It is a curious thing being a millennial. I was born in 1988, and I find my generation to be a curious generation. We are, generally speaking, just old enough to have learned the old ways, or at least the ways that are not completely modern.
I recall being raised at a time when wearing caps indoors was seen as bad decorum, or when saying “Oh my God” apart from a time of astonishment or an appeal to the Almighty was seen as wrong, even sinful. That families would say grace before meals on occasions like Thanksgiving was still normal, and it was commonly held that good people would go to church, and people who did not would at least admit to the fact that going to church would, in fact, make you good.
I remember that as a youngster it was plain as day that there were only two genders—male and female—and if someone dressed like the opposite sex in an explicit way, we could call them a transvestite. Young girls who liked to play football at recess were not prompted to see themselves as male but as girls who like to play football, and they might be called a tomboy. Boys who preferred the more delicate things were not told they might consider lopping off their genitalia or taking hormone blockers but were, instead, viewed as refined and maybe just a big sensitive, even if a bit delicate.
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The Dewey Decimal System was all the rage, and children had to learn phone etiquette in order to answer the phone like a respectable person. We learned to write with the artistry of cursive writing, and we memorized our times table. We played with our friends in the neighborhood and made sure we came home before dark and mealtimes. It was still normal in the ’90s to see some kids playing street hockey with their dads and to walk up and say, “Can I play?”
Friendships were easy to come by, and even if our parents had stricter rules about what we could watch on television compared to other parents, it was common knowledge that all parents would say things like, “Well, we don’t watch that here,” or, “I think we should call your parents and ask first.”
No one had a cell phone, let alone a mini supercomputer with unfiltered access to hard-core pornography.
It was seen as immoral and simply disordered to stare at screens when the sun was shining or the snow was fresh or even when the warm air came in during the month of March and signaled to children that there were snowmen to be made. Christmas was Christmas, in that it was good and normal to speak of the birth of Christ and to be grateful to God for giving us His Son. And divorce—although increasingly common—was not a good thing, and it was pitiable to come from what used to be called a “broken home.”
Of course, things were not perfect—far from it—but there was an air of sanity that we breathed, and we had enough clarity of mind to believe that it was good to have a clear conscience and that honesty was the best policy.
At a certain point, all of that changed. The impetus for such a change can be discussed at length elsewhere. In any event, that world is seemingly gone, and gone with it is the sanity and goodness that still existed, even if it was on life support.
We left behind Dewey and his cataloguing of books and replaced it with Siri and AI. The generation of parents that followed my parents’ generation had very few children, and they had them much later than previous generations did.
Children were no longer encouraged to get outside and breathe the fresh air of autumn. Instead, they were encouraged to find a game they liked on their so-called smartphone and lose themselves in cyberspace where reality became virtual. Cursive writing became archaic, and modern children learned to tap away on iPads and Chromebooks, and they subsequently forgot how to spell.
Everything became racist and sexist and homophobic and bigoted. Common sense became hate speech. Natural desires became unnatural and unnatural desires became virtues to be celebrated with hideous parades and ever-changing flags that challenge the limits of tasteless aesthetics and betray a lack of artistry as a whole.
This transformation seems to have taken hold in a real way within the last 15 years or so. Of course, like any major conversion—good or bad—it did not happen all at once. But it was definitely felt all at once. I graduated from my undergraduate program in 2012, only to find three years later that my new students at the school where I was employed could identify as male or female or neither, which was something only the most fringe followers of wacky professors had ever considered as normal at liberal universities.
It was at this same time that I experienced my own conversion. I was raised Catholic in a nominal sense, but we never really practiced the Faith growing up. In addition, I was one of the victims of divorce, which became more common in the ’90s.
So, I found myself caught between two worlds in more ways than one. I was caught between a world that existed before high-speed internet and a world that needed anxiety medication to cope with too many Zoom calls, as well as a world that was moving at accelerating speed toward the abyss and a world coming awake and taking the red pill.
It was an interior battle, as I knew in my bones that there was this thing called religion, and that the truth of religion was found in the Catholic Church, while I wrestled with the moral relativism that gripped my intellect screaming to me, “There is no absolute truth, and you must believe this absolutely!”
At a certain point, I discovered Chesterton and Lewis and the beloved Augustine and realized that this thing I was going through—and society as a whole was going through in a way—was not altogether new and had happened before. Chesterton showed me in Orthodoxy that young men with an education always think they are smarter than they are; and after a sojourn at the Vanity Fair, they wake up one morning wanting to be sane, finding that sanity in that unchanging monolith of Rome.
Lewis showed the world during the Second World War that without even a mere Christianity, we could all be Nazis and Soviets, and our annihilation would come in the external because we had annihilated our God from within.
Augustine showed the restless heart that our hearts are restless until they rest in God, the immutable Sustainer of all things, in whom we find the solace for our souls that no amount of pagan or gnostic or materialist cults can give.
Put simply, it became utterly clear that in the past and in the ancients, there was wisdom and truth, goodness and beauty. There was sacrifice and sin, morality and redemption. Our ancestors spoke of forgiveness and justice; and reality was really real for them, not some figment of the imagination.
On the contrary, our age has seen a resurrection of Manes and Democritus, who convinced the masses through their temples of learning that only the enlightened know the truth and the truth is that there is no truth outside of the atomistic illusion that is called consciousness.
The modern man who embraces this anti-truth lives as a schizophrenic man plagued with a scrupulous neurosis as he gazes into the eyes of his wife whom he loves even though love isn’t real, and whom he longs to be with forever even though time is but an illusion and his wife is no more real than his own imagination.
He lives with a deep pang of depression and angst as each passing moment edges him closer to that moment when he no longer exists and when there is nothing but darkness. He is a man against himself, a man against his reason, a man against his soul, and a man against God. He can find no peace, he can find no true love, and he wrestles with what Sartre called the only real question left in philosophy, “Why not suicide?”
It is not in any modern idea or modern formulation of an old idea that man will find the rest for his restless heart. Just like he will not find the permanence of goodness and beauty in a suburb, he will not find those things in a “new church” or a house built on sand.
It is only on the marble floor cemented into the earth where a Catholic altar rests where he will find the God who does not cease in the temple that cannot be destroyed. In addition, he will find that all these questions of modernity and our modern insanity have been addressed by Solomon, Boethius, Dante, and Aquinas. There is nothing new under the sun, especially not his new ideas that conform to a new world that is always out of date.
Even in our modern Church, with all its revolution and adoption of the stupidity of modern times, we are still able to recognize what belongs and what doesn’t. The table altar does not belong because we do not put tables in front of high altars. The ridiculous music does not belong because we do not sing ridiculous songs for God. The banal vernacular does not belong because we do not use the same language we use to curse and curse others for our worship of God. We know that modern moral theology is wrong because we go to the confessional for absolution not justification and psychoanalysis. Even in our modern Church, with all its revolution and adoption of the stupidity of modern times, we are still able to recognize what belongs and what doesn’t. Tweet This
The point is that even when the Church has adopted the rottenness of the Sodom in which we live, we have a standard to stand under to condemn the errors and blemishes that do not belong in the House of God.
The only sane response to the insanity of our day is to reject that metaphysical madness of modernity and unite ourselves with the unchanging Truth. By simply dipping our fingers in the font of holy water and crossing ourselves, we admit that water is real, and God is God, and that death is death, and that death is not the end.
By telling the priest our sins, we admit that sin is real and so is forgiveness and that Heaven is our true home and, therefore, we would rather shed our limbs stained in sin in order to ascend above rather than be weighed down and taken below.
As we kneel for Holy Communion, we recalibrate the topsy-turvy melancholy that has gripped the soul of modern man as we finally find true understanding: by kneeling, we stand taller than we did while on our feet; and by being under the Host presented to our tongues, we finally stand under the Truth who enters into us so that we may enter into Him.
The religions of the East will not give us this, even if they have much to give. The Hindu—for all that is beautiful about India—will not give us absolute truth because he does not believe that he lives absolutely, as one day Atman will become Brahman in a nihilistic annihilation.
The Buddhist will give us interior peace, but only in a relative sense because he will only give us the peace of not caring about anything but peace itself, thereby turning something that is not God into a type of god, making us idolaters of a state of soul.
The Muslims may give us a type of monotheism and a type of moral code, but they will also give us the carnal consequentialism of Muslim morality that confuses the concubinage with the Heaven wherein we do not marry or be given in marriage.
It is only in the Church of Christ that the errors of false religion are corrected and the mythologies of pagan dreamers become real and are made true. Ultimately, it is only in the Church that Christ established upon the Rock of Peter that we can become sane.
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