Thursday, March 10, 2022

Mark Shea, Gollum and a Lenten reflection

The late M. Scott Peck once wrote that the character Gollum, from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, "is perhaps the finest depiction of evil ever written."  It was from his book People of the Lie. In that book, Peck took a look at evil from the view of psychoanalysis.  Much of that appraisal of Gollum could be wrapped up in the singular obsession Gollum had for the One Ring to the exclusion of almost anything other priority or action. 

I thought of that when I saw this over at The American Catholic:

Whew.  Tough to stomach.  Tough to imagine that this is what Mark came away with after that horrible news of mothers and babies killed and maimed in a war zone.  I think Donald McClarey says it right: 

Imagine hearing about a possible war atrocity and thinking that this is an opportunity to bash your domestic political opponents.

That's serious Gollum level obsession there on Mark's part.  I would like to think that Mark doesn't see every bomb and every dead child as an awesome chance to attack those white conservatives he so clearly despises. But I have a hard time doing so.

A word of warning to all of us:  Mark can make us rather complacent because, well, most of us aren't Mark, so we imagine we're not doing all that bad.  But as Elrond said of Sauron, even Sauron was not evil from the beginning.  Mark was not always this way, no matter what you think of him.  Why Mark is where he is now, I don't know.  How he incarnates almost everything he once condemned about Internet discourse, while spending his online life attacking so many things and people he once cherished or valued, I don't know.  I have my gut feelings, but I could never be sure.

What I do know is that I don't want to end up like Mark, or the many on Catholic sites and outlets who know what Mark is and cheer him all the more because he's on their side.  That sort of thing is as good as giving Jesus two black eyes and a bloody nose.

Therefore, especially during Lent, let us all reflect and make sure we're not heading down that broad path that Mark and so many of his supporters have chosen, and all for politics and defending the latest media narrative.  That could also include those fighting the latest media narrative, or siding so passionately with the other side of the political aisle.  As believers, our sights are supposed to be set on higher things.  Things that tell us the appropriate response to the awfulness of Mark's above Twitter post is simply to pray for his soul. 

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3.1-4


  1. At the conclusion of one of my favorite episodes of this podcast, the priests had some thoughtful words:
    So there’s a big temptation in our time, especially in our time, to look at people who are not just… okay, so people we disagree with, but let’s just go ahead and say people we regard as super evil—now, in many cases they’re not, or they’re just people we disagree with, but let’s just go ahead and say these people who are super evil.

    People who are super evil: what are we supposed to do with such people? The way that the world wants us to deal with them right now is to burn them, whether metaphorically or whatever. That’s what the world says: destroy them; they must be destroyed. These are evil, subversive, horrible, destructive people; they must be destroyed. Whereas this instruction, this Nomocanon, says that the way you’re supposed to deal with people who, again, admitting that they are monstrous, understanding that they are monstrous, is actually through spiritual acts of mercy, that that’s the way to deal with them, to try to get the demon to go out.

    Because even if someone really has descended into evil, it’s because there’s a demonic presence there. That’s what’s going on. A human being who is acting in a truly evil manner is a slave. They’ve enslaved themselves; okay, it’s not like they’re not culpable, but they’re a slave, and what we want is to free them from slavery. And so that’s the approach.

    Now, a lot of the time, like I said, people are not actually evil. We disagree with them, and we’re letting our passions take over, and we’re seeing them as monsters even though they aren’t. But even if they really are, what does Christ say to do with our enemies? Love them. He says to love our enemies. That’s what he says to do. It’s very, very clear. We’re not called to burn them and to destroy them and so forth. We’re called to love them.

    1. That's some good points. In Mark's case, it's almost sickening to see the things he writes. But it's important also to remember the parable of the unforgiving servant.

  2. Imagine hearing about a possible war atrocity and thinking that this is an opportunity to bash your domestic political opponents.

    What I think Don does not quite capture is that Shea's remark is so much a non sequitur as to be frankly baffling. If he hadn't been observably deteriorating for 17 of his 63 years, I'd put money on the proposition that he was suffering some sort of dementia. (Frontotemporal dementia is associated with personality changes and disinhibition generally). As is, your best guess and mine is that he is intensely bitter about features of his daily life and he's elected to process that by blaming an arbitrary selection of third parties.

    1. That could be. But as I said below, sadly Mark's train of thought and reasoning isn't at all uncommon when I see even prominent advocates of very left leaning ideology nowadays. I'm reminded of Fr. Martin saying that Jesus, being black, is happy now that he sees people closer to His own skin color in churches. I mean, that's not just racist in ways I never heard from the most racist person I ever knew, but it's just stupid. And these are just a couple examples. Watch even established activists go after Florida's sexual content in schools law for another example. That's the problem. Heck, I think of Deacon Greydanus, someone I used to admire and respect, and some of the goofy he writes. Something about the modern Left seems to encourage this. It could be Mark already had inclinations along those lines, and it's worse because, among those to the left of center, it's expected, if not demanded.

  3. So, a couple of Geopolitically irrelevant Catholic journalists quote a random Cardinal who practically nobody outside the Catholic blogosphere has ever heard of, and somehow that caused the Russian Army to bomb a hospital in Mariapol? The more I see of Mark's content, the more convicted I become that he's mentally unwell. His posts resemble the ramblings of a broken algorithm more than a cognitive human.

    1. If it was confined to Mark I would think that. Unfortunately, as the reaction to Florida's law barring sexual content taught to children under fourth grade demonstrates, not caring about facts and making no sense at all seems to be almost a modern leftwing distinctive.

  4. As somebody who has been bullied and stalked by Shea, as somebody who received a death threat from one of his Facebook friends through Messinger, I can tell you that Shea *always* had this in him, going back to my first dealings with him in 2001. He started stalking me online then. He would join conversations in which I was engaged on other Catholic blogs -- conversations that didn't involve or mention him -- and try to destroy my character.

    Shea's gods are anger and vengeance. He rails against conservatives, Trump supporers, the "MAGA cult," etc. because he blames them for 1) being shown up as a poseur when he was engaged in debates on torture 2) being fired from his gig at National Catholic Register. Shea has absolutely no capacity for serious self-reflection. Consequently, he has no capacity for genuine repentance other than a few meaningless, pro forma apolgies that do nothing but buy him time.

    Shea, quite literally, is Hellbound for eternity, let alone living in his own self-made Hell. Only personal repentance can save him.

    1. In hindsight it isn't hard to see the seeds of problems were there. I am small beans, so naturally Mark never came after me - though he did troll me for a while here and at Patheos. Though the early signs were there, I have to think it was sometime between 2012 and 2014 that he went off the rails. Now I know he's beyond reaching by mortal means and it will require heavy doses of prayers for anything to change.


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