Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fashionable Faith

Carl Olson seemed to post a ton of good stuff last night. He has a quote from GK Chesterton here. I won't copy the whole thing but here is a paragraph:
It is somewhat amusing, indeed, to notice the difference between the fate of these three paradoxes[faith, hope, and charity] in the fashion of the modern mind. Charity is a fashionable virtue in our time; it is lit up by the gigantic firelight of Dickens. Hope is a fashionable virtue to-day; our attention has been arrested for it by the sudden and silver trumpet of Stevenson. But faith is unfashionable, and it is customary on every side to cast against it the fact that it is a paradox. Everybody mockingly repeats the famous childish definition that faith is "the power of believing that which we know to be untrue." Yet it is not one atom more paradoxical than hope or charity. Charity is the power of defending that which we know to be indefensible. Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate. It is true that there is a state of hope which belongs to bright prospects and the morning; but that is not the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and eclipse. It is true that there is a thing crudely called charity, which means charity to the deserving poor; but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice. It is the undeserving who require it, and the ideal either does not exist at all, or exists wholly for them. For practical purposes it is at the hopeless moment that we require the hopeful man, and the virtue either does not exist at all, or begins to exist at that moment.
He is right to some extent. We tend to mock faith. We don't tend to mock love. But, as he points out, true virtuous love is not that common. Now this was written 100 years ago so we have gone down this road quite a bit further. Love has been redefined to the point where the supernatural agape love is not only not fashionable it is almost unknown. Certainly romantic love has been re-imagined. The focus is on the short term and the sexual rather than on the eternal and the spiritual.

Outside of romantic love we have some love for the poor. But it is more out of a sense of justice than true love. The argument is always that these children deserve a chance. Certainly virtuous but as Chesterton points out it is a reasonable virtue. One that paganism had. The irrational love for love's sake is not mocked but it is not venerated either. It is fashionable to talk about Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul in positive terms. But it is to damn them with faint praise. To reduce them to virtuous pagans. That is to talk about only their virtues of justice and courage but not talk about their virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

Hope has all but disappeared from the radar. This is why Obama was so popular. He inspired people to hope in themselves. That is not the virtue of hoping for eternal life but it can serve as a poor substitute when the virtue of hope is missing. Hope is placed in humanity. Humanity always disappoints. One little oil leak and that hope can be shattered. But placing hope in God is hard to find. Funerals happen on TV and in movies. The state of the person's soul just does not come up. Even when they happen in reality you are likely to find more presumption than hope.

Faith, hope, and love are related. They come in that order. That is why "by faith alone" has some truth to it. When we water down our faith until it is just a faith in humanity or a faith that God wants us to follow our hearts. Then hope has no foundation and love has no inspiration. Back in 1905 the culture was still going through the motions. Today it is less so.

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