Action Alert!

Adjectives

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 30, 2019

The Child Jesus and his Holy Family are the source of all that is good in the world. Our families determine the foundation and moral strength of society, and the Holy Family provides the perfect model of family holiness. So for a healthy and happy culture, we need to live marriage and family life well, and, when we fail, get back on track with God’s grace as best we can.

Let’s consider one of the several serious threats families face today: adjectives.

Here are a few examples: the traditional family, a modern family, a progressive family, a conservative family, and a liberal family. Unfortunately, these modifiers are now nearly indispensable due to a popular understanding of evolution.

Every schoolchild has seen pictures of the “ascent of man” in schoolbooks and classroom posters. The organisms living in the slime of the earth turn into fish, then amphibians, mammals, monkeys, and, finally, human beings. Regress is impossible, or at least unlikely. (It would be disturbing for a human to give birth to a monkey, for example, but not the other way around. But then again, society continues to evolve.)

Of course evolution within a species is readily observable. We grow taller and live longer with better nutrition. General physical characteristics change through intermarriage. But there is less evidence to support the theory of cross-species evolution, and that theory needs close scrutiny. Scientific speculation is subject to change. If Einstein updated Newton, and quantum physics updated Einstein, theories of evolution should not be immune to revision.

Popular theories of evolution affect many human endeavors in significant ways. Some groups of people may be behind the curve in evolutionary progress. Other groups of people may be ahead of the curve. Are there master races? Was Hitler’s view of man in the main correct? Maybe Christians are judgmental and scientific illiterates, but here is our definitive answer to these questions: Nope.

Karl Marx, an atheist, also found theories of evolution useful in formulating the inevitable progress of Hegel’s historical dialectic. The history of Communism demonstrates that the elites (“the vanguard”) have to break a lot of eggs-—ordinary people like you and me-—to make the Communist omelet. The application of evolutionary principles to the dynamics of political progress is a contributing cause of the carnage.

(Thank goodness survival-of-the-fittest evolutionary doctrines emerged from secular pens rather than from Christian teachings. If orthodox Christianity had somehow facilitated the ideology of Stalin and Mao, secularists would never let us forget it.)

Perhaps the most corrosive effects of evolutionary theory occurs when lawyers misapply them to modern jurisprudence. Many believe that the Constitution evolves as a ‘living’ document, so that new rights emerge from the slime of the early American texts. Here’s an exchange that took place during Supreme Court proceedings several years ago:

During the [gay marriage] argument, Justice Antonin Scalia was the one justice who voiced the most skepticism about the argument that limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He said to Olson, “I’m curious, when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Was it always unconstitutional?” Olson replied that “when we as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control” then at that point limiting marriage became unconstitutional. Scalia then asked, “When did that happen?” Olson responded, “There’s no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.”

Commentator Kevin Williamson has little tolerance for the doctrine of such evolutionary jurisprudence: “The gentlemen who wrote the Constitution did not get around to enfranchising women or abolishing slavery, but they snuck in a constitutional right to gay marriage that we’ve somehow overlooked for 228 years or so: No mentally functional adult, regardless of his views on gay marriage, should be expected to pretend that that is true.”

Similarly, some theologians misapply evolutionary theories to Scriptures. We and God’s revelation are changing day by day, and getting better in every way, until we reach the Omega point of perfection. (The process theologians apparently didn’t envision nuclear obliteration.) For one prominent Vatican official, even our understanding of theology has evolved to where 2 plus 2 equals 5! (No wonder Vatican finances are a mess.)

So now we know why we need so many adjectives to modify “marriage” and “family” and “sexuality.” Thanks to the misapplication of theories of evolution the meanings of those doggone words—like trans-species evolution—quickly take on radical new meanings. So we need experts to explain the new and improved meaning of words, mostly with an abundance of modifiers.

What would we do without those experts if, indeed, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (Saint Jerome)? Can we trust the ordinary meaning of the words of Scripture?

Why not give it a try? Without setting aside the authority of the Church over the interpretation of Scripture, read the Bible with a simplicity of heart. Here are a few examples of Biblical straight-talk that are accessible to ordinary people (cf. Sirach 3 and Col. 3):

  • Whoever honors his father atones for sins and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure.
  • Do not glorify yourself by dishonoring your father, for your father’s dishonor is no glory to you. [Got that, kids?]
  • O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives.
  • Even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him. [Got that, Boomer?]
  • Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [Sorry, ladies.]
  • Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. [Sorry, gentlemen.]
  • What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) [Sorry, almost everybody.]

Nothing complicated, but very challenging. If there is an evolutionary change that needs to take place, let it take place within our families, conforming our hearts to His.

Confident in the reliability of the Lord’s straight-talk, let’s simplify our lives in Him, and dispense with all those adjectives.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines.
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  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Dec. 30, 2019 2:17 PM ET USA

    This mindset is what C. S. Lewis and his friend Owen Barfield referred to as "chronological snobbery," the idea that the current generation is morally enlightened and that all previous generations were morally primitive. This attitude arises as a result of a mixing of categories and by assuming that because science and technology continually progress, morals progress as well. I'm convinced that the best antidote to chronological snobbery is to better educate people in history and philosophy.