Harold aptly used the quote as a springboard to discuss the tendency of many within the Church, including Bishop Barron, to believe that—in the words of Barron himself— “there is a reasonable hope that all people might be saved.” Harold’s article explored the potential and apparent damage such belief has done to the faith, creating a “Church Without Purpose.”
Hell to the rescue! Hell is a metaphysical necessity; that is, against all of the sophistry suggesting that all of our actions are completely determined by our genetics and environment, most of us readily concede the common-sense belief that we have free will.
His article got me thinking about heaven, hell, young people and, in Peterson’s words, the “adventure [that] isn’t being put before them.” I think that this situation exists primarily because many among us have failed to see the love of God in everything. We want to disassociate God from hell. God is love. We want to think that he has nothing to do with hell.
The truth is, he has everything and nothing to do with it. He created hell by withdrawing his presence. Period. And concerning life’s adventure, without the threat of damnation, that adventure doesn’t even exist. For adventure’s sake, only an existential threat will do.
Hell to the rescue! Hell is a metaphysical necessity; that is, against all of the sophistry suggesting that all of our actions are completely determined by our genetics and environment, most of us readily concede the common-sense belief that we have free will. Therefore, we must be able to choose whether or not we want to spend eternity in God’s presence or—somewhere else.
Hell is a gift. Out of love, God created hell to honor our freedom.
Hell is a gift. Out of love, God created hell to honor our freedom. Hell, wherever it is, is where God is not. We spend a lifetime making decisions, and within the context of those decisions we are often making a choice for God’s presence or absence within our day-to-day dealings. Life is a decision-making exercise that is predictive of our final, eternal decision.
We are sometimes told in sermons, essays, and books that the difficulties in life are there to test us. Having worked for seven years as a test engineer, I have some dryly industrial insights to offer. I came to be familiar with many types of testing:
- Non-destructive stress testing: sample is stressed to see if it is able to meet established criteria. Specification may require test to be repeated numerous times.
- Aesthetic: e.g. meeting color and reflectivity specifications.
- Attribute: e.g. meeting dimensional, density, hardness, or toughness specifications.
- Performance: testing the intended use of a product to see if works as specified.
What kind of test need we pass to win salvation?
There is none. Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”, sometimes translated “Put us not to the test”. God’s not interested in testing us, he’s interested in perfecting us, and testing only has value in that it moves us closer to that objective.
For social justice warriors, life is about conformance, and that requires continual performance testing—testing to standards imbued with an unhealthy helping of attribute and aesthetics testing: being of the right skin color, or of the right tribe, using the right pronouns, being on the right side of issues at the right time, etc. The specification is long and fluid.
For our part, we must come to see every test in life as a blessing in the making, a what-can-I-learn-from-this experience. Still, life is neither a test lab nor a classroom. What is it?
Call me crazy, but in many ways, I see life as a bar mitzvah.
A traditional bar mitzvah is a microcosm of life in that it is a celebration of taking on responsibility, and it occurs at the age of thirteen, an age that, to modern sensibilities, seems more than a little precocious.
My own thirteenth year was one immersed in responsibility. In addition to attending morning Mass and school, I was picking eggs, slopping hogs, washing dishes, occasionally cooking, baby-sitting younger siblings, ploughing fields, pitching manure, and stacking hay. And serving Mass—in Latin. It was the year that I began serving Mass and the year I was confirmed.
What if our children weren’t raised by random peers and (oft times) ideologue teachers? What if they actually shared our culture rather than being stratified into their own little worlds? The bar mitzvah concept introduced adult responsibility at the age of thirteen.
In a Crisis Magazine article, “School Boards Seek FBI Protection…From Parents”, I explored the built-in dangers of our Prussian-style education system which insists upon school consolidation (to purposely increase class size), strict stratification by age group, and twelve years of required attendance—a system designed to minimize parental influence upon their children and maximize the influence of peers and teachers throughout a child’s most impressionable years.
What’s the alternative? What if our children weren’t raised by random peers and (oft times) ideologue teachers? What if they actually shared our culture rather than being stratified into their own little worlds? The bar mitzvah concept introduced adult responsibility at the age of thirteen.
Study, if to rise to the level of a responsibility, needs to be about much more than getting good grades, which is a very vacuous sort of affirmation. Giving the barn a new coat of red paint is responsible. Slopping the hogs is responsible; It brings home the bacon. Simple, necessary things are somewhat self-affirming. Education without conspicuous purpose or fun is neither self-affirming nor engaging.
Whenever I hear someone say, “He wants to take the Church back to the Middle Ages”, I think, “Yes!” because I immediately think of small family farms, knight’s squires, home and hearth, and guild apprenticeships.
For the short term, how do we inject romance into a too-corporate America?
The problem we have before us is immense because the entire structure of our economy and culture is built around the education system. It is, first and foremost, a baby-sitting service, a fact that stared us in the face during the covid lockdowns when our kids were unable to attend school. It was the education system that allowed mothers to find “fulfillment” outside of the home.
In corporate America, it seems unlikely that we can expect a return to an apprenticeship approach to employment learning or a return to small family farms any time soon, a fact that does not in any way negate the validity of these things as an end to be sought.
There is romance in bringing new life from the pungent earth. There is romance in passing on homemaking secrets, knightly skills, fishing and hunting tricks, farming lore, and the skills of the craftsman. It is romance that rivets the attention of the young. Returning to small farms and crafts and small manufacturing are admirable but long-term goals. For the short term, how do we inject romance into a too-corporate America?
We start with the schools. School, first and foremost, must not be the function of the state. Curriculum cannot be the prerogative of the state, for to mandate no religion is to mandate secular religion, and therefore, tyranny. If you have not seen enough in recent months to obviate that truth, for me to argue further would be a waste of your time and my effort.
Public education must be:
- Private enterprise. Seriously. To guard, as many of us do, our second amendment rights because we fear potential government tyranny, but then willingly hand over our children to a government propaganda machine is stupid on its face.
- Religiously affiliated. There is no such thing as religiously unaffiliated. Nature abhors a vacuum; Satan embraces every void. Avoid the void. Allowing religion to be taught in a publicly-funded school of choice is not tantamount to the establishment of a state religion.
- Fluid. Choosing your child’s school should be a sacred and legally-protected duty.
- Local; that is to say, very small. The principal of subsidiarity demands it to be so. Besides, simple math tells us that bigger schools = less schools, and therefore, less choices. Some schools may choose to be math and science heavy, others humanities prone. So be it. Choices.
- Deep parental involvement. Teaching the younger grades must not require a teaching certificate, and insistence on the necessity of such is an exercise in self-perpetuation.
- Student involvement. When older children teach younger children, both learn in the process. In an age of smaller families, strict stratification by age group stunts adolescent maturity.
- Voucher funded, both public and private.
When Joseph and Mary lost track of Jesus among the relatives on the way home, only to find him teaching in the Temple days later, no one was surprised that a boy his age would be reading from the scriptures and commenting on them. What was unusual was his extreme level of wisdom, not the fact that a boy was discussing the faith with grown men—his peers.
In a society with no focus on maturation, and no formula for encouraging it, we should not be surprised when we find that ours has become a very adolescent world.
Think about that setting. Here you have what we consider a child, sitting among adult men and discussing the scriptures. Think about the immense power of affirmation. Picture yourself, a child among adults who are treating you like one of them, and they want to hang out with you and you get to read the scriptures and express your take-away, and to understand their perspective from the work-a-day world in which they live.
And they affirm you, an affirmation that, because of the subject at hand, goes to the very root of your being. Returning to the quote from Dr. Peterson, “…by not demanding enough it (the Church) doesn’t indicate its faith in their (young people’s) possibility…. And this isn’t hit home.” The inclusion and affirmation described above is the “hitting home”.
This was a process I observed as a spiritual director for men’s retreats. I was not dealing with thirteen-year-olds, but the effect was the same. The power of affirmation in spiritual matters is formidable, enough to break the frivolity of youth. I saw it change men’s lives. Affirmation is the thing most sought by children from their peers. But what if their peers are adults? Imagine the synergy of teenaged boys or girls experiencing affirmation together in the presence of adults with whom they have become equals of a sort. It can be life changing.
Extending childhood in the name of education is a failed experiment of catastrophic proportion.
That is the formula, an ancient prescription that would certainly wreak havoc with the creation of a new world order, an order that is bent on reducing parenting to biology. The bar mitzvah is, of course, just one of many such coming-of-age traditions that have largely fallen by the wayside. In a society with no focus on maturation, and no formula for encouraging it, we should not be surprised when we find that ours has become a very adolescent world.
A bar mitzvah, of course, is not a test. But the choice to accept or reject responsibility most certainly is. Manning up is life; it is trial by fire—repeated non-destructive stress testing.
When we stand before God’s throne, we will not be there alone. The prosecutor will be there to convict us of our unworthiness to enter. He will try to keep us in our comfort zone, and if we are comfortable with sin, he will probably succeed. Life is training for that final decision.
In a world of expanding education and contracting expectation, we need to stop worrying about how our kids will grow up and have them grow up at the proper time by taking them into our ranks, thereby giving them real responsibility and meaningful affirmation for their contributions. Extending childhood in the name of education is a failed experiment of catastrophic proportion.
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