I am attaching two recent articles which offer food for thought in this lenten season.
The Lexington column in the Economist (Feb 4, 2012), "The Classes Drift Apart" is about the loss of moral values - "family, pride in work, religious worship, community" - that block the road to happiness and explains what ails America (and equally many other parts of the world) today. The book reviewed introduces a significant segment of society that is in "throes of disintegration." ... "Too many of its men will not work, too many of its women raise their children out of wedlock, religious worship is in decline, and the togetherness of communities has vanished."
In the Wall Street Journal article (Feb 18, 2012), "Religion for Everyone," the author Alaine Botton, an atheist, makes a rare acknowledgement that "The decline of religion in the West has brought a decline in community spirit." He then argues that it is possible to "reclaim our sense of community," "without having to build upon a religious foundation." He marvels at the power of communal worship citing how the Mass brings a community together. He then ventures into fantasyland when he suggests an "Agape restaurant" where the "secular world" can recreate "liturgy" without God, failing to recognize that with God out of the picture, no sense of brotherhood as children of the Creator, and worship outmoded, such rituals are meaningless nonsense and create no sense of community. He concludes saying, there is "value to be had in standing in a big hall singing a hymn or in ceremoniously washing a stranger's feet or in sitting at a table with neighbors and partaking of lamb stew and conversation. These rituals ... are what help to hold our fractious and fragile societies together." Never mind that the prescriptions for the "secular world" border on the ridiculous.
I found the two articles, that appeared a couple of weeks apart, revealing what ails the world today. The loss of faith in God and decline in worship results in weakening of the social fabric and manifests in broken communities. Children are born out of wedlock without benefit of a loving family. There is no pride in work and it is a spiral down. Good luck trying to arrest that causal chain through rituals without God!
Here in is also a warning to those whose faith is not centered on worship but cerebral inquiry that seeks to size up God in terms of human intellect. As our Syriac Fathers admonish, without acknowledgement that God is beyond human comprehension - a Mystery - and without the humility that scripture merely offers glimpses through which we experience divinity, true worship is impossible. Beware of "study" which leads one down that path. And in these days of lent, it is a useful reminder that the worship of our Creator is central to our existence.
Thomas Joseph, Ph.D.
Tech. Editor, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies [ http://bethmardutho.cua.edu/Hugoye/
Web Master, Syriac Orthodox Resources [ http://sor.cua.edu/