Thursday, 25 February 2021

The Secular Munchhausen Syndrome and That God-Sized Hole

A powerful look at what's wrong with the world and what we, as individuals, can do about it summed up as, 'So let’s follow God’s plan.  And bring as many people along with us as we are able'.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

From Catholic Stand 

By Steve Smith

Here’s a phrase you’ve certainly heard, in one form or another, “We have a God-sized hole in our heart.  If we don’t fill it with God, we will fill the hole with something else.”

It has become something of a Hallmark phrase, but there is much to this principle.  In fact, every human being to walk the earth has dealt with this dilemma on a very personal level to one degree or another.  Each of us, in working out our own salvation, is on a quest to purge the disordered attachments we’ve squirreled away, filling various corners of our soul with something other than God.

Secular Society

But in this article, we’ll take a broader view of how this principle shapes the cultural dynamic of our brave, new, woke world.  This article uses the term secularism, as opposed to atheism.  Many who will travel down the road to a Godless society (Augustine’s Earthly City) will profess some manner of bland spirituality and maybe even consider themselves Christian.  But it will be the Christianity of “private worship” rather than a vibrant public religious faith; it will be the neutered type of Christianity tolerated by the likes of Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, and, now, the Biden administration.

We’ll look separately at the two components of this principle – “our God-sized hole” and our doomed attempts to “fill the hole with something else.”  It worth understanding these better because the latter is a source of so much spiritual harm.

Our God-Sized Hole

“The God-sized hole” is a serviceable image and pleasing sentiment, but what does it really mean?

Our spiritual souls were made by God, for God.  God fashioned our soul in such a way that it will only function properly in communion with Him.  But not only our souls – every aspect of our being as well.  When Adam and Eve turned from God not only were their souls bereft of communion with Him, their bodies were also damaged and subject to decay – including their brains and the complex inter-relation of soul, brain, and body.

Without the healing and harmonizing presence of God in our soul, we remain in that thoroughly fallen state.  Our soul lacks the comfort of its divine companion.  Our intellect remains dark.  Our will, weak.  Our emotions, severely disordered.

We who have the good fortune to be members of the Catholic faith have access to all the sources of healing.  First among the sources of healing are the Sacraments, especially when we do our part to unleash their power to transform our life through daily mental prayer.

As one small example, Ven. Fulton Sheen would often recount how psychiatrists of his time noted a paucity of Catholic patients.  Sheen attributed this to the universal practice of reconciliation.  Imagine how many of our modern psychological and emotional problems would disappear if we returned to the confessional!

What then of those trying to live apart from God?

Remember St. Paul’s paradox – “For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Rom 7:15).   Another word for that is cognitive dissonance – clutching onto two incompatible attitudes simultaneously – in this case, what we believe we should do, and what we actually put into action.

It is torturous to live with cognitive dissonance.  Which, by the way, is why God gave us the gift of reconciliation – so we become reconciled.  Our disordered thoughts and actions are forgiven, and we start anew – with renewed intentions to master our disordered behaviors and the grace to make progress with those intentions.  That is the path to interior harmony.

In a purely secular world, there is no access to the grace that brings healing and harmonization to our disordered state.  More and more people are living completely in that secular world.

In many instances, their actions are out of step with their conscience (as informed by the Natural Law imprinted in their soul).  That is a horrifying way to go through life.

This, then, is the two-fold issue of the “God-sized hole”:

  1. Our souls are only satisfied, which is also to say we will only find true meaning and fulfillment when we have a deep relationship with God.
  2. Our entire being (mind, body, and soul) will be at war with itself without God as the healing and unifying principle of our life.

God is infinite and He is unique.  So there is nothing “big” enough or “shaped” like God that can either fill or plug the hole.  But so terrible is our situation without Him (a cursory pass through existentialist writing confirms this), that we try nonetheless…

We Fill the Hole with Something Else

For quite some time it seemed that secular entertainment, pleasure, diversion, and distraction would be sufficient to fill the God-hole.  The real “opiate of the masses” wasn’t religion, it was MTV and shopping malls.  And then America Online and eBay.  Recently came the rise of adventure tourism and social media.  And of course, the mainstays of self-help and physical fitness.

But entertainment and distraction do not heal our interior dysfunction – they only mask it.

Better is to have an ordering principle.  The Natural Law imprinted in our soul makes us moral beings – we must have right and wrong as well as cause and purpose.  There is a cultural subconscious realization that simply racking up life experiences and selfies don’t cut it – they don’t provide fulfillment.  But, on the other hand, God and authentic religion are not an option in a secular world.

What is a godless culture to do?  Search out causes – to blow up into crises – so we can save ourselves:

  • Endangered species
  • Over-population
  • Global warming (now climate change)
  • Covid
  • Systemic racism

Welcome to the age of crises.  This is not to say we don’t have many legitimate societal problems to solve – the point is that secular culture is attempting to twist the problems that will always be with us (because they are part of life in a fallen world) into a bizarre source of salvation.

Understand that for many people, responding to climate change or covid is like a glass of water in a desert.  For perhaps the first time they are part of a great moral cause.  They never experienced life in our long-lost Christian society when everything was a source of moral fulfillment.  Raising your family was a moral cause.  Living out your faith in your community was a moral cause.  And it joined us together.  We came together for Friday fish fries because Lent is more meaningful when you share it with the community.  Everything was closed on Sunday because we all shared respect for the 4th Commandment.

That sense of unity and purpose in the Body of Christ is as much a fairy tale as Goldilocks for the secular culture.

And so, our secular culture will never stop inventing crises.  We are a stunningly creative species.  We can conceive everything from Pee-Wee Herman to Handel’s Messiah.  We will never run out of new ideas for crises.  We will discover them everywhere.  Things you never even realized were crises-in-the-making (like simply driving a car all by yourself, or owning property, or burning a nice fire) will suddenly be revealed as the common enemy of humanity.  It’s our new drug.  A societal Munchhausen syndrome – we need to keep making ourselves sick so that we can experience meaning and purpose by becoming our own liberators. #inittogether

Listen to Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussing the plateauing of the so-called pandemic last spring, “The number is down because we brought the number down.  God did not do that.”  

Root Cause

It’s important to recognize that our “God-sized hole” is the real source of our current (and past and future) social ills.

The root problem is not nefarious powers (e.g. the CCP and that nutty Davos crowd) working their schemes to usher in their totalitarian vision for the future.

Nor is the root problem the uncertainties and calamities of life.

We could bat down the CCP and the hippy-dippy Great Reset crowd in a New York minute if we were solid in our faith.  Likewise, we would be fearless in the face of risk and trials if we had God as our surety (Ps 119:122).

But when our interior life isn’t ordered to God, nothing will bring true peace and happiness.  Even if there were no scheming globalist cabals and even if life were magically made perfect, we would mess it all up just to invent a new crisis so that there would be meaning to life.  So that there would be an ordering principle.  So that we could scratch this terrible itch called morality – but without turning to God.

This is why “the world” is one of the three classic enemies of humanity.  When we join together in our fallen humanity, without being protected in the Body of Christ, satan works through us as the “spirit of the times,” to hatch stupendously destructive behaviors and ideologies.

Where It’s All Leading

As people of faith know, the societal Munchhausen syndrome isn’t going to solve the problem of the God-sized hole.  People will still have a soul that is deprived of its Creator.  And we will still have a human nature at war with itself.

That is why the final stop of this cultural crazy train is transhumanism.  Transhumanism is the utopian fantasy of enhancing and evolving the human being, intellectually and physiologically, through a range of technologies such as biological, cognitive, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.  Nothing on earth will satisfy the human need for God.  And that is why the secularist elite want us to stop being human.  You won’t hear them articulate it that way, but that is what it boils down to.

It will happen just a little at a time; incrementalism is their delivery method of choice.  Most people, numbed and distracted by the constant onslaught of media and crises, won’t even notice.  Take this nano-therapy to reduce aggressive behavior and the potential for “radicalization” (aka Catholicism).  Let’s “improve” that brain of yours with augmented cognition so we can better think our way out of all of our pending crises.  One small therapy here, one more vaccination there, one more augmentation over here, and eventually we’ll be so removed from our human nature and our spiritual soul that we won’t even be aware of that terrible hole.

At least, that’s satan’s bleak plan.

God has a much different one.  At its core it only has two action items:

  1. If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
  2. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

A meaningful encounter with Christ, through the Sacraments and mental prayer, is the only antidote to our societal Munchhausen syndrome and the souls being imperiled by it.

So let’s follow God’s plan.  And bring as many people along with us as we are able.

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