Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"People who walk in darkness" - Cult(ure) of personal fulfillment has consequences, it seems

Kendall Harmon's blog, TitusOneNine, pointed me to closely related news stories that appeared in different papers on different days.

USA Today's piece presented news that shouldn't surprise. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)have released data suggesting that "adverse childhood experiences are common..."

"Almost 60% of American adults say they had difficult childhoods featuring abusive or troubled family members or parents who were absent due to separation or divorce, federal health officials report."

The New York Times also featured mental health, demonstrating the fallout of what the CDC data describes.

“It’s so different from how people might stereotype the concept of college counseling, or back in the ’70s students coming in with existential crises: who am I?” said [Stony Brook University Counseling Director] Dr. Hwang, whose staff of 29 includes psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and social workers. “Now they’re bringing in life stories involving extensive trauma, a history of serious mental illness, eating disorders, self-injury, alcohol and other drug use.”

The polarized right and left both contend for different aspects of radical individualism. The right tends to espouse this in terms of economics, the left in terms of behavior; both wind up arguing that what an individual does can be judged only by that individual's proclamation of satisfaction. If other people object to my self-serving ways, "That's their issue, not mine."

People Magazine interviewed singer Christina Aguilera about her decision to end her five year marriage (and break up the family of the couple's small son). It is truly ghastly reading (link only gives a teaser - you have to subscribe or find a hard copy to read it all). Basically, there is no assertion of abuse, infidelity, addiction or anything dramatic - instead it is a bland assertion of her personal feelings,

"When you're unhappy in your marriage, your children are the ones who suffer," says the Grammy-winning pop singer, whose own parents' tumultuous relationship led to divorce when she was 7. "That's the last thing I wanted for my son."

Since filing for divorce, Aguilera has been out in Los Angeles and New York City with a new man...

Note how the divorce culture is modeled and passed along. Without models of reconciliation and endurance, or a standard to which to aspire, the individual follows his or her own emotions and fills in justifications about that direction being best for everybody else. There is no reflection, a "rebound relationship" is established immediately, and everybody dutifully gushes about it all. Criticisms or objections are "judgmental" and the evidence of the social impact is simply denied.

Christianity describes humanity's "curse" as the misery we self-inflict by assertion of self-will against the will of God. At Christmas, we sing of hope for reconciliation, both with God and one another. In Isaac Watt's familiar lyrics,

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Christians around the world will hear the ancient prophecy of Isaiah at Christmas. May the One who is the light of the world come into our self-clouded hearts and help us to love God and one another.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness--
on them light has shined.


rr said...

Good post, Father Tim.

I daily see the terrible toll of the first sin - turning away from God and attempting to elevate oneself as His replacement. One can see the consequences of this as easily as our own hands. Yet people persist in trying. What folly!

We have been delivered from this folly. Why are we so blessed? It is humbling.

I hope that you and yours have a truly blessed Christmas.

TLF+ said...

Thanks, rr. I pray that your Christmas is full of light. We must pray for one another - the toxic evil all around us is enough to "make love grow cold." Let us continue to love and forgive as we've been loved and forgiven in Christ.