Sunday, December 22, 2013

Working to Change the Culture

All animals have two eyes. With only one eye, it's difficult to gauge distances and have a correct conception of space. Human vision, however, differs from animals in having a "third eye," an inner eye able to distinguish between the intellect and the emotions, subjective and objective, beauty and ugliness, good and bad, among many other distinctions--which makes for human character, according to a professor at the Catholic School of Art.

Writing in a bulletin for priests, he introduces us to Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant of Greek mythology, a beast that would eat humans in the morning and again in the evening. The professor marvels at the wisdom of the ancients in making him a one-eyed monster, no doubt knowing the problems of seeing with only one eye.

When politicians see only with one eye and blame everything on others, there are likely to be problems, says the professor. When industry makes profit the reason for every marketing decision, there is one-eyed vision,  When religious persons think they have all the truth, there is one-eyed vision. The self-righteousness that is propagated by this secular gospel, he says, is not for life but for death. They are dispensing mind-numbing opium and not the saving word to life.

A  society with most citizens seeing with one-eyed vision is not going to be  a happy society. Concern for others is not only absent in such a society but the concern itself is embarrassing to many. One-eyed educational programs promote selfishness and competition for securing the best jobs; anything that fosters one's personal goals and the goals of one's group, without regard for the common good, is permissible and even encouraged.

However, the professor does not think our society is made up only of individuals seeing with one eye whose only consideration is personal gain and loss. There are many who, though not recognized in our society, are keeping our society going, he says. He quotes a German historian from the past who said that what supports a society is not the military or a thriving economy but the virtuous life of its citizens.  

The professor, at the end of his article, suggests that Christians go beyond the capacity for virtue to the kingdom of God, and then ask themselves: What composes our inner eye? What are our values?

The blindness of the culture to these important questions frequently results in the same blindness of its citizens, he says. Though Christianity is meant to influence the prevailing secular culture, it is not difficult to see that we are being influenced to a greater degree by the secular culture shared by everyone born into that culture. We can readily see how it influences what we wear, what we consider beautiful, how we behave in society, what we say and do. The challenge for a Christian to overcome this influence is difficult, he points out; nonetheless, we need to try to change this culture as much as, if not more than, the culture tries to change us.

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