More sweeping than the familiar tension between Faith and Reason, the Spanish and Basque poet, novelist, and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno proposes hope first, and then reasoning faith and finally charity. It’s not about rationality, but about the abyss we fall into with only rationality. Unamuno would reawaken a predisposing and universal “religious sense,” not an equivalent “diversity of religions”.
This, from his Tragic Sense of Life (1921), which is said to be his masterpiece:
’The wicked man hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ And this is truth. For in his head the righteous man may say to himself, God does not exist! But only the wicked can say it in his heart. Not to believe that there is a God or to believe that there is not a God, is one thing;
to resign oneself to there not being a God is another thing, and it is a terrible and inhuman thing; but not to wish that there be a God exceeds every other moral monstrosity; although, as a matter of fact, those who deny God deny Him because of their despair at not finding Him. (emphasis added)
By the “tragic sense of life” Unamuno means “religious despair.” The great triad of religious despair today: At one bookend, (1) abortion as the exemption from life; and at the other (2) physician-assisted suicide as a forced “exemption” from homicide laws; and in the middle the (3) homogenizing denial of human complementarity—the malignant homosexual subculture.
The fumes of Despair
Is it not a terrible and inhuman thing to lure a pregnant teen into thinking that abortion is a rite of passage into modernity? The deities of Baal and Aztec-land grin their satisfaction. The numbers are jading, but broadly worse for upcoming generations is a culture without any moral boundaries.
The Speaker of the House defends late-term abortions as “sacred ground,” extinguishing the Burning Bush of the living God! And marketing the more lucrative body parts!
Is it not a wicked lie in our Scientific Age to first sneer at how Galileo’s telescope was set aside, and then to withhold the ultrasound “telescope” viewing of a new child—an internal universe that lives and moves? Said Galileo, “eppur si muove” (nevertheless, it moves!). And, where Galileo saw mountains on the moon, modern science now shows us, equally, fingerprints on the pre-born baby.
A terrible and inhuman thing to conjure a “culture of death” wherein the young of each new generation are conditioned to kill their own children? The Lord of the Flies!
A wicked thing to rationalize against bringing any children into a messed up-world and—because technology is morality and the entire universe a cosmic accident—why not just walk back a tiny and unnamed accident?
And all of this, a world turned upside down, in barely half a century. Forty years after Unamumo (and after two World Wars) a renowned urban sociologist said this about hope for the future and the birthing of children:
As of today, this resurgence of reproductive activity might be partly explained as a deep instinctual answer to the premature death of scores of millions of people throughout the planet. But even more possibly, it may be the unconscious reaction to the likelihood of an annihilating outburst of nuclear genocide on a planetary scale. As such, every new baby is a blind desperate vote for survival [….]
The automatic response of every species threatened with extirpation takes the form of excessive reproduction. This is a fundamental observation of ecology. (Lewis Mumford, The City in History, 1961; emphasis added)
Only six years before Mumford, however, the ex-communist Whittaker Chambers in 1954 said much more on the collapse of the West:
[Western civilization] is already a wreck from within. This is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth. (From a letter in Cold Friday, 1964, emphasis added)
A fingernail? A flowerpot? In the tens of millions, the aborted are either flushed, or bagged for the alley dumpster, or incinerated. Today, perhaps, that incinerator is where the martyred fingernails are now coming from? No longer thinkable is the morning splendor, or the delicate grandeur of each child brought into existence in the image of God—the irreducible sacredness of each and every human life.
Instead, the recently concluded Amazonian Synod proposes concern, yes also urgent, for an “integral ecology”. On our knees before Amazonia’s indigenous Pachamama, and instead of a mere “flowerpot,” we plant a cosmic tree in the Vatican grounds—and now await from tandem Germania the majoritarian anointing of an ersatz sexual morality and more.
The abyss of Despair
Sent forth by Christ with only a staff and one pair of sandals, instead we now:
• Transplant the 11th-century Investiture Crisis into Communist China which, we are tutored by a Vatican purple hat, is “best implementing the social doctrine of the Church”;
• Exchange an integral and alter Christus priesthood for a merely functional priesthood, and this within the new and morally elastic context of “integral ecology”;
• Obsolesce in pastoral practice (never in doctrine!) the binary complementarity of sexual persons with a spectrum of options and homogenous sameness—the usurping homosexual subculture; and as a fig leaf use “pedophilia” to hide the gangrenous infestation in the Church itself.
At the terrestrial level, demographic suicide across a spiritually-imploded West leaves a vacuum readily filled by resurgent an engulfing Islam. The religion not of the Logos, but of a distant and arbitrary divine Will. An historic collision between the twins of Despair and Fatalism. The spiral of Despair: Secularism takes God out of the Public Square and then mosque-state Islam takes the Public Square out of Man.
Against both Despair and Fatalism, Unamuno would at least create from within, a God of primeval hope, and then of faith and charity:
To believe in God is to long for His existence and, further, it is to act as if He existed; it is to live by this longing and to make it the inner spring of our action. This longing or hunger for divinity begets hope, hope begets faith, and faith and hope beget charity. Of this divine longing is born our sense of beauty, of finality, of goodness. (emphasis added)
Unamuno’s “religion” turns some theology upside-down: Do we really create God, or are the three theological virtues gifts rather than spiritual endorphins? But, poised on Unamuno’s platform, are we possibly ready to receive contact with the divine self-disclosure given from the Other?
A self-disclosure from outside of ourselves—given by the Triune Oneness in the Incarnation. And, which in the Resurrection is more than Unamuno’s caricature as only a “pact between monotheism and polytheism.” (That Triune Christianity is polytheistic also is bubble-apologetic of monotheistic/monolithic Islam, versus for all of our finite minds the Christian revelation that 1+1+1=1).
Awaited now is an unapologetic (so to speak) New Evangelization of the Trinity and the Incarnation—and that does not conjure a discordant “new paradigm” parsed by social science from data-dumps/trendlines nominated by the “right side of history;” not a New Church of “anthropological cultural change” and, specifically in pastoral practice, not the mating of nature’s fecund male and female with a third option.
Cut from the same cloth as Unamuno—but more completely as a rationalist-atheist than a hoping-Christian—was the late Italian journalist Ariani Fallaci. Fallaci held flat-out that man fully creates God, not the other way around. But, like Unamuno, that man does this out of Despair. But (she continues) that Christ even as only a man is ever Phoenix-like, ever rising up to renew his claim for freedom, and in this way “seduces” even her (Fallaci) into belief:
[As a] Christian atheist … [she finds that] Life always resurrects, Life is eternal . . . That most seduces me. Because in it I see the rejection of Death, the refusal of Death, the apotheosis of Life which can be evil: yes. Which is also evil, which eats itself. But its alternative is Nothingness. And let’s face it: such is the principle which leads and feeds our civilization. (The Force of Reason, 2004).
Of revelation and epiphany, the theologian Luigi Giussani remarks:
… yes, religion is in fact that which man does in his solitude; but it is also that in which the human person discovers his essential companionship. Such companionship is, then, more original to us than our solitude…Therefore, before solitude there is companionship, a companionship that embraces my solitude. Because of this, solitude is no longer true solitude, but a cry calling back that hidden companionship. (The Religious Sense, 1990; emphasis added)
The entire Western trajectory into Despair—forgetting the past, negating the future, and culling an unborn current generation—dates back at least to such post-Christian romanticists such as Jean Jacques Rousseau in his Social Contract as well as rationalists such as Thomas Hobbes’ in his Leviathan. The state replaces the family. Instead of escapism into either the mythical past or the gnostic future and the state, Unamuno would have us “become centered on [interior] ourselves again, we return to ourselves, only by suffering” (emphasis added). The mystery of suffering and the Scandal of the Cross.
Unamuno places the religious sense prior to religion:
Faith, then, I repeat once again, is faith in hope; we believe what we hope for [….] Hope is the reward of faith. Only he who believes truly hopes; and only he who truly hopes believes.
Despair in the West—this is the abysmal sin against the gift of hope in the Holy Spirit (and not any lesser sin against the Logos or the Father). In harmony with Unamuno’s very personal and lyrical monism, man is himself finally created and redeemed by Another—the gloriously Triune mystery God: “Christ the Lord…by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes).
Hope and belief
Unamuno laments that we do not hope, because we do not believe; and we do not believe, because we do not hope. But, without mixed messages or alloy, how today to evangelize an identity-politics collage of pre-Christian paganism (Pachamama), modern/historicist Progress, post-modern entropy (Germania)—and ultimately the stillborn twins of exhausted Despair in the West and archaic Fatalism supervised under Islam?
How might the Apostolic Church evangelize the Scandal of the Cross? Perhaps, the universality of the prior “religious sense”—our baked-in, gut-level hope deep beneath both Abu Dhabi’s “diversity of [natural] religions” and the higher and revealed Faith in the singular Person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Lord of History.
God, from all eternity cannot change, but He can freely choose to elevate and participate in our suffering in a “fallen world.” Fallen not by a flaw in His creative freedom, but by abuse of our responsible freedom, made as we are in “the image and likeness of God.”
Real hope in the Scandal of the Cross: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).
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