Our Theology of the Body classes start up again tomorrow. Join us here in Chicago or online at 10:30 Central Time as we continue with the book study of "Love and Responsibility," the precursor (pre-papacy) to Pope John Paul's papal audiences.
How timely this is was brought home to me as I read the current issue of National Geographic. One of the articles looked at the family attitudes of Brazilian women (where the birthrate has plunged to below replacement levels in less than two generations). There was little doubt that much of the drastic change was related to the depiction of wealthy (and small) families in the nation's wildly popular evening dramas. It wasn't that the TV producers had a social change agenda in mind: it's just easier to write and produce shows that don't have too many central characters. Between the attractive lifestyles on TV and a still-prevalent attitude that sees domestic violence as a sign of machismo, women have been motivated to resort to every sort of sterilization, even discovering the abortifacient qualities of a certain ulcer drug long before the medical world caught on (and the drug's producers found a new way to market it). They didn't need the Chinese style imposition of a one-child policy; they just needed the dreamy vision of a glamorous lifestyle. There just wasn't an attractive alternative to draw them in a different direction, one that promises even greater human fulfillment.
We're hard-wired to set our hearts on whatever we see as "good." It may be a true good, consistent with the other "transcendentals" of beauty, truth and unity. Or it may be a passing good, like achievement, prosperity, health. It may even be only an apparent good that leaves sorrow and bitterness in its wake. If we see something as good, we will go for it with all we've got.
For those with ears to hear, Pope John Paul does offer the "attractive alternative" to superficial glamor, but it's going to take some time before his vision gets "packaged" for a media culture. In the meantime, while it is still hidden away in books, it is time for us to catch the vision ourselves!