05 June 2007

The Modern Death-Cult

I've been considering, as part of my longish article and/or head-start on a small book that I've been writing, the problems of post-modernism encountering an Orthodox, sacramental worldview. One of the things that most readily strikes me (and which I spent the majority of lunch writing about), is that the prevailing philosophy in the post-modern, scientific West is that of death-worshippers.

I know it doesn't seem that way at first, but bear with me here.

Consider one of the dictums that I take as axiomatic in our culture: Live life to the fullest. Seems pretty life affirming, doesn't it? Enjoy life as much as you can...but notice that the unspoken subtext there is because you are going to die. All of the sudden, it doesn't seem so life-affirming, eh? Consider a popular retirement/investment commercial which exhorts its viewers to "Live your dream"...where the unspoken subtext is while you can. All of these delightful ideas put into our heads by our wonderfully enlightened, scientifically educated, liberated society--are, in fact, tenets of a death-cult. The mythology of our rational postmoderns is fundamentally that of Aztek priests cutting people's hearts out on top of vast stone pyramids (and, while I'd love to flesh out this comparison more fully, I'm going to have to leave it unstated in the interests of time). Basically, by saying, "This life is all there is, so do whatever you can while you can," we have returned to the same death-enslaved mythology that held our entire human race captive from the expulsion from the Garden until the Resurrection of Christ.

You see, the Eastern Church pretty clearly teaches that human beings sin because we are going to die. This prevailing mindset of maximizing any form of pleasure you can because you're going to rot in the ground eventually is, almost exactly, the textbook definition that the Church Fathers give for sin. Moreover, it is precisely the enslavement to death that Christ came to overcome. As the Resurrection Troparion proclaims, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by Death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" It is that he defeated Death by himself submitting to Death. He has risen from the Dead, and broken the power of death--and has promised this also to those who love him and are partakers of his body and blood, to those in the mystical communion with him through the Church. Therefore, we have no need to fear death, those of us in Christ, and so are set free from the burdens of sin. We forget this, of course, and so still fall to temptations...but that doesn't change the reality of the promise.

The post-modern world, then, isn't so very different from the pre-Christian pagan world. The only difference is, it has denuded the already diminished witness of the Western Church and reduced it to irrelevancy--because, sadly, the broken churches of the West have forgotten the tenets of the ancient faith...and have forgotten what it means that Christ was victorious over Death itself.

Pax vobiscum.


Karenee said...

Well, I suppose live life to the fullest can be taken that way,... however, captialization can change the meaning and thus your point. *grin* Just to disagree with you, you know.

Live Life to the fullest! In which case, you have no option but to be powered by Life Himself. And the only way you can do that is to live for eternity through Christ/the Holy Spirit.

I love taking the world's twisted meanings and straightening them back out again.

But you DO have a good point. I've never taken the time to put it into words as you have, but it does seem that the modern hedonistic path to hell has a rather eerie similarity to the ancient worship styles. They just don't admit to the gods anymore ... or not as much ... or not by name, anyway. The god of wealth, anyone? The god of drunkenness or (anti-)fertility?

Justinian said...

I have an issue with saying that we can "reclaim" a word or phrase from the world--which is, simply, that I don't believe that you can just change the connotation of things (even less possible is changing to denotation). My experience with groups that tried that...well, it seems that in the end, the worldly meanings stayed and changed them instead.

Christianity itself (in the West's 33,000 flavors) by and large has fallen victim to a sort of Neo-Gnosticism that denigrates the body and exalts the soul...and so, denigrates material life; the true teaching of the the apostles is that Christ is Risen! And he is risen in his physical body, and he sits in his physical body on the throne of heaven at the right hand of God the Father. If they had had the ability, they'd have said "God has DNA"--because it's true.

But yes, I am ASTONISHED by the parallels between post-modernity (which many, even inside Christianity, even inside Orthodoxy, are calling the post-Christian world) and the world as it was when the Christian faith became established. Many that are sick remain so not because they do not have access to the medicine, but because they despise the cure.

Karenee said...

Oh, I don't think we can reclaim it FROM them. I just think I can correct my own thinking when I use/hear it. Better to recognize the lie and face it with truth, than to simply run along without thinking about it.

So I reclaim in a personal sense, and if the person I'm speaking to doesn't get the truth, I can always explain it to them if I get the chance. KNOWING truth and paying attention enough to semantics to recognize truth vs. fiction makes for more opportunities for correct thinking.

I can listen to a song about manipulation and sinful love, and face it with the truth. Yes, people think that's love. No, it isn't really, it's just selfishness and sin. BUT, if it was true love, this is how the song would be different.

If my husband knew how convoluted my thoughts are while listening to the country music he plays constantly, he'd go crazy. *laugh*

(Now that I think of it... this mental process is probably one of the reasons I come across as wierd.)

Brigitte said...

I'm just happy for what you said here:
This prevailing mindset of maximizing any form of pleasure you can because you're going to rot in the ground eventually is, almost exactly, the textbook definition that the Church Fathers give for sin. Moreover, it is precisely the enslavement to death that Christ came to overcome. I actually never thought of sin that way, but how true it is. Thanks.