Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Cult of Sensitivity

One thing I think is definitely true about America and about the West in general is that everybody has become way too sensitive. We often act as though being insensitive or offending somebody is the worst possible sin we can commit; we act as though "Thou shalt not judge" is one of the Ten Commandments. Furthermore, not only are insensitivity and judgmentalism considered terrible, but even the mere appearance of them is to be avoided.

Now, there certainly are ways in which we are called to be sensitive and non judgmental. When we are commanded not to judge, it means that we are not to presume to know the state of a persons' soul, nor are we to judge what their standing is before God. When we are commanded to be sensitive (actually we are never commanded to be sensitive, only charitable), it means, as St. Paul says, "rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep"; ie, empathy. These are the biblical ways to be sensitive and non-judgmental.

What are the false, modernist interpretations of these two terms? Modernism tends to see any firm position taken on an issue as judgmentalism. For example, if I say that religious ought to wear their habits instead of dressing like regular people, someone might say, "How can you judge them? You don't know their soul!" Of course I don't know their soul, but I am not judging their soul. A soul cannot be judged, but actions can; as Christ says, a tree is known by its fruits. So if I say that a religious ought to wear a habit, I am not judging the religious who doesn't, but I am judging the practice of not wearing a habit.

Modernism also tends to see any criticism of anything at all as judgmentalism. "How can you be against Marty Haugen songs? There are a lot of people who get a lot out of them!" Very true. I am not denying that people "get a lot" out of them. But I am free to judge the music itself (and its effects on worship) without condemning the people. This is basic Christianity: distinguishing between the child of God and the actions that child of God may commit. Modernism is offended that a Christian be against anything at all. As Chesterton once said, "These are the days when a Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own."

And what of sensitivity? The temptation with sensitivity is (as often happens with the concept of unity) to make it an ultimate good instead of a relative good. It is insinuated that a Catholic must be sensitive above all things, so that nobody may have their feelings hurt. Hurting feelings are sometimes seen to be an absolute evil, while preserving harmonious relations between people is seen to be the absolute good. Thus, if Jews are offended by a Catholic asserting that they ought to convert, then we must not say that! If Protestants are upset that the CDF says their communities are deficient and not true churches, then we must deplore this kind of language; and if liberal Catholics are upset by being called heretics, then we certainly must not upset them!

True Catholic sensitivity means being aware and cognizant of the place a person is spiritually and intellectually, and meeting them where they are; becoming "all things to all men, that by all means I might save some" as St. Paul says. It absolutely does not mean confirming people in error. That would actually be a sin. We ought to never let sensitivity override bold proclamation of the truth. After all, don't you think the Pharisees were offeneded or had their feelings hurt when Jesus called them a brood of vipers? Did the money changers like it when Jesus beat them out of the Temple with a whip? Of course not; but Jesus did not place sensitivity before truth and justice. When truth was at stake, he did and said what needed to be done and did not give notice to sensitivity.

One more thing: even if we are the one having our feelings hurt, if we are the ones who are insulted or jilted, for no matter what reason, we do not need to join the fray by crying out "Insensitive!" Just take it like a man. Of course you are going to have your feelings hurt in this world; Christ promised that and much more to those who try to live faithfully. Whether you have your feelings hurt rightfully or wrongfully, forgive and offer it up to God as penance for your many sins; God knows we all need penance! But please do not add your voice to the din of those accusing each other of judgmentalism and insensitivity.

Sensitivity and non-judgmentalism are simply the product of excessive political correctness on Catholic thought; another example of how the modern Church is letting the world define it instead of vice versa. But let's not be intimidated by the modernist-sensitive Thought Police. Let's boldly proclaim the truth in the spirit of St. Louis IX.


Mara Joy said...

hm. what brought this post about?

happyhockeymom said...

I almost don't know what to say.

Spot on. I see a lot of this. I am going to book mark this particular piece.

How do you respond to people who call you judgmental when talking about your beliefs?

Boniface said...

I don't really know how to respond to that, other than to define judgmental - judgmental is to denigrate a person; we can only be judgmental of persons - ideas, on the other hand, can be good or bad, and it is ideas, not persons, that I judge.

happy hockey mom said...

Believe it or not, the definition is helpful.

I will then be able to tell if I am truly being judgmental or if I am seeing the cult of sensitivity in action.

I have been accused of being judgmental often and I think part of it relates to the cult of sensitivity in this post.

But it never hurts to examine yourself and see what you are truly doing. Perhaps I am doing somethings that re judgmental.

Your post and definition will give me the tools to look at myself and evaluate.

Thank you.