A reader writes: "Any concept of God as demanding, hard to please, or holy seems quite gone. Is this a good thing, and how does it square with earlier eras and Scripture? I have yet to hear a convincing answer to that question." And now from William Kilpatrick, "How the Sensitivity Movement Desensitized Catholics to Evil" (Crisis, November 25, 2014). Excerpts:
... The Church has repudiated the philosophy of relativism, but I’m not aware of any similar repudiation of the human potential psychology that made relativism so popular. I would guess that seminary classes are no longer conducted like encounter groups, but it does seem that the encounter mindset still lingers in the Church. Perhaps the biggest hangover from the self-esteem era is the loss of the sense of sin and evil that comes from too much exposure to me-centered psychology. You will get a much better sense of the reality of evil by reading a single Dean Koontz novel than by listening to a hundred Sunday sermons in an average Catholic parish.[Hat tip to JM]
Up to now, the official Catholic response to the global jihad has been nothing more than continued calls for dialogue. But the dialogue process itself sounds suspiciously like something out of the bell-bottom-encounter group era. Not that the dialoguers stand around in circles and hold hands—I presume that they do not—but that they carry over into their discussions many of the assumptions of that period. When Church leaders speak of dialogue, they tend to use language uncomfortably reminiscent of the heyday of the human potentialists. Calls to dialogue are replete with phrases such as “risk-taking,” “releasing creativity,” “mutual understanding,” “encounter,” and “respect for the other.” Moreover, today’s dialogue advocates seem to share the same optimistic assessment of human nature held by encounter enthusiasts. They operate on the assumption that once you get to know the other fellow, you’ll invariably find that, underneath it all, he shares the same worthy values and goals that you do. As a recent USCCB statement on dialogue with Muslims puts it:Perhaps most importantly, our work together has forged true bonds of friendship that are supported by mutual esteem and an ever-growing trust… Through dialogue we have been able to work through and overcome much of our mutual ignorance, habitual distrust, and debilitating fear.In other words, we can trust the other. We only fear others because we don’t know them. And once we know them, we’ll realize that there was never anything to fear.
Unfortunately, this trust in the power of trust seems to have rendered the USCCB dialogue participants unable to grasp the possibility that their Muslim dialogue partners are not motivated by the same vision which inspires them. That their main dialogue partner—the Islamic Society of North America—is a spinoff of the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be of little concern. That their counterparts may simply be using the bishops in order to gain respectability for their main agenda—which is to introduce sharia law to America—does not seem to have entered the prelates’ minds.
Back in the seventies, the trust fall became a standard feature of encounter groups, summer camps, and college orientations. In one version of this trust-building exercise, one person stands in the middle of a circle of his peers and falls backward, relying on the others to catch him....
Contrary to human potential psychology, the world is not a giant safety net, and human nature is still fallen. This has always been a fallen world, but right now, thanks to the denial of that fact by the spiritual heirs of Carl Rogers, the world is a far more dangerous place than it might otherwise have been. The sensitivity movement desensitized us to the reality of evil. And many are now paying the price for that naiveté.
In 1967, smiley-face assumptions about human nature led to the collapse of an order of nuns and a district-wide Catholic school system. Unless we manage to discard our trust-fall fantasies about the human condition, we seem destined to experience a fall of much greater magnitude in the not-too-distant future.