Trying for Understanding

26 Mar

Yesterday’s blog (March 25, “Hello Out There”) talked about the differences in our country that create tensions, which too often create mistrust and division – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

We are dealing with a system of values and forces that shape individuals and pull or push them in this or that direction. Everyone is affected – and therefore the nation and the world are affected.

I think that most often we don’t even know we are being pushed and pulled or who’s moving us and in what direction we are being moved.

There are two major political philosophical forces vying to shape our society in this 21st century – capitalism and socialism. Poor God comes in a distant third.

Both capitalism and socialism are “dirty words” depending on your own philosophy of life.

At its best, capitalism creates jobs, funds charities, strengthens the national economy, promotes the common good and challenges people to do their best in whatever they can do. At the other end of the spectrum, capitalism ignores the common good and promotes despotism, poverty of the masses and power in a handful of the wealthy. Also, the quest for wealth leads certain businesses to appeal to the basest of human drives and emotions: pride, lust, greed and avarice.

Socialism is diametrically opposed to capitalism. It tends to attract those who are both economically and psychologically poor. There is such a thing as psychological poverty. I remember back in the 1960s in Southwest Louisiana, we civil rights workers realized that for African-Americans to become free they had to enrich their self-esteem and discern their innate worth and discern their abilities. This would be achieved only in a spirit of equality and fraternity among people working together, ultimately for the common good.

Socialism puts the nation’s fate the hands of a wealthy and politically powerful few. Remember Soviet Russia. Look at what’s happening in the Middle East.

At its best, socialism can never achieve what capitalism can. It simply does not recognize and promote self-reliance, human dignity and the challenge and blessings of self-government. It tends to make peons of citizens rather than responsible citizens.

So, here we are – pulled in two directions. Just consider this statement:

When the scale of values is disturbed and evil becomes mixed with good, individuals and groups consider only their own interests, not those of others. (Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 1965, No. 37)

This document, “Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” marks a renewed sense of “Church” for the universal Catholic faith and hopefully for all Christians. In it the Church seeks to enter into dialogue with scientists, educators, religionists, atheists, agnostics, politicians – with people of all ages, in all walks of life, in all faiths and in all nations.

Is the world open to such a dialogue? Does it dare?

 (Tomorrow, “Be Brave — Just Listen)

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