In our world there is a battle which carries on beneath the surface of culture and affects all our current events. It is seldom discussed or acknowledged. Before the fall, it did not affect us, but now we are never without it. This is the battle of the real vs. the unreal. It is a major part of original sin and our conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Before original sin, man had integrity and was inclined toward authenticity. However, after our first parents’ sin, we became disintegrated and inclined toward duplicity. Catholic Christians do not believe this event totally corrupted our being, but do acknowledge it severely damaged how we see and act in this world.
This is a vast topic which really includes the whole of our lives. I will begin with just three areas where this conflict manifests itself.
This phrase is often used in our political rhetoric to describe media outlets presenting information in a biased or partisan manner. Regardless of one’s political preferences, I think it is evident we humans often present stories and information in a manner which makes “our side” look good. Sometimes this hides the full truth and makes solutions harder to find.
With the rise of social media, face-to-face interaction has declined. It is easier to post only the positive highlights of life, and surround ourselves with likeminded people. However, this is pretend living. Real life has hardship and people that annoy us. Ironically, these hardships and interactions will make life more interesting and meaningful in the long run.
Since the sexual revolution in the 60’s, cultural attitudes and expectations regarding human sexuality have shifted dramatically. The context of “sex within a monogamous marriage open to children” is now just optional, at best. Instead we have created a spectrum of views which are based only on autonomy and consent. With these views pornography has increased and warped reality even more.
These three areas are just part of how “the façade” is constructed. A perception is presented on the surface which does not match reality underneath. In these areas and others we experience the temptation to distort things. Often we deceive ourselves and harm others by only choosing comfort. Good lies have some truth in them, so we have to examine ourselves and society carefully in order to expose them.
The answer to these lies is a way of life centered on God. Jesus Christ is reality-made-flesh, and only by following Him can we find the authenticity our hearts long for. He has a plan for our lives which does not include being fake and duplicitous. His plan is for us to experience reality in all its fullness by undergoing deep conversion. Therefore, we must resist Satan (master fasçade architect) and his seductive plans which lead to emptiness and shame.
We must pursue real news, friendship, sexuality, etc. that display truth, goodness, and beauty. These are the qualities which build real culture and save us from our false tendencies. If we Catholics choose to practice integrity, we will transform our surroundings. This is the real art of living and far surpasses any façade we could ever create.