Errors, lies and heresies.
Ontario announced earlier this month that it will become the fourth Canadian government to fund a behavioral modification application that rewards users for making “good choices” in regards to health, finance, and the environment. The Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which will receive $1.5 million from the Ontario government, credits users’ accounts with points toward the reward program of their choice in exchange for reaching step goals, taking quizzes and surveys, and engaging in government-approved messages.
In Thomas Sowell’s book A Conflict of Visions, he describes two groups: those who believe in a constrained vision of mankind as forever being outside the Garden of Eden, and those who believe in an unconstrained vision of mankind which can evolve as a species to a higher level of consciousness.
This unconstrained vision, of course, is not necessarily constrained to liberal progressives. But it is a major feature of liberal progressivism: the idea that, with the right set of laws, educational reforms and “nudges” we can be made “better” as a species. And there are those self-annointed Bodhisattvas who have achieved higher levels of consciousness who can then lead us towards that Utopian vision of a world where people are able to give according to ability and receive according to need, regulated only by an almost supernatural sense of moral ethics.
To those keeping score, this idea is, in a way, a very deeply Catholic vision associated with the properties of receiving the Holy Spirit into one’s heart. Knowledge and will, love and empathy for others have all been associated with the Holy Spirit in various passages of the Bible. Further, some hermetic philosophers believe that the Holy Spirit represents a common Spirit which transcends the world–and connection to the Holy Spirit should give one a supernatural understanding of one’s fellows. One who is truly connected with the Holy Spirit understands what those around him need–as if his Will was fully subjugated to the will of God. A community of such spiritually advanced individuals should be able to operate without money, without laws, in Karl Marx’s idealistic commune: intuitively connected with his fellows, able to operate towards a common good directed by a singular transcendent God.
Theologically speaking, we know from Galatians the idea that a deep connection with the Holy Spirit transcends the written law. (Galatians 3:12-14) Further, that deep connection with the Holy Spirit overcomes the “sins of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-18), which include sexual immorality, impurity, drunkenness, and selfish ambition. (Galatians 5:19-5:21) The fruits of the Holy Spirit include forbearance, kindness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-26) So the Marxist notion of the evolved transcending the Law and working in harmony has a firm Biblical basis.
From this notion of the Holy Spirit and the Marxist interpretation of collective action we get the Catholic notion of Liberation Theology, from which our modern notion of Social Justice derives. The foundations were said to have been laid by the Holy See in the encyclical Rerum Novarum, which outlines a Catholic’s responsibility to the working class and to the poor.
However, from this rather sensible tract, in the 1950’s in Latin America, Christian theology was expanded to concern itself with the liberation of the oppressed. Professor Gustavo Gutiérrez’s work “Towards a Theology of Liberation” formulates the idea that we need a better understanding of the poor.
Being poor is not simply lacking the economic resources for development. On the contrary, Gutiérrez understands poverty as “a way of living, of thinking, of loving, of praying, of believing and waiting, of spending free time, of fighting for life.” That is why he says: “Poverty is not a fatality, it is a condition.”
To Gutiérrez, the ministry of Christ among the rejected and despised of his time is a clear example for the contemporary Church. Furthermore, “the incarnation is an act of love. Christ becomes man, dies and rises to liberate us and make us enjoy freedom. To die and be resurrected with Christ is to overcome death and enter into a new life. The cross and the resurrection seal our freedom.” The freedom of Christ is seen by Gutiérrez as the giver of spiritual and economic freedom.
Theological reflection on liberation is not just a simple discourse without practical and concrete implications. Reflection on the situation of the poor leads to what liberation theologians call “liberating praxis,” where they attempt to rectify the process by which the faith of the Church builds the economic, spiritual and intellectual liberation of socially oppressed peoples as fulfillment of the kingdom of God. The liberating praxis, then, has its basis in the love that God manifests for men and in the sense of solidarity and fellowship that should exist in interpersonal relationships among the children of God.
And thus, modern Social Justice Warriors are born.
It is, of course, a seemingly logical progression–from receiving the works of the Holy Spirit of Knowledge and Empathy and the Seven Heavenly Virtues to the recognition that prudence and justice requires us to treat those around us with respect, to the idea that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross stands as a symbol of liberation of the poor.
And it marries quite nicely with the idea postulated by Karl Marx that as we advance as a species through the revolutionary darkness of the self-destruction of Capitalism, we eventually will reach an idealized Utopia where there is no need for money or property, where everyone is happy and everyone’s needs are universally met.
But it is based on a heresy and a lie.
First, let’s start with heresy of Liberation Theology.
Before I go into why Liberation Theology is a heresy, let’s define what that means.
A heresy fundamentally does not mean “ideas which one should not have.” A heresy is a belief or opinion that is contrary to doctrine. Heresy is not transgressive; it is illogical. It is saying that 2 + 2 = 5, for accepted (orthodox) definitions of the symbols “2”, “+”, “=” and “5”.
The reason that Liberation Theology is a heresy should be pretty clear from the Wikipedia summary of Professor Gutiérrez’s ideas:
To Gutiérrez, the source of the problems of Latin America was the sin manifested in an unjust social structure.
That is, the notion of commits two fundamental logical errors.
First, it emphasizes salvation as a collective property rather than an individual one. That is, it shifts the whole notion of “sin” and “salvation” away from the individual and places it with groups, with institutions, with “The People.” It borrows from Marx’s notion of class struggle–and as such replaces the need for individual action towards individual salvation with an idea of collective salvation.
Of course this notion is entirely compatible with Thomas Sowell’s “Unconstrained Vision” of mankind.
But it is incompatible with the notion of personal accountability.
The second problem with Liberation Theology is that, in framing salvation in terms of collective movements and class struggles, it fundamentally reframes the Bible in political terms. Exodus stops being a story of a people’s fleeing to the promised land and becomes a political treaties on class struggle and class salvation. And in that struggle it fundamentally places Liberation Theologists at fundamental odds with the Catholic Church as an institution–demanding the Church give up non-transformative aid to the poor and instead support revolutionaries and war. And it places Liberation Theologists at odds with the Holy See–as can be seen with Liberation Theologian Juan Segundo, whose response to two Vatican corrective documents responded with the rather omniously titled Theology and the Church: A Response to Cardinal Ratzinger and a Warning to the Whole Church.
Beyond Liberation Theology, we find further errors as we move up the chain to our understanding of Galatians and the virtues of the Holy Spirit which informed many 18th and 19th century ideas of collective welfare.
Certainly someone who attempts to practice the blessings of the Holy Spirit should show compassion for his fellow man, and treat the workers in his employ with fairness. Some of the items listed in Rerum Novarum are simply logical extensions of basic principles. For example, Rerum Novarum implores employers to “pay a full day’s pay for a full day’s work”–a principle which basically boils down to “thou shalt not steal.”
But, contrary to our Puritan understanding of zero-tolerance for any sin, Catholic teachings are much more lenient.
Sin, in Catholic Teaching, is separation from God. That is, it is an act which separates us from the grace of God.
And what does grace look like?
Consider the chaos of a family when a man has neglected his wife or his children. The grace of God looks like a harmonious home life: man and wife love each other and their children, and everyone more or less gets along.
But suppose, for example, a man practices one of the “sins of the flesh” in Galatians 5:16-18 and gets completely shit-faced drunk every night. Eventually this will cause the marriage fall apart because in getting drunk, the man neglects his wife and his children–and that leads to chaos.
And a fall from grace.
Now the Puritan takes a zero-tolerance notion of sin: if you drink even one drop of alcohol, you fall from grace.
But that’s not the Catholic view. The Catholic view is that the act of drinking itself does not lead to chaos in the home. It is drinking while neglecting his wife and children that causes chaos.
It’s why a glass of wine over dinner doesn’t destroy marriages.
In other words, to a Catholic, what causes having an affair, drunkenness, selfishness or gambling to cause your life to fall apart as you fall from God’s grace is not the act of having an affair, being drunk, being selfish or placing a bet.
What causes your life to fall apart is when these things are done to the neglect of your other responsibilities. For example, gambling away a million dollars is not a sin if you are a billionaire. But gambling away the last $100 that would have been used to feed your children is a sin–not because you gambled, but because you neglected your children.
This is important to remember because to Catholic salvation theology, “desire” is not obliterated. You are, after all, human. Instead, for us to find grace, desire is subjugated to the personal responsibilities we all have to our families, to our fellows, and to mankind.
In other words, it is a lie to suggest Grace requires complete sacrifice of one’s self to the Holy Spirit. Only that one acts with kindness, empathy and understanding–even as one knocks back a few beers while placing a few chips on the roulette wheel.
I know I started this whole thing with the story of a creepy Canadian App telling citizens what to do, and did a deep dive into Catholic Theology.
But I have a point here.
Even though modern Social Justice Warriors and the Bodhisattvas of the Canadian government who wish to “nudge” humanity towards collective salvation may not believe in Catholic theology, their ideas did not evolve in a vacuum.
More fundamentally, it is important to know where these ideas came from–even if their current practitioners do not believe in the roots of Liberation Theology or Social Justice–because the fundamental flaws behind them have not been successfully answered.
Ignoring logical problems with your belief system does not do away with the logical problems. It just shows your ignorance.
The problem I have with any government nudging its citizens towards “correct” behavior boil down to this:
They are attempts to remove agency from the public, in order to create a more conforming public which can eventually achieve collective salvation.
It requires us, in other words, to become like ants–stuck following well-defined tracks on the ground. And it assumes by removing free will we can achieve salvation–despite the fact that we have no choice. No true free will.
Such a utopia, like the one various Bodhisattvas are attempting to create on behalf of the liberal progressive movement does not look like Utopia to me.
Because the liberal progressive movement has never answered the logical flaws that back this collective notion of salvation, they seem eager to repeat the same mistakes they eschew with religious fundamentalists.
I can’t help the irony of noting the number of progressives out there who are now imposing their own notions of “sin”–including feminist opposition to sex and pornography, or with laws designed to fight gluttony by restricting our choices of soda. One only has to watch as leftists punish those for the sin of holding impure beliefs as they chase conservative speakers off campuses, or watch as men are disproportionally held responsible for supposed sexual assaults.
The unconstrained vision of Progressivism may deny any connections to Catholic theology, to the hermetic notion of a singular interconnected spirit leading us to collective salvation and to the heresy of Liberation Theology.
But the underlying logic is certainly drawing them to similar theological errors regarding Sin.
And it’s why the Canadian Government is now publishing it’s own “Bible” of sorts in an iPhone App–so we can recognize sin, seek salvation, and receive points for “righteous action” as we slowly subjugate our Will to the collective.