Entertainment as Propaganda; Education vs. Parents
Growing up in the 1970's and 80's, we saw examples of how communism both came to power and retained power over the people. It produced “art” that was actually propaganda, telling stories and revealing a world view of bold human progress through great effort together against all comers. Schools, state run, of course, taught a world view that necessitated compliance to the great vision and did not tolerate deviance, even and especially from parents. Education did not teach children to think, as did, supposedly, our education system, or reason. Ideas outside the state world view were not to be entertained. “How could that happen?” we wondered, “How could they be so foolish?”
Yet we have witnessed, if not understood, the very same happening in the United States test past few decades. It is the modernism the Church and her popes of the late 1800's into the early 1900's warned against. It is the danger we forgot to pay attention do in our own midst as the world fought two wars and a cold war and celebrated the fall of communism, but the poison was already in our air and water: the heresy of personal “truth.”
Perhaps, now that parents and children are home and parents are seeing how their kids do, and do not, think, what has been taught, and not taught, and what propaganda infiltrates modern shows, movies, social media ... perhaps we can see the greater danger facing humanity is to the soul.
What I discovered, after college, is that my education taught me to think I knew how to think, but it really didn't teach me to think.
My first clue? C.S. Lewis' children's story, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” which I'd first had read to me in elementary school; yet I realized I still scratched my head over the Professor's comment to Susan and Peter on why they should believe Lucy's incredible, unbelievable story over Edmund's “reasonable” and “rational” explanation. We begin with the Professor:
Then he cleared his throat and said the last thing either of them expected:
“How do you know,” he asked, “that your sister's story is not true?”
“Oh, but—” began SUsan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man's face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, “But Edmund said they had only been pretending.”
“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance — if you will excuse me for asking the question — does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?”
“That's just the funny thing about it, sir,” said Peter. “Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time.”
“And what do you think, my dear?” said the Professor, turning to Susan.
“Well,” said Susan, “in general, I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true — all this about the wood and the Faun.”
“That is more than I know,” said the Professor, “and a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed.”
“We were afraid it mightn't even be lying,” said Susan; “we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy.”
“Madness, you mean?” said the Professor quite cooly. “Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad.”
“But then,” said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn't know what to think.
“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”
The conversation, of course, goes on from there. But the revelation that came to me after college is that all the learning I'd received still didn't teach me how to think, for I still found it easier to trust Edmund and dismiss Lucy, were I in Peter and Susan's shoes.
I learned logic and reason by reading the Saints. Particularly Saints Augustine, Aquinas, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. Faith and reason, I discovered, were not at odds, but reason elucidated faith by cutting through the noise and distraction of sin.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa describes reason as “the perfect faculty of the soul” (Catena Aurea on Luke 10:25-28). Why? Because, as in the example of Edmund v. Lucy, it does not, if humbly followed, allow Edmund's sin to either hide or cause further harm.
Why? Satan has not truth, but only deception of truth to dupe us into the utterly irrational act of denying God and His offer of eternity with Him to join Satan as king of our own wee kingdom, subject to Satan and his demons, for ever. Reason cuts through the smoke and mirrors of deception to reveal the truth. Reason requires humility, which always defeats sin. Reason requires a truth higher than one's self, so the heresy of personal “truth” is reasonably shown to be self contradictory, for in denying there is truth higher than each person's truth it imposes a “truth” onto every person. Oops.
Now, I am very much in agreement with the Professor: “I wonder what do they teach them at these schools?”
May one of the silver linings of this imposed stay-at-home time be that a great deal of parents begin to ask that very same question and then look to the Saints for how to answer it.
Curious to learn more? A daily journey with the Saints and writers of faith through the day's Gospel reading is a wonderful, small dose way to discover logic and reason as instruments of faith. This Halo post can help you discover how.
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