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Commentaries and observations about the conflicting moral beliefs and psychological issues facing our culture.
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"AWAY WITH WORDS"
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14 April 2019
Belief And Its Contrarians:
Walking Out Of Darkness
Not long ago, I planted a small, twig-like stem of scraggly roots. With dutiful regularity I watered and nourished my roots, then watched as they slowly formed freshened leaves. To my delight, delicate buds slowly appeared. Now, six months later, by some intrinsic, miraculous process of Nature, my roots have flowered and graciously reward me with gorgeous white roses.
Occasionally, a neighbor comments appreciatively on the array of loveliness my plants provide. I smile, of course, and thank them for their kindly observations -- but in my heart I know I can claim no credit for such beauty unfolding.
I am (as are we all) merely a participant in many such beguiling events each moment. We are daily witnesses to a myriad of astonishing happenings which are elegant in design, baffling in complexity, predictable in regularity, divine in origin.
A Universe Of Wonders
My roses are but one of the inexplicable ways in which Nature fills our lives every instant: the light of the sun which saturates, the whispered touch of the wind which refreshes, the distant twinkling of a billion galaxies above and billions more unseen, the rhythmic beating of our hearts within, the unexpected kindness of a stranger, the disarming laughter of children at play, the unforgettable, lingering embrace of the Beloved.
Creation’s miraculous processes are the essence of life. In fact, Creation rests on the exquisite balance of a number of universal factors such as Newton’s gravitational constant, the mass and charge of the electron, the weak and strong nuclear forces, the mathematics of motion and acceleration, to name a very few.
Creation’s mysteries include the gift of one’s own life, a gift which should ignite in us awe and gratitude to our Creator. Science seeks to explain the “when” and “where” and “what” of Creation, but science falters at the question, “Who” is the cause of it all?
The “Who” of Creation is, of course, God. But these days, God is often shunted aside as an intrusion into our national conversation. God is an obstacle to the litany of “human rights” and grotesque “freedoms” which inevitably surface when mankind dismisses the fact that Creation has a Creator.
Nonetheless, reason and logic persist: God creates. Evidence and history and common sense urge us to acknowledge that God creates all, including us. We participate but only God creates. And our acceptance -- or denial -- of God as our Creator has profound consequences for each of us … and for the future of our society.
Evidence abounds … yet many resist belief in God. Why?
Our Struggles With Reason
For starters, belief in God compels us to admit His sovereignty over Creation, over us. We have to admit we are dependent creatures, immersed in the mystery of His Creation. Someone greater than ourselves can tell us what we should do … but “should” is an aggravating trigger to folks who resent calls to obedience and intellectual humility.
Since God’s laws often restrict behavior and carry consequences we’d rather ignore, admitting our dependence is to admit that we are vulnerable to error and wrong-headedness, that we often choose self-serving rationalizations. Moreover, by admitting our dependence, we acknowledge that Godly norms do indeed exist in the form of virtues, such as justice and prudence, fortitude and temperance, faith, hope and charity, chastity and patience, modesty and humility – all those moral realities about which we hear very little these days.
It suits our culture to deny guilt, keep God out of it, stifle the echoes of our errant consciences rather than wrestle with responsibilities which restrict our skewed notions of “human rights.”
A Culture Adrift
As we obscure God’s role in personal, political and cultural life, we also deny our responsibilities to one another. Furthermore, to deny our dependence on God exposes our culture’s distortions of morality … especially when unborn-and-newborn babies are involved; children whose right to life is violated every minute of every day by Leftist orthodoxy in the name of “human rights.”
Without God, nothing restrains human excess. The lives of the young, the elderly and ill, the depressed and suicidal, even the bored, become disposable. Nihilism ascends.
Reckless, politically correct mantras replace law, virtue, history and tradition. Even settled facts of science are dismissed. Our national conversations overflow with petty, calculated enmity, with moral relativism and vitriolic discourse and baseless accusations. We shrug at evils unimaginable a generation ago.
Humanism Without Humanity
At the core of this malaise is anti-theist humanism writ large. It is the result of militant secularism which fuels Leftist intolerance and political correctness. It generates absurdly stereotyped villains: white-privileged, racist, alpha-males who are hate-speaking, nationalistic, knuckle-dragging, deplorables; conspiratorial Conservatives, most of whom are gun-toting, Bible-clutching, closed-border, omni-phobic (…..wait for it…….) Christians!
Professor Daniel J. Mahoney (The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity) argues that this utterly secular creed is a “religion of humanity” and is replacing Judeo-Christian values in much of Western society. Humanitarian instincts seem fine - on the surface. But without the restraints of pubic virtue, exaggerated victimhood and moral vacuity become the norms. Emotional righteousness overcome reason. Every new “freedom” is allowed, no matter how bizarre or perverse.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who evolved from Soviet atheism into fearless Christian witness, warned America that without divine warrant and acknowledgement of God’s laws, humanitarianism invariably becomes tyranny and negates true politics (i.e., the betterment of people). After years of imprisonment and abuse in the Soviet gulag, Solzhenitsyn finally wrote:
“…How easy it is to live with you, O Lord,
how easy to believe in you.
When my spirit is overwhelmed within me,
when even the keenest eyes see no further than the night
and know not what to do tomorrow,
You bestow on me the certitude
that You exist
and are mindful of me,
that all the paths of virtue
are not barred…
that I, too, may reflect Your radiance upon mankind…”
History is clear: without God, societies embark upon that “walk into darkness” which Elie Wiesel writes about in his “Memoirs.” Historian Christopher Dawson told us that the modern project, having cut itself off from God, triumphantly pursued a “career of explaining nature and man to itself by its own unaided power, and ended in a kind of rational suicide by explaining itself away.”
The Conclusion Is Obvious
Every human experience (work, friendship, love, marriage, education, family life) involves a measure of everyday faith in others, moments when we trust an unseen power or an unknown authority beyond ourselves. Natural faith is a common necessity, a reasonable and logical choice we all make many times daily. But for our spiritual maturity and survival as a society, our lives demand Faith of a higher form, namely, Faith in God and attention to His wishes as they are revealed to us through time and history.
Faith in God does not eliminate worry or doubt. By definition, it includes certainty and uncertainty, the known and the unknown. Faith in God does not banish life’s misfortunes. But Faith does reassure us that we are always upheld by God’s greater Reality. His Reality grants us the life we possess, the mind with which we reason, the heart with which we seek to do right, the animating soul which, as St. Augustine says, is ever-restless without God.
Faith in God says that while we do not know everything, we do not need to know everything. Faith illuminates what we know and what we do not know, sometimes in light, sometimes in deep shadow.
And even when all is indeed darkness (as it was for Mother Teresa for forty years), Faith inspires us with the courage to persevere toward the Light without risking that “walk into darkness” about which Elie Wiesel poignantly warns.
Walking Into Light
Moreover, Faith in God enlivens Hope. Together, Faith and Hope reveal to us that true Charity – i.e., loving God and His people -- is the highest expression of our created selves.
True Charity (i.e., Caritas, true love of benevolence, not merely almsgiving) is the intentional gift of our selves, generously and freely, as an incarnate expression of our regard for others, without seeking reward or expecting applause.
Giving freely of ourselves from our heart’s willing reservoir, responding to the vulnerabilities of others, seizing any of the thousand opportunities for courtesy and civility each day -- even to passing strangers or even to those persons whose arrogance blinds them to love’s simplicity -- these are the gifts of Faith and Hope enlivened by Charity which honor our Creator, Who walks among us still, Who is present to us still.
Sometimes, when we give our love, it is not returned -- but the ingratitude and coldness and rudeness of others does not lessen the value or the beauty of our giving.
In our lives, we become what our choices to love others make of us. We also become what our rejection and dismissal of others do to us, as our hearts and souls wither and grow sere and dusty.
But as we become aware of love’s innate beauty, we are inspired to bear the costs of loving. Love is the soil in which, like my roses, our souls are meant to bloom. Even when love costs us a very great deal in loneliness and need, in illness and loss, we are still moved under its inspiration and its clarity to willingly bear the costs of being loving persons, for then life truly does make sense.
The Transcendent Goal
For these reasons have we been born … and given time and life:
- That we develop our loving selves and enliven our loving hearts over our length of days before us;
- That we recognize Creation’s laws and limits … and honor them in the time ahead;
- That we make kindness and gratitude our guiding motives, refreshed and deepened by the virtues which love instills in us; virtues such as wisdom, patience and humility and an ever-generous heart which love nourishes.
Uncertainty is always part of human experience, and all things are not open to us. But this is precisely why Faith and Hope and Charity are so crucial -- and so clearly the path into Light and Life.
As my latter years now swiftly pass and distractions fade, I am so often struck by the timeless realization of what a grand gift such Love truly is, of how fine it is to be with loving persons, of how grand it is to be mindful of others, of how essential are small acts of kindness. How else can we benefit our universal humanity, express our desire to care and bring kindness where it is wanting?
May we be inspired to seek Faith and Hope and Charity, not only in God, but with one another. Is there a better reason to live?
May it be so. May it ever be so……….