Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Church Offers Balance to U.S. Culture

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Church Offers Balance to U.S. Culture

Article excerpt

It's no news that our culture is off balance on the "individual" versus "communal" spectrum. Signs are everywhere, and it is easier to record the problem than to find remedies for it.

We have lived with the "me generation," watched fathers walk out on mothers, children turn against parents. And we have seen permanent vows (be they marriage or religious) rendered impermanent with shocking frequency.

Last week, twentysomething people turned on seventysomething people at the national headquarters of the American Association of Retired Persons, protesting that the elderly need to shoulder more of the budget burden.

There has been much social-justice slippage in the past generation, but one undisputed gain has been among the nation's elderly. Far fewer old people are living in poverty than in the 1960s. While the wealthiest U.S. elderly may be able to carry a greater financial burden, however, as a group they are not the social culprits and ought not be scapegoated.

Traditional societies gave the elderly far more respect and protection than we render them today. In societies in which change is the norm, the wisdom of the old often seems less consequential. But that, too, may represent shortsighted judgment.

The broader point here is that in a more balanced social setting we would find and appreciate complementary interests and ways we depend upon each other to strengthen the whole.

"We believe in the dignity, indeed the sacredness of the individual," Robert Bellah wrote in Habits of the Heart. …

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