By Judie Brown
It’s easy to lay blame for the moral decline of society on any number of things and people. And a lot of things and people are to blame. But assigning blame does nothing to solve the problems that now engulf our country. In today’s commentary, Judie Brown examines this moral illiteracy and guides us toward a solution.
Some of us who have been involved in battling the culture of death for more than 40 years realize that the time has come to reevaluate the way we approach our goal to end the moral madness that permeates today’s culture. In that regard, one thing is certain. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, politics is not the answer.
As 2013 approaches, we have a golden opportunity to shift gears, refocus our efforts, and begin the long but worthwhile effort to evangelize our fellow Americans. Before beginning, however, there are a few things we ought to do.
We must pray, asking God to help us see where it is that the “movement” has gone astray. We must ask what His will is for us now and in the future.
We should spend time with God, listening and contemplating, because after all, it is His children we are striving to defend. And clearly we need to retool our campaigns, be they educational, service, media, or otherwise, because we are not succeeding. Pope Benedict XVI recently shed some light on why this is so when he told the French bishops, “One of the gravest problems of our time is the ignorance of religion on the part of many men and women, also among the Catholic faithful.”
Indeed, if we look around, not only at Catholics but at the general population, we recognize that even among people of faith there is a chasm between what is morally right and what is personally preferable. In other words, making up rules as one goes along in life is the most popular form of religious zeal in our day.
In fact, getting back to the “Catholic” population, sociologist Philip Schwadel has found that among Catholics—as compared to people of other religious persuasions—there is an “intensity gap” that has widened over time. For our pro-life purposes, this equates to an enormous glitch in the claims pro-life people have been making for 40 years, saying that Catholics have been among our strongest allies. Today I would suggest that this is no longer the case.
The reason for this declining intensity when it comes to the things of God was made perfectly clear by Archbishop Charles Chaput, who pulled no punches in a recent address. Explaining to his audience that illiteracy in our land goes far beyond knowing the basic facts about the history of our nation, he shared this sobering fact:
Notre Dame social researcher Christian Smith and his colleagues have tracked in great detail the spiritual lives of today’s young adults and teenagers. The results are sobering. So are the implications. The real religion of vast numbers of American young people is a kind of fuzzy moral niceness, with a generic, undemanding God on duty to make us happy whenever we need him. It’s what Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Or, to put it in the words of a young woman from Maryland, “It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you.” As Smith observes: “It’s not so much that Christianity in the United States is being secularized. Rather more subtly, either Christianity is [degenerating] into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, [it’s] actively being colonized and displaced” by a very different religious faith.
This being the case, how can we hope to move the ball forward for the preborn when the most fundamental of Catholic teachings are not understood and accepted by Catholics? And how can we hope to reach out to the remaining members of the citizenry, as Catholics, if our own people are unfamiliar with, or have intentionally rejected, the most fundamental Catholic truths and the basic scientific facts regarding the human being and his identity at creation?
Oh yes, there is most certainly ignorance. But before we can begin serving the hungry—most importantly those who do not realize they hunger and thirst for justice—we have to know how to go about this. And frankly, without taking the time to seek the Lord, to be with Him, to sacrifice, and to pray we will not find the answer.
So what should we do?
Each of us should seek ways to put together interfaith prayer services from one end of this country to the other, inviting our fellow pro-life brothers and sisters to join us in reflecting on the state of things and how we must respond, seeking always God’s will rather than our own. We must seek the face of Jesus.
Let us strive to make 2013 the year we deny that politics rules and remember who rules not only each of us, but our sick world and the culture of death. We end on the profound words of Pope Benedict XVI: “‘Your Face, O Lord, I seek’: Seeking the Face of Jesus must be the longing of all of us Christians; indeed, we are ‘the generation’ which seeks His face in our day, the face of the ‘God of Jacob.’ If we persevere in our quest for the face of the Lord, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, He, Jesus, will be our eternal joy, our reward and glory for ever.”
Judie Brown is president and cofounder of American Life League and a three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life.