Reader Mail: Sith-Jedi Theology

Reader Durandel writes:

In conversations with my friends and family, many who are conservative and Catholic, whenever the topic of conversation comes up about fighting back against the Left, someone in the group gets very upset at the idea of being uncivil.

And if you point out that it is silly to be civil with the uncivil, just as it is silly to be reasonable with the unreasonable, the response is oddly the same every time. In fact, the response is always some form of one of these two responses: “If we use the Left’s tactics against them, we become no different than them.” and “if we fight back, we sink to their [the Left] level and stop being conservatives/good Catholics.” (I mockingly refer to this as Sith-Jedi Theology)

And when I note that said civility has been turned into a weapon against the Right, and that as a tactic against the uncivil Left it always leads to defeat, I’ll get another oddly repeated reply along the lines of, “I’d rather be civil and lose than be uncivil and win.” 

Jesus was not civil to the Pharisees whom he called a brood of vipers and the sons of Satan. Nor was he civil to the money changers in the Temple nor to Peter when Peter refused to accept Christ’s statement that He had to die. And as St. Thomas and St. Augustine noted, Jesus did not turn the other cheek when he was struck in the face (nor did Christ literally follow a few other statements from his hyperbolic Sermon on the Mount) and neither did St. Peter, indicating the teachings were not to be understood as literal.

I can’t figure out how to help them see that being on the Right, being a Christian, does not require us to be doormats in the face of evil. We are not called to stand by and allow our families, nations, cultures and faith to be trammeled and desecrated by satanic communists, Islamic jihadists, or the unwittingest of unwitting useful idiots. If it is sacred, good, beautiful, true, you defend and fight for it. 

If I’m in error, please correct me. If they are in error, some pointers on what to say would be appreciated. I think some of the problem lies in people’s definitions of civil and uncivil behavior. There also appears to be presumption of particular intent behind certain actions/tactics rather than recognizing that the intent behind an action can differ and impact the moral gravity of the action (such as killing in self defense vs. killing for greed). I also think this response is being taught somewhere, based on the consistent similarity of the responses, but I don’t know the source.

He’s not in error. Civility is a mild virtue at best. At worst, as is so often the case among Conservatives, it is a fig leaf thinly concealing the vice of cowardice and a lack of faith.

We are commanded to preach the Gospel in and out of season. Christ also blessed those who take no offense at Him. Others’ feelings have no claim on whether or not we should speak the truth.

I agree with Franciscan theologian Thomas Weinandy. The root cause of so many Western Christians’ timidity is weakness of faith. Too many of us have lost confidence in the rightness of Church teaching–or even the reality of objective right and wrong.

Durandel’s relatives and acquaintances do not speak as Christian men of old did. Their lukewarmness shames the apostles, martyrs, and crusaders who risked their lives witnessing the Kingdom to heathens. The tired old rationalization “If we use their tactics, we become no better than them” has no basis in Catholic moral theology. Note that the one making this argument assumes he is better than the Left and wishes above all to maintain his affected moral superiority. That is the sin of presumption. He also makes a category error. Debating philosophy with the Athenians did not make Paul a Greek. Fighting the Saracen by force of arms did not ex opere operato convert the crusaders to Islam.

As Durandel rightly pointed out, the rich and venerable tradition of Catholic moral theology allows even for the use of deadly force in self-defense. Aquinas and the School of Salamanca wrote at length on just war theory. Make no mistake, we are in wartime. The Left and their sub-pagan hordes want you and your acquaintances who bow and scrape for their approval dead and despoiled. A man who will not resist the attempted extermination of his kin and his faith with every weapon at his command–and worse, cannot resist scolding those who will–is a coward unworthy of a Christian gentleman’s civility himself. He does not think with the mind of Christ or heed the voice of His bride the Church.

Another astute observation Durandel made earlier applies. These friends and relatives of his are not being guided by reason. They have allowed themselves to be ruled by their passions. There is no logical argument you can make that will convince them. The only way to reach them is through the severe mercy of inflicting emotional pain. They have said that they fear social ostracization and disapproval from the Left. They dismiss Durandel’s arguments because they do not fear losing his approval.

There are two options for dealing with such irrational people. The first is simply to limit your dealings with them as much as possible. Their bad example is a stumbling block. Why expose yourself to the near occasion of sin? Shake their dust from your feet and continue your walk with Christ.

If you cannot or do not wish to let them have their error, and if you have the proper disposition for it, the only action you can take to help change these people’s hearts–which is a grace conferred by God alone–is to make caving to the Left cause them more emotional distress than opposing the Left. This approach takes finesse and discipline. Simply railing at a coward will just make him resent and withdraw from you. What’s needed is amused mockery. You must stay cool and composed while you chuckle and ask, “You don’t really believe that nonsense, do you?” whenever someone trots out the “Beware, those who fight with monsters…” canard. Don’t even attempt a rational argument. If your interlocutor persists, say that’s Nietzsche talking, not Christ and jovially excuse yourself on the grounds that keeping company with heretics imperils your immortal soul.

Beware: If you start taking this option, you must consistently maintain an unfailing demeanor of lighthearted ridicule toward their cowardly attitudes. You will likely be the only counterbalance to the perpetual message of submission that oozes from the television, the internet, and sadly, the pulpit. Not everyone can manage the necessary fortitude. You must also carefully guard against resenting and attacking the men instead of their errors. Hate the sin; love the sinner.

As for the source of the rot? Ultimately the real enemies are sin and Satan. However, more proximate causes of Western Christian spinelessness include the secular Modernist attitudes that infected the Church starting in the 60s and the USCCB’s disastrous decision to entangle itself with the government in the realm of Catholic education. All too often, the truth is simply not taught, and many in the hierarchy are too manifestly lacking in faith and courage to correct heretics.

In addition, a necessary step toward winning back the culture is creating content that upholds–or at the very least doesn’t disparage–the Western Christian worldview. Again, not everyone has the means and inclination to produce high quality works grounded in the truth that entertain without lecturing. If you’re not properly disposed to be such a content creator, it’s vital to support those who are.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier

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