Sunday 24 October 2010

Where is virtue today?

Today's culture of moral relativism and scientific determinism does not lead us to engage the virtues. In such a context, one either sees a wonderful opportunity to live the virtues, especially the theological virtues and be a light in the darkness, or one can't see virtue. But we are living (in the West) in a culture which sees itself as emerging from a hierarchic, oppresive and impoverished past, into an era of economic and social freedom, free from the moral structures of the past and its traditional values. Our culture sees itself as a victim of the past, at last recovering its true life through new-found freedoms. For a few, there are designer lives or training schemes based on notions of success, wealth and beauty. And for these newly conceieved life-styles one needs character traits, not virtues, traits such as efficiency, self-confidence and credibility. For the rest of us, these same goals are presented in a virtual way by the mass media. Where in such a vision of life does virtue belong?

The Holy Father in his Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper declares that today we have seen a loss of "a common understanding of basic human experiences: ie, birth, death, life in a family, and reference to a natural moral law. Even though some consider these things a kind of liberation, there soon follows an awareness that an interior desert results whenever the human being, wishing to be the sole archtect of his nature and destiny, finds himself deprived of that which is the very foundation of all things."

Prophectic words indeed. Yet the secular vision of a humanity transformed through new opportunities, at last within our reach, has captured the gaze of the world. And even the concurrent realities of disillusionment, failure, depression and loneliness, do not moderate the sheer power of this secular dynamic. In such a culture, Christiuans and others whose seeking has not been overwhelmed by contemporary culture, tend to live their lives cautiously, not wanting to appear naive about the truth of human nature. In such a context as this, the New Evangelisation is being engendered - in this culture, at once so full of overweening attitudes of self-affirmation and yet empty of, or insufficiently possessing of meaning, and which leaves others defeated or resigned to passivity, where do we begin to locate virtue?

I pose the question here and will return to this theme in the next post.

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