What We Ought to Talk About in 2017

We have to intentionally inject sanity into the culture again.

By Jennifer Hartline Published on January 7, 2017

On the subject of language and speech, I offered an initial list (by no means comprehensive!) of some things I hope we stop saying in 2017 because these words and their meanings have been twisted and malformed so as to make madness seem normal and sanity seem cruel.

It’s good to start by naming the madness and refusing to speak the perverted language, but it’s only a place to start — not a place to live. We have to do more than opt-out of the insanity. We have to intentionally inject sanity into the culture again. We have to purposely re-infuse our society with truth again, and just as corrupting the language reaps destruction, restoring the truth of our words and recovering some lost wisdom will reap healing.

So here’s another list to get us started.

The Language of Virtue

Let’s begin speaking the language of virtue. The cardinal virtues of fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice, as well as the virtues of chastity, fidelity and courage.

People want to be free. They want to be happy. Let’s show them the truth — real happiness will never be found apart from virtue.

1. Chastity is a word we must learn to speak without embarrassment or hesitation, since it is a virtue everyone is called to regardless of their state in life. Chastity is lived differently for a single person than a married person, but the virtue is the same. It is the “integrity of the powers of life and love” in the person, and involves an “apprenticeship of self-mastery which is a training in human freedom.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338 and 2339)

Simply put, chastity is happiness. Have a look out there — people, relationships, and families are more broken and miserable than ever. That’s because the person dominated by passions is neither free nor happy. Everything most people do nowadays is centered on their feelings, so people are constantly tossed about on the wind of emotions and changing desires. “The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” (CCC 2339)

The culture out there is not making people happy. That’s our cue to talk about the means of being happy. Along with chastity, let’s talk about the virtues of fidelity and temperance.

2. Fidelity? What’s that? For the hook-up generation, everything is permanently temporary. When I was a child, only a few kids in my class had divorced parents. Today, it’s exactly the reverse. So few children have an intact home with both their parents. Fidelity must make a strong comeback.

The younger generations need to know that people can keep their vows; people can say no to promiscuous sex; men and women can respect one another and not use one another for animalistic gratification. People can learn to love and be faithful — yes, even til death.

3. Temperance is that virtue that helps us moderate even good and pleasurable things, keeping balance in our lives, being directed by our will and not our instincts or desires. (CCC 1809) It’s learning a measure of self-denial for a higher good. It’s one cookie rather than five. It is discretion and restraint. It’s a healthy level of detachment from “stuff.” It sets us free to love God and love other people.

4. When’s the last time you heard someone extol the virtue of prudence? (Never mind the SNL skits of President Bush the elder.) Let’s dig up this pearl and keep it in our pockets once again. Prudence is “right reason in action” says St. Thomas Aquinas. Prudence helps us discern the true good and choose what is right. (CCC 1806) In this dangerously confused age, we need men and women of virtue who will think and act with prudence.

5. Justice is a virtue most people today will eagerly get behind, even though they likely misunderstand it and apply it unevenly and, ironically, unjustly. The “social justice warriors” are a new class of citizen-activists who are determined to enforce behavioral standards that satisfy their vision of justice, no matter how unjust those standards actually are.

True justice, first of all, requires giving God what God is due. Justice is then found in “habitual right thinking” and uprightness of conduct toward our neighbor. (CCC 1807) Justice promotes the true common good. (How can we determine the true common good? Ask prudence, temperance, chastity, and fidelity.)

Justice demands that we recognize the humanity of the child in the womb and protect the child from being killed. Justice requires that we provide for our children what we are obligated to give them, and not deprive them for the sake of our own wants and preferences. Justice insists that we protect the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, those whom we are tempted to consider “less than.”

6. Fortitude is the virtue that strengthens us to choose what is right when it seems easier to compromise. It’s the inner steel that bolsters our resolve, and pushes us on “in the pursuit of good.” Along with courage, it enables us to “conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.” (CCC 1808) Fortitude turns sinners into saints.

Obviously, just talking about virtue isn’t going to get the job done. We have to walk this talk. We will not get very far without the grace of God.

When our neighbors talk about the necessity of contraception, we should be talking about the freedom of chastity. When they talk about the “rights” of women and “reproductive justice,” we must answer them with true justice and defend the child in the womb.

When excess and self-indulgence is celebrated, we need to encourage temperance. When the prevailing opinion says we must go along with madness, we must call on prudence instead, and have courage!

When they say, “I won’t impose my personal beliefs on others…” we need to instruct them in fortitude. When they announce their impending divorce, someone must be brave enough to counsel them to choose fidelity instead.

Obviously, just talking about virtue isn’t going to get the job done. We have to walk this talk. We will not get very far without the grace of God. It is divine grace that gives us mere mortals the power to live a virtuous life. God will help us begin, and begin again, and again, for as long as we ask.

So let’s begin! People want to be free. They want to be happy. Let’s show them the truth — real happiness will never be found apart from virtue.

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  • Paul

    These words will get twisted just the same.

  • Gary

    It is hard to change the world-view of people. Most of the time, it does not happen. Even before I became a Christian, I always believed that the Bible was true and God was real. I always accepted that God defined morals and everyone was obligated to obey the rules God had made. When I was a kid in the 1950’s, most of the people I knew had basically the same beliefs, even though some, or most, were not actual Christians. They might do things that were immoral, but at least they understood they had done wrong. Not so anymore. Most people, in the USA, now don’t recognize God as the definer of right and wrong. They either think society does it, or they do it for themselves. If I could point to just one problem in this country, that would be it. And from it comes almost every other problem involving human behavior.

    • FO

      I completely agree with you wholeheartedly, Gary, and what’s more troubling, even many fellow christians nowadays are influenced badly by our mainstream media ideology.

    • Jennifer Hartline

      Of course it’s hard. It’s always been hard. That’s why it must be the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to be a light in the darkness. Our job is to testify to the Light that the darkness will never overcome.

    • 6Proverbs16

      It is not ACTUALLY that hard to change American’s ‘world view’. ….

      After all, a majority – BUT NOT ME – ran off into the ‘smart phone’ thing which has utterly changed their view of their world! It is well established that smart phones/smart portable devices have changed very much how people do work, consider what is ‘news’, what they believe to be truth, etc. THAT IS S WORLD VIEW CHANGE.

      Oh, and how about flip flopping from the view that ‘America is the Greatest DEMOCRACY and should promote democracy around the WORLD’ to the view that ‘America must be ‘in the world’ only for itself and it is ok for Satanic Lord Un-Democratic/Demonic Putin take over what he wants to take over’. THAT IS WORLD VIEW CHANGE.

  • Char B

    Well said, Jennifer, we must talk about virtue – which will require fortitude.

    • 6Proverbs16

      The ancient PAGAN Greek philosophers considered ‘courage’ or ‘fortitude’ to be a virtue without which other virtues were less capable. You GO ancients!

  • 6Proverbs16

    The Vatican’s official synthesis of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ reveals:

    In relation to the challenges of the contemporary world, the Pope denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root”. “Such an economy kills” because the law of “the survival of the fittest” prevails. The current culture of the “disposable” has created “something new”: “the excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’”. “A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual”, of an “autonomy of the market” in which “financial speculation” and “widespread corruption” and “self-serving tax-evasion reign”. He also denounces “attacks on religious freedom” and the “new persecutions directed against Christians. … In many places the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism”. The family, the Pope continues, “is experiencing a profound cultural crisis”. Reiterating the indispensable contribution of marriage to society”, he underlines that “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which … distorts family bonds”.

    In this light the discussion of virtues is excellent – in a way – but incomplete and incorrect.

    If chastity is as you say “integrity of the powers of life and love”, if fidelity is “self-denial for a higher good”, if fortitude is to “choose what is right when it seems easier to compromise”, if justice is to “give God what God is due”

    then

    we must deny White Supremacy values and ideas anywhere and everywhere we find them including within ourselves! White Supremacy values and ideas have infected American history from the beginning and still infect America. Continuing to live with this infection if an offense to God, it is idolatry against God’s sovereignty, and violation of the Great Commandment taught directly by the Lord Jesus Christ.

    we must not compromise with White Supremacy values and ideas! But all around us we see Christians compromising with White Supremacy values and ideas.

    we must give up Social Control and Political Power that is infected with White Supremacy values and ideas. But all around us we see Christians who prefer control and power rather than the Commandment of Love.

    we must change all social and economic, and education and health care, and law enforcement and other, systems that do not do justice: Any system that fails to “protect the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, those whom we are tempted to consider “less than”” … must be changed.

    Isn’t that what virtue must do?

  • 6Proverbs16

    While generally well said and useful for discussion you have apparently intentionally excluded formal RC teaching that you don’t like. This is clear when we consider old and longstanding RC teaching about justice:

    Quote
    As regards the State, the interests of all, whether high or low, are equal…and therefore the public administration must duly and solicitously provide for the welfare and the comfort of the working classes; otherwise, that law of justice will be violated which ordains that each man shall have his due…Among the many and grave duties of rulers who would do their best for the people, the first and chief is to act with strict justice – with that justice which is called distributive – toward each and every class alike.
    Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891 #33.
    Unquote

    Pope Leo’s teaching clearly states that justice is not ONLY that we should -as you say – “protect the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, those whom we are tempted to consider “less than’ …. but that we must work in society to ensure that resources of society are distributed to support needs of all these you name, the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, the ‘lesser’.

    Other Popes have continued this discussion of justice:

    Quote
    Therefore, the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought to be so distributed among individual persons and classes that the common advantage of all, which Leo XIII had praised, will be safeguarded; in other words, that the common good of all society will be kept inviolate. By this law of social justice, one class is forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits.
    Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI, 1931 #57.
    Unquote

    Justice – and all other virtues – must include our striving to assure ‘the common good of all society’.

    And these issues continue today:

    Quote
    Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society…[T]he common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.
    Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #157.
    Unquote

    I am not a Roman Catholic and I easily found plentiful teachings on justice required of Catholics. We wonder how you missed – or failed to mention – these very important dimensions of justice and virtue?

  • 6Proverbs16

    While generally well said and useful for discussion you have apparently intentionally excluded formal RC teaching that you don’t like. This is clear when we consider old and longstanding RC teaching about justice:
    Quote
    As regards the State, the interests of all, whether high or low, are equal…and therefore the public administration must duly and solicitously provide for the welfare and the comfort of the working classes; otherwise, that law of justice will be violated which ordains that each man shall have his due…Among the many and grave duties of rulers who would do their best for the people, the first and chief is to act with strict justice – with that justice which is called distributive – toward each and every class alike.
    Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891 #33.
    Unquote

    Pope Leo’s teaching clearly states that justice is not ONLY that we should -as you say – “protect the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, those whom we are tempted to consider “less than’ …. but that we must work in society to ensure that resources of society are distributed to support needs of all these you name, the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, the ‘lesser’.

    Other Popes have continued this discussion of justice:

    Quote
    Therefore, the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought to be so distributed among individual persons and classes that the common advantage of all, which Leo XIII had praised, will be safeguarded; in other words, that the common good of all society will be kept inviolate. By this law of social justice, one class is forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits.
    Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI, 1931 #57.
    Unquote

    Justice – and all other virtues – must include our striving to assure ‘the common good of all society’.

    And these issues continue today:
    Quote
    Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society…[T]he common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.
    Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #157.
    Unquote

    I am not a Roman Catholic and I easily found plentiful teachings on justice required of Catholics. We wonder how you missed – or failed to mention – these very important dimensions of justice and virtue?

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