Avoiding the Ghettos

Long before I wrote a piece for the Catholic Digest last June (“Keeping my kids Catholic”) I’ve thought a lot about the question of how I as a parent can provide my children with an authentic experience of the Catholic Christian faith that will lay a good foundation for their own spiritual lives.   It’s become clear to me that this process is WAY different than teaching and witnessing to other people’s children about the Faith in the classroom. (This I have learned, alas, mostly through painful experience.)  Yet what are the essentials?

First there are the basics.  Compassion. Forgiveness. Love. Faith. Nurturing a healthy sense of the sacred.  Recognizing and taking pride in one’s gifts while always remembering that they come with a social mortgage (To whom much is given, much is expected. ) Becoming a person of integrity.  Cultivating a happy and grateful heart. Building connections with the wider faith community through the celebration of the sacraments and more informal opportunities for interaction.

No controversy so far. Yet there’s something else – which I want to try and articulate here over the next few weeks. I want my children to grow up able to recognize and to stay away from the two spirit -destroying ghettos – one secular and one religious.

First, I need to clarify what I mean by the word “ghetto”.  If you think of how the term is used historically, it tends to carry with it a number of negative connotations.  Ghettos tend to be cramped and crowded, cut off from the mainstream of society.   There’s a mindset that often develops –  It’s “us” against “them”.  There is no in between and no room for compromise.   Individual freedom of thought, expression and personality are surrendered for a greater sense of security in a hostile world.  Most damaging of all,  in a desparate effort to make sense of a highly complex and ever evolving world whose changes seem rarely to benefit and often to harm the ghetto resident,  the ghetto culture  demands that one “shrinks” his/her horizon of possibilities in order to stay safely behind the wall.

We tend to think of ghettos in their tangible form as the result of economic deprivation, racism, cultural factors or a combination of all three.  Yet the two “ghettos of the mind and heart” I’m concerned about are not bounded by geography or economic status or race or gender.  They influence all of us and form deep chasms on either side of the road towards the further evolution of our humanity.

Next time – the qualities of the “secular ghetto”.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

(If you are looking for a presenter , retreat leader or facilitator for a day of prayer or reflection,  please contact me at: jimphilipps@juno.com.   I am a theologian with much experience in all of the above – particularly with an emphasis on Scripture study.)

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