The Threat of Velvet Nihilism and A Novel Response

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Photo by Binh Ho Image on

We are living in a time of extreme social fracturing.  The variables that have led us to this condition are multifaceted, but much can be discerned by observing the post-modern penchant to limit the scope of human flourishing–through exclusively materialist conceptions of man–by advancing a limited view of freedom that idolizes radical autonomy.

This two-fold circumscription of the human person has ultimately harvested the fruits of a culture that no longer remembers the purpose for which they were created.  Ultimately, the model representation of this counterfeit anthropology—advanced by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Casey v. Planned Parenthood—is the assertion that, “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  This way of thinking neuters traditional cultural mores that enshrines the nuclear family, church, community, and solidarity by promoting a myopic view of human flourishing that enshrines the subjective views and experiences of the individual.

While fracturing is catastrophic on the micro-scale; there is little doubt such a state of affairs benefits those who manipulate it from the top.  Our anti-cultural overlords are what Rusty Reno has termed velvet nihilists.  This is a class of technocrats who take their moral relativism with a side of cappuccino and business casual.  They abhor the foundations of western civilization while also benefiting—to the extreme—from all it has handed down.  For them, a scope of the good life that transcends comfort and entertainment or wealth and pleasure must be dispensed with.  But what makes this velvet nihilism especially pervasive is how it has infiltrated the only earthly institution that provides the tools to stand against it.  In traditional Catholic circles, we call these Christians who are drunk on the poison fed to them by relativist elites Modernists.  They have divorced themselves both from the traditions and the metaphysical claims of the Catholic Church, and replaced it with saccharine laced pleas of inclusiveness and being nice.  They prefer the social activism of a non-governmental organization to the eternal Mystical Body of Christ.

What can we do about this moment? In 1969, in a broadcast on German radio, the future Pope Benedict XVI predicted a smaller and more devout church where “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit (John 15:2)” that will persevere through this current period of metaphysical confusion and rise from the ashes to stand in stark contradiction to the culture at large.  My peers and I, taking the prophetic tone of Cardinal Ratzinger seriously, have constructed this lay apostolate—the Traditian Order — and are composed of fellow traditional Catholics who feel called to take advantage of the new mediums available for evangelization through social media and the internet to revitalize western culture from the ground up.  Our mission could be described as Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society meets the Benedict Option.  That is to say we intend to become leaven for the culture by providing online resources by our members and for our members to help them reignite the faith traditions in their communities, which has long sustained western culture, while also providing them online refuge and camaraderie from the increasingly cold and venomous secular culture.

How does one become a member?  After identifying the will and desire to join the order you will simply fill out a small questionnaire and take the oath against modernism—crafted by Pope Saint Pius X—then begin a ninety-day period as a squire where you consider your specific set of talents and interests.  During this time, you will also pick a path of advancement within our order.  There are three avenues of participation within it.  The first option is Chaplain, only accessible to Priests, seminarians, and member of an established Catholic order.  The next is Commander, this is available to anyone willing to maintain and evangelize via the social media accounts run by the Traditian Order.  It is a limited option though since there are only so many platforms.  The final, and likeliest path to entry, is through our Guilds.

There are nine options for participation when pursuing the Path of Guilds.  Discernment is advised in contemplating entry through this route since we offer several options and each are generally designed to accompany particular sets of talents and temperaments.  The options for participation on this path include but are not limited to local political activism, writing critiques of newly published Catholic literature, building up resources for finding and/or introducing the Latin Mass into a local diocese, building the Order’s calendar, creating lists of businesses that are owned and operated by faithful Catholics within the member’s community, and offering grades for the effectiveness of various diocesan schools and chanceries in the promotion and advancement of the traditional Catholic faith.  Since the path of guilds is the most common way most members will contribute to building the order and within their local culture; it will be the most regularly developed and potentially rearranged dimension according to our stated needs.

I have heard this era described as liquid.  It is one that advances the values of velvet nihilists, inherently anti-foundational, by inverting the premises of our ancestors through a type of  “progress” which imprisons the individual in the same measures with which it liberates.  Its anthropological claims are counterfeit and pits man against the institutions– most specifically Holy Mother Church— that provide him the tools to receive her objective claims of truth, goodness, and beauty.  While modernism, advanced by latte sipping relativists, reigns down on the culture at large; it’s penetration into the walls of the church have created a sense of urgency among many traditional Catholics. This has ultimately inspired the collaboration of my peers and I on this new apostolate which will provide the tools to laymen in standing against the tide of liquid modernity.

The Traditian Order is a place for like-minded traditionalists throughout the connected world to find refuge among others ignited by the fire of Christ, and to offer the resources needed to engage local communities.  In this way, we hope to provide a strong foundation for our members to go out and preach the good news and resurrect Western Civilization—founded of Jesus Christ– that gave us the saints and scholars and made it a beacon for the world.  Please join us.

Author: Mike Morris

Mike is a husband and dad who lives in Denton, Texas. His essays have appeared in Aleteia, FEE, the Libertarian Catholic, and Church Pop. Mike has also written for the upstart cultural commentary site The Everyman. He can be followed on twitter @laffyjaphy and on Facebook:

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