If I say the word “culture” to you, what other words come to mind? Art? Morals? Perhaps politics in its broadest sense?
Here’s a word that probably doesn’t come to mind: babies. Yet, as the recipient of the 2013 Wilberforce Award, Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, argued, it’s probably the first word that should come to mind.
In accepting the award at the Colson Center’s annual Wilberforce Conference, Dolan told the audience that his “most joyful event” in recent months was neither receiving the award nor even participating in the election of a new pope. No, that distinction went to baptizing his great-nephew, Charlie.
He noted that the most inspirational part of this event was observing the “profound change” that becoming parents had worked in the child’s mom and dad. He saw how their “attention and interest, their very lives, were now totally absorbed, not in themselves, not even in each other, but in their baby. ... No longer were they living for themselves, but for that baby.”
To which he added “that’s exactly how God intended it to be. That’s what we call a culture of life. The human project is about babies. A man and a woman are made for babies. Culture is all about babies. Our lives are at their best when centered not upon ourselves but upon babies.”
Culture, in Cardinal Dolan’s words, “is simply humanity’s best effort to protect the baby, the mother, and the father.” Its “purpose is to embrace, nurture, and protect the baby, the mom, the dad, and to see that this precious infant has the embrace of the community to grow in age and wisdom until ... that baby, as an adult can tenderly and faithfully love a spouse, have his or her own baby, and the sacred cycle begins again.”
Thus, as the historian Christopher Dawson put it, “culture was actually humanity’s attempt to ‘extend the womb.’”
By these standards, ours is not a culture — certainly not one worthy of the name. A culture, as Cardinal Dolan said, that “claims the right to redefine the very nature of the relationship that procreates the baby [and] ... puts conception, pregnancy and childbirth under the domain of the Center for Disease Control” is waging war on the womb, not extending it.
Likewise, a “culture that inhibits the mom and dad from passing on faith, their convictions, its expression, to their child; [and] considers a mom’s desire to remain home to raise her child as less than liberated and fulfilling ... might be a brave new world, but it sure is not a culture.”
There’s a lot more great stuff in Dolan’s remarks. Please, come to BreakPoint.org to watch the speech in its entirety — and then please share it with your friends and family.
Dolan’s diagnosis of our cultural predicament is spot on. Another name for the “brave new world” he describes is the “culture of death.” While the most obvious example of the culture of death in action is abortion, this culture deals out death in many ways, both physically and spiritually.
The Christian response is to lovingly make clear what most people would prefer remain obscure. Thus, we can and should expect criticism and worse.
So when you come to BreakPoint.org to watch Cardinal Dolan’s speech, I hope you’ll also watch my Wilberforce Conference address on, appropriately enough, William Wilberforce himself — a man Chuck Colson often referred to as his “hero.” You’ve probably heard about Wilberforce’s decades-long struggle to end the slave trade, but in my talk, I’ll fill you in on Wilberforce’s passion to tackle a host of social ills in his day — all in the name of Christ, and with a stunning graciousness that we would do well to emulate in our time.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: May 14, 2013