Gentle readers, I haven't had a clean-out-the-gaskets rant against mediocrity in a long time, for which you are grateful. However, the time is nigh. Buckle your seatbelts.
I am utterly convinced that any divisions we have in the Catholic Church (and probably the larger Christian Church as well) are 3% on doctrine, and 97% about our differing readings of culture. (That's a rant, you think? No, that's academic prolegomena. I'm getting warmed up.) Last week I mentioned that I knew a lot of people who claimed they wanted to know theology or catechetics but really wanted missiology, a way to think about how to be Church amidst the culture of death.
My friends (and they are friends) smirked. Because I used that phrase: culture of death.
I am flummoxed by people who dismiss this idea, that we are afloat in a culture of death. Of course good things happen, and there are good people out there, but that isn't culture! Culture is the way human beings come together to make sense of the world through concrete policies, practices, and values. And this culture does not consistently value all human life. Period.
Let me put it this way: I live a pretty charmed existence, (lower) middle class in the sedate Upper Midwest, with a lovely family and work I love. But I am also surrounded by people interested in slashing human dignity at every turn: hospitals that ask me with every pregnancy (for over two hours at the mandatory genetic questioning intake) are you sure you don't want to kill your child, part of a Church where a majority of practitioners support torture, a country that increasingly encourages assisted suicide over being human and holding that person's hand, a nation at war for reasons I *still* cannot understand, a neighborhood where a mother of a child with Down Syndrome had an acquaintance tell her (IN FRONT OF THE CHILD) "why didn't you just abort him?", a town where there are homeless families facing the "slow kill" of living on the street, and more. If this isn't the culture of death, well, what the ^%(&%)# is?
Really, where is this denial coming from? I'm all for applauding the potential of human cultures, but to do that at the expense of misdiagnosing the culture we participate in seems almost diabolical. It is, at minimum, ridiculous.
I wish I had the presence of mind at the time to throw in some quip about Satan. I can't quite make the explicit connection, but I think people with a dismissive attitude about spiritual warfare tend to pooh-pooh the culture of death diagnosis. I don't know anyone (who's Catholic, anyway) who denies the existence of Satan. But I do think most people think of him as a kind of generalized way to talk about evil.
Here's the thing: Satan is no generalized concept. Satan is a hyena. He is an opportunist. He is not a planner; he can't plan, because God is the Master Planner of the Universe, and God has won the ultimate victory over his designs. We're dealing with Satan sniping at the flanks here (Rev 12). But plan or not, he can look for weaknesses and chinks in our armor, and can and will ruthlessly exploit them. To be human is to be wounded, at least past a certain age--it comes with vulnerability. But people who have suffered major trauma (go back and see the list that makes the culture of death argument above, and more)--Satan can and will try to go in for the kill.
What, you think that isn't very sporting of him? Not very gentlemanly?
People!!! This is Satan we're talking about, not the opposing football team! Satan is the father of lies and a thief from the beginning! Why would he abide by any rules of fair play? Hurt people are bleeding meat to him! And as the father of lies, he can plant all kinds of supposedly soothing bromides into a hurt person who allows him in: I had no real choice, I had to do that. My country, right or wrong. I hated seeing that/doing that/supporting that, but who wouldn't? Of course that was awful, but I'll get over it if I put my mind to something else. They didn't really want to live like that, right? In any case, there was no choice. I just had to. Everybody says so. And I'll make sure everyone else gets the support I didn't feel when I was wavering in that decision....
And that "making sure everyone else gets the 'support' to choose to end life" is called the culture of death.
Name it for what it is, people. And maybe a little missiology is exactly what American Catholics need right now. That, and the courage to say God has overcome the Evil One, and the revealed venue of the grace to cling to God is most fully held in the Catholic Church.
Live in reality, people. Over and out.