Sunday, October 30, 2005

Catholic Analysis on "Paradigm Shifts"

Oswald Sobrino of Catholic Analysis reflects on Paradigm Shifts, the changing of the shades of perspectives that shape our thoughts, attitudes and actions. In particular, he offers a glimpse of the world viewed through the Catholic "Paradigm":
Recently, I became aware of an incident at a public state university where female college students on campus were handing out condoms to anyone walking on campus as part of "Sex Awareness Week"--as if anyone in modern America needed to become, somehow, more "aware" of sex! What paradigm were these young women operating from in their actions? We can call it the paradigm of recreational sex. Under this very common paradigm, sexual acts are seen as having no effect on character. Instead, sexual acts are seen as mere biological functions that just need certain precautionary measures to ensure "safety."

Of course, in great contrast, the Catholic paradigm sees sexual acts as highly definitive, highly momentous, and dramatically defining moments for a person's character, integrity, and future. The Catholic paradigm would be to have a "Character Awareness Week" in which people were challenged to see how all acts, and especially sexual acts, can have a dramatic effect on character. The girls should have been handing out the Gospel, instead of condoms. The Gospel parables and sayings would have challenged and provoked true awareness and thinking, instead of deceiving the public that recreational sex was "character-safe."

We can also see the significance of these two just described, conflicting paradigms in a wider context. For example, some people, including Catholic Americans, just can't seem to spot the reality of scandal anymore. Let's be clear and define scandal as the presentation of serious sin as if it were not serious or significant and thus making it appear acceptable and innocuous to others. We see it all the time in our culture: the family invites the sexually cohabitating partner of one of their children over for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner thus legitimizing what is not legitimate. Some even expect spouses to socialize with the former sexual partners of their current spouse, as if they were socializing with mere friends from the past. Again, as in the case of the incident at the state university, the paradigm we see is one in which sexual activity has no moral significance. The Catholic paradigm is extremely different: what is momentous must not be trivialized. I suggest that human nature, whether Catholic nor not, whether Christian or not, offers the same paradigm for the importance of sexual activity as the Catholic paradigm does.
To experience life through the "Catholic Paradigm" is to put on the "mind of Christ." While a submission of our mind, heart and will to the Faith is necessary, it is not sufficient. Prayer, and a constant turning to Christ through our prayer and our living, allows us to put on the mind of Christ and put aside our old selves. Conversion, for many of us, is an ongoing experience that involves growth and regression, progress and stumbling, and the entire messiness of growing in Holiness and Formation. We need worship, prayer, sacraments, scripture and service--in as consistent measures as we can--if we are to nurture the relationship that changes our paradigm to Christ's.

Thank God that we have the freedom every day to work at it. When we use our Freedom to live in Love and Truth, we will find ourselves experiencing life through the mind of Christ. Let's not waste a day then; run the race before us, for our prize is ever before us, awaiting our grasp!