Monday, September 24, 2007

Balancing Truths

A few years ago, when I started reading Thomas Dubay's Authenticity (and no, I'm still not done with it yet!), I came across this somewhat shocking, but in the end quite revealing passage:
Most people tend to allow the truth they possess so to dominate their thinking that they see few other truths that place their one truth in perspective and balance it out. There is probably no heresy in the history of the Church that did not have its truth. The problem invariably is that the one truth so took over the heretic's mind that he was committed to cast out any number of other doctrines that clashed with his interpretation of it. (pg. 34)
I think it was shocking because it made me particularly aware of how easily we can fall into error, particularly when we become arrogant and believe that we understand everything.

I came across a related reference in Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth in our last discussion and thought I'd try to piece together a few of these thoughts. Here's the quote:

At this crucial moment, where distinctive and decisive knowledge of Jesus separates his followers from public opinion and begins to constitute them as his new family, the tempter appears - threatening to turn everything into its opposite. The Lord immediately declares that the concept of the Messiah has to be understood in terms of the entirety of the message of the Prophets - it means not worldly power, but the Cross, and the radically different community that comes into being through the Cross.
Now, I realize that it's almost a side point in the particular discussion, but it's clearly an important principle that we understand things in a context. If we isolate an idea, it is easy for this idea to become twisted.

This is certainly essential in understanding our Catholic faith and its lack is clearly obvious in the media fiascos that have lately attempted to attack the Church and its members in various ways.

Consider the attacks in the last month or so on Mother Teresa because of what was revealed in her personal letters. The latest is a doctor in Italy trying to claim that Pope John Paul II was euthanized. It makes me feel like screaming, like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden: "THEY DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING!" (end of tirade)

Anyway, the other night in our teen catechism group we discussed this idea of understanding truths within a context and how one truth will balance and even define the limits of another. The only example I could think of at the time was a parenting example - the kids were readily able to understand this one.

If you have a toddler, part of your job as a parent is to try to keep them from hurting themselves and others. Any parent (and many non-parents) understand that this is a tough job! But it's not our only job as parents. As one of the girls completed the thought for me - "You're not supposed to just lock them in a closet to keep them safe."

The point is that there are other truths too - some of them even more important than keeping them safe... like helping them want to be good and giving them enough freedom to grow, develop responsibility and learn to understand consequences. This is something that has always bothered me in society's general reaction to school shootings. Yes, safety the next time around is a major concern, but why doesn't anyone talk about how we prevent our kids from becoming the monsters who go into a school and murder people?

I watched an interesting movie the other week that I really liked - Premonition (starring Sandra Bullock). This was not an easy movie to watch, but I'm really glad I did. It has a quirky premise which includes very tragic circumstances, but it ends up exploring reality in a really wonderful, thoughtful, and even uplifting way. Sandra Bullock is a mother of two who discovers that her husband has been killed in a car accident the previous day. But she wakes up the next morning and finds that he's still alive. After some really terrible days of switching back and forth between premonition and reality, she begins to understand the pattern and realize that she has some ability to affect the outcome. I'm trying not to spoil the entire plot here, but part of what the movie illustrates is that there's something even more important than her husband's life in play. Something more intangible and perhaps even spiritual. (By the way, this movie is PG-13, but probably best for older teens and adults).

This question of "safety" also reminds me of the quote from John Senior's Restoration of Christian Culture that I chose for my essay on apologetics for teens in Maureen Wittmann's The Catholic Homeschool Companion (wow, that certainly was a mouthful):

There's little point in keeping children out of Hell if you don't afford them the means of getting into Heaven. So give them solid catechetics, strong preaching, good example, healthful exercise, supervision in a general and determinant way but not in each particular and, by all means, permitting them the freedom of the good, dangerous books as well as the dangerous games such as football or mountain climbing. Given the state of man, some will break their necks and sin; but in good Catholic families with common sense, the falls should be few and the bodies and souls recoverable.
UPDATE: My sister has a related post "Also on risk, though from another angle"

1 comment:

Suzanne Temple said...

A worthy reflection, Alicia. It shows clearly how true humility is so essential to reach understanding. Thanks for something to chew on while I make dinner.