Because it works.
And where our culture is heading now does not work.
We are the richest, most pampered culture ever to exist. We have more license to do anything we want. We have more options for staying healthy than ever before. We are the most traveled, most technologically advanced, information soaked culture that has every lived on the face of the earth. All that we might desire comes more quickly, more anonymously, less scandalously, and cheaper than any human being has every enjoyed. In short, we are getting more of what we want, when and how we want it, than anybody, anywhere, anytime, has every been so dumped on in abundance. Even those we consider poor (as opposed to destitute) often have cars, cell phones, a computer, cable, and access to health care. Maybe not the best, but better than most of the world enjoys. We should be the happiest culture ever.
And we are not.
A recent report in the Akron Beacon Journal states that the suicide rate among middle aged white people has risen 40% in the last decade. Another report declares suicide the third leading cause of death among teens. Talk to any police officer (or school teacher) and he will tell you about the sky rocketing use of drugs among students. Rape, particularly in our armed forces as stated today in the newspaper, is on a dramatic increase. According to the International Press Service, in the last three decades, the incarceration rate in the US has risen 790%. (Yes, you read that correctly.) And this does not even touch on the abortion rate, the failure of marriages, the rise in abuse . . . (child abuse injuries on the rise ABC news 1 Oct 12)
Does this sound like a happy nation? Does it sound as though we are on the road to peace? Does it sound as though the experiment is working in the least? Would you suggest we keep moving in the same direction if this was a company and you were in charge?
There was a talk given at St. Sebastian concerning faith and culture and the forces working against the faith having an influence on our society. Two pages of factors were listed which included everything from our rugged individualism, to consumerism, to technology, to our cultures call for tolerance, etc. . . I would have to disagree with the speaker that these are our problems. These are, rather, the symptoms of a flawed philosophy of life. The true problem lies in the great turn inward.
Just for example: One of the main purposes of marriage is the radical decision for the other. It is the great turning outward toward another. Our vows reflect this: “I promise to love you in good times and in bad . . . all the days of my life.” There is no expectation in those vows. There are no conditions such as, “and I expect to be loved” or “under the following conditions,” or “until I don’t feel it anymore.” If there has been a great turning inward, of course marriages are going to start failing at a greater rate. Two people are getting married in order to be loved and not with the mind set of ministering love. A couple staying together with the intention of sucking love out of each other is doomed to fail.
Now, if two people abide by their vows, they will indeed not only love, but be loved. But we don’t get married to be cautious with our love. It simply doesn’t work.
This great turning inward can be seen in every aspect of our culture. Even art is often a masturbatory creation displaying the artist’s inner life rather than channeling that creativity to say something to the world. (I know I’ll get argument there.)
This is why we can no longer stand on the deck of the Titanic and worry about how the deck chairs are arranged. “No, no! We Catholics like our chairs facing east! East! We must have some chairs facing east!” It is time to get off the deck and stand under the Titanic and lift it up. We must get at the root causes of things. This year I am devoting myself to try some things at the parish. I encourage you to do the same. I don’t know what. Be creative! You are husbands and wives, parents, students, organizers, prayers, professionals, owners, purchasers, voters, artists, public figures, writers, thinkers, policy makers, changers, and followers. You are Catholic, Christian, human, and a full citizen of the United States. At the very least, when you come across something that makes you say, “Isn’t that just too bad?” don’t let it go! Say a prayer about it.
Together we can change the world and restore some joy.