Wednesday, July 01, 2015

David Brooks sounding a bit like Pope Francis now.

David Brooks.

I have always liked David Brooks.  In his recent op-ed at the NYT he discusses The Next Culture War - it's about tactics:

Christianity is in decline in the United States.
  • Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.

Quoting Rod Dreher: “We have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist.” 
These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.
I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.

Our Mr. Brooks has a very Franciscan idea:

  • Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
  • Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.
This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.
I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace. - Read the entire piece here.

Works for me.



  1. Couldn't disagree more. Some thoughts:

    This reminds me of James Martin SJ saying, "Now that my side has won, it's time for us to group together and heal our divide." David Brooks has never "got" many forms of grave sexual sin.

    Since when does God care about whether you are "winning the culture" by declaring the Gospel? It's not about winning.

    Another fallacy in this argument is that people are actually tuned into and substantially formed by media narratives: NY Times Op-eds, Heritage Foundation policy papers, etc. They're not, but they are formed by k-12 teachers pushing soft relativism. It's similar to the Catholic media bubble--it's a virtual reality and not what is really happening on the streets. I've been walking the streets 18 months and I've never had a single person mention Pope Francis (granted there are not many newsies/internet news addicts in poor areas).

    Most parishes and bishops have not been preaching sexual sin for the last 40 years, how has that worked out?

    Blessed Jacinta said that more people fall into hell over sexual sin than any other vice.

    1. Thanks Scott - I appreciate what you have to say. It isn't about winning - you are absolutely right. You are right about the malformation/indoctrination of children as well as the failure of parishes and bishops.

      Oddly enough, I actually thought of you as doing what Brooks suggests - I think of you as doing what Francis suggests - going out to the peripheries, living amongst the outcasts. So you may have misread something in my support for that aspect of what the pope calls for and the suggestion David Brooks made.

      I'm not a conservative nor a republican - neither am I political or patriotic.

      Just a Catholic guy.

    2. As the Church we need to be "all things to all people so that some may be saved." In my ministry I've also never had an explicit conversation about sexual sin--in part because its obvious to those who are in the grip of it. It's implicit in the conversation, and so there's no need to do apologetics (which isn't the ministry anyway).

      At the same time, priests, bishops and deacons have the responsibility to sanctify their flock, and most lack the faith in the Holy Spirit to even attempt a patient, loving homily on divorce, contraception, fornication, etc. It is this lack of faith in the grace-filled, transformative power of the Word that is killing the Church.

      A final thought. Sexual sin is what brought me to the edge of hell, not robbing banks or "playing tough guy". It was the means of spiritual death, and that's why I take the issue so seriously.

    3. Anonymous9:21 PM

      I was nearly destroyed by sexual sin. It was Truth which brought me back to life and to my true self, made in the Image and Likeness of God. If others want to retreat from this front because of darkness, I understand. But I cannot retreat. Someone has to keep a lantern lit for others like me.


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