Lent in a Sinless Age

I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment.  Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year.  Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent.  It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life.  This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.

Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing.  Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong.  A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all.  Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.

Now we live in a new and glorious day!  If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it.  Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior.  If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price.  Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago?  Not a problem!   We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours.  We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”.  We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as “government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid.  Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case.  Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.

Of course this flies in the face of the Christianity that traditionally our society has paid at least lip service to, but we will deal with that by having a new faith, Atheism, and banishing Christianity to harmless “worship” services on Sunday with no role otherwise in our culture.  Some of us may secretly have doubts about Atheism, but that will be a small cost to pay for eliminating sin and evil as concepts.  In many ways we are living in that utopia predicted by a very wise man long ago:

Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil.

It is almost a tempting vision, assuming that there is no God.  Since there is a God, and good and evil, I swallow my pride and indifference and concentrate on repenting of my sins as I recall these words of another very wise man:

The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena the great Saints. The virtual disappearance of such material may mean insipid meals for us. But is it not utter frustration and famine for the Enemy? He did not create the humans — He did not become one of them and die among them by torture — in order to produce candidates for Limbo, “failed” humans. He wanted to make them Saints; gods; things like Himself. Is the dullness of your present fare not a very small price to pay for the delicious knowledge that His whole great experiment is petering out? But not only that. As the great sinners grow fewer, and the majority lose all individuality, the great sinners become far more effective agents for us. Every dictator or even demagogue — almost every film star or [rock star] — can now draw tens of thousands of the human sheep with him. They give themselves (what there is of them) to him; in him, to us. There may come a time when we shall have no need to bother about individual temptation at all, except for the few. Catch the bellwether, and his whole flock comes after him.

The great lie of our time, and the great despair, is that we are creatures merely of our appetites with transient, meaningless lives.  Lent says no to all of that, and that is why I welcome it, gray pallor and all!

14 Responses to Lent in a Sinless Age

  • A heads up to the Fr. Barron lovers out there ~ my comment may rub you the wrong way. Here goes nothing. I must say, I guess I can admire Fr. Barron’s ability to find and give Catholics a teaching moment from the series, “Rome”, which to my mind is nothing but soft-porn clothed in historical fiction. Heck, even my anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, non-religious sister won’t watch it because of its over the top sex scenes. He apparently watches it regularly as he mentioned a previous season. He must have the ability and confidence to filter out the parade of skin and sex.

    Whatever happened to a priest’s admonition of practicing ‘custody of the eyes’? Frankly, I would think what we’d be hearing from Fr. Barron, or any Catholic priest, that we shouldn’t watch the show, period. But then again, I’ve read recently that Fr. Barron isn’t so sure that many people are even in Hell. How disappointing to see where Fr. Barron is at these days and equally disappointing that his talks and sermons are so popular. I guess I can see why.

  • This thread is not going to devolve into a pointless back and forth on Father Barron. Such comments will be deleted by me. Perhaps we could all try to stay on point in the comboxes of TAC for Lent?

  • thanks for the mediatation which strikes at the heart of the modern culture and convicts many who live within it—including me. one question to show (and hopefully alleviate) my ingnorance: what are the sources of the quotes from the “wise men” in the article? i am guessing C. S. Lewis might be one but I would like to find out for sure so that I could have the chance of both reading and learning more. thank you again and wishing you a blesssed and healing Lenten season.

  • Fyodor Dostoevesky from The Grand Inquisitor story in The Brothers Karamazov. It was as if he had a vision of the shape of things to come for the next century and a half after his death:

    https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pol116/grand.htm

    Correct as to CS Lewis. It is from Screwtape Proposes a Toast:

    http://screwtapeblogs.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/screwtape-proposes-a-toast/

  • Have you all noticed how, in trying to abolish the concept of sin and replace it with “intolerance” that they point towards animal behavior to somehow justify their own? The argument they imply is that if animals do it, it must be natural, and if it’s natural it must not be a sin. How far we have sunk when the mating behavior of bonobos and penguins becomes that moral standard which rules our behavior.

  • Donald, thanks very much for the info on the references and links thereto.

  • “The great lie of our time, and the great despair, is that we are creatures merely of our appetites with transient, meaningless lives.” BOOM!!!!!

  • Interesting point to consider: Oswald Spengler held that Dostoevsky was true to the spirit of Christianity while Tolstoy was a mere Westerner. Tolstoy is a social engineer but Dostoevsky is Orthodox at heart.

  • My thoughts on this article: Amen Brother! Right is wrong and wrong is right.

  • Tolstoy was an absolutist theoretician, a Plato. Dostoevsky was more an Aristotle.

    Then again, Dostoevsky was probably insane.

    Or, if I could steal a concept from Chesterton (and I always do), no matter how crazy Dostoevsky was, he was grounded by an understanding of human nature. No matter how sane Tolstoy’s religion was, it was unhinged by Reason detached from humanity, even though it claimed to be purely human.

  • Pinky, that was wonderfully put! Yes, Tolstoy was certainly platonic. Dostoevsky knew the human heart better and perhaps consequently saw the world with an aristotelian eye. I was unaware Dostoevsky was insane, though it would seem to be Tolstoyn would be the one to lose it of the two!

  • It seems the same people that want to write a million laws taxing, regulating, or banning nearly every thing concomitantly believe there is no such a thing (except disagreeing with them) is a sin.

    Is that irony, or what?

    Here it is. They hate God and the Church because God and the Church stand in their way.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .