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Cultural Crisis Is Spiritual Crisis

July 12, 2023 Featured Today No Comments


St. Augustine explained how a society devoid of God, or any basic metaphysical center for a people and society to aim for, inevitably reduces itself into relativism. Augustine’s insights are simple yet profound. Cultural crisis and catastrophe are the result of spiritual crisis and catastrophe.
The Roman philosopher Marcus Varro compiled 288 different philosophies and answers to the only question philosophers could agree upon, that the purpose of human existence is happiness. So, while the philosophers agreed that happiness was the purpose of life, Varro’s now lost book which provided those 288 answers, cited by Augustine in The City of God, reveals a stunning inability about how to achieve happiness.
Yet even pagans like Marcus Varro, Aristotle, and Cicero understood man to be a spiritual animal. To be virtuous, as Varro taught and thought, was to be spiritual. Virtue corresponded with the soul rather than the body.
Aristotle and Cicero, though not Christians, agreed. Hence certain ancient philosophers have always had a warm welcome in Catholic Christianity, they could be baptized and redirected to serve the Christian vision.
Despite that inability to agree about happiness, many ancient philosophers thought virtue was related to happiness.
Our problems lie deeper than mere politics or mere economics. Those who preach with logs in their eyes that all of our problems are matters of economic inequality, political oppression or suppression, or lack of economic opportunity and growth are the same “empty men” whom T.S. Eliot spoke of.
The substitution of God and the spiritual life with economic and political life is a shallow alternative to the spiritual adventure the soul is called to.
Humanity does have a spiritual core, a spiritual center, a spiritual grounding which makes him burn restlessly for substance beyond mere physical stimulating pleasures which quickly vanish and leave him adrift if the winds of chaos and depression needing to perpetual feed his lusts at will for constant gratification.
The spiritual reality of man, as Dante knew, directs him upward to the heavens rather than downward to the dirt. This is why Dante closes each of his final canto of the three books of The Divine Comedy with himself, the pilgrim, looking up to the stars. Dante was also strongly influenced by the theology of Augustine.
The first commandment of God is to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the Earth and subdue it. The generative principle of God in the act of creation is extended to humans in the first book of Genesis. It is in this process of generation, birth and child-rearing, which humans are, in a sense, most like God.
The creation and generation of families, which add to the camp of the saints, is the most fundamental aspect of participating with the love of God. Love unites. Love creates. Love binds. Love is not isolation. Love is relational. The importance of filial love is another reason why Dante places betrayers of family in the lowest rung of hell in The Inferno.
The God of Christianity is a God who takes pleasure in the generative act of families and nations. It was, for the longest time, a most sacred duty to be fruitful and multiply in the Sacrament of Marriage. Marriage, as a conduit of God’s grace to humans, reaches back to the foundation of the cosmos and humanity, it is the sacramental manifestation of the creative love shown by God through creation.
The happiness that humans seek is found in the love of God through the love of others. This has long been the insight of Christianity drawn from the very revelation of Christ who answered that the whole of the law could be summed up by love of God and love of neighbor. The happiness, the joy, that comes from love is infectious as all who have experienced it know.
As most remember, God began with Adam. But it wasn’t long afterward that God created Eve. It was not good for man to be alone, it was not good for man to be a solitary and isolated creature who, though with the animals of nature, did not find fulfillment as being part of the beasts of the field and the fowl of the air. So, God created the first family that all should be like.
The story of salvation history starts with a family. The story of salvation history also ends with a family. The judgment of the world results in the formation of the spiritual family, the family of the Church and saints, in love of God.
Despite the Fall, the God of Christian Scripture is a God of a generative family. The Church Fathers, for instance, are exceptional in pointing out the generative act of God to call a people His own. God fathers a nation to call His: a holy nation, a nation of priests, a nation of husbands, wives, and children.
From Genesis to Revelation, from a single man alone in a garden wandering among the animals to entrance into that heavenly city above with all its saints in radiant glory, the progression of Scripture, of the spiritual journey of man, is relational, social, and, most of all, filial.
The Christian belongs to God’s family, a family that is constantly growing, a family that is always enlarging because you have a participative genus in this covenant family of saints.
The war against the family is a war against a filial and generative God; the dissolution of the family marks the dissolution of the generative God and its replacement of God which demands nothing.
The theology of the family, by contrast, is the theology of life, generation, rootedness, love, and sacrifice. The theology of the family is the embodiment of the life that Christ Himself lived and died for.
Our cultural crisis is nothing short of spiritual crisis, as all cultural crises are. The answer is more than just politics, more than just economics, more than just free speech or free enterprise or whatever other “traditional” value some politician proclaims. The anxiety and unhappiness that are now pervasive across America can only be remedied by love, and love ultimately unites souls together to form a family to add to the city of God where eternal happiness is found.

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