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the counterculture, neither hot nor cold

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 14, 2009

 "Faith will often be counter-cultural," says Cardinal Sean Brady as he offers some suggestions for coping with what some less subtle commentators have termed the "culture wars." The cardinal continues:

The first step is to acknowledge the many signs of God’s presence in our culture. There is a danger of retreating to a defensive or aggressive stance, judging the new culture to be utterly astray and decadent.

Is it possible to retreat into an aggressive stance? Sure; it's even possible to conduct a fighting retreat. Is it possible to be both defensive and aggressive at the same time? Certainly; ask any good football linebacker. The metaphors of combat are entirely appropriate.

Some groups adopt this position, a separatist position.

But now those metaphors begin fighting with themselves. While it's possible to be both aggressive and defensive on a field of combat, it's awfully tough to be both aggressive and defensive in isolation. Is the cardinal referring to Christians who separate themselves from society, or those who choose to fight from within?

It is an understandable reaction. It may be based on fear of all the new complexity but it might be tinged with a kind of fundamentalism and therefore be unworthy of the call of faith.

The term "fundamentalism" means different things to different people. Some sorts of "fundamentalism"-- such as firm belief in the fundamentals of the faith-- are entirely compatible with a strong Christian witness. Fear, on the other hand, is always an unworthy motivation for a disciple of Christ. Yet Cardinal Brady seems to be saying that fear is an understandable and fundamentalism is unworthy. A curious statement.

Of course we need to critique the dehumanising aspects of the culture around us but with the aim of rescuing the deeper human aspirations for God.

Absolutely. But are we to understand that in making that critique we should be neither defensive nor aggressive? The only alternative, really, is to be passive.


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