Sunday, June 24, 2007

Priority of Culture

Last night I had dinner at a family's house whom I try to go to whenever I can. The family is great and loving and the discussions are lively.

Well, my friend Madeleine suggested to her dad that we discuss the ideas of socialized vs. public health care, based on a discussion her and I had about a month earlier.

I was a BIT unwilling, only because the position I seem to be leaning towards is something that still requires much research so that I may form a proper opinion of such a position. I must back it up with statistics, a proper anthropology, a proper understanding of the true role of the state, and so forth. I have a base understanding of my position, but not enough to be able to dialogue about it in great detail at this moment in time. I was very happy to hear other opinions on the subject and appreciated the input into the subject I was given.

The reason I bring this up is because we all agreed on what needs to happen. Culture, not politics, is the driving force of history.

It just so happens, too, that this is a section in the book I'm reading for Tertio Millennio that I have just begun reading.

It has made me think about how the Church adapts to various political situations. She deems some political systems completely contrary to man's dignity (ie Communism and Socialism), while the rest she embraces in what they offer for a positive role in society.

It used to be that the Church was a "Church of Power" before the idea of the modern state came about. It used to be that the Church dictated where society would go based on its position of power and not on its evangelical nature to bring the Gospel to all through her example. This isn't wrong per se, it is just the political climate through which the Church had at the time.

Now, however, Democracy is a "theologically-free" system. That is to say, it is not the role of Democracy to take on a position about Who God is. Democracy can claim where its authority comes from, but that is about as far as it goes.

In this new political system, the Church adapts to it so that she can bring Christ to others.

It seems to me, that in Democracy, the political nature of things are in fact secondary to the cultural nature of things. People make political decisions only based on their cultural heritage in which they have been exposed to. They see that this cultural heritage, which ought to instill a sense of virtue and respect for man's dignity, is what forms them to be the social person they are.

So, it seems to me, that in order to bring about proper political decisions, we need to evangelize a culture of virtue to the people.

It seems to me that it is evangelization, a deeper sense and understanding of the Church as "missio", that our culture can be renewed.

The only way to do this is to challenge our culture and the way many people live their lives. We must enter into dialogue and bring ideas to the public square for dialogue and discussion. If we are able to express the reasonableness of our Christian idea of virtue, even for those who aren't Christian, then I believe we can bring a cultural, political, and, most importantly, anthropological revival to our country, in which man is seen for the greatness that God has created Him for.

How, though, do we do this? How do we enter into dialogue with the country?

I think there are many ways. It is, I think, perhaps the greatest thing our country is lacking. It is lacking an intellectual bend to itself. There are very few "think tanks" in Canada, and the Universities, in my opinion, are a sad example of intellectualism. It is ideas that create change. For example, look at Descartes and his dualism. His idea of separation of body and soul has had profound effects on culture and the way we think about the world that are still having their effects on us all today!

It is ideas, proposed through dialogue and not imposed by will, that will begin change. Yes, it is slow, but it is possible. Look at Poland, what an example of a cultural revolution that came to such great force in their understanding of who man is that they were able to make proper political action based on their cultural heritage.

So, we create those opportunities for dialogues. I think the place to start is by re-introducing the University not as training ground for employment, that is what a trade school is for, but for creating an authentic intellectual atmosphere in which all ideas are discussed for the pursuit of truth, not the pursuit of our own truth. Through a re-claiming of a proper ideal for the University, authentic dialogue can begin.

I think the same can be said for think tanks. It is through them that papers and books are written which are discussed and read in the popular media, newspapers, are analyzed by other think tanks and also make their way into the University.

I think these two things, in which an idea of a true understanding of man can be proposed, is where the culture can begin to turn around.

This, of course, is not the only means. I think the simple idea of example is key to this. The Opus Dei ideal of "sanctifying your work" is essential. Bring Christ into all that you do, so that others can experience the joy you bring, and it will help them yearn for such a joy as well. They may not accept Christ immediately or at all, but it will at least plant a seed for them to hopefully yearn to live a life of virtue based in truth and not their own will

To bring this full circle, I was discussing "Jesus of Nazareth" with Madeleine's dad last night and I said that the metaphysical conflict of the Middle Ages is still having its impact today. William of Ockham argued that what had primacy in God was His will, while St Thomas Aquinas said it is His intellect.

This is the battle that is still being hashed out today in each and every person. What defines man? How does man exercise himself in the world? Is it through the ockhamist imposition of the will, in which it is will that creates the individual to be free against other wills? Or is it the Thomistic idea that reason, and truth in which reason is based on, that helps us define who we are, in which we search for the truth and see if it is reasonable and live a life according to it?

I argue that the Thomistic view is the proper view. It is through this view that we yearn to enact our will based on Truth, which we search for through reasonable dialogue with others. Reason, and not will, is what is primary in a person. Will is the ressulting actions based on a conscientious discernment of truth.


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