Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A truly educational response

Originally posted at Cahiers Péguy, here.

Missing premise or not, Prof. Lee's response is too narrow, too abstract, and too prone to misinterpretation to be truly educational- I know a thing or two about being too abstract- and is not likely to persuade anyone who does not already agree with him... (from Deacon Scott Dodge's post, Inherent complexity defies reduction)
While it might be argued that Prof Lee's letter to the editor, which appeared in a local newspaper, The Herald Star, only aimed to refute the claim that he and other Catholics are "single-issue" voters, I think that Deacon Scott's point is valid, because at this critical juncture in our history, all that we say or do publicly on the subject of abortion must also attempt to persuade others to the truth.

Our call, as Catholics, is not simply to communicate the truth. We must be concerned with the question of method: How we communicate the truth is much more important than most pro-life activists and apologists realize. Moreover, it is not enough to craft arguments that please and impress those who agree with us. Christ gives us a clear directive when he says, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation..." (Mark 16:15).

Let's pay attention! What we are called to communicate is good news! Before we open our mouths, pick up a pen, or sit down to our keyboards, it had better be very clear to us that our first job is to proclaim something new, something tremendously good. If we're not up to this task, we would do better to remain silent.

Our method, then, is to find the good news, wherever it may be located (buried or overlooked), and lift it up. This is the heart of fraternal correction and Christian witness.

I myself am guilty of expressing discouragement and waxing polemical when it comes to political questions. This conversation is a good reminder to me that the very first premise, the one that informs all the others, is that I have been preferred, chosen by God to bear his good news -- and not as a result of any good deed I've done or special talent I possess -- God's preference for me is purely gratuitous. From this recognition flows the awareness of another fact: other persons have also been preferred, chosen by God, as well. This dynamic was beautifully described in a witness, given during a CL Summer vacation, a little over a year ago; it is also summed up by Christ's assertion that all the hairs of our heads are counted; and it was articulated in the film, Greater: Defeating AIDS, by Emmanuel Exitu, when Vicky recounts that Rose asked her, "Vicky don't you know that the value in you is greater than the value of this disease?"

Before we speak or write a single word about abortion, or any other evil we encounter, let's remember the infinite and irreducible value of each person. Those who desire the "freedom" to choose abortion are forgetting their own irreducible value. Before they can begin to appreciate the dignity and value of the lives of the unborn, they will need to discover a much deeper affection for themselves and a much broader understanding about where their own value comes from. They will never discover these things if we shun them, insult them, or even deliver fine logical arguments in their general direction.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."