The Summer of Insanity

Confronting a delusional person with their delusions is a very dangerous thing. So, too, a culture.

You may be pardoned, dear reader, for thinking the world has finally gone mad, for in a real sense it has. Forty-eight years ago we were treated to the misnamed ‘summer of love.’ Today, we live in a cultural madhouse, the construction of which, if not actually begun during that summer, was at the very least dramatically accelerated by it. The materials used in its construction were of the basest sort and the mortar which binds it together is the contradiction of ‘free love.’

There was nothing particularly new to the concept of ‘free love’ in 1967. G. K. Chesterton, for example, had to contend with its oxymoronic insanity half a century earlier. Writing in his essay A Defense of Rash Vows on the silliness of ‘free love,’ Chesterton baldly notes it is “a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words — ‘free-love’ — as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself….”

What was new in 1967, however, was the movement of this contradiction into the mainstream of cultural life through mass education and mass media.

Perhaps less recognized, though, is that there is more than just a tangential connection between the concept of ‘free love’ and idolatry. Throughout the Old Testament condemnations of idolatry are often characterized as ‘fornication,’ and quite often idol worship, itself, was accompanied by actual sexual immorality, often in the form of temple prostitution.

As our previous pope, Pope Benedict XVI, reminds us: Deus Caritas est—God is Love. Any fashioning of a false concept of love, then, will give rise to idolatry. The converse is also true; any idol worship and any fashioning of false gods will give rise to a fashioning of a false concept of love. Finally, and perhaps least grasped, any refashioning of the interconnectedness of God and Love into a false image will perforce lead to a denial of Reality, a denial that is the very definition of insanity.

Consider a simple syllogism in this regard. If God is Love, Jesus is God, and Jesus is the Word (Logos), then it follows that Love and Truth subsist in each other and a distortion of one will lead to a distortion of the other. I know—it seems obvious to us as Catholics (or at least it should), but it is not obvious to many people around us. Having bowed down to a false definition of Love, a huge number of our fellow citizens are now seemingly incapable of recognizing Truth and, thus, incapable of grasping reality.

This leap into insanity is no matter of private opinion affecting only a few. It is, in fact, currently enshrined in Constitutional law. The denizens of the Sexual Revolution who received such a boost in the Summer of ’67 faced one small problem: the reality that ‘free love’ often led to a contradicting reality, the not-so-free reality of pregnancy and children. Thus, in short order came Roe v. Wade to establish as legal the mechanism to ‘free’ people to ‘love’ as they wished.

Yet even many of Roe‘s proponents conceded it was a convoluted mess given the then-Supreme Court’s unwillingness to completely negate the very existence of Truth. And, so, in 1992, in the furtherance of ‘free love,’ the Supreme Court delivered Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court ruled:

[A]t the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

In other words, at the very heart of liberty and the Constitution—according to the Supreme Court—is idolatry, the right to fashion Truth as one sees fit, an idolatry of the Self which would have made even the pagans blush. Henceforth, a man has a constitutional right to be a woman. A white woman has a constitutional right to define herself as black. Marriage can be defined as just about anyone sees fit to define the term. And all of this is necessitated by the willful denial of the actual definition of Love as inherently binding, as actually being the antithesis of ‘free.’ In Casey the Court essentially declared for our culture, “Non Serviam” –“I will not serve,” we will not be bound by Truth.

Nor is it the case that this idolatry is somehow confined to some small, lunatic fringe. If one can ‘identify’ as ‘black’ when one is white, if one can ‘identify’ as a ‘woman’ when one is a man, then it follows one can ‘identify’ as ‘rich’ when one is either poor or middle-class. And, indeed, it is precisely such ‘self-identification’ which led to the housing bubble of the early 2000’s, its deflation and the resulting financial meltdown of just seven years ago. Millions upon millions of people ‘defined their own existence’ to believe they could afford houses worth much more than they could pay. Thousands upon thousands of supposedly clever bankers, financial advisors, loan officers and high government officials joined them in the fantasy. It was their constitutional right.

Numerous commentators have noted the rapidity of the collapse of support for the concept of ‘traditional marriage’—that is, marriage as truth would define it—within the space of just a few, short years. The Barak Obama who today warmly embraces a ‘redefinition of marriage’ felt compelled in 2008 to publicly defend the concept of traditional marriage while campaigning for office. Indeed, it is difficult to find in the annals of public opinion polling such a major shift in opinion occurring so swiftly on so central a matter. I suggest that the two—the financial meltdown and the rapid rise in support for ‘gay marriage’—are actually connected. Essentially, a culture worshipping the Idol of Self was confronted with reality in the market meltdown and yet pushes ahead to reassure itself that the god it has fashioned still has some power, by reasserting its control over redefining another reality—marriage—as it sees fit.

We scratch our heads in wonder when, having pointed to reality, we are subsequently accused of being ‘haters;’ for to us to recognize Truth is seen as a concomitant aspect of Love. Not so for many others, for whom pointing out truth is the very negation of love since in so doing, we are binding individuals to reality. We live in a culture which has essentially rewritten the parable of the Emperor Who Has No Clothes. In this new version the parable ends with the Emperor and his assembly turning on the little boy who dares to point out the obvious; screeching the epithet, ‘hater,’ at him; and then assigning the little munchkin to a lengthy series of ‘sensitivity training’ sessions.

There are more and more whispers among faithful Catholics and other Christians of a coming persecution. Many scoff at the notion, just as many ten years ago scoffed at the notion there would ever be such a thing as ‘gay marriage. And yet, it is difficult to ignore the truth that to confront a delusional person with their delusions is a very dangerous thing. So, too, a culture. And as we watch Christian businesses close, speakers shouted down on college campuses, CEOs forced from their jobs, and women religious forced to provide contraception, it becomes obvious that the ‘liberty’ at the ‘heart of the Constitution’ to define one’s own existence does not extend to those of us who choose to define our existence not by our own lights, but by the unchanging Revelation of Truth and Love, which subsist in their fullness in the Catholic Church. The Idolaters of Self have, themselves, a very jealous god, and he will brook no competition.

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About Alan L. Anderson 17 Articles
Alan L. Anderson teaches theology at the Chesterton Academy of the Sacred Heart in Peoria, Ill.