Friday, November 28, 2008

Building on Hope

Earlier this week in preparation for the holidays, Slate.Com offered an amusing little piece on what to say during those inevitable political arguments which come up during family gatherings. I'm always reminded of James Joyce's story "The Dead" and how little the disputes connect with what is really important, something that becomes clear by the climax of the story. Anyway, the article, "Ammunition for Settling--or Starting--Holiday Political Spats" offered a tongue-in-cheek debunking of cherished ideologies by showing how both sides are simultaneously right and wrong. Whether intentional or not, it was quite the post-election, mid-economic crisis piece to display the absurdity of the usual polarities.

The issue of Traces (Vol. 10 No. 9 2008) which just arrived is the perfect antidote to our necessary disillusionment with ideologies and offers a direction for our irrepressible desire for justice and the common good.

Economist Giorgio Vittadini in "Crisis Underscores the Reduction of the Human" writes about the need to build an economy which is for the whole person and not just profits.
The point is to admit that this is not just an economic crisis. It is an anthropological crisis that calls into question a human idea of reduced rationality, tending as it does to the maximization of short-term profits, but inattentive to the principles essential to create a real and lasting affluence. Hence, it is doomed to be cut off from reality and has built a virtual world that will fatally collapse. To look ahead, we need a rationality that reveals how even now Homo oeconomicus has other much greater motives than just quarterly profits unrelated to society. We need a healthy realism that will anchor finance firmly to the real economy, of which it is and must be only an instrument. From this point of view, after having demonized many aspects of the economic system, it is perhaps necessary to reappraise some, such as its close ties to the territory and its concern for the real economy, which is one of its riches that is not yet extinct.
Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete reflects on how the problem of hope makes more clear our need for God and introduces the next book by Fr. Luigi Giussani which we will be working on for School of Community titled Is It Possible to Live This Way?: Hope.
The “knowledge” sustaining modern hope has come from one or another ideology of progress: a political ideology, a scientific one (including so-called scientifically conceived politics that recognize the true structure of history and society), a philosophical system, etc. Yet, again and again, these ideologies show their inability to fulfill our hopes, and hope is increasingly being replaced by a stoic resignation approaching total hopelessness. This was precisely the situation in the culture encountered by the first Christians when they left Palestine and arrived in the great cities of the Roman Empire. Today, we must respond to it as they did. For this to happen, Pope Benedict says, it is necessary to undertake a “self-critique of modern Christianity” by returning to its “roots.”
Then the editorial of the issue asks the direct question: "Got Hope?"
At such an important time in our history, we cannot shy away from proclaiming the only true hope: the encounter with Jesus Christ. And this proclamation does not entail a flight from the world of politics, economics, culture, or justice–in other words, this proclamation does not entail a flight from the world. On the contrary, the hope afforded by the encounter with Christ is that which has most radically transformed life on this earth. As Pope Benedict recently reminded great figures from the world of culture in France, Christian monasticism gave rise to our civilization, without any pretense of a cultural project. We know that hospitals, orphanages, the concept of human rights, science, and polyphonic music all have their roots in that life built on the hope given by the encounter with Jesus Christ.
It would be easy at the point of disillusionment to retreat from active engagement into pietism. Instead, we are called to a great fraternal work born from a reasonable hope based on the person of Christ Incarnate living among us.

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