In the St Austin Review:
It is said quite truly that the path of least resistance leads to Hell. This truism is particularly relevant to our present hedonistic culture because hedonism is the path of least resistance. It is the belief that we should do whatever makes us feel good in the present moment. Such a belief is inimical to the Christian insistence on the necessity of self-sacrifice. Hedonism hates the cross. It hates all talk of sin, which it has banished from its vocabulary. It spurns all talk of virtue, believing that prudence, temperance and duty are all trumped by “freedom”, which is defined as the “right” to do what we like with our own lives.
The problem is that we cannot do what we like with our own lives without harming others. A woman’s right to choose to fornicate leads to the demand for her right to kill her own unborn children. This “right” to kill becomes more important than the children’s right to live. Hedonism demands human sacrifice, the offering of babies on the altar erected to the individual’s ego.
The fundamental error at the heart of hedonism is the very belief that our lives are our own. We do not own our lives. Our lives are given as a gift and will be taken from us whether we like it or not. The gift is not free. It comes at a price; a price that we have no choice but to pay.
The price of life is the cross. Everyone has their own cross to carry. The cross is the life that we’ve been given. Life and the cross are the same thing. They are inseparable. The only choice is not whether we have a cross but whether we choose to love it or hate it.
As with life, so with love also.
As the price of life is the cross of life, so the price of love is the cross of love. Love and the cross are the same thing. They are inseparable. Love, like the cross, is defined by the act of laying down our lives self-sacrificially for the other. Where there is no cross, there is no love.
And here is the ironic paradox at the darkened heart of hedonism. If we will not sacrifice ourselves for others, we will sacrifice others for ourselves. And yet every time we nail others to the cross, we nail ourselves to it also. The more selfishly we live, the more miserable we are. Happiness is not found by indulging our lower appetites but in embracing the self-sacrificial cross of life and love.
Those who embrace their crosses selflessly are liberated from their slavery to themselves. This is the only freedom worth living for or dying for. Those who hate their crosses are nailing themselves more painfully to them, enslaving themselves to their own selfishness.
The number of suicides is increasing. Despair is increasing. Nihilism is rampant. Addiction is an epidemic. These are all signs of a society that is crucifying itself through its hatred of the Cross.