Channel: Hamza Yusuf
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Gula you know, I've been thinking about this. But before we get into it, I just want to maybe ask both of you, like, just the how do you frame these, these principle vices, just in your own work and dealing with, obviously, moral philosophy? How does that fit in? As a structure, I would say that I deal with vices or sins, always as parasitic upon virtues. They're always a disordered virtue. So it's really important when we talk about about gluttony, to think about fasting because Gluttony is the corresponding vise, to the virtue of fasting. And so it's, it's the, it's the virtuous life, it's that movement from
purgation, to illumination, that, that is the center sort of the, the journey of Christianity of the spiritual life. And it's the the corrosiveness, the disorder Enos, of that process,
where the language of sin and the language of the seven, particularly the seven deadly sins comes up. Yeah, I think that would probably
be my approach as well, I come from a background in what's usually called virtue ethics. And so anything is, you know, talk of sin is always going to be
parasitic on virtue. And, and one thing that was always drummed into us was seeing the interconnection amongst the virtues. And I think you can say the same thing, the interconnection among the vices, as well. And I think during our conversation, we'll probably be drawing lines between gluttony and other kinds of vices as well, and the kind of social nature.
Sin, I think, is something that has, you know, is a kind of ancient idea and a biblical idea, but one that has kind of been re recaptured and reformulated in the 20th century, you know, Carl Rogers, famous example of the banana, you go and buy a banana for breakfast, and suddenly you're enmeshed in all of these kinds of structures of sin
that you don't necessarily intend in dealing with each of these seven, what's been fascinating to me, is thinking about the grip that our culture is in
with these vices, and it's very interesting to me that Gula or gluttony
there were many theologians that considered it really the first, you know, what got us out of our, of our, our first states of innocence and blessedness it's interesting in the Islamic tradition, it's not an apple tree, it was actually wheat at all the all the commentators say, was the first the forbidden fruit, it was actually grain.
But whatever that was, you know, it seems to just have a real grip on our culture. And I know that, that you have a lot of thoughts about consumption. And it seems that it's consuming us this, you know, this idea of, of gluttony. Well, it's not an apple in the Bible, either it's a it's just fruit, with the Apple kind of comes comes as a kind of later, I said, Jesus, but yeah, it's interesting. I mean, in some ways, in our culture,
sin and guilt are still associated with food, in some interesting ways, and in some ways, although we don't tend to take sin very seriously anymore. You have these, you know, you have the guiltless Gore May, and you have, in some ways, under the category of food and drink, sin is taken more seriously than it is than it is in you know, sexual sins and so on. Lust is hardly a sin anymore. It seems like it's a it's a desirable
it's something that you need to take pills to keep, keep going and so on. But, but this idea of sin with regard to dietary things seems like something that is very tenacious, although in some ways, sometimes in our culture, it gets turned around and so to call a chocolate cake decadent or just say that something is sinfully delicious, that so it's still associated with sin, but but, but it becomes a positive thing in that way.
I guess what I want to say is that in our culture
things have been so turned around that the sin of gluttony is paired with this odd sin of fasting as well. Because
there's this radical swing between, you know, these clenched juice cleansing diets, and then these debauched evenings. And so, so, so many in the in the kind of cultural currency that we operate in,
especially young people, or the people that I teach, right.
They just swing from one extreme to the other.
And don't understand even the the sort of Aristotelian infrastructure of the language of mean of temperance, you know, that that Aquinas on Thomas, temperance Aristotle on on virtue, it's just a lost currency. And I think we've got this out of Wackness both on the fasting and on the gluttonous, right. You know, one of the popular diets apparently now with the celebrities is what they call the five two, where they can eat whatever they want for five days. And then for two days, they, they restrict their caloric intake to like 600 calories, so they kind of starve themselves for two days. But again, it gets to that point, so that I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight. And I think
one of the things that fascinates me and Aquinas talks about this, he mentions it in his section on on gluttony, about the five aspects of gluttony and and I think people really don't think about when they think of gluttony, they think of the obese person that's like just eating enormous amounts of food and getting fatter and fatter. But he mentions a little mnemonic that they used pray prepare a loud Tae Nimis or den Tour Studio see and, and saying basically that it was too soon, you know, too hastily, too expensively, or sumptuously, too much too eagerly, and making too much of a fast fastidiousness. which fascinates me because what and CS Lewis mentions this, I think, in the in the
Screwtape Letters that once the demons realized that people recognize that overeating was was a bad thing, they switched their strategy to get them into the kind of the gourmet as opposed to the Gorman, you know, the person who, it's everything has to be just right, and I'm going to send my laptop back because it's not at the right temperature. And I think that aspect is really lost on a lot of people that in some ways, I mean, I felt you know, really reading a lot about this and thinking about that I, I could see the gluttony in my own life in certain instances. And I don't think people think about that aspect of gluttony.
I'm so glad you brought up Aquinas as you could imagine, because I went back and read Aquinas on gluttony and on temperance and fasting as well to prepare for our conversation this afternoon.
And what was really striking to me was how,
how the, how embodied Aquinas is theology and philosophy is that Gluttony is not one of the worst vices to have one of the worst sins at all. It's like the second to last right? It's, it's, it's not at all, it's not pride, for example, pride is is the is the worst for him. And yet, when you over eat, what he calls the daughters of gluttony, the six daughters of gluttony, right? over eating then leads to and it's a capital sentence, and it's not so much a sin on its own account, but it's a sin on what it leads you to do. So over eating or over drinking leads you to speak too much to lose a one fee. It's got this great line through reads, that you operate as the reason we're fast asleep at
the helm. I think that's so beautiful, you know, I mean, it's not beautiful, but it captures something. Right. Right. There's secure reality eleventy resulting from the lack of reason. I mean, I just think of high school boys. I mean, it's just, you know, it's sort of the, the, the immaturity that results because of a disordered reason and a disordered sensitive appetite. That it's it's it's the opposite of fruitful right. And yet it's it's sort of it gives forth it's it's a ripple, there's a ripple that comes from it. I think sterility really struck me because the obscenity because it has both foolishness, but also crudity and, and and absurdities and things and I think about our culture
and how crude it has become and I'm
I think we're all old enough to remember when, I mean swearing has always been around, but you certainly never swore in public or in front of, I mean, nobody would think of,
of speaking the way and I'm just wondering how much of that actually originates. In this problem that we're looking at, I want to return to what you were talking about with Gore, may
you know, that this kind of emphasis on specialization and food, because that's something that I'm guilty of, as well, you know, if I can bring a kind of exotic cheese home from some place I've traveled to or something, you know, there just seems to be this is part of the whole process of globalization, too, I think, is that this incredible variety of things from all over the world is now at the fingertips of those of us who have, you know, the, the means to, to attain it.
And it makes me wonder, what is the difference between this kind of gourmet life and, and feasting, you know, because there is a place in, you know, all of our traditions, I think for for feasting, and I think about the the film bets feast, you know, where you have you in this beautiful kind of Christological and Eucharistic image, you have this French chef spending her entire windfall from a lottery, I think, on serving one incredible gourmet meal, to these very uptight Danish Puritans who refuse at first anyway to really enjoy it. But then the the kind of beauty of it and the gift of it comes forth, and they begin to reconcile with one another. And it's this very Christological image
of kind of the self sacrifice of a bat, for others. And so, it seems to me
the different that I mean, there's a few differences there. One is that feasting is evokes gratitude. And whereas we tend to be very kind of ungrateful for the food that we have, feasting is occasional, and and Gluttony is habitual. And there's also something about status, too, I think that there's this feasting is meant to kind of bring a community together and celebrate these social ties. And that can certainly happen with these kind of gourmet meals. But oftentimes, it's meant to exclude the poor, for one thing, and also it tends to be about status. You know, I'm looking at this exotic food that I discovered that you didn't know about, that now I can, you know, Lord over you,
and that sort of thing. So, it seems to me that there's something really important about making that distinction, because feasting, of course, is something that kind of comes along with fat fasting in all of our
traditions. And it's important to kind of hold on to that, and that's something that you know, is an image of heaven, this tremendous feast
but on the but it just seems to have a very different spirit about it, then this kind of gore may gluttony. Yeah, I think I'm glad you brought that up. The the fifth chapter of the Quran is, is named after the Last Supper, which which in the ironic narrative, it's a miracle that actually the table spread is a miraculous events. And I think
our religions have this at the end of the fast there's a breaking of the fast and both of the in the Islamic tradition, both of the what are called the Aedes which are the celebratory
holy festivities that Muslims do twice a year. Both of them are celebrated with food. One is the end of Ramadan, but the other is sacrificing and distributing a third of the meat to the poor, you give you give a third of the meat to the poor, because meat was not people people didn't eat but one of the things about that, I think that a lot a lot of people tend to forget and what you're bringing up is that people really did not have a lot of food. And, and so these festive days where they were respite from
from just not eating a lot. I think people ate a lot less than people do today.
We seem to consume far more than we need. And I think that's where gluttony really is the inordinate desire. There's another aspect that I'd like to bring up, which is, ends and means. And one of the things that I've noted, it actually initially bothered me because people turn transitive verbs into intransitive verbs. But you know, I noticed at a certain point people started, you know, your waiter would say, enjoy. And that became widespread all over. And, and one of the things that Quran talks about saying tomato, like, enjoy, he eat and drink and enjoy, in other words, if that's what you're going to do with your life, but it's actually a warning in the Quran. And in traditional societies,
they always said things like, like in, in the Arabs always say, the sound AFCEA with health and well being, or the or salud in Spanish hell, so they were looking at the end of the food and not that I'm at the means of the food as as as a means to an end, which is hell, whereas our culture seems to have turned this means into an end in and of itself, which seems to me to be the essence of gluttony, where the final cause is corrupted. And, and I and I find it fascinating that it's just so widespread this idea of enjoy, you know, bon appetit, you know.
So I just, it was something that really struck me as a change from when I was younger, as Augustine says, God has to be enjoyed, and everything we've created, things are to be used, and which sounds like a terrible sort of killjoy thing, but what he means is precisely this idea of means and that God is the end, that our life and God is the end and everything else is a kind of means to that end, which can be very beautiful, and it can mean a kind of sacramental view of the world, that all of these beautiful rich things that we have created things are to be appreciated for the way that they, you know, image, the the beauty of God,
but but they can become idolatrous, then when when they become an end in themselves, and the creator is is forgotten. Can I bring up fasting?
Because I think it's really important when we're talking about gluttony to just to talk about fasting because if Gluttony is sort of maybe one of the markers of our age, we we've got a complete or completely
we have no idea how to fast how to fast appropriately what fasting means what fasting means in the spiritual life. In those in that question on fast, you know, Aquinas asks, whether it's one of the objectors asks whether it's a it's a
whether fasting with the church requires certain fasts throughout the year, whether that's against Christian liberty, and he answers that it's actually in favor of Christian liberty, because what does fasting do fasting trains you to moderate your passions, to harness your passions, it's got a real it's got a
a real role in the spiritual life. It teaches you if you if you do regular fasting, it teaches you to not be gluttonous in itself right. And therefore, it bridles in bridling your passions it opens it up, it opens you up to Christian liberty to becoming truly free in the in the sort of expansive sets sense and then free to be who I was meant to be free to, to the responders in yes to.
To God, I think, as I read over those questions, I just it's true that for me, I've completely lost the practice of fasting. I used to as a child
before receiving the Eucharist also during land on Fridays in a much more real way than I do now. Now it's it's almost like
a cultural thing right? It's not it doesn't actually
maybe I'm being too autobiographical and confirmed confessional here but it's
but it just but it would just really struck me how toned up I am to the practice of fasting and how important it is to the spiritual life to the Christian configuration living. We you know, Muslims fast, obviously Ramadan. I mean, you've taught Islamic courses
doesn't think so you're very well versed in that, but they fast, you know, we fast in the lunar month. So it, it very interesting it changes it shifts throughout the year. So right now it's, it's they're pretty long in the winter there, they're quite short. But and somebody worked out that around the world, if you live about 70 years, everybody's gonna fast around the same number of hours, irrespective of where they are unless they're in the real extreme places. Well, if we're being autobiographical, I'm a terrible faster, because fasting just makes me think about food. And so
I tend to, I tend to not do it very well.
I do an experiment on asceticism with my students. I teach a course on Christianity and consumerism. And we do an experiment in asceticism that lasts for three weeks, it's actually based on something that I picked up from another professor at East Carolina University. He calls it the monastic project, but basically, it's three weeks, in which students go without internet, cell phones, earbuds, meat, alcohol, sugar, artificial ingredients of any kind, and I do I do this with them, and includes periods of modified silence and and mindfulness and, and so on. And for the students that usually it's voluntary, usually about half the students in the class will do it. And for the ones
that make it through three weeks of this, it really becomes a can become transformative for them and liberating, you know, and you were talking about how this, it frees you frees you up, you know, by bridling one of the passions that kind of frees frees you up. And, you know, students will make comments, one young woman said she hadn't heard birds chirping, since she was a little girl because she walks around with earbuds in all the time and it just kind of breaks you open and opens you up to experiencing the world as a gift rather than something that is constantly available and constantly manipulable. And, and I really think that in some ways, that's the most effective
pedagogical thing that I do is kind of return students to their bodies, all of these ways that we are kind of disembodied in, in our culture, in this exercise and asceticism kind of returns us to our bodies. And in in that kind of humbling exercise sort of opens ourselves up to all kinds of other experiences plus just the freedom of being able to do finding that you can do without things that you didn't think you could do without, you know, Thoreau said a person as wealthy in proportion of the things they can afford to do without everything. That's a great kind of definition of wealth and a good way to think about some of these kinds of issues. Yeah, that's, that's very interesting,
because in Ramadan, I always completely shut out all I, you know, no internet, no, no, no media, I really go on to media fast. And it's it's always a very interesting experience, which, which I think brings us also to this idea that, that Gluttony is not just about food, that it really, it's about a hunger. And that hunger is, is, you know, people are attempting to satisfy it in different ways. And certainly, food is is one way, I mean, people a lot of people talk about, when they get depressed, they, they, they tend to eat a lot or eat things that they know, are bad for them. And, and it becomes a like some kind of source of, you know, I think it's pseudo nourishment. It's obviously not
real nourishment, but But it gives them some kind of temporary solace from whatever emptiness they're feeling. So I think that's a really interesting exercise to do with your students. I mean, I hadn't made the connection between gluttony and consumerism before but in some ways, it's the it's the one of the seven deadly sins that most closely corresponds to this kind of broader phenomenon of consumerism. avarice is not really the same as consumerism, because consumerism is really not so much about possessing things and clinging on to things. It's more about the consumption of things and the moving on to the next thing and the next thing and the next
thing you know, it's really it's not. It's not buying, it's shopping. That's the kind of focal point, that kind of spiritual heart of, of consumerism. And that seems to me to be part of what's being captured by this idea of Gluttony is that it's, it's, it's never being satiated, it's always kind of moving on to the next thing. It's what the A leaked memo from General Motors Corporation called the organized creation of dissatisfaction. They were talking about changing car models every year, which is not strictly speaking, or especially back in 1948, or whatever it was not really necessary, but you want to continually create dissatisfaction with the current model. And, you know,
moving on to the next thing. And that seems to kind of be part of the spirit of gluttony as well that, you know, our hearts are restless, as Augustine says, And then instead of the second part of that, which our hearts are restless until they rest in you, God, our hearts are just restless. And we're always dissatisfied with things. But instead of moving on to God, we just move on to the next thing, whatever, you know, the next kind of iPhone or the I don't know how many razors we're up to now, but you know, the double bladed razor came out in the 70s, I think, and then the triple bladed razor, now, you know, The Quadra now there's five and so on. I mean, it's, it's, it's this constant
sort of dissatisfaction that the hedonic treadmill is what psychologists talk about, right? You, you adjust your satisfaction levels to whatever it is that you have, and then you become dissatisfied with it. And you're on this kind of constant treadmill to move on to the next thing. I think, as you were speaking hams, I was thinking about what moral vocabulary is operative in our culture right now. And it seems to me it's the language of the therapeutic. So
if there's any language that speaks to students, it's that oh, you can't medicate with food or you can't medicate with drink. You've got this deeper problem that needs to be resolved on the therapists couch. And I'm not trashing therapy here. It's just that there's been this overlay of the therapeutic on which is properly deeply religious and spiritual. But since we've lost the core spiritual vocabulary, the only vocabulary we're comfortable with, is the therapeutic and it's just it's it's it's very surface. It's not I'm not, again, I'm not saying all therapy is surface, but but this therapeutic language, I think, doesn't get at the heart of what we've been talking about this
afternoon with gluttony. Yeah, no, it's a it's a good point. I think one of the things, there's a hadith where the companions said to the Prophet peace be upon him that he said, we eat, but we don't feel satiated. And he said, Perhaps you're eating alone? And they said, Yes. And he said, come together, bless your food, and and there will be grace in the food that will satiate your hunger. And so that brings us to the communal aspect of food and perhaps a lot of the gluttony. I mean, I actually I really feel like our culture is starving to death. Mostly, I think a lot of people because we have food that's not nutritional. And the process food has, it doesn't have
micronutrients. So the actually the cells of people are hungry people, so they're eating more and more because the food is so denatured it's just bad food generally. But there's also in our tradition, the demons when you don't bless the food, the demons eat with you. And they get stronger from that. So their food is our heedlessness and and so when you grace was just so fundamental to global civilization, the idea of the blessing of food and the blessing of the community that goes with eating.
tradition and in Catholic social thought about the social mortgage on property that kind of captures some of this as well that
part of what gluttony means in our society is the idea that if you have money, you can spend it on whatever you want to satiate your own desires. And the idea that there's a social mortgage again, an idea that comes from Aquinas
Right, and predates Aquinas as well. But the idea that you, you everything belongs to God. And we're just using it and private property is allowed, but only insofar as it serves the common good. And I think a lot of that gets lost in our society is kind of gluttony that you if you make $150 billion,
you are entitled to spend it however you want. And if you want to spend it on,
you know, luxuries for yourself, then there's no there's no judgment upon that. And I think that's a that's a huge issue. The distinction between the divide between rich and poor, is such a huge issue precisely because of that, that we don't think that our consumption needs to feed the common good, but it's it's a kind of private, a private sort of consumption. We spoke earlier in our conversation, I think, Bill, you brought this up about the social nature of the virtuous life, and how the vices really are related to and this is just striking me. Now as I've been listening to both of you, because I think there's just a radical epidemic of loneliness on college campuses.
And Gluttony is, is related to that. The vices that are at work on college campuses caused this loneliness.
the sin of gluttony, it's all self referential, self referential, it's not it's it's oriented within it's not oriented to the community. Bill had that
talked about that great story, but that's feast right? Where it's the opposite feast is the opposite of gluttony. And it seems to me that it's just striking me now that gluttony leads to loneliness
in a very real way, I think that's related and to the point you were making before about the therapeutic way we tend to think about these things too, is that it's, it's all in very individualistic, sort of terms and terms that have become medicalized. And there are some good things about this, we don't, you know, have a tendency to kind of blame people who are obese or struggle with anorexia, or alcoholism. I think we're, we're right to not just, you know, say, well, that's just sin, and, and you're a bad person. But if you swing too far the other direction, then you take away people's agency,
is one problem with that, and then and you don't have a means to integrate that suffering with their spiritual life. Or with with talk of, of agency, we, we, you know, an alcoholic
may be, you know, does not have freewill. But it's, it's not that they're alcoholics, because they have no free will they have no free will, because they're alcoholics, right, that this is a it's it's part of what the disease take takes away. And we we've gotten very bad at talking about people's agency and people's freedom. And the other thing that that therapeutic model does is that it tends not to consider the larger, larger kind of social
implications of what's going on. Right? Why do so many people have eating disorders? Now? Why are people
so addicted to drugs and so on? Well, let's talk about
you know, unemployment in places like West Virginia, where you have these rampant, you know, fentanyl, addictions that talk about the actions of the pharmaceutical companies.
You know, let's, let's talk about an economy, the kind of larger economy that kind of sucks the meaning out of out of people's lives so that they search for meaning in food and drugs and whatever it might be. And I think a lot of that gets lost in this therapeutic model. Well, I also, I mean, don't you think that part of the problem with the therapeutic model is it denies the supernatural element that enables people to overcome these addictions? We can't do it on our own. I mean, I think
That's one of you know, it's interesting that, you know, the Scholastic saw that gluttony came out of pride because and the, the pride that was involved in it was this idea that you, you could satisfy yourself that through food that you that, you know, it was all up to you. And, and not seeing that it's only God that can do that. And I think the success of the 12 step program, which nobody wants to really talk about, you know, in that therapeutic world, is that it is acknowledging that I can't do this on my own, I am helpless. When the cheese cake comes because they've got, you know, food Addicts Anonymous and things when the cheese cake comes, I can't help myself. And the
truth is we can help ourselves and removing that moral agency, I think is one of the worst things that our culture does. But if if they don't understand that the moral agency is helpless without the help of the one that created that moral agency, I think that's for me, at the heart of this whole crisis. There's a very another interesting thing that made me think I read something about you know, and I just like your your thoughts about this, the argument is a book on on, on the seven deadly sins, but the argument that he made about gluttony was he gave an example of like, if you had a $500 pair of shoes, and and then you saw some kid drowning in the lake, but you didn't want to dive in to
help them because it would ruin your $500 shoes. He said, everybody would condemn that. And yet, we don't condemn all the wastage, when we have so many people that are hungry, for instance, and the amount of food that we waste and things like that, that that was his analogy. And I was thinking about a tradition where this the second case of Omar once saw a man that had quite a girth, and he was making fell off around the Kaaba, and he stopped him and he lifted up his, his, you know, they were this haram, which is just to to Claus, and he lifted it up and tapped his stomach. And he said, that would be better if it was on somebody who needed it.
You know, which it's interesting, because we actually don't need a lot of food. And, and now we know because of the science, that that your body actually will adjust to as you as you diminish your calories, the body gets more efficient at using the actually caloric intake that we do. And the Prophet Muhammad said a lot is that, um, he said that it is enough for a child of Adam, to just have morsels a small number of morsels to keep the back straight. But if you have to, and this is like, this is like, if you have to then net then have 1/3 of your stomach with food 1/3 With drink, and 1/3 for air, it you know, and that's one of the things that people you know, at these Thanksgiving,
I worked in, er, in a previous
lifetime, a lifetime, I was an RN, but one of the things that you'd see on like, Christmas and Thanksgiving is people coming in with shortness of breath from overeating, like just
eating so much. So I you know, I think about that, I mean, any thoughts about that just about
just these disparities that we have part of the I mean, it's even worse in some ways than just eating whilst others go hungry.
Because it's oftentimes our eating that makes others go hungry. And what makes it even worse is that we've been sold an ideology, which says that our eating actually satiate their hunger, right? I mean, that's the whole idea of, you know, our consumption creates jobs for others, and so on. And so the invisible hand of the market makes sure that, you know, everybody pursuing their own interests and their own desire is this going to, you know, work out for the best for everyone. And, and it's interesting in, you know, luxury is a kind of category that's criticized up until in economics up until the 20th century, and then it kind of drops out where you get this idea that any kind of
consumption is good consumption because it feeds others, basically, whereas the truth is almost exactly the opposite. Right? We,
especially in days of online shopping, now, all of the focus is on the product and the people are invisible. So you click
and something, an object magically appears on your doorstep. And you never see who made it. You know, the girls in Thailand making 40 cents an hour making it you don't see the people in the Amazon warehouse, you don't see any people at all, all you do is click, and then it materializes on your doorstep. And so our, it's the whole system is set up in some ways to make sure that we don't see people that always see our products. Right. This is what Marx talked about when he talked about fetishism of commodities, right. It's everything is, you know, the Amazon boxes with smiles, you know, the, the objects become personified. And the people are dehumanized. And this is, you find
this in the scriptures as well, when when they talk about idolatry, you know, that, that people animate inanimate objects and then become
dis animated themselves that become mute and dumb, as as the idols that they make, you know, some 115, for example, and that gets to the heart of that, you know, Lewis Mumford remark that our entire economy now is driven on the seven deadly sins, like the, the whole, the whole apparatus of market economy, is driven by selling people's weaknesses, you know, it's, it's really selling to them, their weaknesses, I think one of the hallmarks of traditional societies is they recognize human weakness, and they and they, that the societies were set up to try to help people overcome them, and I don't I don't think that's a nostalgic view. Because I've lived in societies where it's still like
that, in West Africa. And but now, it's like, it's obey your thirst, you know, it's the hero sandwich. It's what you said, you know, sinfully delightful, all these, there's, they use these human weaknesses, and, and really prey on them with any,
you know, but I mean, this is this is a real, I think, hallmark of our culture is just this incredible,
market driven economy that, you know, consumer was, as you know, I know, you know, this doctor, cabinet consumer was one of the names for the devil. And, and there's a verse in the Quran that says
that those who are spendthrifts are brethren of the demons. And one of the the verses in the Quran about human beings is that they sit next to Matt and Lewbert, I have consumed boasting, I have consumed vast quantities of wealth. And so the conspicuous consumption, um, you were talking about luxury, that's something that, you know, Veblen identified several decades ago, this idea of conspicuous consumption, which, which in most societies, first of all, they didn't want the evil eye. Because they, you know, people actually believe that if they saw somebody that had something that they envied or something, they actually harmed them. I mean, even Aquinas talks about the evil
Socrates warned us when, when societies become luxurious, you know, that that then wars emerge out of that, and civil strife and class conflict, all these things come out of that. And that brings me to something I think, really that fascinated me was the idea of sanctuary laws, which apparently were widespread all over this idea of really limiting people's consumption. But that's I read the idea Yeah, of
sanctuary laws is really interesting. I was staying in
my godparents house.
This is a 20 years ago, and found an old Catholic grade school textbook from 1952. In one of my cousin's, you know, long abandoned bedrooms, and it was a Catholic geography textbook. And they the section on economics was all about how in the Middle Ages there was, you know, adjust price. And it was looked down upon for people to spend money on themselves and so on. And it treated the kind of modern economy with a sort of indignant tone that now people think that prices ought to be set by supply and demand, and that people ought to be able to just spend whatever they've got and so on. And it was a somewhat romanticized view of the money
The Ages but the point was, at least until 1952, we were teaching this to our children, that there's something really messed up about the economy that we have now, you know, my kids went through Catholic grade school, and they use the same geography and economics textbooks, as you know, the public schools did. But once upon a time, there was this idea that, that these are moral issues, right? There's no such thing as economics as such, it was just a branch of moral account, moral theology, until fairly recently, and the idea that you could put a limit on things that you could as a community kind of agree, whether through kind of formal, legal, coercive means or just by societal
pressure, but the idea that you can agree that sometimes too much is too much. Is it just an idea that's completely foreign to us? And it's an idea that's killing us really, I mean, or I mean, sorry, the, the, the lack of that idea is killing us. Right. You know, I mean, ecological destruction, in a lot of ways comes from this, this brand of gluttony that, if you got it, flaunt it, you know, there's nobody can tell you what, what to consume and what not to consume.
There is no, no upper limit to luxury, if you've got it, you know, I, I find that and just as we kind of come to a conclusion, I find that our traditions address these things very profoundly. I'm really struck. I think what you were saying Dr. Anna, about just going back and looking at Aquinas and just the deep psychology that these people had and understood, and my interest and partly why we're doing this, my interest is to how do we how do we reintroduce the incredible
spiritual technology that our traditions have to, to really
tuning the self, so that it is acting in accordance with with virtue? It is acting in accordance with, with reason with intelligence? How do we how do we do that? I find that
we just we've as as traditions, we've lost the ability to communicate what we have, and I'm just really interested in how we can really embody it in ourselves, but also
offer it to other people. It's, it's really hard because the breakdown in the Christian tradition for sure the catechetical breakdown has been
going on for for decades, for half a century.
So if we're not teaching our own children, the vocabulary of the faith
How can we expect them as adults, when they're becoming they're learned and sophisticated and all these other disciplines to
buy into what ultimately is an infantile faith? Because they haven't been educated.
It's a huge problem. And we're doing a terrible job addressing it.
I just the suffering out there, there's a lot of it and I, I'm kind of, I'm in Heidegger's camp about, you know, depression is, is we don't, it's too we don't, you know, we can't indulge in it. Like it's, it's,
I'm in I'm committed to joyfulness in spite of it all. You know, our Prophet was was called the smiling one. And he, you know, he told us to rejoice, the Quran says, Furby dedic Ophelia for who let them rejoice in guidance, it's better than what everybody else is preoccupied with. And I do look at, especially in this country, it pains me greatly to see our young people what they go through just the lack of guidance. That strikes me as just extraordinary. And in these traditions, like we really do know so much about what's causing our problems. And then we, they also addressed how to address those problems with that knowledge. And I just, I feel like I want to share that,
because I just, I've seen it in the people that, you know, when I worked in the prisons, and just saw the transformations of people that that embraced faith and and and and really that joy and
their hearts and they were able to do those supernatural things that, that the people that are suffering without it feel incapable of doing and they are incapable of doing their right. You know, they're right in that way, you know, what Anna was saying about our tradition, you know, Catholic tradition, we had practices that have been lost,
you know, practices of confession and penance and fasting and so on, that are have largely fallen by the wayside. And one of the problems I think one of the reasons they fell by the wayside is that we didn't find the joy in them. And that's exactly what you're saying Hamza, you know, there, we really need to emphasize that this is not the way of self flagellation that we're talking about. The opposite of Gluttony is not
misery, right, the opposite of Gluttony is joy. And, and you find it in in all of these ways, when you can allow yourself to be broken open to the presence of God. And you know, Wendell Berry has an essay called The Joy of sales resistance. And there's something I think that's the the way to look at these things, you know, that the joy of Fairtrade, you know, consumption, that reconnects you with people who are allowed to, you know, have a dignified living, because of small sacrifices that you make. Ultimately, it's it's this kind of vision of beauty and joy, that we're that we're hoping
people will continue to, to make manifest in their lives.
But we don't sometimes we don't do a very good job about that. We just kind of wag our fingers at people and say, oh, you know, the world is going to hell. But in some ways, you know, that this exercise in asceticism that I do with my students is an exercise and enjoy. And I think that's really what we, what we need to emphasize. And it is true that it
that the one thing that gives us hope is the is the at the micro level is the relationships with our children, our children's friends, are students, young people who it it is absolutely true that the truth sells, and that
that young people respond to,
to religious commitments, and to something they're just exhausted by themselves, right? They're exhausted by this whole social media, production of branding and all of that. And so when you start speaking in other terms, it's like they're, they've, they're in the desert, and they've had a glass of water and it's palpably happens in the classroom. So if there's any, if there's any, we have any room for hope, I'd say I would say it's,
it's young people who, who continually do respond
in real palpable ways, but we can do better, we need to do better if we don't do better, we're
going complicit in this whole thing. I had a teacher once he's Moroccan and I was, you know, he was asking me about America. And I've said, you know, it's people are just so constantly bombarded with
just everything that goes against a spiritual path. And, and he said something and it gets to what Dr. Cavanaugh said, the quote from Aquinas, he said to me, never underestimate the power of the principle nature of people. And that principle nature is that they desire to know God. And, and, and, and he, he gave me he told me a story about a
two Moroccan ministers that were debating in front of the Salton about nature and nurture. And so one of them claimed it was all nurture. And the other said, No, the nature is is that's always at the, at the root. And
so he claimed that the one who said it was nurture, he claimed that he could train cats to walk in a straight line with candles on their back strapped to their back because they're afraid of fire. And so the day came when he was going to display this. So he comes into the court, and this line of cats follow him. And then the other Minister pulled a mouse out of his pocket and let it loose and all the cats ran after the mouse. So that heart not resting until it rests in God. And I think a lot of what we're seeing out there is that restlessness which is one of the
One of the daughters of sloth, which is spiritual apathy. And so I think we need to do a better job at at finding that peace in ourselves and then trying to communicate that preferably with our states, but also with our statements.
So, I want to thank both of you for just coming on. It's, it's, I'm, I'm a serious
just a fan of both of your work. I came to know Dr. Moreland here at the Dominican college and then read her book on on Islam and was very impressed, but I've had your books for some time in my library. And so I've benefited from both of you and really appreciate you being with me. Thanks. So it was delightful. It was great to talk with you both. Well, God bless both of you. And
I think you know, Christ began his journey in the in the desert, according to to the Gospels with with fasting. So we began with that statement from you, Dr. Anna, and I think I think we need to do more fasting
it in a lot of different meanings of that word. So