Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Underlining Changes

I had quite an in depth conversation with some members of my parish today. It all began with the discussion of Michael Moore's new movie Sicko. I quickly gave a rebuttal against the movie, though I haven't seen it, knowing how slanted his opinions can be. One person was claiming how triumphant the movie is in giving the American system the black eye it so deserves.

I quickly said that the problem is not with the system. If we look at the system and how it works, it is actually the most efficient system. What has happened is that the culture is corrupted, and this leads to a false living of political and economic systems. I said that Americans have known for a long time that there are problems inherent in the culture at the moment. However, the problem is precisely a cultural one in which money and materials things are put in front of people. This is expressed in the day to day lives, in the political system, in the economic system, in how they treat people in their health care system.

This got us on to a huge discussion about the nature of what it means to be Canadian and how there is not a huge sense in that, in that Canadians define themselves through the via negativa, that is, through what they are not instead of what they are.

Fundamentally, what is at the root of this discussion, a point I was constantly emphasizing, is that the problems in Health Care in the US are not just a US problem. It is an expression of a problem in Western Civilization. The problem is the loss of the cultural roots in God and in a moral life. Fundamentally, the West is in a cultural crisis, not a political or economic one.

I gave them the example of Poland. Communism was taking a hold of the country, but it was Divine Providence that a Polish Pope was elected. What JP II started was a cultural renaissance, bringing back the idea of what it means to be Polish. Through this re-identification in a deeper sense of what it means to be Polish, the culture eventually expressed itself politically and economically through the fall of Communism.

This cultural need is something that the Communists saw as a threat, as did the Nazis. It is no wonder that they wanted to destroy Polish history, all that it stood for, all the literary, artistic, musical, philosophical, economic, and political achievements. These were expressions of a cultural identity. The Communists and Nazis saw these things as a danger to the formation of the totalitarian culture it was trying to impose. It is this reason they attempted to destroy their cultural roots.

During his pontificate, even after the fall of Communism, JP II saw the absolute need for a cultural revolution. He saw the deeply seeded materialistic tendencies that were overcoming the Western Countries and begged them to turn their focus on God and not themselves, for it is faith in God that man truly finds his identity.

And so we speak of the cultural crisis in various individual nations, all Western. However, if Western Civilization hopes to defend itself, I think the West itself will need a fundamental cultural revolution and reformation (reformation meaning a turning back to the form of the culture, the culture's essential nature). If the West hopes to survive, it needs to turn back to God and to the moral norms that come from such a faith.

All that we know to be Western are fundamentally rooted in Christianity, no matter how much people choose to deny it. I will give one example. The idea of personhood as we understand it today was not formalized until the 4th century discussions on the nature of the Trinity. The theologians were struggling to find a way to describe how three entities could be of one nature. They took the word persona from Latin, which was originally used to denote a mask an actor would wear, and used it as a means of explaining the Trinity. It was fully formalized in the definition we use today by Boethius as an individual substance of a rational nature. This is rooted in Christianity.

If we cut ourselves off from such roots, then what we hold to be good and true in the West will also be lost. This is why JP II and Benedict XVI have been so insistent on the inclusion of Christianity in the pre-amble to the Constitution of the European Union. Everything that the EU stands for, its democratic ideals, are rooted in Christian thought and a Christian perspective of the world. To not include Christianity in the pre-amble is to say that what the EU stands for is not Christian when in all truth it is.

Let us reclaim our civilization and reform our culture.


No comments: