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“The fracturing of the family combined with the sexual revolution has put a great many people in the West on a collision course with certain fundamental teachings of the Christian faith,” Mary Eberstadt writes in her new book, How the West Really Lost God. “Church officials often wring their hands about getting out the ‘positive’ side of those teachings, and one can understand why. But what is less clear is how many understand the deeper reason for their difficulty: that the unprecedented proliferation of weakened natural families and nontraditional quasi-families has left a great many individuals resistant as they never were before to fundamental features of the Christian moral code.” Eberstadt, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the reality and the future of God and family in the West.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Has the West really lost God? We prayed after the Boston Marathon bombings, after all. Is this “tsunami of secularism” stuff overblown?
MARY EBERSTADT: It’s hard to survey Western societies today and not see that many people have turned their backs on the Judeo-Christian God — including in places that were once Christian strongholds.
Across Western Europe, church attendance has gone over a cliff. Just last week, a report made headline news across Britain, because it showed that self-professed Christians will be a minority of the population there even sooner than supposed — in fact, within the decade.
Nor is this just a Protestant thing. Something like 15 percent of the population of “Catholic” Venice attends Mass every Sunday — which is particularly emblematic since Catholics are taught that missing it for any but the gravest of reasons is a mortal sin. “Catholic” Spain doesn’t measure up much better. On it goes across the Continent and into Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and more — including the United States, where a steady rise in “none of the above” has been documented, especially among younger Americans.
Beyond just showing up — or not — there are other measures of secularization to consider too: the commercial success of the new atheism, the growth in public animosity toward Christianity, changing legal norms, and other examples touched on in the book.
There are interesting and even ingenious arguments to the effect that Western secularization is not the same as the decline of Western Christianity. I review those arguments, because they harbor important insights. And it’s also true, as believers in particular like to point out, that in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, Christianity is vibrant and growing at a fast clip.
But to keep our eyes fixed on the West, to the exclusion of the rest, is to see that something profound is underway. A lot of people have stopped going to church, have stopped feeling as if they ought to go to church, and have even stopped thinking that the churches have anything to say to them at all. That’s not a shifting current but a sea change — and one that conventional secular thought hasn’t navigated correctly, which is one of the reasons for the book.
LOPEZ: Why do you liken faith and family to a double helix? And why is this so crucial to examine and reflect on?
EBERSTADT: In a way that hasn’t been well understood so far, it appears that the great jigsaw puzzle of secularization has been missing a critical piece. Religious vibrancy and family vibrancy go hand in hand. Conversely, so do religious decline and family decline: where you see one, expect the other.”
Here’s the full scoop with comments et al:
“Aristotle and the head of Homer” by Rembrandt
Aristotle said. “All humans desire to know.” *
What do we desire to know? Well, we have many questions, such as what is the meaning and purpose of our life, why am I here? Where am I going? When we ask these questions and others, we are trying to get to TRUTH.
Keep thinking, asking and seeking the truth.
John Paul II said that we are so bogged down with knowledge, our ability to reason has “wilted.” We don’t ask critical questions and we expect science to solve life’s mysteries. This has happened largely due to historical abuses of institutional power, bombarding secularism and relativism. World War II and the Communist Manifesto, for example, brought the loss of trust in meta-narratives which include the writings of the Church fathers and the holy bible.
Resistance to meaning and the abandonment of the reality of truth flirts dangerously with nihilism, the view that traditional values are useless. If we continue to refuse a moral framework one will be assigned- one such as moral relativism by default.
Refuse Truth and you refuse it’s beauty- that evils will be exposed for what they are. And while we will experience dark ugly truths in life such as the annihilation of 6 million Jews in the holocaust and 54 million from abortion, Truth is alive, a cornucopia of value, as mysterious and vast as the Word Incarnate Himself- the Way, the Truth and the Life, our Saviour who died to overcome darkness and fill our life with meaning – God’s Son Jesus Christ. Ask Him to come into your heart today.
*Metaphysics, Book 1
A woman has the “right to choose life’ for her child!
Over the last 40 years, the media has actively pushed the lie that abortion liberates women. Abortion is the greatest blessing to women, it rewards them with femininity, independence and wholeness . Question: Inasmuch as journalism writers are trained to get to the heart of the matter, maybe you can back up your claim, based on testimonies of post abortive women, medical and psychological data, if they are really healthy, whole and happy?
The truth of the matter is, the abortion holocaust has markedly rewarded us with a legacy of over 54,000,000 human beings gone forever. Our ‘culture of death’, so named by John Paul II, has been nurtured compliments of your voice. Our culture ascribes value to life in relation to comfort, convenience and a life free of sacrifice. You must be proud of women’s independence. They are so independent they are called names and endure social isolation if they decide (oh heavens!) to have a child.
“But,” you say, “it is not up to the government to ‘to fight for limitations’ on reproductive rights.” Exactly! So why did the Supreme Court get involved in an issue that belonged to the state, was being managed by the state, and intrusively “fought for limitations” on the lives of innocent human beings through government sanctioned, tax-funded, abortion-on-demand?
Pomposity. Speaking of throwing out the baby with the bathwater (no pun intended). Here’s what really happened:
Roe v. Wade extended maximum liberty to the woman, an exercise that supplanted serious consideration of the effects of legalized abortion on women’s long-term emotional, spiritual and physical health and not to mention, the mental and moral effects on families and society at large. The Blackmun Court refused to engage the question of when life begins. Thus, respect for life dissipated, went over the cliff and continues to decline in our nation. The implications of the “right to privacy” defense go on and on. Everyone’s talking about what is “equal” nowadays. What about the unborn child and the father’s right to privacy and equal protection under the law? What about a man’s equal right to be a father? The hypocrisy shouts loud and clear: since a man is given moral approval to escort his partner to the abortion clinic, drop her off in broad daylight while claiming the equal right to refuse fatherhood, why is there societal angst over child support issues, abandoned and neglected children, and “deadbeat dads”?
Finally ladies and gentlemen, we also hear frequently, “children who are already here are more important.” Absurd. A 22 day old embryo is the size of the period at the end of this sentence, has DNA, gender, and is “already here,” with a heart beating 70 times a minute.
Mr. and Ms. Secular media, let’s rediscover women’s forgotten “right”- the right to choose life and in-so-doing, heal society. And please, please, please, report more stories about people like John Barros, who want to protect mothers and their babies in crisis:
Already posted this poem, but it seemed appropriate again today
Feast of the Assumption
-A special prayer for parishioners of the former Immaculate Conception parish in Detroit, Mich.,living and deceased. Mother, pray for them and may perpetual light shine on them.
Mother, Son Incarnate
Two hearts beating as one
One Immaculate, the other
Together the Father’s will be
Mother and Son, hearts in
Both filled with the Holy
United to make the Church one accord
And peace to earth with it;
Mother and Son, together
Their hearts will never roam
Praying for peace and good
will toward men
Thus working to bring us
Mother and Son, loving the Father’s
Our source of love and peace
Taking our prayers before
the Father’s Throne
Their prayers will never cease;
Mother and Son, our gracious
Bid our Father of love
Tell Him of our sincere
His Spirit descends like a
written by Kassey and published in the Our Sunday Visitor newsweekly, December 25, 2006.
Tonite I watched Frontline’s “Faith & Doubt: At Ground Zero”
I will never forget 9/11. I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the campus of North Central University. It was a bright sunny morning until I went inside Miller Hall. Walking down one of the hallways, I saw some people looking at a scene on a television set. There was something odd about their expressions. Intrigued, I walked over to an instructor I knew.
I looked at the smoky scene surrounding the Twin Towers on the television screen. Mystified, I looked back at the instructor.
“We’ve been attacked.”
Something in me recoiled and I immediately turned around and walked out of the room. I went back outside and walked around in a daze.
At Chapel that morning (North Central is a bible college), classes were cancelled. I’ll never forget the worship that morning. Praise was especially more passionate with the tears and cries melodically interspersed with words and song. We blended perfectly. In our grief and sadness, a sense of peace came over us that was simply indescribable. I would not wish for anything like a 9/11 ever again, but while the trauma pained and shook, for me it also healed and increased faith in God. I believed as I did prior to 9/11, that the problem of evil is explained by man having free will.
9/11 shook America’s soul and it did even more than that, it challenged our ability to reconcile inconsistencies in the world. We had to ask over and over again, why do bad things happen to good people?
How about you?
Where were you on 9/11? Did the attack effect you in a personal way? What did you do to process this devastating event? How did you integrate the event into your world view, your view of God and especially the problem of evil?
Pope Francis, in his much publicized and popular visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day this summer, said the Church needs to go out into the streets and “make a mess.”
Isn’t post modern society already in a “mess”?
I think yes and no. On the yes end, our world is obviously in pretty bad shape philosophically and practically. Values- and I mean the kind that hearken to and are accountable to a full natural law perspective, have been turned on their head. Life itself is under assault and subject to the worse scrutiny ever. The most helpless among us- an embryo and a very elderly person, are given relative worth. If they are wanted they are valuable. We want real people who make us happy and who affect society in productive ways on our terms. And oh by the way, do not demand sacrifice. The culture evolves around subjective, dehumanizing practicalities and productive outcomes- pragmatism.
In the encyclical Light of Faith, Pope Francis says, “Nietzsche… [As in his Genealogy of Morals]… developed a critique of Christianity which diminish[ed] the full meaning of human existence and stripp[ed] life of novelty and adventure. Faith would thus be the illusion of light, an illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.” In our post modern society, the Faith that was once delivered to the saints is now an enemy to human enlightenment, an obstacle to man’s vision for a genuine understanding of Truth and the meaning of life. Pope Francis describes this as “massive amnesia in our contemporary world.”
On the no end, I think we do already have a mess but it needs to be purified and ratcheted up. Due to faith now residing in the closet, we have perhaps not seen a real mess, for when faith comes fully out there will be real hell to pay, excuse my language. Talk about persecutions, banishments, prejudice, violations of conscience and the like. Of course we have already- mandates against religious freedom forced by the government, prayers prohibited in public school, being removed from the bench for posting the Ten Commandments in a courtroom, fired for talking about Jesus at work, ousted for singing Christmas carols in a post office. Illegal nativity scenes. Pressure to say Happy Holidays. Pressure to accept unnatural unions, and on and on. Simply for daring to walk to your car dressed up on a Sunday morning can bring unkind, judgmental stares. It’s like people of faith live on another planet. In a way, we do.
The solution? Make a mess. Our world should look and feel like God’s planet. Turn up the heat. Leap. Take even more faith risks in the public square. Look squarely in the eye, step in and get dirty in the world’s hopeless, Faithless air. Our neighbor is starving and suffocating. Make a world where “Faith is thus shown to be universal, catholic, because its light expands in order to illumine the entire cosmos and all of history.” The teleos, or end, is a palpable sense of the love for God and neighbor in the world’s air. Talk about making a blessed mess.
Our Gospel homily asked this question & I didn’t know quite what to make of it. The connection of “spiritual” with “hoarding” threw me off; they seem so polar opposite and worlds away from each other. But are the two words really opposites?
The question was asked by a priest who is a good friend, so I have no doubt about his purpose for asking this question- to get us to think and listen to our conscience and ask why we do what we do, or why we are not doing what God’s Word says we should do. He likes to highlight and emphasize contrasts and differences in matters. So if we can hoard materially, then perhaps we can “hoard” spiritually?
After I thought more about it, “spiritual hoarding” could be like trying to devour as many spiritual reading materials as possible in one lifetime. At least this is how I picture it.
Or, the most obvious example could be the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. The Pharisees were only concerned about knowing the Law so they could be looked up to by people. They just wanted to “hoard” knowledge to be respected and admired. They were prime examples of the warning in the Word which says “knowledge puffs up.”
Anyway, this may describe real people, and motives may differ, but I still don’t think one can be a genuine spiritual “hoarder” in this life. Not in the purest sense.
Here’s why I think not:
The question, Can we be a spiritual hoarder? was part of a reflection on a well known Gospel context: The man who was stewing inwardly because he wanted someone, namely Jesus, to make someone else give him his inheritance. Go figure! I laugh when Jesus told him he was not anyone’s judge or arbiter. The point was, the man desired riches- material “hoarding.” Material hoarding is obviously bad, but what is wrong with spiritual hoarding in terms of God and neighbor? What could be wrong with wanting to grow in more love with God and neighbor, and put sin out of our lives?
Nothing. But something about the word “hoard” implies a process of accumulation with the intent to be filled up with bad junk. It has a negative connotation. Take the Pharisees. They were “hoarders” of the Word for sure, but they did not change in response to the Word. They did not change because the Law convicted people, it did not transform people. And how come the Law did not change people? The Law was made to show man his need for a Savior. Only a Savior, Jesus Christ, can change, transform, save us.
Which brings me directly to the reason why I think we can not “spiritually hoard.” There is so much of me that I have to let go of to be like Christ, I will never be perfected in this lifetime. I can read all I can get my hands on, go to Mass every day of the week and memorize the whole bible, and there will still remain parts of myself that need to be crucified. Only Jesus can complete the process He has started in me.
Hoarding? Material riches- no. Spiritual riches- Yes! I need all I can get, and them some. Thanks for listening and Peace be with you, Kassey