Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Sandy Hook and Sin

[T]he whole modern press has a perpetual and consuming terror of plain morals... It will call the action anything else--mad, bestial, vulgar, idiotic, rather than call it sinful.
-G. K. Chesterton
I’ve been thinking about the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month and marveling at the typical response from all areas of politics and the press to the event. In events like this, it is inevitable that people will ask the question, “Why?” Why did this young man choose to take the lives of innocent children? Many answers have been proposed. He played violent video games. He watched violent movies. He took Ritalin as a child. He was on an experimental psychotic drug. He had ready access to a gun. As a society, we want answers like these because each of them is something that can be regulated or legislated against. Is the problem Ritalin or medicine? The FDA can restrict that. Is the problem violence in games and movies? The government can pass censorship laws. Is the problem ready access to guns? The government can enact gun control legislation. All of these causes have readily available solutions. All of them seem so simple. Yet, all of them are utterly wrong.

A major tenant of the modernist project, chugging along since the Enlightenment, is that mankind is perfectible, and that with proper education and application of government and scientific principles, things like crime and poverty can be eliminated. Thus far, modernism has failed to deliver on its promises. The reason for shootings in places like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown, and others is straightforward. People are SINFUL. Each and every human being entering this world is affected by original sin. Adam ate the fruit, and we’ve all reaped the consequences. And no matter how powerful the government becomes, no matter how vast its programs, no matter how comprehensive its laws, it can never legislate against original sin.

Only the Holy Spirit, working through the proclamation of the gospel by the Church, can change lives and hearts. Only the death and resurrection of Christ can cure the mortal sickness in each one of us. For we are all sick. It is a grave mistake to believe that the shooters in these incidents were somehow fundamentally different from ourselves, or that we could never do such a thing. But for the grace of God, we could all be killers.

G. K. Chesterton remarked on the fact that the press often wants to call acts of evil anything but “evil”. Journalists use euphemisms for “sin” and “wickedness” to avoid confronting the basic fact that evil exists, that it is in each one of us, and that governments are powerless to change it. Here is a passage from G. K. Chesterton’s essay “The Boy” from the book All Things Considered that deals with this very issue:

“But the whole modern world, or at any rate the whole modern Press, has a perpetual and consuming terror of plain morals. Men always attempt to avoid condemning a thing upon merely moral grounds. If I beat my grandmother to death to-morrow in the middle of Battersea Park, you may be perfectly certain that people will say everything about it except the simple and fairly obvious fact that it is wrong. Some will call it insane; that is, will accuse it of a deficiency of intelligence. This is not necessarily true at all. You could not tell whether the act was unintelligent or not unless you knew my grandmother. Some will call it vulgar, disgusting, and the rest of it; that is, they will accuse it of a lack of manners. Perhaps it does show a lack of manners; but this is scarcely its most serious disadvantage. Others will talk about the loathsome spectacle and the revolting scene; that is, they will accuse it of a deficiency of art, or aesthetic beauty. This again depends on the circumstances: in order to be quite certain that the appearance of the old lady has definitely deteriorated under the process of being beaten to death, it is necessary for the philosophical critic to be quite certain how ugly she was before. Another school of thinkers will say that the action is lacking in efficiency: that it is an uneconomic waste of a good grandmother. But that could only depend on the value, which is again an individual matter. The only real point that is worth mentioning is that the action is wicked, because your grandmother has a right not to be beaten to death. But of this simple moral explanation modern journalism has, as I say, a standing fear. It will call the action anything else--mad, bestial, vulgar, idiotic, rather than call it sinful…

“There is another case of the thing that I mean. Why on earth do the newspapers, in describing a dynamite outrage or any other political assassination, call it a "dastardly outrage" or a cowardly outrage? It is perfectly evident that it is not dastardly in the least. It is perfectly evident that it is about as cowardly as the Christians going to the lions. The man who does it exposes himself to the chance of being torn in pieces by two thousand people. What the thing is, is not cowardly, but profoundly and detestably wicked. The man who does it is very infamous and very brave. But, again, the explanation is that our modern Press would rather appeal to physical arrogance, or to anything, rather than appeal to right and wrong.”


Kelsey said…
You hit the nail right on the head, Mr. Davis; this is a great post! I really enjoy reading your blog.