Judgment or Consequences?

One of the better writers on the Catholic Right is Rod Dreher. His commentariat has strung 60-some posts on this thread, “Are we an evil nation?” I have better things to do than read St Bloggers going at it on all things sinful and liberal, so let me post this bit from Rod: 

When Bush 41 said “The American way of life is not up for negotiation,” he was expressing what I think many conservatives (and liberals too) believe: that we Americans are not under anyone’s judgment. From a Christian point of view, that’s dangerous and wrong. We are under judgment. Humanity is. There is always reason to repent. That doesn’t mean that we should become masochistic, blame-America-first self-loathers; that would be pathological. But it’s also true that as we fight justly to defend ourselves, that we consider the things we oughtn’t to have done that we have done, and the things we ought to have done that we’ve left undone, and get about the business of repentance, both personal and corporate. God is patient, but He won’t wait forever.

And add my comments:I’m suspicious of the notion of judgment in this life. I think that when individuals sin, those sinful acts have consequences. I lie to my mother. She catches me in it. I don’t get the car keys because I can’t be trusted. My daughter plays and has fun when she first gets up in the morning. She fumes at being rushed to finish her morning chores and doesn’t quite make it to class by the first bell. She’s upset when her report card lists four unexcused tardies.

Natural consequences.

A masterful parent uses them well. 

We do also have hidden sins, and they will trip us up, though not always like the poor sap who’s uncovered by Poirot or Matlock before the end of the show. How it happens with God? That’s a mystery. But I don’t buy the Jerry Falwell argument that 9/11 was a punishment from God for sexual or other sins. It was the horrific consequence of a senseless post-WWII foreign policy. Lie, discovery, no car keys: you put it together.

For a thoughtful conservative like Dreher, he recognizes that self-examination should continue. It should continue even as “Bush 41″ has bailed from the plane without a parachute. No, there’s not much we can do about the mistakes of 2003 right now. The individual will crash, but unlike the metaphor, thousands of lives will be taken and millions affected by foreign policy backed by war profiteers.

Over the past few months, I’ve actually begun to think that the Iraq War is a set-up, not for oil profiteers, but to split modern Islam and inspire an ideological civil war between Sunni and Shia. Looking back, Iraq was a poor choice for military engagement. North Korea and Iran have longer-running feuds with us. We’ve already fought one war against one of them. A disunified Islam cannot be a serious economic or political threat to the West. Even the Palestinians cannot unite against a common enemy, so what hope have they against the economic might of the First WorldEven so, any immoral act like this will have consequences.


Vietnam led to the abandonment of the US military men and women by both protesters and their own government. Today, Vietnam vets are homeless in the tens of thousands, and suffer many physical and psychological calamities unrecognized by their government’s doctors.

The Iraq War, likewise, is taking its toll on military families, and not just in terms of separations. The government openly scoffs at notions such as uranium poisoning among service personnel. If the issue were supporting the troops, such institutional doubts would be better rendered as “no comment,” and keep the medical studies rolling. But when the institution is in a siege mentality, any questioner becomes the enemy. We see it in St Blog’s. Why wouldn’t you think we’d see it in the federal government?

I don’t think God will render a judgment on the United States. Some people may feel better in thinking he will. Fine. If so, the sword at our throats was forged in our factories, and is held by our own citizens. Maybe that will make you feel better. Sinful acts have consequences. God opposes sin not from some sense that our transgressions injure him or cause him direct pain. God knows that human sin only serves to injure us. And in the end, God’s compassion is affected by our indulgence with personal injury. God’s gift of free will ensures we will go our own way, and sometimes we will falter and miss the path.

When my daughter delays getting her day in order, the slam of the door or the stomping off to the garage is not a door slammed on my finger or a stomp on my body. But it hangs heavy in my heart to see her less happy than she should be. But I know she won’t find her right path by my taking her by the hand and dragging her down it.

Likewise the US won’t be handed the right way out of this maze of failed foreign policy. Unless and until we’re ready to admit errors and correct those errors, we will stumble, come to dead ends, get slapped in the thickets, fall into mud or quicksand, and get lost. But I don’t see it as God’s hand. It will be the flip side to free will. It will be the consequences we have set loose on ourselves.  

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Judgment or Consequences?

  1. David B. says:

    Just to set the record straight, Rod Dreher has become a member of the Orthodox Church.

  2. Todd says:

    Quite so. I’ve thought of him as “Catholic” for so long, it’s hard, in my mind, to make the switch.

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