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How I was finally convinced to do my own part in non-proliferation of combative words, thoughts and actions...
The end of the culture war is in sight! It's right around the corner and I can see it. But first, I need to admit how disenchanted have I become, recently, with this whole idea of a culture war. All this clamoring and positioning on either side just did not resonate accurate with me anymore and I started to wonder about its usefulness.
The Mystery of Pentecost
I just read "The Mystery of Pentecost" by Father Raniero Cantalamessa (1) where he writes (beautifully) about the unitive power of the Holy Spirit, how it builds up out of love and out of obedience. He contrasted Pentecost and Babel as the two opposite examples of the love of God vs. the love of selves. And just to make sure that we understand who are the builders of Babel, he says that "we, alas, are one of them, we are more or less still involved in it. The passage from Babel to Pentecost must be carried out spiritually every day in our lives. We need to pass continually from Babel to Pentecost, as we must pass continually from the old man to the new man".
That clinched it for me. After reading this, I could not pretend anymore in good conscience that I was on the right side of the culture war and that the others were on the wrong side. That kind of separative talk and divisive positioning is not what I should be doing as a member of the Body of Christ. In politics, I guess I can see the value of pigeon-holing the other side and continually attacking them for their shortcomings. But in real life (which is where most of us spend most of our times) I could not see the interest anymore and I felt compelled, as a Christian, to refrain from participating in this pseudo war.
But I still had a dilemma: how do I proclaim and push for the culture of life without agitating and participating in the culture war? I could see clearly the need to stand up and articulate a culture of life (thanks to the champion of life himself: the late John Paul II) but I often felt tempted to mix the pro-life message and the culture-war labeling.
The culture of life
Although the expressions "culture of life" and "culture war" seem like they are overlapping, they are actually referring to two different things: the label "culture of life" refers to a worldview which promotes love for life and family and the respect of every person made in the image of God. The label "culture war" plays into the hands of all the Babel builders within us and is a very subtle but perverted way of screaming one truth (or part of the truth) and trying to shove it down the throat of others rather than offering the whole truth with patience and compassion and love. In the watershed of Pentecost, every one present understood each other and the results were life transforming. The screaming and bickering of the culture war has only hardened each side and is building ever higher an invisible dividing wall…. Some code words (such as abortion or the death penalty, immigration or free health care, Israel or the war in Iraq) ignite a knee-jerk reaction of self-righteousness in one side each time. One group bunkers down right away, putting instant blinders to whatever else is being said lest it be different from their own wording of the issue and in each case, the very basis for civil dialogue and the common good are pushed out of the way….
So I wondered what I should do and I prayed for the gift of discernment. And it slowly became clearer to me that the end of the culture war had to start with me. And that's why I can see where and when it will end: it will be with my own refusal to fuel it. It is a challenge and I need constant discernment so as not to confuse my pro-life efforts with my pro-culture-war temptations. But it is when I turn off the culture-war mode that I am then better equipped to concentrate on the program of building the Church.
Msg Albacete once wrote: "Our task is not a cultural battle as such, even if others see it that way and struggle against us and we must resist. Our task is to build the Church. The rest is in the Father's hands". (2) These words resonated so true to me that they inspired me to show self-restrain in Babel talk and to surrender my own weapons in a real effort to work for peace. Because in the end of the culture war is the beginning of peace and peace starts at home. Fortunately for all of us, I recently noticed that even within the ranks of the great political divide, some politicians on each side are slowly opening up to real change and fruitful cooperation… Hopefully, from within the ranks of Academia will be next and who knows, one day, even the media will shed their old habits and actively participate in building a culture of life and a world of peace.
Refusing to fuel the culture war
So I pray to the Holy Spirit: instruct my heart and grant me to be truly wise, help me see each day as the glorious moment of Pentecost and remind me again and again that the building blocks of peace are made of a thousand efforts all glued together with love and compassion, patience and kindness….
Copyright ©2006 Michele Szekely
(1) Father Cantalamesa see his site is the Preacher to the Papal household and a frequent commentator on Zenit news zenit.org
(2) Msgr Albacete is the Spiritual Advisor for Communion & Liberation and a frequent commentator on Godspy.com
See his article To Build the Church