It’s hard to understand why so many people today are unable to see that humans are not, and never will be, smarter than God. And we seem to be drifting further and further away from His teaching.
About a year ago I opined that society’s fixation on the fun stuff – sporting events and entertainment – as opposed to worshipping God during the Easter Triduum, was drawing us further away from God. Sadly, it wasn’t much different this year.
Hubris and the Baby Boomers
My generation – the Baby Boomers – bears a lot of the responsibility for the drift.
We (and I only say ‘we’ because like it or not I am a Baby Boomer) kicked off the Sexual Revolution. We also simultaneously became the ‘Me Generation,’ a moniker that is different than the connotation ‘Generation Me’ that’s been applied to Millennials by Psychologist Jean Twenge in her 2006 book.
During the Sexual Revolution, self-indulgence became the cornerstone of the Me Generation. Instead of practicing self-control and trying to lead virtuous lives and become saints, as God wants us to do, suddenly self-indulgence became a good thing. Nowhere was this thinking more evident than when it came to sex. Since sex is pleasurable, the sexual revolutionaries said, we should be able to go ahead and indulge in carnal relations any time we want.
The procreative act began to be called “making love” and people liked that term. The hippies ran around saying “make love, not war.” These self-indulgent young people either did not understand or refused to accept God’s teaching that sexual intercourse outside of the marriage of a man and a woman is nothing more than lust – one of the seven deadly sins.
Once lust became okay, greed became somewhat acceptable, too. And if you had a business rival, a political enemy, or even a jerk for a neighbor, then wrath was sometimes okay, too. And, hey, is it really so bad to be gluttonous or slothful? Let’s not forget either that our schools have been touting the importance of high self-esteem, which is really just another name for pride, to our kids for many years now.
This tendency toward self-indulgence has contributed to a culture that is pushing God to the very edge of our reason for being.
God or Sin
In December of last year, I received an email from a local golf course announcing its annual New Year’s Eve Party. The theme for 2017 was “7 Deadly Sins.” At the bottom of the announcement it said:
OPTIONAL PARTY TIP: DRESS IN THE COLOR OF THE SIN
YOU ARE MOST LIKELY TO COMMIT TONIGHT:
SILVER FOR GLUTTONY, PURPLE FOR PRIDE, HOT PINK FOR LUST,
BLUE FOR SLOTH, GOLD FOR GREED, RED FOR WRATH,
GREEN FOR ENVY, OR BLACK FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE!!
That’s quite a comment on what society values these days. And this confused thinking that started with my generation doesn’t seem to be abating. Evidence of the continued confusion was on display recently in Rome.
History Repeating Itself
Some 300 young people gathered in Rome last month to share their thoughts and views on life and the Faith with Pope Francis in advance of the upcoming summit of Catholic bishops on youth. Some of the document they put together for Pope Francis could have been written by young people of any past generation in the modern era. It expressed their thoughts and concerns and spoke of how young people are trying to find themselves in “a very complicated and diverse world.”
But every generation tries to find themselves and figure out where they fit in. The Baby Boomers and every generation before and after have all had this same problem. It’s not a new phenomenon. Sorry young people, but you are not special. What you are experiencing is common to every generation.
But the document did hold a number of surprises. Steffani Jacobs addressed how these young people seem to be overly influenced by both existentialism and modernist thinking in her CS article “Young Catholics Seem to Want an ‘Authentic’ Church heavily Influenced by Modernism.” But the problems with the document do not end there.
Disagreement and Confusion
I can’t say that I was all that shocked to learn that these young people were confused about sexuality. The document they drafted states, “There is often great disagreement among young people, both within the Church and in the wider world, about the teachings of the Church which are especially controversial today, for example: contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, permanency of marriage, and the male priesthood.”
This disagreement is a direct result of the immaturity and self-indulgent behavior of my generation and it is likely to be around for a while.
But I was somewhat shocked to learn that, “Many young people, when asked the question “What is the meaning of your life?” do not know how to answer.” Every Catholic learns why we are here – what the meaning of life is – in first grade Catechism. We are here to love and serve God. That many young people do not know how to answer this question speaks volumes.
And I was amazed to learn that even though many young people don’t know the answer to the meaning of life question, those present felt that, “The Church must involve young people in its decision-making processes and offer them more leadership roles. These positions need to be in a parish, diocesan, national and international level, even on a commission to the Vatican. We strongly feel that we are ready to be leaders, who can grow and be taught by the older members of the Church, by religious and lay women and men. We need young leadership programs for the formation and continued development of young leaders.”
I Wanna be a Leader!
So those present “strongly feel they “are ready to be leaders” even while acknowledging they still need to “grow and be taught by the older members of the Church.” And they want the Church to put together leadership programs to help them develop. Hey guys, if you are still learning and growing and need programs to help you develop, you are not ready to be leaders.
I guess such hubris should be expected of many young people from the U.S. who are the products of our public school systems. But apparently, school systems in other countries have been doing touting high self-esteem as well.
Unfortunately, high self-esteem doesn’t equal leadership ability. Leadership is earned. Leaders must have experience and wisdom along with intelligence. And experience and wisdom (which is not the same thing as intelligence) are qualities that usually come only with age. But then again, too many of our leaders, in the Church and in politics, don’t seem to be exhibiting a lot of wisdom either. So maybe ignorance of God’s teaching is having very far-reaching effects. “For the LORD gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” [Proverbs 2:6].
They also said that “We would like the Church to meet us in the various places in which she currently has little or no presence. Above all, the place in which we wish to be met by the Church is the streets, where all people are found. The Church should try to find creative new ways to encounter people where they are comfortable and where they naturally socialize: bars, coffee shops, parks, gyms, stadiums and any other popular cultural centers.”
Well, here’s a newsflash for the young Catholics who were in Rome who think they are ready to be leaders – you are the Church. If you are in a bar, a coffee shop, a park, or a gym, the Church is there. We are called to evangelize and if you are not evangelizing, or if you are not capable of evangelizing, shame on you. And if you are not capable of sharing your faith you are not ready to be leaders.
They also said, “While the Church already meets many of us in schools and universities throughout the world, we want to see her presence in these places in a stronger and more effective way.” Apparently, even though they think they are ready for leadership roles, they don’t understand that today’s secular society and liberal courts are doing everything they can to prohibit expressions of Faith in public schools. They need to change society and our laws. It’s not the Church that is the problem here.
They also stated that “For many young people, faith has become private rather than communal . . .” Hey, here’s another news flash – it’s both.
And, “Young people are looking for companions on the journey, to be embraced by faithful men and women who express the truth and allow young people to articulate their understanding of faith and their vocation. Such people do not need to be models of faith to imitate, but instead living testimonies to witness.” Say what? What exactly is the difference is between a “model of faith” and a “living testimony to witness?” Is it that one walks the walk but the other only talks the talk? This is gobbledygook.
So for these young people, 2,000 years of Church teaching is now “controversial.” Let’s get real. It’s not Catholic Teaching that is wrong or confusing, it’s society that is screwed up and confused. The confusion exhibited by so many these days, young and old alike, is due to secularism, modernism, individualism, and relativism. Throw in 50 years of poor Catechesis and it’s not that hard to understand why so many people today are so confused.
It’s sad to think that the young people in Rome who compiled the document probably feel good about themselves and what they think they accomplished. Many of them, like Katie Prejean and Filipe Domingues, probably feel a sense of pride, even though the document they put together exhibits ignorance, befuddled thinking and an over-abundance of self-esteem.
It’s also sad to think that the answers they are seeking are readily available. They are all available in the Bible, in the Catechism, in a host of encyclicals written by various popes, in numerous books and documents written by the Doctors of the Church, learned clerics and theologians, and even in articles and videos online at Catholic websites like CS. They only need to get serious about their faith and do some reading. To borrow a line from the TV show X-Files, the truth is out there.
Once we become adults, we become responsible for our own growth – or lack thereof. These young people seem to not understand that. They want to be leaders yet they are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for their own faith formation.
Learn from the Past
Much of the confusion today is thanks to a bunch of ignorant, self-indulgent young people back in the 60s with an over-abundance of hubris. Too many in my generation thought they were smarter than God. And even though many of them are now senior citizens they seem to have never really grown or grown up.
If there is one learn lesson these young people should learn from my generation it is that Hubris – high self-esteem – is not a good thing.
The very first beatitude Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poor in spirit means ‘humble.’ The world would be a much better place if more people practiced this virtue.