Has the Enlightenment Ended?

I knelt in front of the same window every night. In the late spring, summer and early autumn I would look out the window and see a mountain. As the litany of the Rosary was repeated … Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee … My father intoned the beginning of each prayer, and I would sometimes see angels in the clouds hovering above the high hills. Sometimes I would imagine there were “Indians” – that’s what we called them back then – living in the wilderness. What would it be like to be with them?

But as the autumn days became winter and darkness fell like a blanket, I couldn’t see beyond the street lights and the lights in our neighbors’ houses. I would wonder … What did they have for supper? Was it almost bed time?

When I was a child our family said the Rosary every night of the week – ten minutes on our knees … Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit …

I especially liked Advent because candles were lit on the coffee table in back of me. They were reflected in the window – and where there was one candle I would see two lights. The storm windows were down, doubling the reflection. Once the Christmas Tree was up and decorated, my Rosary Window would literally explode with light! It seemed the darkness of the deep winter was more than compensated for by the joyful anticipation of Christmas. “The Light of Christ has come into the world!

Why is it that this advent in my sixty-fourth year is feeling darker than usual? Is it because the western world seems to be slipping into a darkness driven by nationalism that has a kind of ancient, musty quality to it? I had hoped that we were coming to grips with the fact of white privilege, that our “political correctness” was actually an attempt to insure the most powerful were not the only voices being paid attention to. I thought we were committed to an educated populace, that people of faith had gotten over the misconception that the “Enlightenment” was somehow a threat to the Divine, and that we were making progress toward a deeper understanding with regard to money. “Profit” as the absolute goal of the 20th century resulted in undrinkable waters, polluted air and compromised rain forests, threatening the future health and prosperity of our children and the generations to come.

I thought the majority of folks accepted as fact what is painfully obvious – things are heating up. I thought the horrors of terrorism had jolted us to our senses with regard to the price we pay for military intervention in other nation’s affairs – self-interest couched in the terms of self-defense.

The cabinet picks and daily tweets of our president-elect force me to accept the fact that we have chosen to lead us a business man who thinks nothing of abusing people and saying whatever needs to be said in order to “win”. He is charting a course, the appeal of which is to the baser of our human inclinations – we are “winning” if we are making a buck – thus his selection of Steven Mnuchin for Secretary of the Treasury. The stock market has hit new highs; so have threats against Muslim Americans  … Holy Mary, mother of God … 1000 jobs “saved” in Indiana.

History has taught us that a meaningful life requires more than money. And “winning” isn’t everything. When the lights of compassion for our neighbor and ethical behavior in our business dealings are dimmed, stock market highs are revealed for what they are – a kind of drug-induced euphoria with no foundation in reality.

I do pray for those who lead us, regardless of their politics. I also find myself praying more fervently these days – This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …


Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.