15th June 2013

Sentimentalism

In a recent interview on a radio programme I was asked what is different in today’s youth culture to the 1980’s when Youth Fellowship began. Besides the obvious advent of the internet, mobile phones, Facebook and countless study and career opportunities, there has been a discernible negative shift in moral values and an ever increasing non-christian worldly outlook to life.

More than before, what many people believe in and what they judge to be good or evil is rooted in what they feel. Not only does contemporary society encourage us to live in this feeling-over-thinking worldview but our innate emotional bias is exploited. We may call this  ‘sentimentalism’ which over emphasises our ability to determine subjectively how we should live, based on how well our actions fit with our feelings. Very probably, this what led Adam and Eve to eat that blessed forbidden fruit in the first place!

The result of all this is relativism, where the Judaeo-Christian absolute moral truths are rejected and considered outdated and repressive –  even by some who profess to be Christians. What is right or wrong, true or false is what I feel it to be or what the majority feel about it. You can apply this to almost every contentious moral debate.

The only way out  of this quagmire for today’s youth lies in seeking the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Jesus Christ with unrelenting fervour. In fact many young people all over the world, recognising the inner bankruptcy that a hedonistic and materialistic superficial lifestyle and relativistic philosophy has left them with, are returning to the Catholic faith.

As we discover and experience Jesus’ love and mercy and submit our lives to the One whose truth sets us free, our thirst is satiated. Cultivating a genuine interiority is the only way of authentic Christian discipleship. Self-knowledge in the light of God’s truth revealed in His word and the Church is vital. Then as we live by in His grace, we will begin to give our feelings their proper place, recognising them to good servants but untrustworthy masters.

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