Love and the culture wars

One of the reasons why I like reading Dreher so much is that he’s an endless source for interesting links, book recommendations and the like. This time, it’s an essay by Serena Sigillito on how minds really are changed on all the sensitive issues we like to argue so much about:

Artistic expression of the truths of human nature is important because art engages the human person in a holistic way. By contrast, I often get frustrated with the aggressive, divisive approaches that certain pro-lifers and marriage advocates take toward those who disagree with them. Even though they get many key points right, such arguments are often based on faulty premises of their own. Most importantly, they fail to appreciate the role that love plays in intellectual conversions.

Focusing only on large-scale statistical measures of political convictions (or unscientific polls like Voris’s) can obscure the fact that, when it comes down to the essentials, what you’re really dealing with is individual human beings, with their own intellectual backgrounds, emotional attachments, personal histories, and—most importantly—souls.

Coming to comprehend truth intellectually takes time and effort. But even once that comprehension has been established, other barriers to acceptance often remain. Mustering the strength to make concrete, repeated, public choices to live in accordance with the truths one has accepted—especially truths as countercultural as opposing birth control or gay marriage—takes even more time.

The same applies to the other side as well.

There’s a tendency to think that if you’re loud and shrill enough, you can shame your opponent into changing their minds or at least shutting their traps. I’ve been fortunate enough to see this primarily on the internet/media as opposed to my day-to-day life, but it’s still there.

There is a difference between speaking the truth uncompromisingly, and being a jerk about it. If you want someone to drink bitter medicine and do a complete 180 on their lives, there needs to be some trust and mutual respect. If you’re just a scold, don’t be surprised if people won’t listen to you. St. Paul could be harsh when necessary, but it is always clear in his letters that it flows from a paternal love for those he is correcting, and he is always at least as hard on himself. More:

Just like Dante, every person has the capacity to open himself to truths that are bigger than our minds can initially fathom. We can often lose sight of the fact that the answers to political questions on abortion or marriage, for example, are based on understandings of the nature of human life and love that are just too big and too profound for us to grasp all at once. The process of changing someone’s mind on such questions will probably be slow, but it can be helped along by relationships that, in love, persistently ask others to reconsider the philosophical foundations of their beliefs.


If you’ve read my own conversion story, you know that it was a bit of a lonesome one. But still, essential to it was my being able to see in the Church a vision of how life could be lived which surpassed anything else I had known, and which answered to longings I did not until then entirely understand. Only when I had gotten a glimpse of that was I really at a point where I felt I could change my life. In order to be able to see that it is possible, you need to be able to see the love that makes it possible.

About Jess W

Scribbler and doodler
This entry was posted in Catholicism, Politics as Opium, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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