I had the privilege a week ago of sitting through a talk given by Bishop Elect Robert Barron. It was an outstanding lecture that left the roughly 2,000 of us in attendance wanting much more. My hope is that the Bishop Keane Institute, the folks responsible for bringing Fr. Barron to the local area, will release video of the talk soon. It really was something.
One of the many things brought up by the Bishop Elect is what he deemed to be the "Culture of Meh" and how it's proving to be quite the challenge for the New Evangelization.
It's a topic that was covered at length in this post by Matt Nelson a few months ago:
It is clear that this virulent spiritual epidemic has spread into modern times. With pinpoint accuracy, Father Robert Barron attributes this cultural state of religious neglect to “a ‘meh’ culture of relativism.”
A Great Paradox
A great paradox that descends from this prevalent attitude of religious indifference in our culture is that it is often accompanied by an intense repulsion towards dogma. Yet “the indifferent” are often severely dogmatic on issues like abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. Religious dogma is condemned not because it is religious but because it is dogmatic; thus, religious dogma is traded for non-religious or even anti-religious dogma. This human inability to escape the self-affirmation of objective truth in practice was what led G.K. Chesterton to say:
“In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.”
Thus, to be indifferent is to be dogmatic about being undogmatic without knowing it.
Religious indifference, according to Sheed and Ward, is usually rooted in either: the desire to appear open-minded; or outright laziness.
In modern times, claiming religious “open-mindedness” is often just a nice way of professing that no religion is more true than another. At its core this term appears to be more of a rejection than an affirmation, a clever euphemism based more often on a relativistic worldview than an atheist one. Often, for the sake ofreputation—a highly sought-after commodity in Western culture—the open-minded man of modernity conforms to this odd philosophy founded on the motto, “Who am I to judge?” His personal philosophy of life becomes founded on the multiple contradictory worldviews of his friends and acquaintances, rather than reality. Eventually the “open mind” of the modern man becomes so open that it starts to work against itself, and what it contains begins to seep out; and thus, this aberrant spilling out of the intellect leaves the open-minded man empty-minded.
One might say that this modern “style” of open-mindedness also becomes the kind of self-sacrifice that fails miserably to conform to the life and love of Christ, and winds up as an outright rejection of the one true God on the basis of ignorance. It becomes an explicit failure to imitate Christ—for no person in history held more strongly to religious absolutes than Jesus.
And then there’s the lazy man. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that laziness has become an extreme epidemic which has metastasized throughout our culture at all levels of society, fed by a “culture of convenience” obsessed with pleasure seeking. The fact is, true religion is hard and it’s results are not immediately palpable. Moreover, and unlike a McDonald’s experience, the effects of true religion are not always immediately pleasing to the senses.
Yet religion is in fact the pathway to the fulfillment of all our desires. It would not be inaccurate to say that religion, properly practiced, “hurts so good“; and no truly devout follower of Jesus who has conformed his life to the Gospel would tell or show you anything different (and the best evidence for this lies in the writings of any and every Catholic saint).
Read the whole thing, well worth your time.
What I loved the most about Fr. Barron's talk last week was his enthusiasm for the faith and how he believed firmly that the Culture of Meh could be overcome if Catholics would do the following:
- Tell great stories about the faith
- Don't dumb it down
- Lead with Beauty
- Speak/preach with fervor and ardor
- Trust the Augustinian anthropology
- Stress Aquinas view of God AND the Saints
- Use social media/technology to pass the message along
I'm trusting, certainly hoping, that bits and pieces of the talk will become fodder for future Fr. Barron videos and posts over at Word on Fire.
He really is this era's Fulton Sheen.
Crossposted at Wizbang.