The Gospel Truth

A Moral Tug of War

August 16, 2015
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One of my fondest memories from my college days at Holy Cross was the annual spring intramurals. While there were a variety of events, the tug-of-war had the greatest impact on my memory. The contest pitted the most brawny and surliest behemoths of each class against each other in an exhausting display of sinewy prowess.

Another kind of tug-of-war surfaced a year after my 1965 graduation. While teaching a religion class at St. Henry’s High School in Charleston, Mo., I used the book The Gospel According to Peanuts as one of my textbooks. In one of the illustrations, poor Charlie Brown bemoaned the moral tug-of-war that was raging inside his heart.

I believe that Charles Schulz, the late cartoonist, had used his hapless character to express a deep point of Christian theology. Charlie Brown’s conscience was caught in the invisible vice between the things he wanted do and the things he should do. Schulz successfully underscored the never-ending tension that is a universal quality of our divided human nature.

Like Charlie Brown, our moral struggle forces us to focus on the disparity between what we should be and what we really are.

Instead of the brawny linebackers, tackles, and guards in college, this moral tug-of-war pits the world, the flesh and the devil on one side and Jesus, Mary and Joseph on the other.

However, this eternal contest is not a simple black-and-white struggle. While the presumption of victory is always on the side of the Holy Family, there is a grave warning implicit for people who follow Church teachings, devotions and pietistic rituals in the course of this struggle.

A tug-of-war can take a long time, and there are definite strategies that are not apparent to the unschooled eye. In one such strategy the secular team eases up, ever so lightly on the rope, so that complacency, self-satisfaction or pride catches the religious team off-guard.

Mother Teresa is a good example of this. As a young nun bursting with love and enthusiasm for the Lord, she prayed that God would let her share in Christ’s suffering so that she could be one with Him.

God heeded her fervent wishes but instead of the physical pains of Calvary He sent her the most agonizing mental struggles of Gethsemane that brought her to the brink of despair. God was not being cruel but recognized that His eager servant could be susceptible to the righteous pride of an enthusiast. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk’s 2007 book, Come Be My Light poignantly captured her soul-rendering tug-of-war.

The best way to soften the direct impact of our personal inner tug-of-war is to regard this struggle as one of the crosses we have to bear daily. We can accomplish this by walking the narrow vertical path between the lateral temptations of a secular world and the proud seductions of the interior life.

Both can be devastating to the unsuspecting soul. This salvific route forms a simple cross (+), a symbol of God’s love for us. We should also see this as a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate saving power of the Christian sign of contradiction to the world. With Christ as our helmsman how can any of us fail to navigate the rocky shoals of these worldly and spiritual temptations?


The Loss of Innocence

July 8, 2015
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The May issue years of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Game Day Magazine featured a nostalgic look at the old stadia in Brooklyn and New York I used to attend as a young fan. Every time I see a photo of the Dodgers’ Ebbets Field I am reminded of an incident that happened the team’s final season in Flatbush. Our grade school had provided tickets for several “patrol boys” for a game with the Cardinals. I sat in the upper deck with boyhood friend Eddie Smith.

Eddie was a mischievous lad who constantly pushed the envelope of civility.   This chilly May afternoon he started throwing peanuts at the fans below us. To our horror a seedy looking usher with a clip bowtie, dangling from his open collar and a pencil thin mustache, emerged undetected out of the rafters and yanked poor Eddie by his coat collar. My last sight of Eddie was his pleading eyes as he was dragged backwards down the steep flight of bleacher steps.

Several years ago, while visiting him in his Long Island home, I reminded him of the incident. Little did I realize that his six-year old daughter was absorbing every detail of my story! I will never forget the tearful look on her face when she said, Daddy you threw peanuts?

These many years it has been hard for me to get her sad and puzzled face out of my mind. I had unintentionally crumbled her image of her dad as a model of sober perfection.   By exposing his adolescent prank, I might have had stripped his poor little girl of her innocence way before her time.

It’s a different world today. The peanuts story is mild by comparison with what we are doing to our children today, especially our little girls. Thousands of parents cannot wait to shed their daughters’ innocence and usher them into a world, filled with the corrupt environs of a troop of seedy ushers, just waiting to drag their daughters down the winding stairs of despair.

We live in a culture that is hot-wired against purity and self-restraint. Many of our schools teach our kids the basic mechanics of reproduction without any concern for its moral, emotional and sociological aspects. Catholic girls seem no better than the rest of their peers.   All this makes me wonder just has happened the past 60 years. Some will suggest the usual suspects, namely Vatican II or the failure of Catholic couples to heed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vita.   My thoughts conjure up something much more sinister.

In the 1920s Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party, remarked that Communism as an economic force was doomed to failure. He said too many Italians were tied to their culture, especially their Catholic faith. The way to defeat the West was by a long march through its Christian culture.

The best way to do this was through its women, the custodians of the culture. Since the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world is still a reliable truism, his plan was designed to lure future generations of young women away from their morality and religious faith by whatever means necessary.

While Gramsci died in prison, his ideas were embodied in the Frankfurt School, a Marxist research institute in Germany. Herbert Marcuse, its leading advocate and his associates eventually transplanted Gramsci’s ideas to American culture through its university system. One of his disciples, Betty Friedan, convinced millions of suburban housewives that they were wasting their lives. Her Feminist Mystique launched the feminist movement with its legacy of working mothers, feminist empowerment, abortion rights, and a hatred of patriarchy.

For three generations millions of American mothers, even many Catholic mothers, have weaned their daughters on a steady diet of prepubescent sexual freedom and distaste for the country’s religious and moral traditions. As a result fatherhood has lost its luster and has been relegated to the dusty archives with reruns of Leave it to Beaver and his sage dad, Ward Cleaver. The apocalypse may not yet be here, but one thing I can say with certainty, things are far worse than when Eddie Smith was tossing peanuts in Ebbets Field.


About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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