According to a poll by NBC/WSJ, 21% of Americans say that religion is “not that important in their lives.”
This isn’t a big surprise. It’s consistent with other polls. The details are pretty much the same as those in previous polls, as well. An NBC news article says that “Less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the northeast” and be under 35.
The only comment I have to make about this is that it’s something to consider as we contemplate how to approach re-converting this culture. Do we start with these “not that importants,” or do we begin elsewhere?
I don’t claim to have a decisive answer. But my personal opinion, based mainly on years of political campaigning, is that we should begin with our own people. I think the first great need for active conversion is to be found in the pews of our own churches.
There are over 1 billion Catholics on this planet, and almost all of us are laity. We are the Church. The need to educate, inspire and lead this laity to an active evangelistic fervor is so obvious that I’m not going to waste the words to substantiate it in this brief post.
I think the place to begin the great work of conversion that is in front of us is our own laity. The question I have is, does the laity have to do the work of converting itself?
We need leadership.
In the circular cobweb of bizarro accusations, obfuscations, dissimulations and dead flat lies that pass for commentary coming from Christian bashers, there is a surprising bottom line.
That bottom line has nothing to do with reason, rationality, right or moral/intellectual integrity. In fact, this particular bottom line is the opposite of those things. It is a claim by these people that they can do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and when they do, it is the fault of those they do it to and and say it about.
You may have encountered this line of reasoning in other parts of life. My most frequent encounter with it is among the perpetrators of violence against women. She asked for it, and Look what you made me do, are the commonplaces of excuse-giving among rapists and batterers.
It is, you see, the fault of those we are raping, battering, bashing that we do these things. We have no responsibility for our own tawdry behavior. The fault, dear horatio, lies in in the victim.
I see a lot of this bullying reasoning in the comments that show up here on Public Catholic. Every time I write something about (1) Christian persecution, (2) Christian bashing, (3) attempts to silence Christians and drive them from the public square, or (4) attempts to use government to coerce Christians to violate their beliefs, I know — know — that all I have to do is sit back and wait a few minutes before the abusive rebuts start pouring in.
Most of these abusive rebuts end up sleeping in the delete file. That leads to more abusive rebuts accusing me of all sorts of unsavory character and moral defects, which in turn, sleep in the delete file. This is followed by a good old fashioned thrashing of my intelligence (or lack thereof) morality, womanhood, professional standing and heritage on various Christian-bashing blogs.
Does any of this idiotic aggression prove that Christians are not subjected to bashing/hazing/attempts to silence them/persecution/and a newfound totalitarianism directed at their freedoms?
On the contrary, this name-calling, attempted character assassination, bombast and bullying are all manifestations of precisely and exactly those things.
Aside from the predictability and profanity involved, the paucity of thinking that goes into the attacks from these people who claim that their thinking is “rational” is rather stark.
The lines of argument they use are usually a circular apologetic for two things: Use of government force to coerce Christians to violate their beliefs, and the attempts to drive Christians from the public square. The excuses for this are flat-liner simple.
Here’s how it works.
First, they say they don’t do it.
Gay marriage (as a for instance) will not affect anyone except people who are getting gay married.
If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have an abortion.
When they are confronted with the uncomfortable facts that
People are being taken to court all over this country as well as other countries to force them to participate in gay marriages,
Christians have lost their jobs because of it,
Catholic adoption services and Catholic Charities’ ministries have been forced to close because they won’t refer for abortions or provide children for adoptions to same-sex couples,
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been sued by the ACLU for teaching 2,000-year-old Catholic teachings,
They don’t back down.
Instead, they go on the attack. “You make us do it,” they claim in an eery echo of the batterer’s look what you made me do! Christians try to force their beliefs on others, the set-piece story goes, and thus they deserve to be pushed from the public square, called ugly names and hazed, both personally and by a deluge of anti-Christian rhetoric, television programming and other media attacks. As for me and my behavior, everything I do and say is justified because Christians are trying to force people to live by their morality.
This confabulated excuse for tawdry behavior ignores the plain fact that this Christian “force” they claim justifies any and all attacks on Christians and Christianity is the exercise of the same Constitutional rights that are available to all Americans.
They are trying to claim with a straight face that demonizing, hazing and constantly attacking a whole group of people is justified because those people (1) vote according to their own beliefs, (2) speak to their elected officials on behalf of their own beliefs, and (3) seek redress in the courts.
These activities are guaranteed rights of every American. You can find them in the First Amendment. They are, ironically, the same freedoms being used to advance the viewpoints these Christian bashers espouse. What these Christian bashers are objecting to is that all Americans, including Christians, have the same rights as they do. They are trying to use personal attacks, hazing and propaganda to batter Christians into acceding their rights as free Americans.
Raise this point, and the resulting cacophony of personal attacks would drown out a full orchestra playing the 1812 Overture.
The reason for these personal attacks are obvious. There is no just reason why Christians should be deprived of their freedom as American citizens to vote according to their beliefs, participate in the political process on behalf of those beliefs or seek redress through the courts. These are among the basic freedoms of American citizens, guaranteed by the First Amendment. The abusive yelling and screaming is a bullying attempt to avoid admitting that forcing Christians to forfeit their rights is, in fact, tyranny.
The interesting thing is that at the same time that Christian bashers are giving loud and verbally abusive explanations as to why the First Amendment does not apply to Christians, they are denying vociferously that they attack Christians unfairly.
When, as always happens on this blog, their abusive behavior nets them a zero, they move to cloying manipulation. The comments shift to feigned civility and syrupy compliments, based on the totally wrong assumption that nobody has ever tried to flatter or manipulate their way past me before.
There is an element of echo-chamber thinking in these attacks. Going back to the virtual clubhouse and counting coup, then trying to outdo one another in how they insult Christians seems to convince Christian bashers that people of faith really are as stupid as they tell each other. I don’t have any other explanation for the sudden turn to obviously manipulative niceness by the same people who’ve been calling me everything but a nice person otherwise.
We don’t do it, they tell us at the outset.
You make us do it, they reply to direct citations of their behavior.
It’s our right to do it, they say when you shut them down and refuse to give them a platform to attack Christians at will.
But we don’t do it, they circle back and proclaim, after their personal attacks don’t bully you into doing what they are demanding.
This is standard stuff in the Christian-bashing blogosphere. I’m writing about it here so that Public Catholic readers will understand it and not be overawed by it.
The first time a jerk throws a pie in your face, it will leave you stunned and speechless. But when the jerks just keep throwing those pies, you’ve got to learn how to stand up for yourself.
The media is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and now polygamy and polyamory. It is also pushing farming women’s bodies for eggs and using women as pregnancy surrogates.
That is the real-world situation. We need to be aware of it. We need to do what we can to make other Christians aware of it, so that they see it for what it is. But what, beyond that, should we do?
We must learn how to communicate our message in today’s world. We can, you know. We’ve just got to stop bemoaning the situation and start thinking about what we can do.
This video gives a brief discussion of how Christianity has historically communicated its message. That’s a good place to start as we move forward to how we will communicate it in today’s world.
Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”
Our use of the phrase “the media” as shorthand for all journalistic endeavors reflects the truth of that.
This media/”message” is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of marriage.
This video contains a reflection about this situation.
Please pray for me.
That is Pope Francis’ tweet for today.
I think we should certainly pray for our Holy Father.
We should also pray for all priests.
I am part of a prayer group. It began when we were homeschooling mothers with small children and has held together through the years as our children have grown up, gone to college, married and had children of their own. Our daughters have now joined us.
The purpose of this Rosary group is to pray for our priests. This is a prayer we pray at every Rosary. I think it is a prayer we should all pray. I can think of no better practice to begin this Lent.
God our Father, please send us holy priests, all for the sacred and eucharistic heart of Jesus, all for the sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary, in union with St Joseph. Amen
Gilbert Chesterton famously said, “The problem with Christianity is not that it’s been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and not tried.”
If you change the word Christianity for Catechesis, you have a description of the problem with the “unfaithful laity” in many parts of this country, if not the world.
As exhibit A, let me point you toward the mess at Eastside High School in Seattle. This school, which is nominally Catholic, appears to cater to rich little kids and provide them with a full blast of self-actualizing claptrap with a layer of do-gooderism and little c catholicism on top to make them feel good.
When their openly-gay vice principal “married” his partner, the school, in what was probably a stunning display of unexpected fidelity to Church teaching, decided to enforce its school contract and employee guidelines and dismiss him. The student body, which had clearly been catechized more by the vice principal and his supporters than anyone imparting Catholic teaching, reacted by staging a walk out.
Instead of expelling the students for walking out of class, the school pretty much caved on a later problem with another teacher.
Now, for all their what’s-happening-now weak-as-water Catholicism, the school is being sued by said vice principal.
Exhibit B would be the Seattle priest who wrote a column for a national magazine, taking a public stand against the teachings of the Church whose collar he wears.
Exhibit C would be the many Catholic politicians I know whose knowledge of what the Church teaches on issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage is limited to slogans, and most of them come from the media which is openly hostile to their Church. You can place the parish priests who’ve told them it’s ok to vote against pro life legislation and for gay marriage, even while their bishops are begging them to do the opposite, alongside the politicians on the exhibit table.
What’s wrong with catechesis?
1. It stops at the little-kid-in-Sunday-school level.
2. Despite the fact that most priests are faithful to the Church, nobody with authority in the Church says a word to disagree with those who aren’t. Don’t any of these guys answer to superiors in this hierarchical Church of ours? How, exactly, can the bishops expect the laity to respond to their leadership when their own priests are either ignoring the bishop or flat-out telling their parishioners that their personal ideas trump Church teaching in matters of mortal sin?
3. Nobody seems interested or able to answer the onslaught of attacks from the world at large that the laity is facing. We need leadership, and we’re not getting it. At the very least we need an acknowledgement of what the laity must endure in this post Christian America.
4. Too much catechesis in more liberal parishes preaches a little g social gospel that is almost totally silent on Church teaching about justice. On the other hand, too much catechesis in conservative parishes focuses on sanctity of life and marriage to the exclusion of social issues. Worse, they do this in a political, rather than a moral manner.
The American Church has grown soft. It is no longer the Church Militant. It seems more like the church self-indulgent.
I keep wanting to shake people and paraphrase the line from the movie Aliens, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but we’ve been getting our rear ends kicked.”
There is no reason to panic or sink into depression because of the recent losses in the courts and at the polls on social issues. We can turn that around. All it takes is the will and determination to do it on the part of the laity.
That is the key, you know: The laity.
We’ve got the task of changing the world. The clergy has the task of catechizing/inspiring/leading us so that we are equipped to do that. Unfortunately, before the laity can convert the world, the laity itself needs to be converted. Too many Catholics treat Jesus as their cop-out instead of their Lord.
I know that’s a tall order for our priests. I also know that it most decidedly is not what a good many of our men in collars thought they were signing up for when they took their vows. Most of the priests we have today entered a priesthood rolling in automatic respect and trust for their calling which spilled over onto them personally. They saw themselves giving homilies, administering parishes, providing comfort, healing hurts, taking on an occasional pilgrimage and basically doing predictable and rewarding work throughout the long slide to safe and predictable retirement.
What has changed is that they now have to do all those things, with a call to battle heaped on top of it. They must somehow find a way to deal with demoralized and angry parishioners while they play catch up in preparing their people to be strong in their faith in the face of hostility, and learn how to convert a self-dissembling culture.
They’re not up to it. I know that.
But this is the our time. These are our challenges. And the job in front of us is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen for us.
We’ve got to support our priests who are trying to be faithful while learning how to do a whole new job and add it on top the job they already have. As for Catechesis, the parish and diocese which needs it the most are probably also the ones which will mount aggressive resistance to it. When priests try to teach what the Church teaches, parishioners who are also faithful to the Church need to stand by them absolutely, especially in the face of hostility from parishioners who have grown accustomed to the Church teaching what the world teaches.
Catechesis as we’ve been doing it is failing our children, our families, our Church and Our Lord. The evidence is all around us.
That’s the first fact we have to face. The second, which is that we must change our way of doing Catechesis, follows on its heels. Everything after that is detail.