Marian Themes in American Leftism
Today is the feast of Sts. Joachim and Ann, parents of the Immaculate Conception and grandparents of the Second Person of the Trinity. For some time now, I have wanted to share my thoughts about what I love in the modern American political left: sympathies with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. As long as I have been following politics, about 13 years, I have not identified as either Republican or Democrat. This is the first year that I have followed the American experiment with an academic level of research and concern. In the past, I was a simple Catholic issue voter. I hoped Bush would be pro-life. He wasn't. I hoped Obama would end our imperialism. He didn't. I prayed Ron Paul could somehow win the presidency and 'end the Fed’eral reserve’s death-grip on Western economics. He couldn't. This year was obviously a new monster. I do not consider myself a political conservative or a modern liberal, I am a Christian. As far as I can tell, the left-right divide splits Christ’s Matthew 5 Sermon down the middle (intentionally?). Both the left and the right will scoff at this idea, but that just proves my point I think… I voted for Donald Trump, not because I thought he was an ideal candidate, but because his vision for America’s future most closely aligned what I felt the Holy Spirit wanted. I claim no superpowers in that discernment. The biggest issue that Trump confronts, in my opinion, is the overthrow of a mediocracy that has been controlling public consensus for decades. The problem is far reaching, affecting television news, popular academia, entertainment medias, and until now I imagine, the American presidency itself. Before moving on, I will just list the top 3 truths that this system has censored/distorted – and that must be freshly disseminated if our society is to survive:
Reflecting upon Luc Besson’s most recent epic, the film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, I couldn’t help but think of Mary the Mother of God! Let me explain. [SPOILER] In the second half, this movie skirts into a super sci-fi pc social justice climax with an assertive female soldier extorting her military superior, against his better judgment to defy his sworn allegiance by bypassing the law and making unofficial reparations to a sexually androgynous race of illegal aliens who are refugees of a governmental conspiracy of violent imperialism! Wow, masterful. That covers topics in feminism, LGBT, racism, slavery, immigration, foreign policy, communist revolution, and anarchism. Does that remind you of Mary??? No… but it represents a broader theme on the left that should. A day or so after seeing Valarian, I revisited an old Hayao Miyazaki classic, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, a much more balanced artistic depiction of the holy feminine. Nausicaä is a virgin princess and sole heir who is trained in natural science, mechanics, politics, war, and diplomacy, but who freely chooses to focus her energy into botany, zoology, and the general cultivation of the life-giving arts (beauty). Her compassion for life inspires her to minister against the mutilations of revenge, eventually forcing her to give her life in active protest to world-war. In the film, Nausicaä grows into a prophetic savior figure who not only succeeds in quelling the rage of the oppressed classes (the sentient ‘insects’) but who also emerges as an inspiration to the women of her world – even converting a violent and power-hungry woman through example alone. Against my will, the character of Nausicaä reminded me of Valerian’s Laureline. Despite the extremism of her example, there remained in Laureline’s plee an echo of Our Lady at the feast of Cana: ‘They have no wine.’ And Valerian offers a similar response. Maybe it is ok to break the rules or laws sometimes for the sake of the suffering…
Some people think that Catholic theology is a spider web of bureaucracy meant to cloud the issues that reason alone could settle. It is just the opposite. History provides all the proof. The Church is the Rock of Ages precisely because its doctrines are so difficult to logically improve. An indubitable evidence of conformity to reality (any reasonable person should say, see Dr. Jordan Peterson). The Christ doctrine is light on the way. Everything we desire is already there. Take the case of feminist activism. What does God say about it through the dogmatic proclamations of the Church? Well, God chose a woman to be the only perfectly created human person – that is God’s feminism. Mary is metaphysically superior to the rest of humanity. It seems to me the woman's movement could not find a deeper well. But it requires us to see otherness as more than a tool of oppression. A nirvana without difference or distinction is not better than a hierarchy where everyone is equal. Yes, God can do that. Traditionally, Mary embodies the Catholic Church, infusing the Christian West with eyes to see where freedom crosses over to sin, developing in her children a discernment of offenses and sensitivity of conscience. G.K. Chesterton suggested that, originally, the majority of women did not want to vote – as in the later labor movement feminists who didn't care for suffrage: Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Mother Jones – because politics by design is a violent sport – government is always ultimately coercion at gunpoint. Maybe those women saw as Nausicaä did.
There has been a beautiful evolution in human sensitivity from which much of the social justice movement arises. I say this is undoubtedly a Marian charisma. Mary does not overlook the experiences of the individual, anyone, ever. There is no collateral damage in her decisions (emotionally or physically); her love passes-over no one. However, this also means that Our Lady does not exchange the enemy of evil or suffering for the enemy of republicans or capitalism. The Leftist technological collectivism is no less abhorrent to her than imperial nationalism. The Right does need the Left to remind it of those moments when reason deserves deviation, as the Left needs the Right to remind it when ‘the time has not yet come.’ We must all live in the restrictions of the conversation as two-tongued, lest we attempt again to supplant our God. The fear of this tension is at the root of all faithlessness in religion, marriage, and politics alike. It is the paradox that united man and God in Jesus Christ, an idea that spreads whenever its speared to a tree. You do not get to say you understand it, but neither may you reject the power of its witness. We are allowed to believe in our divination as individual cosmos’ called the children of God. Either there is nothing and you don’t matter, or there is one and no you at all, or the one is in the many and the many in the one in the house of the Lord.
“As it is written:
‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him’.”
- 1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV
Here's a beautiful bi-partisan review of 2017 politics and the Catholic Church by a much higher authority than mine:
Strangers in a Strange Land
HBO’s “The Young Pope” tells the story of a middle-aged American priest who is, young... The show follows Cardinal ‘Lenny’s surprise election to the office of Supreme Pontifex in an otherwise believable near-future. An opening theme attempts to paint the new pope as a comet firing radical change through a pristine line of ‘tradition’. Tradition in this series turns out to be the Vatican’s particular species of ‘political correctness’ rather than any deep penetration into Christian doctrine. Lenny takes the name of Pius XIII, a literal symbol of his devotion to the papal office and its formalities. From the start, the Holy See is portrayed as a political institution, albeit of an alien branch, with all the bureaucracy and corruption of a typical state. With due appreciation for this acknowledgement of the worldly elements in the Church, the illustration is too projective to paint a true picture of the Church’s many-colored coat. No doubt this bias only reflects the general agnosticism of Western believers today and perhaps serves its purpose in meeting such as those in their not unpopular position of amateur religiosity. As so, this show will not provide much spiritual sustenance to the devout, with exceptions, beyond the familiar social commentary. Not that we expected much – the holy people will understandably never watch HBO in the first place! Personally, I wanted to know what spin they would put on my beloved (Catholic Church) so that I could, if necessary, defend her to any caught in HBO’s typical gnostic propaganda. After watching, I was surprised at the only mild offensiveness of the series. The secular reverence in Paulo Sorrentino’s directing manifested as only soft satire with occasional notable insights. Here are my highlights and corrections.
One of the reasons why there should probably never be a young pope is the obvious fact that age brings experience and wisdom; there is analogy between the physical and spiritual body. No shortcuts can bypass individuation, despite the unfailing pretentions of the youth. Our culture keeps forgetting the Church’s most brilliant innovation, that is, the repositioning of value to the individual person. The Christian collective consists of independent members in spiritual communion, a complete contrast to the utilitarian model of the hivemind. Without appreciation for the servant-leader framework of Christ, one assumes the post-modern perspective of reducing every authority to an oppressor. The paradox of consubstantiality between material royalty and spiritual poverty is not sufficiently played out in ‘The Young Pope’, especially in those moments when its explication would be most enlightening. Since the primary purpose of the Church’s wealth has always been beauty more than power, the idea that every form of hierarchy constitutes exploitation is far too shallow a view of human motivation. There can be great humility in accepting a seat of authority and its accompanying rituals. Instead, the ‘Young Pope’ is as pompous about his station as one could imagine. Lenny’s arrogance implies a devolution of Church consciousness back to Medici times, echoing again the flat trajectory of modern philosophy, an arc that simply does not follow the history. The Catholic Church has always taken its surrounding zeitgeist seriously into an open dialogue, not withstanding brief interruptions, but ultimately resulting in the incredible theological and pastoral developments that mark the Church’s genius. The Church is not an ancient monolith, it is an ancient person, and the pope is not a CEO, he is a missionary.
The series continually misrepresents celibacy as it has been historically theorized and lived by the Catholic Church. It is a mild modern reaction to the sexual revolution that rightly esteems the heroism of marital fidelity. However, in this cultural spirit there is also an implicit repudiation of celibacy as a cowardly escape from the duties of familial life. Scripture and the Church’s tradition are very clear that celibacy is freedom for the sake of a full-time ministry of charity. To remain children in the sense of never becoming a biological father or mother is also to be able to give one’s heart more broadly and to imitate the love relationships of heaven in that way. Priesthood is not a hide-out for the psychologically immature as anyone who has been through the modern gauntlet of priestly formation can attest. HBO presents ordination as a career path for the socially timid. This goes in hand with a general mood of anxious uncertainty about life within the Vatican’s clergy. It draws a sloppy caricature of Christian doubt when it looks no different than secular skepticism or cynicism. That kind of doubt sometimes preludes conscious participation in Christianity but it dies with the initial awakening to natural mystery that begins mature faith. The darkness of a spiritual doubt, like John of the Cross and Teresa of Calcutta recounted, is a vastly different phenomenon, entirely unrelated to atheism. The ‘dark night of the soul’ is faith in God at the apex, it is the pain of losing sight of one’s own needs; altogether poured out in service to the point of confusion at the persistent presence of a crucified self.
Psychologically ‘The Young Pope’ only makes it as deep as the simplest aspects of Freudianism. Having no parents, Lenny’s metaphysics are reduced to an archetype of his stunted nurturing. It seems these premises underlie the motivations of every soul in this show’s worldview. A person never transcends their experiences of low human relationship. Likewise, a person is double predestined to act out the pattern of woundedness transmitted to them. The Church then is just a sexually repressed child, a victim, deserving as much sympathy for its sins as the rest of the sexually corrupt society. But this philosophy neither appreciates the intensity of attack against the Church nor the heights of glory that its holiness can reach. It appears instead that the Church advertises its own carrot-on-stick like any other competitor in an economic market. ‘Mystery’ is a shoddy product that must be sold. Again… mystery alone is pre-catechumenal. What the Church actually offers is more than any outsider can swallow or any tv show dare admit: a healed life, more truth than naked science, and a nuptial relationship with God. Only someone who has not penetrated the mystogogy of the Catholic Church could depict her as merely human, more bureaucratic than mystical.
On the positive side, HBO’s first season of Popery gives a cool depiction of the priest as a mediator of the family, precisely through the sacrifice of his own sexual desire. I think this is exactly the truth. There have even been surveys that evince married people being more comfortable receiving counsel and reconciliation from a celibate person. As they say, chastity means a smooth functioning sexuality, while promiscuity exposes a broken engine. There is another beautiful insight revealed in the sanctity of caring for the simple minded or otherwise physically disabled. Christians alone are capable of doing this work as it ought to be done, since only Christianity allows us to see God, literally, in the eyes of the sentient and suffering. The fact that the Pope smokes also speaks to something perhaps uniquely Catholic, that is, a certain indefinite suspension of judgment that is neither moral relativism nor an excuse to be silent to evil, but definitely a conflictual call to dialogue. I think its fair to say that the Church is generally “tough in principle, soft in practice.” Ambition and corruption is real in the Church as it is real in each human soul, but the Church is also as divine as Christ and immune to the systemic failure that overcomes all other institutions over time. This idea was conveyed brilliantly in the sinner, Pope Pius XIII, who performed his miracles accidentally.