When The Walls Fell Before Thermidor

If you’re a fan of the old “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series, you’ll recall an episode when Captain Picard was stranded on a desolate planet with the captain of an alien ship, in order to fight a savage beast.  The plot twist was that the two men were unable to effectively communicate with each other, because the alien spoke a language made up of metaphors which made no sense to someone unfamiliar with the stories on which they are based.  One common phrase, “Shaka, when the walls fell,” we eventually came to learn was their way of expressing failure.

With today’s Supreme Court rulings, we have now reached a point in American history where the Judeo-Christian story has been rejected as being unintelligible, both to a significant portion of our citizenry and also, apparently, to our judiciary.  Some would argue that this is the inevitable “progress” of history, while others would argue that the decline of commonly-held moral standards is the result of the creep of inexorable decadence and imperial decline.  Yet it seems to me that what has happened is something not unlike that old Star Trek episode.  We are now unable to communicate with one another, because we do not know the same stories.

For example, it has often been pointed out to Christians by proponents of same-sex marriage that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, who was engaged in a sexual activity which at the time was treated as a capital offense.  However the conclusion of that story is not Christ patting the woman on the head and saying, “Go back to doing whatever you were doing.”  Rather, He commands her, “Go, and sin no more,” both granting forgiveness but calling a spade a spade, rather than pretending that what she was doing was morally acceptable.  That, and not the rabid crowd slowly shuffling away, is the real message of the encounter.  Yet its meaning has been lost in our age of Carrie Bradshaw-based morality.

In choosing to treat a relationship between consenting adults – which is often really just a euphemism for sexual incontinence – as the ground in which marriage must be based, we have also forgotten that mankind was created in God’s image.  “Male and female He created them,” we are told of our first parents, their complementarity being a reflection of the love God has for His Creation.  We are now entering a period in which, through science and technology, we will soon be able to create in OUR own image, without having a male and female at all, yet we do not seem to have thought much about how exactly we are going to manage to play god with any degree of success, given that at present our civilization can barely keep itself fed, housed, and free from disease.  As we race into the future, tearing down the narratives which kept human beings from descending back into the chaos from which our ancestors emerged, we seem set on silencing those who warn of the implications of abandoning fundamental principles regarding life, family, and society.

Of course the paradox of today’s Supreme Court decisions is that in granting rights to one group, another will now become the object of persecution.  For if you believe the honeyed assurances of those who insist that orthodox Christians will be left to believe and practice as we choose, I would suggest that you are very easily deceived.  No doubt far too many people will go along to get along, even though the Church Herself will not.  Somehow, Catholics who remain true to the Faith have always managed to survive, and will survive this as well.  One takes the long view that the Catholic Church has outlasted the Romans, the Huns, the Moors, Henry VIII, the Ottomans, the Shogun, Napoleon, and the Soviets, so this is simply another bumpy period in our long history.

It is often said that the story of history is written by the victors, and perhaps today, the forces which have persuaded a majority of the Justices that the marriage covenant and sexual intercourse are morally and legally equivalent may seem to have prevailed in writing our future narrative.  Yet in the end the fallout from this decision will prove as inscrutable to future generations, when the Catholic Church will still be here, but America as we know it may well not be.  After all, the vainglorious French revolutionaries renamed all the months of the year, which in the end proved only to be a temporary measure.  Today the word for one of those months, “Thermidor”, is in fact considered a synonym for failure, much like “Shaka, when the walls fell.”  Or as I prefer to use it, Thermidor is a great way of preparing lobster.


“American Lobster – Sixth Stage” by Francis Hobart Herrick (1895)
New England Aquarium, Boston

11 thoughts on “When The Walls Fell Before Thermidor

  1. Of course Thermidor was when Napoleon declared himself Emperor and the whole radical notion of democracy ended as all do, in autocracy. Listen closely to how our leaders today are talked about, and considered on par with royalty and it’s not hard to see. Of course too the radicalism against the Church will be just a step on the way to that.

    BTW Lobster Thermidor I believe was named after a play which had a related name, a bizarre sort of third degree allusion.


  2. We live in an age in which people are growing progressively mad with politicians, economists, and the intelligentsia in the vanguard.

    We are reverting to a situation similar to that of the Roman Empire before the Emperor Constantine in which Christianity is barely tolerated or not tolerated at all.


  3. Just wait until the water boils for the lobster Billy!! Just got through a Senator election in MA. . . . . didn’t quite go “our” way! The DOMA vote in CA didn’t help this week either! Love your views, I’m a frequent listener of C.W., keep up the good work! Hope to meet up with you at the CNMC in October!!!


  4. This has me commenting on multiple tangents. First, how has the Church coped with same sex marriage being legalized in Spain? Lessons to be learned there that can help inoculate us against the worst of the trouble here? I know it’s going badly in the U.K., with word of laws to be passed that shutter churches that don’t marry both straight and gay couples. Second, in regard to author’s books on the French Revolution, I was surprised at the very positive look that Hilaire Belloc gave it (especially the very strong defense he gave the Committee for Public Safety), given he was such a strong Catholic. Have you read him, and what’s your take? Thirdly, I admire your confidence in our overcoming the latest cultural tribulation. Yes, we survived from the Henry VIII through the communists, but the Eastern Church was almost snuffed out by the advance of Islam. If we faced secularism alone it is one thing, but the seculars are opening the gates of the castle to the marauders, not expecting that they’ll be the first ones hoisted on petards by oncoming Islamic hordes, though People of the Book won’t fare much better.

    If there is a germ of hope, Eastern Europe is not going along with the West’s self-annihilation program. Strangely, the Russian Army devised a parachuting Orthodox Church complete with clergy, and the bread and wine for Eucharist, to serve its front line troops. Meanwhile in America, the armed forces make it nearly impossible for a Catholic, Evangelical, or Orthodox chaplain to remain true to Church teaching and yet serve the troops, since same sex marriage at the federal level and in the military is now recognized, and it’s a matter of time before commanders say, “marry the gays or quit your commission.” Just 25 years ago, we were the bulwark of Christendom against the atheistic Evil Empire. Today, the Orthodox Church is an integral part of the Russian Army, Russia’s Duma passes laws against promoting homosexuality, and in the USA, we may soon see the last valid Mass said on a warship or in the field.



  5. The Tamarian language was the spoken language of the Tamarians . The Tamarians spoke entirely by metaphor, referencing mythological and historical people and events from their culture. As a result, Federation universal translators – although they could successfully translate the individual words and sentence structure – were unable to convey the symbolic meaning they represented. Without prior knowledge of the Tamarians’ history and legends, a word-by-word translation was of no use to someone attempting to communicate with them. This language barrier led to isolation of the Tamarian people after all attempts at communication had failed.


  6. Oh, and one more thought on the idea of languages based on metaphors: Perhaps the Tamarese have a genetic memory that includes their entire history / mythos. I.e. they don’t have to learn Tamarese-b. It is built in.


  7. Oh, and one more thought on the idea of languages based on metaphors: Perhaps the Tamarese have a genetic memory that includes their entire history / mythos. I.e. they don’t have to learn Tamarese-b. It is built in.


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