Dumbing Down

Where are the prophets?

Where are those voices in the wilderness to challenge the pressures of complacency? Who will proclaim the unpopular? Who dares state that our much touted comfort and security mask an ennui that now has triumphed? When a vibrant community nourished by strong values “dumbs down” Into a culture atomized by relativity mediocrity becomes the norm. Such is our culture becoming. Who has the courage to be counter-cultural?

Pope John Paul II has. A luminous example is found in his teaching about what he names “the Theology of the Body.” Another prophetic example is TOBET (www.tobet.org) which was founded over ten years ago by a group of laity in Texas who, inspired by the pope’s message, embraced it as an apostolate.

TOBET is The Theology of the Body Evangelization Team. Its mission, as noble as it is necessary, is to instruct others about the Theology of the Body for the renewal and sanctification of the family, the Church, and the rest of society. TOBET is growing. With programs relevant to all ages of men, women and children, its outreach continues to expand and now extends to several dioceses and universities around the country. Even non-Catholic universities avail themselves of this organization’s  hope-filled message about the ‘giftedness’ of the body.

Underpinning Western civilization is the recognition that we are made in the image of God and that the  physical, indeed all creation, is good. Our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” The degree to which we accept these tenets is the degree to which at any age in our lives we treat, or mistreat, the gift of our bodies. The Theology of the Body addresses this ‘giftedness’ at all ages, from the very young to the very old. Where it is particularly out of sync with the prevailing  culture is in its message about sexuality.

For many today sexuality is not regarded as a gift to be shared but an urge to be satisfied or a commodity to be traded. The sexual act itself has become a recreational pastime that separates rather than a committed encounter that unifies. We have allowed the humanizing complementarity of the male and female to be reduced to insipid insignificance. We have lost respect for our bodies. Gnosticism has resurfaced and a general malaise has ensued. With his Theology of the Body our newest saint has offered us an antidote and TOBET is delivering the prescription to a world eager to receive it.

When things “dumb down” the Church builds up and the Kingdom advances.

On behalf of the Trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation I wish all of you a heartfelt Thanksgiving.

Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.

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