Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Challenges to the Modern Family: The Culture of the Ephemeral

Pope Francis

Amoris Laetitia (31-57)

39.  “[The family is suffering from] various symptoms of a ‘culture of the ephemeral.’  [This is seen in the] speed with which people move from one affective relationship to another.  They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at the whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly ‘blocked….’  We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment--everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop.  Then goodbye.  Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs.  Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mind-set.”

Symptoms of a culture of the ephemeral:
  • An extreme individualism, narcissism, or self-centeredness that makes the necessary self-giving for communal life, family life, difficult if not impossible.   
  • Obsession with possessions, materialism, consumerism, self-pleasuring, and self-centeredness have made the possibility of marriage and family life difficult.
  • An economic structure and work environment which makes family life difficult to begin and maintain, and which denies that the family is a good which a society cannot do without.  Exhausted from work, too tired to talk, too tired to share a family meal, and an addiction to television and the internet hinder the proper formation of marriages and family life.  Seeking family security often blinds one to the enjoyment of the present, of making the present precious.  The burdens on the family from work and societal structures can fail the family in becoming the cell of society, the school of virtues, the school of love, the domestic church.
  • A secular culture that has lost touch with noble goals and personal discipline—where all is permissible, where no truth exists--has made marriage unattractive to many young people.
  • The idea that marriage is a dynamic path to personal development and happiness has been surpassed by a vision of marriage as a burden that can be fled from at the first sign of inconvenience or boredom.
  • The current spread of pornography and the commercialization and objectification of the body has led to a distorted image of personhood, sexuality, and married life.  The spiritual dimension to sex has been lost in many cases.
  • Attempts to separate biological sex from the socio-cultural role of sex (gender)—i.e., same-sex unions--is destructive to authentic femininity, masculinity, and destructive to the proper formation of the self-identity of children, teenagers, and young adults.

As the family goes, so does society.  “No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole.  The contrary is true; it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries….  But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?”