Some things will never fail to mystify me, such as how a young, intelligent, and articulate web-logger who leans in the exact opposite political direction from yours truly can attract a flurry of Twitter “Likes” posting pseudo-intellectual jokes not unlike, “If Zizek was a bear, he would have to eat more Frosted Flakes each morning than Ribbentrop” or “Trump’s speech is Lacanian in the same distorted manner Marx interpreted Downton Abbey.” Similarly, I remain baffled by the legion of conservative-to-traditional Catholic writers and web-loggers who are falling over themselves to support Donald Trump, a candidate as low-brow and rank as any that has ever graced the American political scene. (Could it be that conservative-to-traditional Catholicism, at least in America, is also rank? We shall see.) Then there is another blogger, an ex-Catholic, who, though well meaning, seems intent on making a certain aesthetic lifestyle choice made possible by income most folks have no access to the singular ideal to which all should strive if they are truly committed Christians and not just lapdogs of late-modern liberalism. Oh, and how could I forget the pair of jokers—academics of high repute in certain fashionable circles—who posture hard against liberalism all the while remaining well within its orbit, offering up superficially profound theological critiques of our present reality while doing absolutely nothing to combat it.
There is a way to explain all of this, or so I believe. What I remain unsure of is if it is even worth the effort. I have made mention of capitulation a great deal in the past—so much so that I am starting to capitulate to the idea that capitulation is inevitable. People can say what they want about the present age and lament “our situation” (whose situation?), but when the money box is counted and the “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign is flipped forward, there is no longer any reason to be invested in the questions, hard truths, and maddening uncertainties of the day.
It’s impossible to say for certain whether the present—now, now, now—represents the most horrifying period in human history, but I would feel safer betting on that possibility than I would Conor McGregor in his next UFC fight. Despite what you may have heard, lamenting “the times” is far from a thrill ride or even a cheap opportunity for a momentary sense of self-importance; it is absolutely terrifying. But more terrifying than that is what reckoning we will face for letting it all come to this, for taking opportunity after opportunity and squandering it, not in pursuit of poorly formulated idea or even in defense of breaking a sacred boundary for the sake of greater knowledge (or surety), but simply because we quickly tire of the myriad of entertainments produced to keep is neither happy nor fulfilled, but simply distracted.
Oh, but maybe a reckoning won’t come. That is the “sure bet” of millions who see the small space between birth and brain death as time to fill with sex, booze, and 18-holes of golf. For those with a thought, even a passing one, that perhaps a reckoning could come, that maybe all shall be called to the heavenly carpet one day to give an account of their life, there remains the escape-card now called “mercy” which all may play in order to get their undue reward no matter how decrepitly they have lived. Ah, but what if that reward, what if the final end, is simply the worship of God? Imagine this: All of Heaven an eternal Divine Liturgy (St. Basil’s, not St. John’s) with endless litanies and a rendition of the Cherubic Hymn that puts “American Pie” to shame. Maybe Origen, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Al Kimmel are right: There is no hell—just an unimaginably rich liturgical experience that will prove exponentially more painful than eternal flames for those accustomed to banal expressions of “spirituality” and “piety.”