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Culture: with or without God.

THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE (JOHN 8:23)

The intellectual and ideological crisis of our day centres on values. What are your values? people in the media frequently ask.

In Europe, the arrival of large numbers of non-European immigrants, especially those of the Muslim religion, has raised the question of what is, and is not, essential to European culture. As the average man in the street sees it, neither the structure nor the content of Muslim culture finds much favour. He does not like the idea of theocratic states where religious leaders determine state policy and he doesn't care for Islamic law, with its many restrictions and discriminations.

Some European intellectuals, such as the framers of the European constitution, think that integration of Muslim minorities might be possible as long as the immigrants learn to give up their religion and become secular, like themselves. They argue that modern Europe is no longer Christian, but secular. Europe, they claim, finds its intellectual source in the Enlightenment, where science is the new bond, human rights are its principles, and liberty is its guiding light. As for religion, it has faded away and is no longer relevant.

A fair number of Canadians, too, believe that God should have nothing to do with society's values. Pierre Trudeau, for example, thought that a preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that mentioned God was quite absurd. Some of the judges of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, refuse to recognize a God-based morality, whether derived from religion-based standards of behaviour or from the (God-given) natural law. They believe, rather, that society's rules should be established only by positive law; that is, manmade law based on human reason evolved independently from religion.

In the same line, the argument is heard today that Canadian values are the values of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What is interpreted not to be in the Charter--for example, the right to life of the pre-born--is not a 'value.' And what is in the Charter, e.g., equality for women, or what has been read into it by judges (such as equality for the homosexual lifestyle), become Canadian values and must be acknowledged as such. People who oppose abortion, or women's ordination, or same-sex 'marriage,' on the other hand, are no longer in harmony with Canadian culture and should be restricted in what they do and say.

One person who rejects the view that modern culture should or could be based solely on scientific-like reason and man-made human rights, is Pope Benedict. His most recent book consists of essays written when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, just before his election to the Petrine See, and is called Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006, hardcover, 116 pp.). Like all of Cardinal Ratzinger's writings, this little book requires a consistent attention span, but is well worth reading. It is divided into three sections: the "Crisis of Cultures;" the "Right to Life," and "What does it mean to believe?"

European culture, he says, is the culture of Christianity. It is Christianity which has always drawn upon human reason to articulate the God revealed to it and thereby has enobled both reason and itself. The eighteenth-century "Enlightenment" is also the product of this same process. To radically detach this philosophy from its Christian roots leads it to dispense with man (p. 42). It becomes a power for destruction. It begins to contradict itself.

One example in Canada is the Charter of Rights. By making the homosexual lifestyle into a 'right,' the Supreme Court has turned the Charter into a weapon against the freedom of Canada's Christian population, who reject this lifestyle as morally disordered and therefore not eligible to acquire the status of a virtue.

A similar situation exists with the human being. His or her dignity is derived from being made in the image of God. That gives man his identity as a person. Take God away, and man is just an instrument, a tool, or a toy.

So what Canadians are doing is what the ancient Israelites did at Mount Sinai: "They exchanged the God who was their glory for the image of a grass-eating ox," (St. Paul's epistle to the Romans 1: 21, 23).

The same author, a few chapters further on, warns: "Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect" (Rom. 12:2).

FATHER

ALPHONSE DE VALK, C.S.B.

EDITOR
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Author:de Valk, Alphonse
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Apr 1, 2007
Words:763
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