Journey Back to Bethlehem

Posted on 2023-12-16
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Thomasville, Georgia – I have decided to hold off on writing the second and third installments of the three crises until after the first of the year. This penitential season is in joyful preparation for the coming of Our Redeemer. There will be time enough for recriminations later. In the meantime, a few rambling thoughts…

In early 2007 I had just become exhausted with politics. I can relate to Tucker Carlson’s recent comment that hanging out with politicians can be “repulsive.” I chose my candidates and allies well, but part of my work always involved negotiating with competing groups and politicians. Sometimes, you discovered a gem. More often, you discovered people whose unearned self-regard and petulant greed took your breath away. So, for most of 2007 and early 2008 I just ignored politics altogether. For the first election cycle in a quarter of a century, I did not sign on with any candidates at all.

But I was counted among the foremost conservative thinkers and activists in Illinois, so my absence was noticed. Some conservative leaders had set up a big forum in downtown Chicago that would feature prominent speakers from various national conservative groups and publications. I think it was in January of 2008, but I may be off by a few months. I started getting calls from various conservative leaders, telling me I needed to be there – that people were wondering what was going on with me and needed to hear from me. I told them I was just tired and needed to stay away from things for a while.

What turned the tide was when a prominent fellow who had more often been antagonist than ally called to tell me that I really needed to be there. He appealed to me, saying that despite our frequent disagreements, mine was an important voice which made the conservative scene richer and more hopeful in our state. I agreed to go, but couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for it.

When I arrived, it was a good forum. The only person I remember speaking was Ramesh Ponnuru, who had written a marvelous book the previous year, The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life. The truth, though, was that it was one of those fashionable events where everyone wants to see and be seen. The old bulls dispensed their wisdom, the active operatives visibly plotted and schemed with each other, and the young strivers were dressed to the nines trying to sparkle in both looks and conversation in hopes of securing a solid place in the firmament of the state’s conservative luminaries. It was Illinois, so we had plenty of room for more luminaries in our little conservative planetarium. As in all fields, the young strivers eagerly sought the counsel of those already active and firmly in place. Some hoped for a little wisdom, some hoped to be noticed by someone who could advance their ambitions, and most all hoped for some measure of both.

While talking with the younger folks, amidst all the glitter and sparkle, I suddenly became very ill. All I could think of was doom – that by the time these folks reached their prime, the system they so longed to run would be gone. Sounds goofy, but it so overwhelmed me, I got sick to my stomach and had to leave.

Rod Dreher’s recent piece for the European Conservative brought my mind back to that incident. You have a whole host of people paying an exorbitant amount for their entry ticket into the ruling class – a ruling class that is collapsing as you read this.

The event did shake me out of my extended torpor. I got involved in statewide conservative affairs again and served as a regular panelist on Tom Roeser’s Sunday night political show on WLS. It most assuredly was not the usual full-court press, but I figured I needed to do the little I could, however much I was convinced that our social trajectory was decidedly towards collapse. Doing what you can while you can connects you with people who do what they do from conviction – and those are the people you need to rebuild from the ashes. It does require a certain discipline, though, to carry on when you are convinced that doom is in our future in preparation for the great renewal. The decay and growing chaos is ever present to you. You show your faith and trust by carrying on anyway.

We have reached a point where many people think to show they are smart by denying the existence of God. They do not come to it by any serious philosophical examination of the concept or scientific examination of the evidence. Ours is far too impoverished an age for such as that. Rather they come to it the way they come to support a particular baseball team: because everyone else around them is doing the same and it makes them part of the in crowd. Like a clique in high school, their unearned sense of superiority is a complete fraud – and they can’t begin to defend it intellectually when called to do so. They have no arguments, only sneers. They are also incredibly miserable.

Why all of the misery? Materialism and relativism.

Materialism, like Mammon, does not just mean money and possessions. It refers to all of the things of this world. When you put your hope in the things of this world, whether they be money, possessions, your own intellect, influence, or power, you put your hope in things that are ever passing away. There is no hope to be had there. For all his conquests and power, Alexander the Great’s remains lie a-mouldering in the grave just as surely as do those of the corner wino. Death is the ultimate socialist equalizer. If there is no more than this, then there is no transcendent meaning to life.

Gripped by despair at that realization, all these folks who adopt “smart” as a fashionable posture rather than a serious examination for truth try to find meaning in some other fashion, most frequently bingeing on money, sex, drugs, power or some unseemly combination thereof. It does not avail.

Most of my life I have struggled over whether my mystical experiences are a true call or just a sort of high-functioning disorder. On the one hand, if it were just a high-functioning disorder, it could be a source of danger to people – and there was no guarantee that it would not degenerate, perhaps rapidly. On the other hand, if it was a legitimate call and I dismissed it, I would be dismissing God. And it was very clear to me, even by the late 60’s, that if it was a legitimate call and what I was being shown was fundamentally true, people would very much need someone who had submitted to the lifetime of training necessary for it.

The restraints inherent to it all are quite peculiar. My visitors treated my venial sins as something beneath their notice – and rarely spoke of them, kind of like indulgent parents who expected their child to grow out of certain annoying phases. But there were some things that were absolute. Most of these affected things that are perfectly licit for everyone else, but were forbidden to me. Mainly (but not exclusively), I could not make the sorts of commitments necessary to build wealth. At one point, about the time I was 30, I decided this was all so much nonsense, that I had the skills to become quite rich and powerful and, by gum, I ought to do it for my family. What followed was the worst day of my life. I felt empty and dark, struggling – and failing – to hold existential despair at bay. And it just got darker and more despairing. I gave it up, didn’t even make it 24 hours. The desolation and despair were so thick I could not bear it – and thought if I tried for any length I would end by quickly doing myself serious harm. Whatever I was made for, it was not to pursue riches and power.

I am glad it happened, though. I think that desolation and despair were a foretaste of hell. It is what happens when any of us make ends out of what are merely means. It gives me a profound sense of sympathy for all the screeching harpies trying to tear apart a culture that worked under the Judeo-Christian ethic. It is a projection of their own misery. They are kind of like wounded animals writhing in agony. Man surely was not made for bread alone.

When your focus becomes solely materialistic, it is like abusing drugs: each hit erodes your being. You have to constantly find new thrills and greater doses to dull the despair for a bit as you progressively lose the ability to feel empathy or concern for anyone but your own desperate need. You come up with all manner of justifications for why you continue to destroy yourself. With every new level, you need more. The despair gets greater to where it does not just dominate your life: it is your life. In the end, you commit all manner of depravity in a pathetic effort to feel something, anything. And then you die.

I follow Twitter. The frantic, hysterical assertions of the left are almost an exact duplicate of the sort of frantic, hysterical assertions of drug addicts whose supply is threatened. The deeper they are in the addiction, the less their explanations hold any sort of logic or relation to reality. They are just urgent and obsessive. Yes, I battle them, but I pity them, too. I see people who are dying – and part of them knows it.

In the midst of all this, they speak of “my truth.” Truth is truth. If everyone has their own fundamental truth, contradicting others’ fundamental truth, there is no truth. Hence, more despair, more desperation, and the more they try to self-medicate with money, possessions, intellect, influence and power. The more they self-medicate with these things, the more those things fade away from them, bringing on even more desolation and despair. The things of this world will not avail. One of the satan’s greatest gambits was to trick people into taking poisons that give a quick rush while slowly killing them – and then convincing them that the “smart” thing to do is to deny the sort of spirituality that could cure them and bring real relief.

The truth, as St. Augustine said, is that our heart is restless until it rests in God. New age paganism with all its crystal trappings is just a new form of golden calf – a form that is embraced by the dying “smart” set of the left specifically because it gives an outlet for their spiritual longings without reference to the actual God. The satan does not dissuade them, for it is a useful placebo to keep them anesthetized as they slide to their destruction.

We are, body and soul, made for God. If we deny the soul, life has no meaning and death follows, whatever sound and fury we make to numb us to the despair inherent to a life without God. A whole generation has made themselves spiritual orphans.

Once I surrendered to what I am, I put a lot of safeguards in place just in case it turns out I am a high-functioning nutjob. Twenty years ago, that was the most likely temporal explanation for my experiences – and the skepticism that has ruled my approach to surrender and obedience has served me in good stead. Now, from a purely analytical standpoint, the most likely temporal explanation for my experiences is that they are real. Lord knows I have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but the dystopian world I have been shown since the early 60’s and started speaking publicly about just over a decade ago is already our reality.

It is both daunting and soothing. It is daunting to see, in real time, what I could once warily hope were just dystopian fantasies. It is soothing because, having been fundamentally right in what, less than a decade ago, was seen as ridiculously improbable, it is quite likely that I am right that God has a plan which will improbably bring victory and deliverance if we put our shoulders to the plow.

Our work, though, is not just to behave so that God saves us. That would be like the servant who buried his talent to return to the Master intact. The Master was NOT pleased, took the man’s talent, called him wicked and slothful, and cast him into outer darkness. God expects a return on the talents He bequeaths us. We are to constantly call to those who may hear to return to the embrace of the Master, that we may give Him gain for what He has given us. We are called to release the captives from their own self-imposed misery, from their pathetic delusions of grandeur that bring death, not life. Not all will hear. Not all who do will answer. But some will – and we are responsible to God for making the call. I guess that is another reason why I get so angry when people speak of angels bringing us to refuges or of the Rapture. It is a trick of the devil to convince us to bury our talent in the ground and do nothing. It is a seductive call to abandon our post and our duty. We are called to be God’s hands and feet on this earth. He is merciful when we fail, but filled with wrath when we do not even try. What a glorious honor it is to be called to be God’s hands and feet!

Remember, too, that God does not ask much. He did not expect the man to whom He gave two talents to return 200, only two more. He only expects us to do what we can. If we set our shoulder to the plow, it is enough. I will not retreat from the world expecting a reward from God for cowering from the travails the satan has visited upon us, particularly when so many are groaning in agony and don’t even know why.

I worried for much of my life that I was a high-functioning nutjob. How glorious it is to see that He has called me to be a bit player in His plan to renew the faith and face of the earth. He has called you to the same. Let us, then, turn our faces resolutely to the New Jerusalem, knowing that our redemption is at hand.

*********

My overlapping dual Novenas to the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Tepeyac have been the most important to me for over a quarter of a century. When first arrived in the Denver area on my pilgrimage, I was befriended by the late Sr. Lucille Dupuis, a hermitess near Estes Park. At my first visit with her at her poustinia in the mountains, I was struck by a beautiful Icon of Our Lady near the entrance. I asked Sr. Lucille what it was, for I had never seen it before. She told me it was Our Lady of the New Advent. I was delighted, for this is exactly what we are living. In the First Advent, a groaning world looked forward to the Child in the manger. In this New Advent, a groaning world must look back to the Child in the Manger to find renewal.

It is peculiar to Denver. I found this year, that the Archdiocese of Denver celebrates the Feast Day of Our Lady of the New Advent on December 16. So now I have my Triune, perfectly overlapping Novenas. Each starts exactly in the middle of the previous one.

Our Lady of the New Advent, pray for us!

*********

The thing you have to know about artificial intelligence (AI) is that it is not intelligence. It is algorithm. Yes, the computing system can make connections between disparate elements in its database. But it is like the light of the moon, merely a reflection of the actual human intelligence and creativity that program it and keeps the disparate data bases up. As with all programming, if garbage goes in, garbage comes out.

I am not downplaying the power of AI. We already use it in common applications. Your GPS mapping system is a rudimentary form of AI. While it has no genuine creative capacity, it can perform calculations and searches far faster than a human mind can. That can be incredibly useful. But it also presents a significant danger.

People think that the more technological applications we get, the smarter we get. To the contrary, for the most part, the more applications we get, the dumber we get. GPS systems have left a whole generation of people unable to read a simple map – because the GPS does it for us. Cell phones have left a generation and a half of people unable to remember their closest friends’ numbers – because the cell phone remembers them for us. If a generation that has gone dim on the concepts of evidence and logic comes to believe they don’t have to think because AI will do it for them, the new dark ages we have already entered will get substantially darker.

When we forfeit basic skills, we become dependents on the technology we use. It is a sort of crutch. A crutch is useful when we are recovering from an injury. Used excessively after the injury is healed, it becomes debilitating. I have come to think that technology, without wisdom, has debilitated us.

There is a reason why God does not just give us the answers we want, but forces us to work for them. The effort to obtain skills gives us a discipline – and a seasoning that makes it less likely we will abuse them. If you have to do real research, searching out source documents and making connections, you develop a feel for the work that helps you quickly discriminate between real research and overheated poppycock. People love to attribute quotes, without sourcing, to famous figures. If you have not studied history seriously, you can be easily deceived. If you do know the subject intimately, you know almost immediately when confronted with a phony quote – because it lacks the cadence of or is contrary to the purported author’s language and mind and practice. If you are a brick mason who has built 50 houses, you know whether some instructions you find online are sound or nonsense.

We are become like a man walking on stilts using elongated crutches, We congratulate ourselves on the scope of our vision and the length of our stride – but will we be able to walk at all if the crutches and stilts are knocked away? I have come to see many benefits from my pilgrimage that I did not understand at the time. One of the premier ones was that, without much in the way of technology and anything in the way of utilities, I was able to manage just fine. It was labor intensive, no doubt, but required I use the native ingenuity and physical skills God gave me, diminished as those physical skills already were.

When I was a political operative, I never much cared for endorsements. One client was puzzled by my dismissive attitude about them. “What you take and create for yourself, you own,” I explained. “What is given to you can easily be taken away.” Too many of us are riders on the boat of technology and think ourselves masters of the sea. I keep my rowboat within sight. You are well-advised to do the same.

Technological cyber-attacks are increasing dramatically against all American sites, particularly conservative and Christian ones – and against basic technological infrastructure. Most of the attacks come from China. I think China knows how dependent we have become on our technology – and is working to blind us before attacking Taiwan. I have had some technical people I trust tell me to prepare for some big disruptions in American technology within the next 120 days. I take their warning seriously, particularly given that it matches up well with what I already expect to be challenges in the New Year.

Print out what you need, now while you easily can. Do not panic if some general outages strike in the New Year, whether of technological infrastructure or utilities. My method is – and long has been – the next right step. You are more ingenious and clever than you know. You are sons and daughters of the pioneers who carved a path into this new world and made it into a great nation. It is inevitable that our global enemies are going to try to take advantage of our enfeeblement. The good news is that it is almost certainly not in preparation for any invasion, as some overheated sorts think. That would be brutally difficult in a nation as heavily armed as America, carries little advantage for any current enemies, and risks creating a genuine unity among our discordant population. Almost certainly, when it comes, it will come as an effort to prevent us from projecting power to defend all the other areas that our enemies DO want to subjugate. Lift up your heads, work with your neighbors, and know that our reclamation is at hand, even as things look very dark for a time – and that we are called to be God’s hands and feet in the renewal of the faith and face of the world.

If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.

Find me on Twitter at @JohnstonPilgrim

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