Monday, October 29, 2007

Life and truth

The newest post over at First Things is a compelling reflection on the human tendency to call evil good and good, evil. Applying it the "culture of death," Joseph Naumann takes example from everyone from Mother Teresa to The Twilight Zone. Here's an excerpt.

"In some of the inner-city neighborhoods where I served as a priest, there was a great problem with gun violence. Could you imagine anyone saying that they were personally against drive-by shootings, but if someone else wanted to do it they should have that right? Yet it is precisely that illogic that has been used now for several decades to defend the legalization of abortion—the destruction of an innocent human life.

Without the acceptance of objective truth, everything becomes negotiable. The moral conscience of society and the individual are impaired. There is confusion in the recognition of good and evil. We become uncertain about such fundamental institutions for family and society as marriage. From the denial of natural truth, a nihilism emerges that we find expressing itself today in art, literature, and films. We become confused about what is good and noble. We question what is worth devoting our life to. This confusion results in a great interior emptiness. We try to distract ourselves with more and more things, divert our attention with more and more entertainment, and numb ourselves with drugs and other addictions.

I remember watching, as a child, an episode of The Twilight Zone. It began with doctors and nurses with surgical masks gathered around a hospital bed of a female patient whose face was completely bandaged except for her eyes and nose. From their conversation, it became apparent that this woman suffered from a hideous disfigurement which a series of plastic surgeries had failed to correct. They had attempted one final surgery that the doctors were optimistic would solve the problem, but they would not know for certain until they unbandaged her face several days later.

They finally come to the moment of truth—the unwrapping of the bandages—and we see that the woman’s face is stunningly beautiful. The doctors and nurses shake their heads with disappointment and apologize for their failure. For the first time they remove their surgical masks revealing grotesquely hideous features. That is how it is in The Twilight Zone: The beautiful is ugly, and the ugly is beautiful.

This is a helpful image for the consequence of relativism that impairs a culture from recognizing what is objectively good, beautiful, and true. In The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul had this to say about objective truth: “The Gospel of Life is not for believers alone: It is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of the Christian alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone.” "

You can read the whole thing here. It's an especially good way to end the month of October, set aside in the Catholic Church in America to promote respect for human life. This year, it's also nearing the end of the 40 Days for Life initiative--a nation-wide program of prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil outside abortion clinics, and community outreach to women in need.

The widespread acceptance or, at best, indifference toward the abortion industry is the grossest symptom of a deep confusion: What is good? What is worth living for? Why am I here? What value is any human life? The loss of millions of human lives is a holocaust that cries out but is not heard. It is felt, deeply, I believe, by those who have ears to hear and by those who find themselves the survivors of abortion: mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, and those who pray and work for their healing. As a whole, however, we're still too muddled about ourselves, life, and meaning to listen or find their deaths worthy of notice.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

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