instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, June 12, 2009

What's your dealbreaker?

A letter in today's Washington Post shows what we're up against. Note your reflexive reactions as you read it:
Please tell me it's not true that President Obama ordered foie gras in Paris. I voted for him because he seemed like a smart, compassionate, down-to-earth man with impressive leadership and motivational skills.

Eating a product that is produced by force-feeding birds until their livers expand to as much as 10 times their normal size is anything but kind and classy, and it sets a poor example for the American people, who are becoming increasingly concerned about animal welfare. I'm counting on the president to make America a kinder, more enlightened place, not a crueler one. This starts by supporting humane practices.

My own reflexive reaction was along the lines of, "Please tell me it's not true that someone wrote a letter to the Post complaining about President Obama ordering foie gras in Paris."

Now imagine an analogous letter ruing Obama's reversal of the Mexico City Policy (the Post may well have printed one). How many Post readers, how many Americans, would be as reflexively dismissive toward that as I was toward the above?

I make two observations:

First, in our representative democracy, whatever enough people say is important becomes important (and how much is "enough" depends on which people are talking). The Catholic laity cannot stop talking about what is important to God, for our own sake and for the sake of the country.

Second, almost nothing that we broadcast -- on line, on TV, in print -- is going to change anyone's mind. Generally speaking, people aren't interested in changing their minds. The number of people who are both willing and able to join in a mutual search for truth, at a particular time and on a particular matter, is bound to be pretty small.

In other words: A lot of people think your opinion is silly, and they don't care why you hold that opinion.

The conclusion, I suppose, is that the Catholic laity have to talk about what is important to God directly to, and out of love for, their neighbors. And this implies that the Catholic laity have to talk to God, both to find out what's important to Him and to fill up on love for their neighbors.