Thursday, September 13, 2007

In the World Not of It

Our Diocese runs a newspaper that is Bi-weekly called The Catholic Observer. One columnist syndicated from Catholic News Service is Father John Dietzen's Question Corner. He is usually on the WORSHIP page but has tackled a very wide variety of questions. I like his answers. He strives for real clarity on why a certain is correct while also explaining common misconceptions.
This weeks column "We should relate to Amnesty International in a Christian manner" caught my attention. After all the title is a little too obvious and I had not ever heard a reason not to be Christian to anyone.
Apparently Amnesty International has gone from a neutral stance on Abortion to a Pro Abortion stance.
The question asked him to go one step further, (From an article I had not read previously) and advise people to stop contributing to this organization.
It would on the surface seem natural. Should money intended to help bring justice, peace, human rights instead punish a human guilty only of being conceived. Should a child in the womb suffer because the mother did?

Father tackled this issue from a very different perspective, actually addressing a pet peeve of mine. If we have worked with them over the years how is it that our arguments that human life exists from conception, that violence in the womb will only increase injustice have failed. We are conversing with people of caring, of intelligence.
In Father Dietzen's words:"It never seems to occur to people, pro-life or not, that a reason for our failure to persuade in matters of respect for life may have something to do with the quality of our arguments, or even perhaps in the way we argue our cause."
I addressed this idea in my review of Guerrilla Apologetics for Pro Life Issues on the homeschool page. "I have understood their frustration with the lack of compassion Pro life people seem to have. Often we criticize in ways that shut down communication rather than helping people explore their knowledge, open their minds and perhaps consider a change of heart.
The lack of Logic in school curriculum plans and the absence of Socratic teaching methods has truly ‘dumbed us down.’ We do not ask the questions that help people look at Life issues from different angles. Either we avoid the discussion and so are compliant in the destruction of Human Life or we go to battle, making enemies."

While Paul E. Nowak's book title seems argumentative it is actually a trick to get the worst defenders of Life to change tactics. It encourages thoughtful 'Socratic' questions to draw out discussion. It encourages a long term view. The only problem with its short length is it assumes that once it has worked we can easily apply these methods to any argument against a ProLife stand. Unfortunately we forget the many hardships people have faced that led them to feel that Abortion was the lesser of two evils.

Father then went on to look at how Catholics need to perceive themselves, we are not counter cultural. He refers to a letter by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago in America magazine (Aug 13-20, 2007) which compares our work in our small communities to that in the mission field where it is never helpful to set ourselves against the culture. It is 'not only unfaithful to Christ's word, it just doesn't work.'
According to the Cardinal "One cannot convert or interiorly influence a person or society that one does not love."
father then applies this to the original question and the related ones, saying that a Christian attitude requires responding not with anger, disrespect, or divisiveness.
I can't say out of frustration 'they have divided this group by taking this stand so my money goes elsewhere.' First we must work on loving conversation to draw out the reasoning and counter it with positive options.

And I know, since when does a Catholic homeschooler agree not to hate the culture! Well I have been frustrated with it. I have had times we pulled back. We prayed the 'hedge' that protected Job would surround us and our children until we had the knowledge and strength to go beyond it and still do God's work. Even in the times we puled back our children heard radio, saw TV, joined clubs and sports. We had friends with different life circumstances. we worked to be in the world but not of it.

We had a speaker at our homeschool meeting who taught English and Christian World View at an Evangelical Co-op. A graphic described it this way:
You see the world and it tempts you, attracts you ------ Your Faith was not rooted.
You see the world and hide, it scares you, -------Your Faith has not grown yet.
You see the World and it disturbs you, ---- Your Faith will help you impact the World for good, for God.

This is what is the heart of Catholic homeschooling. Creating a core of people going out into the world who find parts of it disturbing, worth changing but who have no fear of it and who have seen something better and have no need for it. Success? Well most of us will never truly know. That is often a temptation in the back of our minds, trying to get us to give in to fear. After all we parents will hold all the blame if our children do not hold to what we taught them.

In the mean time we fight the good fight........hopefully with JOY.



Christine said...

I wish I could truly say I have no fear. I try to remember the acronym F-False
R- real

I do not often succeed.


EC Gefroh said...

Lots of food for thought here Mary. BTW, I'm glad you wrote about Fr. Dietzen because I have seen criticism of him with regard to the Church's position on certain topics.