save your jealousy for the dark energy–if it exists–and allow some compassion for the Leftists, who–regardless of who wins this war–are just as mortal as you.
Is all this talk about the extinction of humanity really supposed to cheer me up?
Well, we don’t deal in cheap consolation here. You are right to be discomforted by transience, by the things you value in this world passing away, but you haven’t thought it through all the way. You’re still looking for redemption in time, a special magical time you call “the future”, but what you should be realizing from all of this is that you’ll never find it there. You must look to eternity. From the perspective of eternity, virtue and good deeds are never futile. From the perspective outside of time, outside of anyone’s interest, it is good that they have happened. Sacrifices made even in this doomed war against Leftism, provided they spring from true charity, have an eternal value.
All right, I suppose the issue of who gets the last batch of souls isn’t really the most important thing. But there is another cause for despair, namely that the Enemy gets many more of them. Suppose–as is quite likely–that humanity continues on for millennia, so that the total number brought up to join in the Left’s Satanic rebellion ends up numbering in the hundreds of billions. Surely this is a catastrophe even from the perspective of eternity.
Have you ever wondered why the Fathers of the Church didn’t despair? After all, most of them believed that the total number of souls saved is a very small fraction of the total. They thought this even about the last age of men, after the Incarnation when the Church was visible and the ordinary means of grace readily available. How much more perilous they imagined it to have been before Christ, when the world (outside of Israel) was steeped in pagan darkness. Like you, they thought that most of the generations of men will end up having passed without benefit of the gospel. It’s just that they thought that most of the generations of mankind were in the past before the Incarnation, while you think that most generations are in the future after the Church Militant is destroyed. From the perspective outside time, there’s not much difference, and yet they never saw this as a reason for discouragement.
Shouldn’t they have? If they were right, and Christ had really been born a mere generation or so before the end of the world, wouldn’t it have meant that He was born too late because only a small number of the totality of mankind were left for Him to help?
You must remember that, from the perspective of eternity, human civilization and even the mass of humanity are very small things, a tiny corner in the mansion of being. The vast–indeed infinite–expanse of being is God Himself. You imagine that if humanity rejects God, He will be like a pathetic deposed dictator shut out from the big vibrant world that will carry on its business as well without Him. Foolish man! It is humanity that is exiling itself from the source and plenitude of Being. If everything outside of God should join Satan in rebellion and hellfire and be utterly degraded, God would still outweigh everything else, and existence would still be good overall. If every human being but Christ Himself should reject grace and be damned, humanity itself would still be saved because Christ Himself outweighs all the rest of us. As the New Adam, He contains all of humanity, and his obedience would be the definitive response of Man to God, even if Christ were the only one to make it. But in fact, we have reason to think that there have been many saints, and each of these saints has a supernaturally good will, so that each of them would trump the mass of humanity, who have only naturally bad wills.
You are right. From the perspective of eternity, I should say that God will always be there in His Heaven, and that’s the main thing. But I have a hard time keeping this perspective.
That’s mostly because you don’t try. You pray far too infrequently; you have allowed your spiritual life to atrophy. When you spend all your time thinking in time rather than eternity, it’s no wonder that the former comes to seem more real to you. In fact, I would say that you should be very grateful to be living in such wicked times.
Yes. The manifest transience of this world is a blessing; if the world weren’t falling apart, few men would ever think to look beyond it. If you could find anything but God in which to take comfort, you would never come to Him. Faith does not come naturally to a man like you. You would much rather put your trust in demographics or plausibility structures or other things that seem to you more solid. God put you in this time for a reason, because this time–degraded though it is–is the time that gives you personally the greatest opportunity for holiness. You asked what your consolation should be, and the answer is that it must be God and nothing else. All other supports are falling away. You must cling to Him.