Tuesday, March 17

Catholic Social Tradition and Meaning

Catholic Social Tradition (CST) is grounded in the conviction that human life has meaning and that meaning can be known. This is sometimes sought through thought and reflection, but also through thought and action connected to the way of living in the Christian ethic. What does this mean? C.S. Lewis, famous Anglican apologist once wrote, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning” (Mere Christianity). The notion that the universe - specifically human life within the universe - has meaning and that meaning can be known is present in every major religious tradition. In CST, this emphasis is found in the first chapter of Genesis, in which God breathes into the dust or clay of the earth and forms life (adamah) - man. This sacramental engagement with the elements links us to the creation around us, but also convicts humanity to look deeper than appearances - there is more to this world than it seems.

On a more pragmatic level, this conviction is essentially the idea that we all have a desire for meaning, and that this meaning can be found in the Creator. As such, and as humanity is part of creation we are also tasked with a responsibility to care for this creation. This means that we are called to go against human trafficking, to stand up for life, to restore those who are broken, to bring back to the community those who are marginalized - in everything, to maintain and uphold the dignity of the human person. On the one hand, this can be done through thought and reflection. Reflection on a social issue can lead to constructive thinking, which can then lead to both thought and action. A fine theology is good, but a theology without praxis is lacking. There are a number of growing movements that are within the modern CST, but as a first step, awareness is absolutely key. One must be aware of where one buy’s one’s clothes, food, accessories, appliances, and so forth.

At this point, there are two examples of growing movements based in social justice that will helpfully illustrate the principles of CST and why thought and action are important pieces of the ongoing process. Now, there are two websites that exist as non-profit click-to-donate websites. Owned by the World Food Programme, FreeRice.com is a website that uses its ads to donate grains of rice. When a user opens up the site, they can choose between a number of different topics, such as English vocabulary, and take quizzes on these various topics. For each correct answer, ten grains of rice are donated to a growing amount of people across the world. The effectiveness of this program has grown over the last few years to now feed several thousand individuals across the globe. Another successful click-to-donate website is Care2Donate, which allows you to simply click the “donate” button. In doing so, the user’s single click generates a donation from the website’s sponsor, and the donations go directly to a fund or a charity that supports or works with these different issues. You can click to help the rainforest, “big cats,” seals, protect the oceans, animal rescue, primates, global warming, stop domestic violence, and wolves.

Although both of these examples are certainly different than actually going to a third world country to feed the hungry or getting involved with a certain charity or cause, these two examples are helpful as they provide a sense of the options available to any person who has access to the internet. Now, the foundation of CST human dignity. As such, each person is not only called on to recognize their own dignity, self-worth and value but also the dignity, worth and value in “the Other” - in every human being. Some individuals ask, “world hunger exists, but what could I possibly do to change it? I work too many hours a week and I have a wife and child to provide for.” For those people, there are a number of factors to consider. Since CST would hold that life has meaning, we can continue to create ways to help others find meaning in life and also create meaningful lives for those who have none. This is one way in which the thought, reflection and action can come together to work toward the betterment of humanity.

The parent working too many hours a week would be able to access something such as FreeRice.com or Care2Donate. Although it may seem too simplistic and idealistic, such programs can and do exist, and offer certain individuals something beyond just thought and reflection, but a movement into the realm of thought proceeded by action. Certainly, there are other better examples of how these connections provide one with a sense of meaning, but if one is to argue that life has meaning and that meaning can be discovered, one must be open to new possibilities, new ways of being and an increased awareness connected to thought, reflection and action. This three-fold distinction can be seen as an ongoing and cyclic process that is called for when one has an engagement with CST. 

No comments:

Post a Comment