Healing the Rift Between Faith and Culture (Part 2)

Interview With Jaime Antúnez, Editor of Humanitas

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ROME, OCT. 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).- An editor of a Catholic journal on culture and anthropology says it is possible to recover the spiritual unity of the culture without giving up scientific progress.

Jaime Antúnez Aldunate, editor of the Chile-based review Humanitas, spoke with ZENIT about promoting dialogue between faith and culture. The occasion was the 10th anniversary of Humanitas.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.

Q: From the perspective of culture and considering a context such as that of the present — unified, organized and controlled by knowledge and scientific techniques — what challenge do you see for religion, and particularly for the great universal religions?

Antúnez: It was described and analyzed by [Christopher] Dawson himself, in whose judgment — and he already said this in the ’40s — they all survive and continue to influence human life, but all of them have lost their organic relationship with society, which was expressed in the traditional synthesis of religion and culture, both in the East as well as the West.

Therefore, the British philosopher concludes, what we have before our eyes is the most complete, intense and widespread secularization that the world has ever known and, in this connection, what is prevailing as culture in no way is culture in the traditional sense; that is, it is not an order that includes all the aspects of human life in a living spiritual community.

Q: Is this judgment also valid for the Islamic world?

Antúnez: It is, because by the force of events it suffers the same effects. Meanwhile, in all this, one must take very much into account that the vision of contemporary Islam that we are given by the media is that of an ideology much more than that of a religion. An ideology in which the factors of violence that nestle in it are also much more Western than indigenous.

Q: Given the context of technocratic unification that predominates at present, is it possible to recover the spiritual unity of the culture without giving up scientific progress?

Antúnez: It should be, as that scientific-technical progress which we see prevail in the world today, established its foundations and had its beginning and first impulse from a profoundly spiritual and religious culture, such as that of the Christian West.

But what would have to be done is to recover that unity, not to replace it. And I say this, because precisely what is characteristic of the present technocratic era is the absence of such unification. Contrary to it, today we live in a world in which fragmentation predominates, without a counterbalance.

We live, in fact, in an acentric society, as Luhmann has called it, indicating with this the lack of a representation of all in the all, as existed in societies in which religion assumed such representation naturally. Thus, for example, and very particularly, [there is] in the Christian society and culture, whose keystone is Christ, the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, the perfect man who has given back to Adam’s posterity the divine likeness, and which fully manifests man to himself showing him the sublimity of his vocation, as the Council teaches and the encyclical «Redemptor Hominis» recalls.

In view of all the preceding — with the nuances that correspond to each age — it doesn’t seem bold to affirm that, just as a society that loses its religion becomes, sooner or later, a society that loses its culture, it also seems true to affirm that it is the religious impulse par excellence which gives a society and culture its unifying cohesive force.

Q: What should be done to effect this recovery?

Antúnez: The «technical solutions,» so much a part of our contemporary mentality, would have to be discarded. More than that, it is a question of awareness, of becoming aware in order to proceed in awareness.

Awareness, in the first place, of the depth and gravity of that heart-rending cry of Paul VI when he warned how the great tragedy of our time is the rupture or divorce between faith and culture.

Awareness of what John Paul II said that day in May 1982 when he signed the creation of the Pontifical Council for Culture: A faith that does not become culture is a faith that is not accepted in fullness, not thought out in its totality, not lived with fidelity.

Awareness, then, of the mandate given 15 years ago to Catholic universities by the apostolic constitution «Ex Corde Ecclesiae» and the immense hope placed in it.

Awareness, finally, of what Benedict XVI said in Subiaco, at the conclusion of the last conference he delivered as a cardinal of the holy Church, evoking the figure of St. Benedict:

«We need men who have their gaze directed to God, to understand true humanity. We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God, and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others. Only through men who have been touched by God, can God come near to men.»

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