It would seem evident to anyone with “eyes to see” that we live in a culture that is spiritually dying, even as there are signs of renewal and life. If one seeks to live a spiritual life, how can one not sympathize with the prophet Isaiah’s lament: “Woe is me, for I am lost; I am a man of unclean lips, living in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6). Or what human being, with any kind of spiritual sensitivity, does not share the exasperation of the prophet Jeremiah: “The false prophets cry `Peace, peace,’ when in truth there is no peace.” Spiritual decadence or corruption is readily found both within one’s own heart and in the culture in which we all share.
In the case of our American culture (or lack of culture), it is often the institutions which could and should be carriers of truth to help guide and form human beings that have become distorters of truth, corrupters of human beings, agents of spiritual lassitude, if not death. It is not only the mass media that are to blame for the cultivation of so many unthinking, unawake souls, although surely television, movies, popular music, and so on, do indeed contribute to the spiritual diseases within our hearts and culture. But the agents of education--from elementary schools, high schools, colleges, graduate and professional schools--surely do their part in imparting false beliefs and distortions of reality, rather than in helping to awaken human hearts to the beauty, truth, and goodness of reality. As a professional educator for many years of my life, I can say without doubt that all too often education is far more about helping young persons get jobs and fit into this culture of corruption, rather than providing the tools they need to sift through lies, distortions, false opinions, habits of non-thinking. “Education” in America is far closer to propaganda for the masses than most of us seem able to see or to admit. How often, and to what extent, are young people taught to examine themselves for the ignorance in them, for the lies in their own souls, for their bad habits, for their lack of wisdom and insight, and to root out illusions and habits of sheer mental laziness? All-too-often, young people are coddled and warped by the belief that “you are good just the way you are,” and “you are free to cultivate your own values,” and “your reality is whatever you choose to make of it.” Education in America has been impoverishing spirits and minds far too often, rather than teaching human beings how little they know, how poorly informed they are, how ignorant they really are, and how much work each must do so that his or her life is truly “worthy of a human being.” What young people need is assistance in developing habits of critical thinking, overcoming their own personal weaknesses, seeking truth rather than mere opinion, questioning what they are taught rather than swallowing opinions as truth. Education in America has been cultivating spiritually and mentally challenged human beings for many years, and the results should be obvious to anyone who tries to examine the results without bias. We are the products of such poor and failing education. And we are lacking. “Know thyself.”
But mass media and education are not the only carriers of poor formation, distorters of human lives. American political life, which could and should be a calling for more noble men and women, has clearly become the haunt of jackals and wild beasts more interested in seeking their own advantage, in deceiving the masses with false hopes and promises, with preferring power to the public good. As for truth, expect little from political leaders--especially on the national scale--and you will not be so disappointed.
Sad to say, religious institutions of all sorts share in the process of misguiding and impoverishing human spirits. Although there are exceptions in the world of media, education, politics, and “religion,” it has been common to see that “religions” cultivate mindless belief instead of living faith, institutional life rather than independence of thought and judgment, conformity to rules and practices rather than freedom of heart and growth of intellect. So many people have “found religion,” and so few seem to be in search of God. And that is pathetic, to say the least.
“Because you say, `I see,’ your blindness remains.”