Recently one of our parishioners shared with me a video of a short response to a Gun Control question by the former governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin. He decried simplistic solutions like a law that supposedly would make us safe from violence. He, instead, walked through with those in attendance the extent of the violence and death that permeates our culture. Instead of guarding human life from womb to tomb, we have aborted over 50 million American lives and are assisting countless others in ending their lives. Our entertainment bespeaks everywhere the ‘this is all there is’ of material life and makes human life an expendable commodity. How many films advertised in our different platforms show someone carrying a gun? When we see to what extent human life has been reduced to an expendable commodity, are we so surprised that so many young people are turning to suicide or the slow death of drugs?
When we banish God and His moral commandments from our national consciousness, we set off an avalanche of self-destruction, all in the name of self-realization.
The Gospel’s call to reverence creation stands in stark contrast to this. At the very basis of this respect is the often repeated positive judgement of God in the book of Genesis: it is good. Creation is good and the human person is very good. Therefore, the willful destruction of creation, the trashing of the laws of God placed into the created order, is nothing short of a sacrilege. Inherent in all this disrespect and violence in our culture is a disdain for creation and its giftedness. Our whole culture is in revolt against the will of God and in moving toward self-destruction (whether through sins against the environment, abortion, assisted suicide, gun violence, racism, war); we are moving down the path of sin. All the warnings of the Scriptures, from the Hebrew prophets to the contradiction of the Cross, become signals of the present danger that can engulf our planet and leave it waste.
But the Good News of Jesus is stronger than this army of malice and disbelief. Perhaps a new age of martyrdom may be upon us, beginning with the failure of the American experiment in self-government as we descend into tribalism and mutual hatred.
While politics is a necessary arena of change and development, one cannot place our ultimate hopes in it. The things of the Spirit that cannot be measured or observed, as is regularly done in scientific research, are where the true direction and hope for the future lie. Saint John Paul II proposed building a civilization of love based on the Spirit. This will create a violent reaction on the part of the culture of death, but that is only the necessary first stage in a complete victory to which the civilization of love is called.
We have been living for many years in a clearly-formulated Christian culture that is disappearing by the minute. The remnants of it are still there, giving us the false appearance of continuity. But, having severed itself from God and the Gospel of Christ, the remaining green in the uprooted plant is quickly withering. It will surely die. But the energies of the Spirit that can be found in the Gospel can create new seedlings that will in time grow into huge and powerful trees of civilization that will correct the vices that have killed past civilizations and create new Beauty, new manifestations of the Truth, ever wider expanses of Goodness that may be the only hope for our tired planet.
This is why the way of the Christian, no matter how difficult it looks at any given moment, always leads to renewed hopes. All that this culture of death values, all that is ‘cool’, quickly grows cold. The ways of the Spirit bestow new purpose and meaning.
One of the basic things that is missing in the world devoid of God is the joy of meaning. The great psychologist Viktor Frankl, who was a prisoner in one of the Nazi concentration camps, found that those prisoners who were living for something greater than themselves (God, family, spouse, children), even though weak, survived. Those that had lost all purpose in life, no matter how physically strong they were, perished. We need purpose and meaning to live.
Hence, when we look at the glitzy ‘cool’ culture of death, we uncover increased levels of substance abuse, other addictions, and high levels of suicide. While the ‘uncool’ church-goer who seeks to live a moral life in accord with the commandments of God and the guidance of Church teaching has high levels of satisfaction and even joy especially in difficult traumas of life.
Clearly, believers, when this culture of death destroys itself, will emerge from the ashes and once again begin building up from the debris of ‘progress’ the traditions of faith that will signal hope and purpose in the future civilization of love.