Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Is it hopeless?

Occasionally I will come up against this sort of reasoning in other fora (plural of forums): The culture war is lost. America likes its abortions and contraception and promiscuity and materialism and easy divorce too much. We might as well give up--the Christian message has failed.

Now, I admit that sometimes I am tempted to agree, especially after hearing news about the Harvey Milk school or the push for embryonic research or any number of other bad news stories. But I think that there is still hope. In fact, it is a requirement of our baptism that we not abandon hope. Besides, we've conquered cultures before! There is no reason to believe we can't do it again. Rome, after all, was actively opposed to the Church, yet in a short 300 years made Catholicism the state religion.

The big question is how did our forefathers in the faith do it? What is different? Why is our message ignored and why was theirs adopted? It can be reduced to two words: faith and martyrdom. From reading the history books it becomes clear that in the early centuries of the Church, Christians really believed in Christ. They knew their faith and clung to it fiercely--one reads wistfully the tales of the people of Constantinople scolding Nestorius for heresy; would anyone even notice today if his bishop preached heresy? If Christianity is to prevail, it needs for its adherents to know what Christianity is, and to adhere to it. In other words, learn your faith. Buy a Catechism and a Bible and read them, cover to cover. Then read them again.

But faith is not enough. We all need to be martyrs. I don't mean that we need to be killed for the Faith, although that may well be coming. Rather, we need to witness, which is what "martyr" means in Greek. The fact is that no other philosophy, worldview, or religion is capable of answering the innermost need of man. We have a will that desires infinite good, but cannot find it here, and in fact is its own worst enemy. But we have a faith that shows us the way to infinite Good, gives us a foretaste in the Eucharist, and provides us with sacramental graces to overcome our own self-destructiveness. The Church is the way to God, and nothing else, no amount of sex or money or material goods can ever compete with that. But the world needs to know how wonderful it is. Let me ask you: have you ever told anyone about your faith in Christ, and what it has done for you? When confronted with the culture of death, have you opposed it? Publicly? Do those you work with know that you are Catholic? If the answers are no, you are not much of a Christian. We are called to make disciples of all nations, which means that we need to show the world how good it is to be a disciple of Christ.

If our nation were confronted with a million or so Catholics who were faithful, loving, and hopeful, and who bore witness in their lives to the wonders of the love of Christ, it could not long endure faithless. It may take us a couple of hundred years, but we can win!

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