Glen Argan: A thriving world starts with path of truth

  • May 15, 2021

Despite plenty of reasons to believe otherwise, Christianity remains the greatest force in the global push for human equality, human rights and the dignity of the human person.

Secular humanists will disagree, claiming that religion is myth in a world where reason and science triumph. They will point, rightly, to the Catholic Church’s widespread clerical sexual abuse and episcopal cover-ups, its refusal to take the equality of women seriously, its insistence on the centrality of highly regulated worship in a world where spontaneity and life are more highly valued, its “imposition” of dated moral values, the secretive process of choosing Church leaders, the support of many Church leaders for the entropic leadership of Donald Trump and the impenetrable power of clericalism.

We ourselves might add to the list the Church’s failure to witness to the person of Jesus. Our Church has much to say about morality, but seemingly little to report on the life Jesus offers which goes beyond all life that we experience.

In contrast, mainline Protestantism is often accused of accommodating itself holus bolus to modernity, lacking the moral fibre to be a true sign of contradiction.

However, Catholicism has done no better in entering a discerning dialogue with the societies of today. Our refusal to employ our own techniques of discernment and dialogue have taken us out of the discussions in which we have the most to offer. We have made ourselves easy to ignore.

So, secular humanists claim that they have displaced the Christian Church from the leading role in pushing for a more just world. In one way they are correct, not because of the greater reasonableness of their positions but because we have removed ourselves from the discussion.

The conservative critic will observe that secular humanism fails to acknowledge any solid foundation for its mode of thinking. As a result, it is prone to ideological fads and political correctness. It lacks criteria for determining which grievances are real and which are self-seeking.

The result is that if you claim to be aggrieved then you must be the victim of some social injustice. This is true not only on a group basis, but also on an individual one. How many people’s reputations have been ruined because they have been accused of some infamy without evidence? Some for sure; perhaps many more than we know.

The secular humanist refuses to admit that, historically, their movement grew out of Christianity. Such a refusal belies the deeper failure to admit that humanism has a philosophical foundation, albeit a flimsy one. They would rather play the game of arguing that there is no truth, that all claims to universal truth are just cultural impositions on the vanquished by the conquerors.

Indeed, such imposition is a major factor in world history. Canada’s system of residential schools and the Indian Act are but two examples of how the conquerors attempted to wipe out the cultural and religious traditions of a defeated foe.

But there is more. Truth is not a philosophical system so much as it is a way of life. Jesus came, not to reveal the best set of dogmas, but to bring salvation. He is the way, the truth and the life. Those three are not separate entities but one reality. When we follow the way, we enter into truth and gain the fullness of life. When we teach that — through our actions more than through our words — we begin to lead our world out of its indifference and self-centredness into a place where humans thrive.

All but the most hard-hearted people desire universal human thriving. The ideal is that all would enter a place of thriving through a personal encounter with Jesus. But that is not possible. Throughout history, the actions of the supposed friends of Jesus have aided the cause of His enemies. People have been deeply wounded by the adherents of various religions and have been given a false picture of religion.

The true picture is that of the trinitarian God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — in whom the self-giving love of each divine person is so immense that it overflows the Godhead into creation. We are called to share in that love by giving freely of ourselves to God, to other people and to God’s creation. To the extent that we do that, truth will be our home and injustices will be overcome.

(Argan writes from Edmonton.) 

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