Trust Not in Technology

[ 0 ] February 7, AD 2012 |

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

An itinerant preacher who was attached briefly to our diocese once told me a story in which he reflected on this passage. Prior to becoming a Dominican friar, he had been pursuing a law degree. He had really wanted the law degree but ultimately discerned that his calling was to be a priest in the Order of Preachers. Therefore, he left his law degree unfinished and joined the Order; and then later the Order decided that it needed an expert in canon (and perhaps also civil) law, and so sent him to complete the degree. He sought first the Kingdom—in the form of his vocation—and found that he was also allowed to keep to one of his “secular” goals, that of becoming a lawyer.

What discernment of spirits is like in Heaven. Unfortunately, it’s a bit harder on earth.

I mention this little story by way of analogy, because we all have some vocation to which we are called. Or, perhaps more precisely, we all have a number of vocations which combine into our individual callings: husband (or wife), father (or mother), catechist, lay Dominican, scientist, philosopher, poet, minister. For those of us who are married, it is the first (and often also the second) of these things to which we are especially called. And in answering that call, we find any number of possible questions which must be answered, and answered frequently, not only once. We find that we must discern the will of God from our own will, and that we must distinguish these voices from the voice of the devil.

What do I mean by this? Let us consider only one question, which is that of having children. Every child is, of course, a gift from God, and no child is truly unwanted, because no child is unwilled. But what about the family who has no children as of yet, the spouses who are in a more-or-less constant state of discernment and conversation with each other? Which voices do they hear? One is surely God’s, one is the voice of each spouse, one of the Enemy. What God asks in any particular case may vary—there are, after all, some quite holy couples who abstained from intercourse and hence from child-bearing—but in every case He asks for our trust. Our own voices may be of anxiety (how long, oh Lord, must I wait?) or of fear (can I do this? Can I be a good parent?) or of hope (a child would make our family more complete). The Enemy, of course, will urge us to give in to despair (I will make such a poor parent! or I’ll never have child of my own! or a child is my right!) or presumption (of course this is what God wants of me now! A child is the answer to all of our marital problems!).

There may be some confusion as to whose voice is whose. But Satan’s voice is the one urging us to indulge our worries and presumptions, to worry only for tomorrow while forgetting today. He tells us to trust in the technological princes of this age (cf Psalm 145:2): contraception [1], in vitro fertilization, cloning, abortion. Every one of these claims some control over nature, and each one gives us the promise of making a better world. Rather, each of these contravenes nature, attempts to thwart her and flout her laws, rather than cooperating with her and working within her laws. It is, after all, the same God Who Is not only the Creator of nature but also her Sustainer; or by analogy we might say that He Who wrote the laws of nature continues to read those laws to us in every moment; the Author of nature and revelation Is One and the same.

The natural law is flouted because we don’t trust that God knew what He was doing when He wrote it—which ultimately means that we don’t believe that He knows what He Is doing right now. Thus, for example, a great number of Catholics—though probably far fewer than the 98% claimed by Murder Inc’s own ministry of truth—ignore their own Church’s teaching against the use of contraceptives. They trust in the artificial forms of birth control which attempt to subvert nature; they are lead to believe that it is more effective than natural methods of delaying pregnancy [1]; but it turns out that technology is never quite so reliable as we’d like to believe [2]. Perhaps it might be said that those who do not first seek the Kingdom of God shall forfeit all of these other considerations.

Screwtape writes a letter.

Or, as C.S. Lewis explains through the demon Screwtape:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return–that is what really gladdens our Father’s heart.

Satan looks for suckers, and our society has a particular weakness for trying to use technology to solve moral problems. Contraception promises a technical solution to a moral problem of sorts. It promises freedom from the responsibility of parenthood or the sacrifices of abstinence. Yet we find that when we place our trust in this technology—or really any technology whose purpose is to provide a technical shortcut around a problem whose solution is morality, virtue, or sanctity—that this trust is misplaced and at times even betrayed. The fruit of the tree of “free love” is neither freedom nor love; rather, it is anxiety, infidelity, divorce, broken homes, a view of marriage as a power struggle, and children who are unwanted (and often killed) by their parents [3]. Our culture has sold its collective soul, but the return is not merely nothing: rather, it is a misery which is the first foretaste of hell.

—-Footnotes—-

[0] Featured image source.

[1] Though in fact, it is not so much more effective than properly practiced NFP than just more convenient, since NFP requires a bit of that unpopular virtue of chastity. It’s always easier to try and control nature than to control our own appetites.

[2] This in turn leads to abortion as a “back-up” option: which the prophet G.K. Chesterton warned against in his The Well and the Shallows. In the same way, IVF will naturally eventually lead to cloning or at the very least genetically modified children.

[3] Contrast these with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. I think a true marriage lived as a vocation with active discernment of the vocation of parenting can and indeed does yield all twelve of these latter fruits in different ways.

 

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About the Author ()

JC is a cradle Catholic, and somewhat of a traditionalist conservative. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a lay member of the Order of Preachers. JC has been happily married since June of 2010. He has at times questioned – and more often still been questioned about – his Faith, but he has never wandered far from the Church, nor from our Lord. “To whom else would I go?”