Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Our National Identity Crisis

Our National Identity Crisis

          Many Americans bristle at the statement that the United States is a Christian nation, though it is a historical fact that that is exactly what it was founded to be.  Even many Christians won’t say it, and perhaps some Catholics are particularly sensitive, given that anti-Catholicism is also a historical reality for our country.
          However, the refusal to acknowledge ourselves as a Christian nation has resulted in an extremely dangerous identity crisis.  Allow me to illustrate.
          A Christian and an atheist, at one fundamental level, actually have very little in common.  Certainly they can coexist, work together, even be friends.  But at the root their understandings of reality are totally inconsistent.  (Note: There have been some incredible, loving marriages between Catholics and atheists, which have even produced Saints.  I will be reflecting on this later in the week.)
          As Christians, we believe we were created for a purpose, by a God who knows us personally and loves us so passionately that He is willing to die for us.  We have an eternal destiny and the main point of this life is to grow closer to our Beloved so that we can spend eternity with Him.  Not only that, there is an invisible reality here and now.  We are surrounded by angels; those who have gone before us are more alive than we are; and there is a spiritual war going on in which we are not only one of the combatants, but also the battlefield.
          The atheist believes none of these things.  There are no invisible realities; the material world is all there is.  Even our most core values, love, for instance, are merely products of chemical reactions.  We exist purely by accident, there is no purpose to our lives, and when we die, we cease to exist.
          As Catholics we have to recognize that an atheist is completely out of touch with reality.  The entire world in which he lives is a fantasy; he has no real understanding of who he is or what life is really all about.  His whole fundamental world view is an illusion.
          Individually, we should respond to this condition with charity and always be willing to share the Truth, and of course to listen.  There are many reasons one becomes an atheist, but none are based on actual facts as they have been revealed through science, history, or even the most basic philosophy.  
          Consequently, not many people are truly atheists, but they have a very disproportionate influence over society, particularly given the stranglehold their worldview has on most of our universities.  How then, as a country, are we to respond to cultural atheism?  
          Atheism as expressed in modern Western society is known as secularism, and it is very seductive.  In the United States groups like the ACLU have been very successful at imposing secularism by citing the First Amendment.  This is particularly ironic since the First Amendment specifically protects the free exercise of one’s religion, but if anyone tries to exercise his religion in public, the secularists will pounce.  This is why we have courts that say displays of crosses or the Ten Commandments are offensive, and somehow infringe on someone’s rights.
          Too many Christians have bought the secularist lie that any public display of religiosity is inappropriate, and that there is no place for religious principles in our public debate.  That is why secularism has had so much success, because it has found allies among believers of all stripes.
          When we eliminate religion from the public square, however, we do not leave things neutral.  The void is filled by the atheist religion.  Our society moves along under the principle that there is no God.  Secularism becomes the favored religion of the state, and all other religious freedoms are disposed of.
          The biggest problem with this identity crisis from which we are suffering is that it makes us less than we ought to be.  A worldview that is founded on God calls men to be great.  They have a destiny to live up to.  They have an ideal of what they want to become.  We, as a nation, in many ways have lost that.  One has only to look to Europe to see our own future if we do not recapture our identity.  And one has only to look to the Communist and Nazi regimes of the last century to see where the path we are on ultimately leads.
          The most honest of today’s atheists will admit that their belief system, taken to its logical conclusions, makes morality absurd.  The best we can hope for is a Hobbesian social contract, which is a far fall from what we once aspired to be.
          To say that we are a Christian nation does not mean there is no room for atheists here.  And certainly people of other faiths, with whom we have much in common, will find a comfortable home.  The Founding Fathers said that all religions find free expression in the United States precisely because it was founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
          And George Washington famously said that the Constitution was made for a religious people.  It is wholly unsuitable for any other.  If we don’t soon commit to turning things around, we will learn that lesson the hard way.