A little while ago, I was talking with someone about how the Church cares for the poor, works for justice in our world, and does all that we can to promote peace. I said that we do these things not because we’re “do gooders” or hippies, but because it is our responsibility as Christians.
I forget the context of the conversation, but it was a pretty standard response to whatever was asked, straight from Catholic Social Teaching 101. I will never forget the response:
But why should we care about this world? If we believe in heaven, who cares if people are poor or die? Shouldn’t our only focus be on getting souls into heaven?
Rarely am I caught off guard by a question, but this one certainly got me. I could see what the person was getting at, I could see why they would ask this, but there were just so many problems with that way of thinking that I didn’t know where to start. Luckily I have a good internal filter and regrouped, because my first thought was, “So, are you suggesting that we just mercy kill everyone who has a tough life so that we can ‘send them to heaven?'” That would not have been a pastorally appropriate response.
I can’t remember exactly what I said at the time, but it got me thinking, theologically, how to best answer this question. In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I offer three reasons why we care about protecting life, and really, the entire physical world:
1. Creation was created by God, it is good in itself, and is a vessel for experiencing God.
2. The human person is more than just a “soul” or spiritual body, but is fundamentally a physical being.
3. Salvation is not simply an other-worldly experience, one completely removed from our reality.
Is this a complete list? By no means. But I think it offers a foundation for a Catholic view of the world that must be behind everything we do. Unless we accept these three points as a basis for our faith, we might struggle to understand much of what we do and why we do it, leading us to ask tragic questions like, “Why should we care about life at all?”