Every society’s culture is a reflection of its core beliefs and values. At the heart of this therefore is man’s attitude to God. The most powerful factor in influencing this is worship and this principle was articulated by the Church Fathers with the phrase lex orandi, lex credendi – rule of prayer, rule of faith. If we wish to achieve cultural reform, therefore, we should look first at our liturgy and strive for liturgical reform.
What this phrase of the Father is saying is that man is made to worship God and how he does it affects everything else he believes. If he does not worship God in the liturgy of the Church, then he will worship in another, lesser way; or else very likely he will worship something else. Even those who think of themselves of having no religion will submit to principles and ideals that at the deepest level are just assumed, accepted on faith so to speak, and through this the instinct for worship manifests itself somehow with customs and practices developing in accordance with them. Pope Benedict XVI discusses this in his book, so often referred to in this blog, the Spirit of the Liturgy. To the degree that this instinct for worship is repressed, and its repression is much less common than its misdirection, then man is trying to negate something fundamental to him and the result is despair and a culture of ugliness.
Diversity is one of those principles of the modern era that that is assumed as good, almost without question by those who live by it. And true to this instinct of worship, those who hold to this principle talk of ‘celebrating’ it. As I understand it, what is’celebrated’ are the differences in cultures across the globe. The evils which it opposes, it is said, are intolerance and the worst of all, that of being ‘judgmental’.
On the face of it, this doesn’t sound so bad. Isn’t it good to be tolerant of others’ practices and beliefs? And weren’t we told not to judge people, lest we be judged ourselves?
In practice, the religion of diversity is not applied equally and usually has an anti Christian, and especially anti Catholic bias, as it appears in the West (which is the only place where it has any hold). The criticism of Catholicism is that it contains the two great evils and is judgmental and intolerant. Quite apart from being untrue (Catholicism is found in love of all as unique persons) it does strike me as odd that people should say it, even if they think it. How can those who see judging as the great evil promptly turn around and make a judgment themselves, judging me as a Catholic?
I do not believe that I can judge human worth, that is for God alone, but I am judging conduct every moment that I observe it. At the most straightforward level, I have to do this in order to judge whether or not I and my family are safe whenever we meet a stranger, for example. I have to judge whether or not someone is honest when I do any business with them. This is done almost instinctively in most cases, but it is done. Similarly everyone who meets me is making similar judgments and about me, and quite rightly. In this regard the question is not whether or not we ought to judge such things because we should; but rather, is our judgment good or bad. Furthermore, society needs to make judgments about its members, without it there would be no system of justice and all order would break down. Again, what we seek is not not to avoid making judgment, but good judgment from our judges.
Ultimately, the flaw in the motto of diversity is that it focuses on differences, which separates us from each other and will lead to conflict (even though the intention is the opposite). We see this in Britain where there are immigrant communities which so strongly preserve the culture of their original country, Pakistan for example, that there are ghettos in which the assimilation into British culture has barely taken place.
The antidote to this is love, which recognizes the uniqueness of every person, and without compromising personal freedom binds us together in harmony. In the context of cultures, what is important is not what separates us but what binds us together. These are the elements that are common to all of us. Or put another way, what is ‘universal’. Universality is not the same as uniformity. The general is always expressed through the particular but when it is an expression of what is universal in us, we can always recognize it and are attracted to it, even when it is not our own culture.
The word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’. Just as the Church teaches are appropriate for every person, this is why we evangelize. This will not suppress individuality, but encourage it to flourish properly in harmony with all others. Catholic culture is the only culture that is truly universal. It cuts out no one and allows personal uniqueness to come through. This will not mean that everything is the same, but it will be diverse expressions of our common humanity. I have discussed this more in an article ‘Universality, Noble Accessibility and Pop Culture that Will Save the World’
The way to avoid ghettos of the sort we see in Britain (in which some feel so un-British that that they sought to bomb British culture out of existence) is to offer a Catholic culture. Without a culture of the Faith to offer to people, the alternative to diversity is uniformity, which is even less attractive. When these immigrants looked at British culture, they were given the choice and they chose not to assimilate because they didn’t like what they saw. It is a culture dominated by a secular world view. Ugly and tending towards uniformity in that it negates what is personal and human. They decided that what they had was superior and so they hung on to it.
Britain used to be a Catholic culture; even after it was no longer a Catholic country, it was still for a long time a culture that was strongly derived from it. It is no longer the case. The same could be said about the West in general. What we now call traditional Western culture is at root a Catholic culture. It’s power was in its universality for at its heart it looked to Catholic culture for its inspiration. It did not stamp out particular expressions, but celebrated, to use the modern phrase, what is common in each of us so that we are bound together in love.
So what’s the answer? Lex orandi, lex credendi…I’m off to pray the Divine Office!
Photos: England new, above; and old, below – Hexham, Northumberland and Stroud, Gloucestershire