Look around. Our culture is suffering from a serious case of post-modern, post-Christian amnesia.
The world we live in is stranger than ever, and it seems that our society has done almost everything in its power to cultivate a taste for it. But now that June is over -- known as "Pride month" by most and the Month of the Sacred Heart to the kind of Catholics who care about such things -- I wonder if an actual cultural conversation is possible.
That "conversation" might start something like this. We're destroying ourselves and one of the very worst aspects of that destruction has nothing to do with the icons of civilization that can be curated in museums or show up on a vacation itinerary (although that is happening, too). It isn't about freedom of speech or the loss of patriotism or literacy either. It's that, with the relative absence of Christ in human affairs, our society is bent on choosing comes the failure to make any real progress against the age old enemies of humankind. The truth is that today's "social justice warriors" aren't even trying.
What do I mean? This: the very real human problems of poverty, racism, violence, addiction, disease, education, exploitation, homelessness, and joblessness don't have a place at the table of civil discourse anymore. Their seats have been stolen by those who loudly insist that there are more pressing issues. And what are these supremely important matters of human dignity and justice? The universal right to determine one's "gender" and the preferred pronouns that go with it, complete and unrestricted access to abortion and even infanticide, and whatever can be identified as "transgender rights."
Take a look at the headlines, at what we are busy debating and discussing. Drag Queen story hours at public libraries. "Women's" elite athletic and sporting events. The possibility of a "Straight Pride" parade. It seems to me that we're utterly pre-occupied with the first-world "problems" of white, well-off, privileged people with a victim mentality that tells them their struggles aren't being taken seriously enough. Meanwhile, there are neighborhoods riddled with violence, hungry children, and people encamped beneath the overpass you drive on every day.
I think the greatest problems of our world and the people who suffer them are "invisible" to us because we have abandoned the vision that enables us to see them. The lens of Christian faith is what kept our societies focused on something other than self, something (someone) decidedly larger than self. Without Christ, we are trapped in a false understanding of the human person; we are creature without a creator, bearing the image of a God who is no longer familiar, but foreign to us. As the Second Vatican Council stated so eloquently in the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" ("Gaudium et Spes"), "Christ reveals man to man himself" (GS 22). Without Christ, then, the human being remains unrevealed; he can no longer know himself.
Look around. Our culture is suffering from a serious case of post-modern, post-Christian amnesia. If we cannot know ourselves in even the simplest ways, (e.g. -- "I am male" or "I am female"), how can we reach beyond ourselves to understand a neighbor? The truth is that we are likely to fix our gaze on the mirror, in a desperate search for the identity we lost when we separated ourselves from the God in whose image we were created. In such a state, we cannot see others, let alone strive to assist them.
We tell ourselves that there is room for all at society's circus. But we've become so enchanted by the prospect of bearded ladies that we've left the lions free to devour whomever they can sink their teeth into. Those people, as in centuries before, are poor, weak, less-educated, and often, people of color. It's just that now, we're so engaged by the sideshow that we miss what's happening under the bigtop. We're so ignorant of who we are as human beings, that we can no longer empathize enough to advocate for anyone other than ourselves.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.
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