No why vs. Know why

Some time ago I asked a colleague if he knew how the date for Easter is set each year. As though it were a question beneath his dignity, he dismissed me with a curt reply: “Of course, it’s the Sunday after Good Friday”. Is such incuriousness so rampant?

Do youngsters today ask themselves why things are? Why is the family the basis of society? Why is marriage supposed to be between a man and a woman? Why is it wrong to steal or lie? Why is it wrong to murder?  And what about sexuality? Why is virtue desirable? Why are we born? Who teaches young people the answers?

It used to be that the prevailing culture did. The word ‘culture’ indisputably has the religious root of ‘cult’, a decidedly religious term. Though influenced by other factors Western Christianity arose from the ‘cult’ of Christianity which itself is the product of Jewish mysticism, Greek logic and Roman order, a combined force imbued with the inspiration of the Gospel. We once were a nation founded on these Judeo-Christian beliefs and we found the answers to the “why” questions in the culture that we shared as Americans.

Now, of course, we live in what is referred to an the ‘post-modern’ age where the cultural tenets that once informed and united us are rejected and even lampooned.  Exacerbating the situation are the pernicious influences of secularism and the lamentable erosion of familial integrity. Subjective relativism lures us into the false belief that because there is no shared Truth there can be no shared Purpose. So young people, unguided and uninformed, mature into a moribund world of nihilism and solipsism. For them there is “no why” because they are never given the opportunity to “know why”.

Anyone seeking a penetrating ray of hope on this demoralizing tendency should acquaint himself with the Culture Project (www. thecultureproject.org). Its mission statement is:

“The Culture Project is an initiative of young people set out to restore culture through the experience of virtue. We proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive.” 

The shocking prevalence of pornographic addiction, sexting, hookups, abortion, teen suicide and identity crisis all point to the urgent need for this mission. Building a culture of life one person at a time the project has since 2014 reach over 150,000 youngsters in 1,000 schools and parishes across 53 dioceses around the world.  Young people teach their peers why virtue is rewarding.

More than ever adolescents today yearn to know – and need to know – that ‘why’ is a quintessential human question and that its answer, if pursued, will lead them to a life where, as St. Irenaeus put it, they will be ‘fully alive’. As the Kingdom advances, we should thank Providence that the Culture Project frees our youth from the prison of deadening ignorance.

 

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1 Comment

  1. This is a well thought out and , in many ways, prophetic description of a cultural phenomenon that perplexes those of us who are “boomers” trying to raise “millennials” or those youngsters coming up as “Generation Z.”

    We need to read Percy Jackson. It is fiction, of course, but Percy discovers that he is the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. What is remarkable about the story is the Percy has no knowledge of this, no context, no culture and he creates his own person, his own identity, through his actions. There is a greater reality that he is a part of – which he does not know or understand – and he can only discover it through his adventures.

    Sociologists study the generations. As a boomer, I believe, belong, and then do. Millennials are more and more doing, then belonging, and then believing.

    This is where mission experiences – a weekend immersion, a pilgrimage, a short term mission trip – can really help young people. It stretches them beyond themselves, it gets them out of their comfort zone, by crossing some type of border they become aware of their own cultural assumptions as they inhabit, for however briefly, another culture, they encounter people different, yet same, and they do so in the name of God with the support of the Church. These cross cultural experiences awakens them to culture itself and, God willing, raises the type of fundamental questions an adult faith must address.

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