Monday, November 15, 2010

Death and Development

Listening to some more Caritas in Veritate.
Authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity.
The focus in November is on the last things of death, judgment, heaven, and hell. I appreciate that the church does this. There was never a set time for this as a protestant. It is a topic we avoid when we can. But avoiding it has pretty dire consequences. Here Pope Benedict talks about the development of human society. The trouble is progress only happens when people are focused on the long term good of humanity. If people see human life as finite then it becomes hard to keep you mind on the big picture. People start to wonder whether the rewards of such idealism will be seen in this life. The answer is often No. So a young visionary might become selfish as they get into middle-age. They might betray the cause for the sake of personal gain. If they are living just for this life the temptation will be strong.

Even the very definition of progress depends on having an eternal perspective. Is the state more important than the individual? If the individual is eternal and the state is temporal then you will answer No. Or what about immodest displays of public sexuality? If chastity is important for a person's soul then society won't tolerate pornography.

While many people in society have this eternal perspective they seem to feel it is appropriate that it be excluded from public life. That public policy can maintain a purely temporal perspective. That we might have a bit of God talk as part of an election but that it is out of place while planning and implementing social policy. The pope seems to suggest that if you don't keep the perspective of eternal life in mind you will choke the life out of your social programs. It will become focused on who gets what in purely material terms. Health care becomes a fight about money between doctors and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies instead of society respecting the value of human life and the importance of supporting each other in death.

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