September 20, 2017

Musings in Moral Theology (1)

Musings in Moral Theology (1)

I chose the title The Righteous Mind to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.

• Jonathan Haidt
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Sacrifice—the purity impulse—marks off a zone of holiness, admitting the “clean” and expelling the “unclean.” Mercy, by contrast, crosses those purity boundaries. Mercy blurs the distinction, bringing clean and unclean into contact. Thus the tension. One impulse—holiness and purity—erects boundaries, while the other impulse—mercy and hospitality—crosses and ignores those boundaries.

• Richard Beck
Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality

• • •

The two most important books I’ve read over the past few years, especially for these partisan and divisive times in which we live, are:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt,

— and —

Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, by Richard Beck.

I did two posts on Beck’s book back in April of 2014:

In another post in which I mentioned what I learned from his book, I wrote:

Many puzzle pieces fell into place when I began to realize how many “theological convictions” have roots in one’s own sense of that which attracts and repels. These impulses run deeper than cognition and analysis. This book (and others) helped me see that my opinions are often more visceral than rationally-based.

In fact, the message of both these books is this: rationality is overrated when it comes to developing our moral psychology. 

We think we are reasonable people. We examine the evidence, the arguments, the facts, and then we come to our moral conclusions.

Both Haidt and Beck dispute this, and offer studies to prove that this is simply not the way things actually work.

Our morality is determined rather by our intuitions, our visceral and emotional responses, our conscious or subconscious loyalty to the group to which we belong. Whatever moral reasoning we do tends to follow intuition and emotion, and its purpose is to (1) confirm what our impulsive self has already decided, and (2) to keep us on good terms with the group with whom we identify.

For the next few weeks, on Mondays and Tuesdays, we will be considering various insights from Haidt and Beck.

The main point, as Richard Beck says, is that “there is an affective, experiential, and psychological aspect to theological reflection.”

I would add, as well, “moral” reflection and “political” reflection. Much of what is going on when we “take a stand for truth” is that we are, in reality, exhibiting more of our own visceral and emotional responses to various situations, and then using whatever rational arguments we can muster to justify our “righteous” position.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    I was reading about how ‘extremes’ of opposing ‘sides’ in the culture wars seem to have certain characteristics in common. An example would be intolerance of any dissent from the side’s extreme point of view.

    One idea was that extremists show signs of mental illness, and that is an extremely interesting and complicated theory.

    My own thought is that we have a tendency to gravitate towards that which resonates with something within us, even though it may not seem ‘reasonable’ to those around us.
    What is that old saying? ” The heart has its reasons that reason cannot understand.”
    (?)

    • flatrocker says:

      I’ve always thought a reliable “extreme indicator” is directly related to the number of bumper stickers a car displays. Far right and far left seem to share this common trait. Not sure what to make of it other than to mostly avoid those drivers.

      • While I agree that extremists often have a bumper sticker mentality, self described moderates and centrists ( which Tend to be people who denigrate the far left and right) are often irrational in their own way. I am not picking on you, but I want to talk about this because that centrist belief in their own rationality is often misplaced. For many of them, their irrational emotional need is precisely to seem moderate and centrist, as though Truth is always to be found there. But if you think about it, the centrist position changes drastically over the years on al sorts of issues, as do the locations of the extremes. The centrist position on race relations a couple generations back would be considered racist now and the centrist position on gay marriage has shifted drastically in the space of ten or twenty years. The arguments for invading Iraq were centrist and the people who were mostly skeptical of those arguments were often treated as nutty.

        And on abortion, I was recently reading a science fiction feminist utopia from 1915 that I had never heard of called Herland. It was in a collection in a book at Costco that I bought. The interesting thing was that this very left leaning author put very anti abortion sentiments in the mouth of a character who represented this feminist utopia.

        The centrist position of today is often the far left or far right position of the past or future, but centrists often think their positions are correct because they are centrist. Wait awhile and the nutty position will be the one held by the centrists of the future, or go back and it was the position all sensible centrists believed in the past.

        One final point–people are usually acutely aware of the fanaticism and arrogance and bad behavior of the people who disagree with them and blissfully unaware of it in their own group. Centrists are no exception.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Complicated by the wierd reality that Americans very much think of themselves as Centrist Middle Class – regardless of where they fall on either the political or economic spectrum; there is a pervasive lack of self-awareness regarding class especially. Nobody wants to be “poor” and nobody wants to be “upper class”. Few people want to be “right wing” or “fundamentalist” even if they clearly are [this particular problem does exists more on one ‘side’ than the other].

          I am an Upper Class Democratic Socialist Civil Libertatian HEMI (Housing/Education/Medicare/Infrastructure) guy. And I am an orthodox Apostle’s Creed Christian with Catholic sympathies.

          Conversation is much easier if everyone starts out self-aware of where they are; there actually isn’t ONE center. As a HEMI in can find a lot of agreement with people who as a Civil Libertatian I don’t – and vice versa. Obviously as an orthodox Christian the same is both is and is not true.

          It is important to break things down.

          • Christiane says:

            ‘Know thyself’ 🙂

            I think the greatest test of ‘who we are’ may come when we face our personal moral and ethical dilemmas. It is there that we come to know our strengths and weaknesses; it is there that we see our own values clarified (or not, depending on how the dilemma tears into us) . . . . . . I have emerged from several of these experiences and become both humbled and aware of strength that I did not know I was capable of.

            I don’t recommend such ‘dilemmas’ as THE way to a solid testing of a personal evaluation of one’s own character, because it is often a painful and traumatic journey. But it is revealing. And emerging from it, we sometimes grow in self-knowledge if not in self-esteem. But we also emerge with some sympathy and empathy for our own human frailty and by extension, the frailty of others. . . . . . . and also an acknowledgement that, all labels aside, we can determine ‘who we really are’ by how we come to care for one another in times of trouble.

  2. This will be an interesting series.

  3. Burro [Mule] says:

    This, from Dr Haidt’s TED talk

    “The great conservative insight is that order is… precious, hard to achieve, and easy to lose”.

    This explained so much of myself to myself. I think I have a liberal neurology, as Dr. Haidt would explain it, but I couldn’t abide a society composed of like-minded people. I would derive much more benefit from being a disruptive agent in an ordered society than I could be as just another aging hipster in Midtown [Atlanta].

    I’m not optimistic. After all, how do you change your galvanic skin response when you watch two men French kiss on screen?

    I solicit prayer. I have had a volcanically adverse month – serious sickness in the family, litigation, financial reverses, and the estrangement of an intimate friend.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      PS – Just out of curiosity, I googled responses to Haidt’s TED talk on both Democratic Underground and Free Republic. The silence was deafening.

      The only place I found any enthusiasm was at the much-maligned Chateau Heartiste (no link provided for the weak of stomach), where the genetic divergence between liberal and conservative was celebrated and amplified by a discussion of physiognomy, supposedly as a hunting guide for future Brownshirts.

      Heh, heh.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        I’m curious about the draw this and other white nationalist and/or misogynistic sites has upon you. Do you find them compatible to the trajectory of the teachings of Jesus?

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          This deserves a four page response.

          The short answer is that I BRIEFLY saw the the alt-right as possible allies against a world drunk on Jacobin egalitarianism. I no longer do, but I can assure that I agree more with Doug Wilson’s views of gender than with the Dees and their fellow travelers.

          Your use of the language “the trajectory of the teachings of Jesus” evokes the Tony Blair/Hillary Clinton Egalitopia with all the right-minded people in charge, supporting and celebrating an apostate self-creation fueled by Affluence, Freedom, and Technology. Basically, the N.I.C.E. Maybe that isn’t fair. I hope it isn’t.

          Be assured, I espy a different trajectory. Esp. Paragraph 15.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            I can assure you there is nothing Jacobin about egalitarian views. Wish I could say same for Douglas Wilson’s gender views. Who are the Dees?

            You don’t see Jesus’ teaching having a trajectory away from tribalism, racism, sexism? We can certainly disagree on the severity of that trajectory.

            • Burro [Mule] says:

              When someone says “racism”, “sexism”, etc, , what I hear is “bad dog”. The hackles go up.

              It would be good to stop using that suffix.

              I see Jesus’ kingdom as a trajectory away from Power towards Love, not pretending that there are no significant differences between groups of people in the aggregate.

              But once again, I think we are dealing with a limbic issue and not a frontal lobe issue. We won’t agree.

              • Clay Crouch says:

                Who’s pretending? I agree that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, his parabolic ministry, and his ascension is a trajectory away from power towards Love (God). Why wouldn’t that rejection of power find it’s conclusion as Christ is all and in all?

                Is union with God limited to the frontal cortex?

              • Clay Crouch says:

                Those “isms’ have been and still are primarily about power, certainly not love. Especially in Douglas Wilson’s worldview.

              • Mule, so sorry to hear about your season of trouble.

                In an interview with Haidt I heard, he raised another idea about “trajectory ” — one that I intuitively responded to, since it confirms what I’ve said about affluence, technology, and freedom.

                He noted that generations who go through severe hardships, such as our own “Greatest Generation,” tend to be more conservative and focus on values such as loyalty, authority, and sanctity. However, their children and grandchildren (such as the Baby Boomers) tend to embrace more progressive values such as care and fairness. Not facing the same hardships and enjoying the fruit of their fobears’ struggle, they are free to focus on different values and concerns.

                Of course, this is generalized, but I see some truth in it. One generation builds a world of prosperity, polluting the earth in the process. Then they have children who just want to clean it up.

                • Burro [Mule] says:

                  Toynbee in a nutshell:

                  Strong men generate good times
                  Good times generate weak men
                  Weak men generate bad times
                  Bad times generate strong men.

                  PS – I think that quatrain’s from Heartiste. Probably not original from the Dark Lord, but evil is seldom original.

                  Thanks for the prayers. I need them badly.

                  • Robert F says:

                    If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. — William Blake

                  • StuartB says:

                    The wheel in the sky keeps on turning…

                  • Christiane says:

                    ” . . . . in us, the good is something under construction”
                    (Flannery O’Connor)

                  • Clay Crouch says:

                    And so long as you do not know that to die is to become, you are just a wretched visitor on this dark earth. —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                  Like the four generations of the Strauss-Howe Cycle, raising the next until it works into an 80-90 year pattern.

              • Donalbain says:

                When people criticise you and what you do, your hackles raise up. Therefore it is good not to criticise you.

    • Robert F says:

      I will pray for you and your family, Mule.

    • Mulo, so very sorry you are having such a hard time and wish you were close by. Two aging hipsters with beverage of choice glad to be avoiding the fray of all those exhibiting their own visceral and emotional responses to various situations, and then using whatever rational arguments they can muster to justify their“righteous” position. You get prominent mention by name in my daily mile long prayer walk and I’ll be doubling down. Take care, my friend, and keep an eye peeled for obstinate lurking lessons.

    • Robert F says:

      Mule,
      Are you an aging hipster? Or are you just aging?

  4. brianthegrandad says:

    The book by Haidt is a very interesting read, especially since he was a self described politically left partisan and yet came to some of the conclusions he did. he believes the political left would do much better on certain issues if they were ‘framed’ better. And they ‘owned’ those issues and made progress with them in years past when they were presented in the manner that fits Haidt’s assertions, at least according to Haidt.

    Haidt isn’t the only one who’s stumbled onto this idea. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert strip, has said the following:

    “When politicians tell lies, they know the press will call them out. Politicians understand that reason will never have much of a role in voting decisions. A lie that makes a voter feel good is more effective than a hundred rational arguments. That’s even true when the voter knows the lie is a lie.”

    “Few things are as destructive and limiting as a worldview that assumes people are mostly rational.”

    Why these things make people feel good is part of Haidt’s research you’ll find in the book.

    • StuartB says:

      Scott Adams is not a good authority to be quoting or taking direction in life from.

      • Brianthegrandad says:

        Doesn’t lessen the truth in those two statements, pessimistic as they may be. I’m not proposing a church of Dilbert.

        • It’s less Dilbert and more Scott Adams I’d be concerned about. He’s…changed? If I’m being charitable.

  5. Neuroscientists and psychologists inform us that the human thought process works something like this – bluntly put -we make up a really good sounding story for ourselves and then spend the rest of the time accepting sensory signals that seem to confirm this story and blocking sensory signals that seem to contradict it. And, alas, we continue to do this even when it’s brought to our attention that we are doing it. It’s not a bug in the program; it’s a feature.

    Should we despair? Well even though we cannot “cure” ourselves of this there are ways to mitigate the most harmful effects. One way we can do this is by deliberately seeking out alternative points of view. Exposing ourselves not as a way of accepting them or refuting them or mocking them but trying to understand how someone could arrive at the place where THEY accepted them. Pick the group that most pushes your buttons, that seems the most flabbergasting to you, and try a little experiment. Assume for a moment that they are not fools or demon possessed. Ask yourself how could someone arrive at that position? (At some point you might begin to consider, how did I arrive at MY position?)

    Now I’m not a saint. I’m just as deluded as anyone else. But I had good teachers (not all at school) and I can tell you this experiment is very useful. It works. It might be as simple as a liberal subscribing to NATIONAL REVIEW or a conservative subscribing to MOTHER JONES. (I live in WASH DC where it’s a little easier to manage. Everybody comes here. I have attended TEA PARTY rallies and hung out with the OCCUPY folks when they set up camp at McPherson Square. I even went to whatever the hell that was that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did down at the Mall.) The Internet is very useful for this experiment because most points of view have an active presence online. But it is a mixed blessing because it allows the creation of enclaves where you don’t have to exclude contradictory signals because someone is doing it for you. You wind up with echo chambers where nary a dissenting idea can intrude. How blinding is that?

    The usual criticism of this kind of approach is that you will wind up agnostic and Hamlet-like, unable to choose between opposing points of view. And partisans and true believers will always look on you with suspicion. But we’ve seen where the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’ and the “my way or the highway” approach has gotten us, especially in the last couple decades, haven’t we? Maybe we need more Hamlets. Maybe the GREY AREA is the honorable place to be right now, instead of merely a boarding zone on our way to the next unquestioned certainty.

    So here’s where I am. I detest Trump and ever since the election I’ve walked around with this clinched fist in my gut, made up of equal parts anger and a sense of betrayal. How could we turn our country over to this guy? But I can’t walk around like this for four years. I don’t like what it’s doing to me. (One of the very worst things about Trump is the effect he’s had on the people who oppose him.) And look, even when he crashes and burns, the people who support him aren’t going away. I’m determined to try to understand. The chances of me ever becoming a Trump person are nil. But at least I will know what I oppose rather than just what I think I oppose. ‘Know Your Enemy’ the sages say. But also ‘Know Thyself’. Cause maybe in the end the real enemy is always ourselves.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      I can readily identify with your feelings on Trump. As you noted, I can’t walk around like this for four years.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > The usual criticism of this kind of approach is that you will wind up agnostic and Hamlet-like,

      This is pretty much exactly my approach – and I can assure anyone that this will most certainly not be the result. What you do is progressively sort through the things you are most-certain|convicted about and those which you are willing to hold more loosely. This important part is learning that holding something more loosely is not the same as releasing everything; but one cannot go through life holding everything tightly. If you do so you will likely end up going mad; and you certainly won’t have much fun.

      > Maybe the GREY AREA is the honorable place to be right now,

      I dislike the “grey area” idea, or any notion of “balance”, or “middle”. It isn’t “grey” to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t see a definitive answer”, or even “I don’t find disagreement on X to place me or my family in peril”. The notion of a Grey Area keeps the Moral valence that makes conversation difficult, it still smells like Judgment.

      > But at least I will know what I oppose rather than just what I think I oppose

      Best is to know what you Support, or envision. Live towards something, rather than living in avoidance.

      • Christiane says:

        Adam, you wrote,
        ” Live towards something, rather than living in avoidance.”

        and I thought about the theme of ‘metanoia’ in Christianity, that I had reflected on some years ago, this:

        Soon, I hope that people stop reacting and focusing on the ‘darkness’ . . . satan has received enough attention
        and now it is time to look forward towards the light and repent of the sin of hopelessness in the way Christ taught us to repent:
        The Hebraic expression of repentance involves replacing a negative connotation with a positive one, focusing on the superior state being approached rather than the inferior prior state being departed from.

        For too long, some Christian people have spent time ‘repenting’ by being negative themselves, and focusing on the negative in others’
        instead of celebrating a positive returning towards the Lord . . .
        a turning that involves a journeying of the mind, the heart, the soul, the spirit, the strength of a person becoming increasingly focused on Christ.

        This has many names . . . teshuva, metanoia, repentance
        . . . . the one who has been ‘in darkness’ begins the turn towards the ‘light’ “(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)”

        darkness is the absence of light . . . Christians must not continue to dwell negatively on the darkness once they have begun the great journey towards the light of Christ

        we examine our souls and remove the power of satan to drag us back into hopelessness and despair . . . we move towards the light of Christ, and we don’t turn back to be impressed with the defeated power of darkness again

    • brianthegrandad says:

      Haidt dealt with this very simply. If we can bite our tongue, so to speak, for two minutes and reflect on the argument, we may change our mind. In other words, if we can let the flare-up from the reptilian part of our brain pass, the frontal lobe can evaluate it beyond fight or flight. Easier said than done, but it turns out Mom was right: Count to 10 before you speak.

    • Christiane says:

      I’m there with you, Stephen.
      Everyday I thank God for the powers-that-be who brought Mueller in to investigate. At LEAST, he will sort out if we have more to worry about than what is already known. It doesn’t look good and I have three serving military in my family: a Coast Guard officer, a Navy doctor, and a Navy nurse. Yeah, clenched fist in my stomach, too.

      How long, O Lord, how long?

      I can make it through four years, but can our country? And my poor family?
      My father’s homeland of Canada is looking like a possible refuge should we become a banana republic, but I’m now for the ‘Resistance’ as long as what I do is legal and honorable.

      Be strong, Stephen. All shall one day be well. 🙂

      • Scott Shaver says:

        Why wait until the full flower of a banana republic in the U.S., Christianne? Seems you could pack your things and move to Canada now and avoid the headaches in this country which you seem to focus on exclusively.

    • olbaldy says:

      (One of the very worst things about Trump is the effect he’s had on the people who oppose him.)

      I admit that I am enjoying watching this.

    • I don’t like what it’s doing to me. (One of the very worst things about Trump is the effect he’s had on the people who oppose him.)

      Stephen, that’s a concern of mine too. I’m trying to remain merely fascinated by all of this, knowing that it will all pass and will be written up in the history books and life will go on. I’m really trying to keep my outrage level down and am concerned about one of my daughters who thinks the worst.

      I do think that the daily scandals may be a deliberate shell game, distractions from far bigger issues like North Korea, or the Russia connection.

      • Scott Shaver says:

        A sure sign that the sitting POTUS is getting some constructive work done IMO

        • Robert F says:

          Translation: The lack of evidence of things getting done is evidence of things getting done. There, folks, is a pristine example of the Bizarro World logic of the Alt-right. Other examples: the fact that there in no evidence that Seth Richards was killed by the DNC is the main, overwhelming proof that he was; the fact that nothing untoward was found at Comet Pizza is proof that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta are running a Pizzagate child sex trafficking ring there; the fact that there is no evidence that there was widespread voter fraud to the benefit of Hillary Clinton and the harm of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election is proof positive that there was such fraud. And the beat goes on….

          • Robert F says:

            …Seth Rich.

          • It’s the oddest thing really. Many of the ones who call themselves “conservative” today are really anything but. They are, in essence, anarchists who distrust order and want to conserve nothing. Or they’re dreamers with a sentimental nostalgia that is as utopian as the communists.

  6. Stephen says:

    Adam If you don’t like “gray Area” pick any metaphor you want. Personally I think the whole world is a grey area. It’s the black and white that is the illusion.

    I know what I support but then so did Mussolini. Here I’m trying to understand what I oppose. That is the opposite of avoidance.

    • Robert F says:

      But, if the people who support positions that we oppose support those positions largely for non-rational reasons (just as we support ours for non-rational reasons), as the theme of this post is purporting, how are we supposed to understand it when they don’t understand it themselves? Or vice versa? All we could ultimately come to understand is that there are few or no rational reasons for the support they give their position, or the support we give ours. How is that understanding?

  7. Rick Ro. says:

    –> “Sacrifice—the purity impulse—marks off a zone of holiness, admitting the ‘clean’ and expelling the ‘unclean.'”

    Hmm…I don’t see sacrifice that way, but maybe my “purity impulse” is off.

    For me, sacrifice is less about a “zone of holiness” than a recognition of being unclean and maybe trying to atone for that. And truth be told, my own “purity impulse” isn’t really tied to sacrifice at all anymore. I know that it’s only through Christ that I will ever become fully clean. In fact, if there’s anything I get out of the good news of the gospel that I’d like to share with anyone it’s that sacrifice is no longer necessary! Done and finished on the cross!

    But even as I write this I realize there are people – Christians – who are all about the zone of holiness. Thus we see, in lines outside Christian concerts, people telling us we’re all going to hell.

    –> “Mercy blurs the distinction, bringing clean and unclean into contact.”

    Anyone seen “Dunkirk” yet? I’ve seen it twice. Riveting, powerful movie. Left me breathless at times. Anyway, there’s a very profound scene toward the end that encapsulates mercy and grace in response to something tragic. I hadn’t expected to see something at that spiritual depth in the movie; the inclusion of it raised the movie to beyond merely “good.”

    • Christiane says:

      I hope to see this movie soon. I remember the scene in that old film where the British people came to get their soldiers in all kinds of boats . . . . . a whole flotilla of moms and dads coming for their sons . . . . . . in small boats and in fishing boats and in yachts. Against all odds, and in great danger, they came for their own. It’s a great story. One for the ages. 🙂

    • Rick, Beck is meditating on Jesus’ words about mercy vs. sacrifice that he said to the Pharisees. Remember that in the Hebrew Bible, holiness, atonement, and sacrifice were linked to notions of “uncleanness” and the purity of the camp. Sacrifice kept the camp clean. Without it, there was no place for the unclean among the people. A spirit whose prevailing value is purity and holiness in this sense, then, is one who demands sacrifice before another can be admitted into the group. Jesus said no. What it takes is mercy.

    • olbaldy says:

      I saw it on Imax Saturday night. I am on of the 13% who did not dig it. Take your ear plugs.

  8. Christiane says:

    Is it my imagination, or is there more pressure on people to ‘take sides’ now that there is so much political tension?

    I was just at SBCtoday and did not please a Mr. Miller because I didn’t answer his whole barrage of questions on where I stood on the SBGT issue under discussion. It was interesting. But not all together surprising, the culture wars being what they are and now depending heavily on Trump to keep the flames fanned. (sigh)

    So if anyone wishes to come to a place where there is a culture war topic under discussion, and does it just to observe, please be forewarned that you may be asked to ‘declare yourself’ or you will be assumed to be from ‘the enemy’. . . . . . .

    one always hopes a Christian blog is a place that offers good will, but these days, the word ‘Christian’ has been redefined by some, and the new definition is stridently judgemental and woefully damning of many souls.

    • Robert F says:

      Today, as the spectacle of the firing of Scaramucci was unfolding on a lunch-room TV at my job, only a few days after his hiring, and the irrational circus of our White House and its leader was on full display, with the ex-Communications Director being escorted from the premises, someone at one of the tables behind me said, “I don’t care. I voted for him once, and I’ll vote for him again in four years, and I would vote for him four years after that if I could.” Totally irrational; irrationality for the sake of irrationality; throw a monkey wrench into the works to see it all blow apart; upset the apple cart just to see which way the apples will roll. If we are in fact all that way, if I’m that way with my own political and moral preferences and you are too, and all our friends and enemies, then perhaps it would be a better thing if the human race did not exist. Then Sartre would have been so very right when he wrote, “Man is a useless passion.”

      • Christiane says:

        years ago, I read ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas’ which was along the lines of people voting against their own interests . . . . .

        today, when MILLIONS of our people are threatened with the removal of their health care, you don’t see much reaction among a certain segment of our population: the very ones who stand to lose their ‘affordable health care’ who don’t realize that it is the same thing as the hated ‘Obamacare’

        ‘Netflix’ had a documentary recently about a van of doctors and dentists who came to the Ozarks area to do free medical/dental care for the mountain people who were poor. I always thought our country was better off than what these people are living through. Very sad to see that documentary. I guess they were the typical Trump supporters: white, uneducated, broke, generational poverty, ill-health, depend on substances, clannish in an unwholesome way, and yet extremely thankful for some help in their desperation. Really hard to watch that.

        • Brianthegrandad says:

          Whoa! While I appreciate where you’re coming from, don’t you think that’s a little harsh? “…typical Trump supporters: white, uneducated, broke, generational poverty, ill-health, depend on substances, clannish in an unwholesome way, and yet extremely thankful for some help in their desperation.” I didn’t vote for the guy either- I voted for the dope-smoking libertarian- but that’s a broad brush. Certainly that describes some of the voters, but I know quite a few educated, financially stable, 3rd gen middle class, physically healthy, sober, and non-clannish who voted for him. A couple who were even thoughtful and torn about it.

          • Robert F says:

            The guy whose statement I quoted above is not broke or stuck in inter-generational poverty, addicted to any substances that I know of. He’s semi-retired from a blue-collar job (he works part time right now, expecting to retire completely in a year or two), owns a home, married with kids and grand kids. May or may not have finished high school; certainly worked hard all his life, and that’s paid off for him. But he hates the political and intellectual classes with a passion that borders on nihilism; and Hilary Clinton is Satan to him, though he’s not religious.

      • One of the presidential tweets of the day (7:28 AM):

        “Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”

        No White House chaos. Nope.

  9. I suspect that C.S. Lewis, in the book That Hideous Strength, said a few things about the approach that none of us are rational. Once none of us form our moral intuitions based on any reliable rationality, then there is no morality left.

    I understand the point that is being made, for it is the same point made by the post-modernists years ago. All our knowledge is “tainted” by an underlying substructure of things like cultural pre-suppositions, emotional experiences, etc. But, if one over-emphasizes that (which they did), then truth and rationality and morality and beauty, etc., become ephemeral vices that have no definition.

    In passing, I understand Jesus’ point. But, the point was directed at the Pharisees. Sacrifice can actually become the basis of mercy when it is self-sacrifice, which Jesus amply demonstrated.

    • Robert F says:

      I think I agree with you, Fr. There must be a moral truth that is accessible and reliable, else mere opugnancy will always prevail, and there’s no way out of the horror.