Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10
As Catholics, we all know that we oppose something called “secularism.” We want to keep Christ in Christmas. We want the Church to be strong, to have freedom to worship and to shape culture and policy. But thinking of secularism exclusively in terms of its legal and economic aspects has a downside: it encourages us to lay the blame on “them”—on godless lawyers, lobbyists, and CEOs. It gave me pause, then, when I ran across definition of secularism, proposed by a prominent Catholic philosopher, that invited me to look at myself. According to his definition, the heart of secularism is the denial of the “transformation perspective” (A Secular Age, 431).
And by “transformation perspective” he meant simply the belief—common to most religions—that we are transformed through sacrifice, that a “higher life” and new desires are possible for us through religious practices: through the discipline of passions, meditation, the study of holy books, etc. From the secular perspective, on the other hand, desires and behavior are never really be transformed. And since we can’t expect people to live frustrated, the best we can hope to do is damage control. Hence the secular solution to the dangers of sex becomes not chastity but condoms, the secular solution to the problem of overeating becomes not moderation but Splenda, the secular solution to political corruption becomes not integrity but a system of checks and balances. The “transformation perspective,” on the other hand, rates virtue above technique.
To this “transformation perspective” reflected generally in religious traditions, Christianity adds a new element: Read the rest of this entry »