Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. What Is It?

by Fr Richard Heilman | July 8, 2017 1:57 PM

By Fr. Bill Peckman:

It is the message preached from so very many pulpits. It is the theological underpinning of universalism. It operates on 5 beliefs.

1) There is a God who created and ordered the earth and watches over human life on earth.

Okay, we can agree that God exists and created the earth. We believe He watches over us. This jibes with our faith.

2) God wants us to be good, fair, and kind to each other like the Bible says, and other religions.

Hear that? That would be the train coming off the rails, sliding down an embankment into a dry creek bed, and exploding! 

First, nowhere in the Christian Scriptures are we told to be good or nice. We are told to be humble, merciful, compassionate, bold, courageous, holy, strong, loving, and whole host of other things…but never merely good and nice.

Let’s be honest, in this society, good and nice are really low bars. 

Fair? What does that mean? Treat all people the same, give all people the same thing? We are told to be just. This means to give to another that which they need. Is that what fair is?

This list of positive traits in TMD is a plea to be inoffensive. It is why all religions can be the same…the goal isn’t holiness…it’s being nice. It is believing in nothing so strongly that one triggers no one. It is theological milquetoast.

Our Catholic faith calls for us to be virtuous, strong, courageous, and so willing to love as God loves that we will lay down our lives, embrace sacrifice and suffering, and be heroic. Our Catholic faith produces knights and ladies…not snowflakes and SJWs.

3) The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.

Hello, Narcissus! Life is about me being happy, huh? It is enslavement to the self. It is a life where one pushes oneself not for the good of others, but to suit one’s own goals. Seriously? It isn’t like there isn’t a long, terrible, and destructive track record that this sentiment produces. TMD requires no nobility of soul, no heroism of character, no selflessness. 

It isn’t that Catholicism wants you to feel bad about yourself. This is a common retort from the TMD types. Catholicism does expect you to grow in virtue and wisdom. It sees the Soul as we see the body and mind…left unchallenged, it goes into atrophy. Happiness and good feelings are not ends in and of themselves, they are natural byproducts of effort and growth. 

The actual goal is to grow closer to Christ. Sometimes that will be happy; sometimes it will be a dark night of the soul. If I judge the worth of something by how it feels, I am operating on the cognizant level of a toddler. Sin has no place here. Sin is what other people do. Sin affects me, but my choices effect no one else. want a good idea why we are such an unhappy society? The sentiment that life is about being happy and feeling good is and always will be a dead-end street.

4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

Ah yes…God the butler, God the servant, God the sugar daddy, God the EMT. Nothing says mature relationship like only wanting a person around when it is convenient. This God is great…stay away until I need you to give me something or when I need someone to blame for tragedy or the consequences of my own bad decisions. I mean, what divine being wouldn’t want a perpetual user living in His home for all eternity?

IN Catholicism, though, we look to have a functioning and loving relationship with God. WE say here what we want. If we were to treat a spouse like we do God in TMD, we would be setting land speed records to divorce court. Love is about total self-gift not about be total receiver. Not to worry though…

5) All good people go to heaven.

Conveniently enough, I get to be the arbiter of what constitutes good, and by golly I will stroll right through those pearly gates. Heaven is the ultimate participation trophy!

So, what has TMD gotten us? First, it has driven men away from the Church. Men have a deep desire to be courageous and strong. I am not saying women don’t. However, men look for virtue and strength. They may not always articulate it, but they want to be challenged. It is bad enough that when they see themselves portrayed in the popular culture as dolts, cavemen, criminals, animals, and thugs. It is bad enough that the society only approves of the emasculated and effeminate as role models for men. When they hear that from their churches, you can bet they will head for the exits and encourage their sons to do the same.

TMD has downgraded the idea of selfless service. If the focus is on me, then service is reduced to being important only if it makes me feel good. That will kill service in the community and church. It will gut vocations. It will shred the idea of getting married. It will change the attitude of having children. TMD has reduced parishes from families to businesses selling goods and services at bargain basement prices. It has nurtured a society of the entitled where too much free stuff is never enough. 

One of the conscious decisions I made long ago was to be TMD’s worst enemy. I don’t want anesthetized sheep, but a courageous and able army. That means challenging and pushing. It means demanding more out of ourselves and using God’s grace to push us to be better and more virtuous. It means not living by the beast like passion of emotions but rising to our true level of reason and virtue. It means embracing discipline and selflessness.

I will admit it is harder on the ears than TMD. But, a good leader within our faith, be it in the home or the parish is more concerned with a person’s eternity than they are about their feelings.

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Endnotes:
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