15 Lies at the Basis of Our Culture | Fr. James V. Schall, SJ | CWR
Each of these lies, on examination, denies or violates a principle of reason or a fact of science
A culture is a complex composition of the manners, rites, language, laws, ideas, and customs of a people. These sources describe what a given people hold to be true, or at least valid. How they act to one another, how they build things, how and what they punish and reward, how they think of birth and death—all these make up the outlines of a given culture.
Some thinkers want to say that truth and falsity are relative to a culture (multi-culturalism). Whatever the culture does or holds becomes its own absolute in that domain. Any outside revelation or philosophy must accommodate itself to the culture, not vice versa. No such thing as a natural law or universal philosophy, whereby one might judge the content of a culture, is acknowledged.
Catholicism has long held that its essential revelation is directed to all “cultures.” Whatever is good can be accepted. If anything is found that is alien to revelation, it would need to be modified in light of universal truths. The supposed “neutrality” or autonomy of any culture, however, makes it almost impossible to judge real differences between good and evil, truth and falsity. If such differences do not objectively exist as the same for all cultures, it does not make much difference what we hold or what culture we belong to. In effect, they are all—Western, Muslim, Chinese, Hindu, Byzantine, Japanese, African, Latino, modern, ancient—meaningless.
For those who hold universal principles of reason and revelation, current Western culture, in which the American polity participates, is, in many fundamental things, based on lies. The devil, interestingly enough, is said to be the “father of lies.” This attribution indicates that the devil bases his own life on the lie of his own self-worth. It also means that he can convince human beings—who can imitate him—that the lies they live by are “true.” They are not to be challenged or repented. This “kingdom of lies” is not divided within itself. One lie follows from another. All converge to deny what man and creation are about.
What are these “lies” on which our present culture is based? Each one of them, on examination, denies or violates a principle of reason or a fact of science. But they are all strenuously adhered to as “truth” because they allow us to do what we want. They enable us to avoid responsibilities for our chosen actions. We insist that they are our “rights,” our “privileges,” or our “liberties.”