Unexamined Social Values

by Joe Esposito on July 1st, 2013

Richard Rohr sends out a daily readings I often find quite helpful.  

You can subscribe to these readings by visiting this link: https://cac.org/sign-up

Here is an excerpt from a recent one that I found particularly meaningful:

Hidden Social Agreements Remain Uncritiqued

In Paul it is clear that the second level of sin, “the flesh,” is individual sin, personal naughtiness, personal mistakes; and there is no denying that plenty of this evil exists in the world. When we point our finger at the second level of the spiral of violence, blaming individuals, punishing this person or that person, making people feel guilty because they are “bad,” we are mostly wasting our time unless we also critique the other two. History will never change by such a “one shot at a time” approach. The underlying “agreements” are still in place. There is no point in telling a teenage girl she should not be vain, or a young boy he should not be greedy, when we all admire and agree upon these very things as a culture, and when prelates and popes can be vain and greedy—but all for the welfare of the church.

Up to now there has been little attention paid to the social systems that we uncritically accept—and the evil things they do. One of the great favors John Paul II did was to introduce into Catholic theology the terms “structural evil,” “institutionalized sin,” and “corporate evil.” In that he was very prophetic, because that is the primary way that the Biblical prophets spoke. Over 90 percent of their condemnations were of “Israel” itself, of wars, alliances, corrupt business practices, and a greedy priesthood in the temple. They first named systemic evil, and then hoped the individual person could “repent,” and then “devil” would have little chance of taking over because hidden evil had been exposed. Evil must be nipped in the bud, or it is always too late.

Adapted from Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
(CD, MP3)


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