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gas chamberWalker Percy and Flannery O’Connor agreed that “tenderness leads to the gas chambers,” and what they were trying to get through our thick heads is that tenderness without truth is tyranny.

As Rodney Stark has pointed out in The Rise of Christianity, the Roman Empire was a harsh, unforgiving, cruel, and relentless society in which to live. Women were little better than possessions, children were considered undeveloped human beings. Slavery, violence, bloodshed, and revenge mingled with fire, famine, flood, pestilence, and plague. In the midst of the horror Christians rescued discarded babies, despised abortion, loved their spouses, tended the sick, nurtured the dying, and fed the poor. Compassion had arrived in the world, and it revolutionized everything.

In Atheist Delusions, David Bentley Hart makes a similar point about the concept of innate human dignity. The Christian message was a startling turning point in human history. Because the Son of God took human form, humanity was redeemed. On the first Easter a remarkable and formerly unthinkable truth entered and enlightened the world: Each human being had eternal worth.

As a result, slavery would eventually crumble, children would be treated as treasures, and women would be considered as equals. The revolution would continue until aristocracy and worth by birth would eventually wither. Revolutions and the civil rights movement would call for freedom, brotherhood, and equality for all.

Now, two thousand years later, generosity has entered the genetic code of humanity. Everyone understands that war is bad. Killing is out. Kindness is in. Defending and feeding the hungry is de rigeur, and helping the homeless is everyone’s obligation. We must be kind, tolerant to all, and constantly compassionate.

Bullying must be banned. Foreigners must be welcomed. Criminals must be forgiven. It is hugs for thugs and grins for gangsters. Animals must be adored, and nature nurtured.

Tenderness has triumphed, and compassion has conquered all.

This is all fine and dandy up to a point, and everyone must certainly be amazed at the continued triumph of tenderness, but we now face an unusual problem: Tenderness is biting back.

The triumph of tenderness has been so complete that it has turned into the tyranny of tenderness.

So, for example, one of the ploys of the homosexual activists is to dress up their campaign as a battle against bullying. School anti-bullying campaigns are a cover for the sub-agenda of complete homosexual acceptance. Those who may have good reasons to be opposed to the homosexual campaign are portrayed as bullies, homophobes, and possible gay bashers.

Thus tenderness and compassion for those who are bullied is turned into a campaign point for acceptance of homosexuality, and anyone who dares to oppose will be vilified. “How can you be against this wonderful campaign that opposes bullying and supports the poor children who are being bullied!!!???”

Anyone who professes to follow Jesus Christ will be instantly silenced. How, indeed, can anyone who follows the compassionate one be opposed to a campaign against bullying?

The same technique can be used against most anything by most anyone who learns the trick. Do you think Suzie and James ought not to cohabit before marriage if they call themselves Christians? Do you happen to believe that this is something called “fornication” and that it is condemned by the Bible and the Church?”

“How can you be so judgmental and hurtful? Susie and James LOVE each other!!! All they are doing is affirming their love!! You’re a Christian?! I thought you were supposed to be in favor of love!”

Do you think immigration should be sensibly moderated, welcoming the deserving but screening possible terrorists?

“So cruel! So heartless! How can you reject these poor homeless refugees! And you call yourself a Christian!”

Do you think the unborn child deserves the right to live and to cut him up and sell his body parts might just be a crime that cries to heaven for vengeance?

“You want to criminalize these poor women who need to move forward in life! How can you deny these women the right to choose? Are you in favor of enslaving women once again? How can you be so judgmental?”

This is sentimentalism, which is one of the serpent heads of the Hydra demon called Relativism. It is tenderness without truth, mercy without justice and compassion without morality or meaning.

This is no longer the triumph of tenderness, but the tyranny of tenderness, and the final result will be a literal tyranny. Benedict XVI’s famous phrase, “the dictatorship of relativism,” will lead to political dictatorship because human beings cannot live for very long in the anarchy of boundless and undiscerning compassion.

Eventually, the pendulum will swing back. People will demand justice, and if we thought compassion without truth was bad, “justice” without truth will be no more than the rule of brute force.

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7 replies to this post
  1. You speak the truth Fr. Longenecker. One could see the expansion of “rights talk” coming in the last century particularly when NOW types adopted the language for the right to an abortion on the heels of the civil rights movement. There is just a little difference between discrimination based upon skin color and the natural progression of sexual activity if one engages in it; one could speak of the vestiges of slavery in the former, while in the latter the specter of slavery is Marxist nonsense.

  2. Really sentiment is the tool of todays demagogue , it’s modern leftist politics masquerading as altruism, a farce of altruism at that. Here we see the use of the welfare state in lieu of private charity, which by the statists is ignored or mocked and denigrated.. Why not in their eyes, how else to pander, buy votes, gain power, and continue the rot that is the product of the collectivist mind.

  3. FLORENCE KING: “Ours is the age of Diana, a time of philosophical corruption,social depravity, and political crackpotting, so that if people can’t feel sorry for you they hate you. It masquerades under the name of compassion….”

  4. This article reminded me of the following quote from the Filipino Catholic, Cardinal Sin: Justice witout love is tyranny, and love without justice is baloney.

  5. In The Morality of everyday life there is a chapter titled the pornography of compassion. This is the same phenomenon, but taken to the extreme where it becomes a tyranny. True love for others includes just chastisement.

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