Friday, June 05, 2009

I, Object? I object!

Thanks to MM's hard work with our Seton homeschooling curriculum (plus some other resources), Eva knows her numbers well enough to count up to...well, a lot. And she knows the letters and their sounds well enough that she's darn near being able to read on her own. But she's also learned some other pretty important things, such as what we as Catholics believe to be the answers to about 29 questions, so far. One of the earliest ones asks why God made us, to which Eva replies, "God made me to show His goodness and to make me happy with Him in Heaven."

With this information, Eva could infer something profound about our nature and purpose as humans. Looking at the first part of her answer, is there anything we need to do to show God's goodness? Just to be. Our mere existence is a testament to God's love. How about the second part of the statement? What, if anything, is asked of us in order for us to be happy with God in Heaven? Well, that's the answer to the next question: "To be happy with God in Heaven, I must know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world."

So, by God's design, our reason for being on Earth is to be and to perform actions, namely knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him. In parts-of-speech language, we are meant to be subjects; that is, we are defined by our existence (for its own sake) and by our actions. Put another way, we are not meant to solely be objects - we can be described with, but not defined by the things that happen to us (whether it be outside forces physically acting upon us, or simply our being observed by others).

The secular world understands this, to some degree. After all, we are often (correctly) how wrong it is to objectify women. But American society, generally speaking, seems to glory in doing what it knows, on some level, to be wrong in this regard. However, the problem is not just with the objectification of women; rather, it (I believe) is fundamentally a problem of underestimation of the value of the human person.

Two "news" stories from this past week illustrate my point. Strangely, both deal with notorious "super-sized" families and reality television. First, Nadya Suleman (the "Octomom") "signed a deal with the British company Eyeworks to begin filming a reality TV show based on her life as an unemployed single mother of fourteen." Then (or rather, simultaneously), the family chronicled in the show "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" made headlines both because of alleged adultery committed by both parents, as well as accusations by close relatives that the children in the show "are being exploited and viewed as commodities, all in the name of ratings."

While the accusations made by Kate Gosselin's brother and sister-in-law seem to be patently true, the larger point to me is that the children were "being exploited and viewed as commodities" from the moment both Suleman and the Gosselins achieved pregnancies using artificial fertility-enhancement techniques. Children (and, for that matter, fetuses) are each singular masterpieces that have been made in God's image and should not be arbitrarily added...or subtracted. In addition, Suleman and both Gosselin parents have apparently all had cosmetic procedures of one variety or another, which -while not intrinsically wrong, in my view- seems to indicate that they may also view themselves as commodities.

As nuts as all these people seem, we're really to blame for it. Not only do we as a culture seem to be both voyeuristic and unable to differentiate between "noteworthy" and "notorious," but we also need to be more vigilant about defining people as subjects rather than objects. The good news is that we as Christians -and particularly we Christians who are Catholic- have all the tools we need to change the culture. The teachings of the Church on life issues ranging from abortion to IVF, and especially Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body," are tremendous gifts. We just need to go out and use them.

1 comment:

The Red State Ranger said...

There's a positively Chestertonian play on words in the object/subject relationship, emphasizing both the parts-of-speech relationship as well as the relationship with authority and power. I just can't come up with it.

It's a rather poetic distinction, though, particularly when you consider historically that there was very little time between throwing off the yoke of being subjects to kings and being laden with the yoke of being objects for science and economics.