Recent news has brought to the forefront the great cost of war. During the very time I was in the air flying to the West Coast, another airliner was shot down over Ukraine. Perhaps it was a foolish accident, perhaps not. Regardless, 300 people who had no real involvement in the military conflicts between Ukraine and Russia were killed.
Some say that this is what happens when the USA sleeps. Like it or not, we are the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and if we don’t take an active role in world conflict this is what happens.
Other voices counsel that we should stay out of other nations’ affairs and regional conflicts that date back centuries. I leave it to you to decide where you think our mission lies. At Walter Reed, I have seen men with missing limbs, with brain injuries, men who went to save the Iraqis from themselves. Now it seems that little was accomplished.
This is not a political blog or a military one. However, it seems clear to me that every course of action or lack thereof has its consequences; the devil will extract his pound of flesh either way.
But spiritually we are more answerable for the current state of affairs. The cauldron of Europe that exploded in two World Wars and a long cold war that is lately being reinvigorated happened in “Christian” Europe. Further, the widespread abandonment of the Faith in Europe does not bode well for anyone. We in the West love to cite the disarray and corruption in places like Africa. But Europe has been the site of bloodbaths for thousands of years. And at least the last two thousand years of bloodshed have happened on our watch—in a theoretically Christian Europe. In the past several decades we have seen an utter moral rebellion in the wake of a century of European war, both hot and cold. Yes, we who would preach Christ cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility for the condition the world.
When I saw the commercial below I was struck by a twinge of guilt. The words of a poem by William Butler Yeats came to mind:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Yes, something struck me. In the commercial anarchy, destruction, injustice, violence, and pure chaos are shown. And yet all the while our superhero, with his “Bat Phone” screeching in the background signaling a call for help, is wholly distracted, mindlessly flipping through the channels unaware that the world around him is descending right into Hell. He is turned inward, wholly focused on his own little world.
Is this what we are like? Are we the superhero slouching on the couch while the world and Western culture descend into a maelstrom? We see the things of which Yeats wrote: lost innocence, the blood-dimmed tide of the 20th Century, perhaps more than a hundred million people put to death in war and for ideological reasons, and moral anarchy swept in on the four horsemen of the apocalypse—relativism, secularism, individualism, and the sexual revolution.
And while the wicked were marching with passionate intensity, the good were largely asleep, lacking the intensity for battle. All around us are divorce, abortion, teenage pregnancy, skyrocketing numbers of sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, increasing lack of self-control and discipline, declining school test scores and graduation rates, inability to live within our means, rising poverty rates for children, increasing drug and alcohol addiction, plummeting Church attendance—the list could go on and on.
And where have we been as a Church, as Christians in a world gone mad? Where, for example, was the Church in 1969, when the “no-fault divorce” laws began to be passed? It would seem we were inwardly focused: moving furniture around in our sanctuaries, tuning our guitars, and having endless debates about liturgy, Church authority, why women can’t be ordained, etc. These are not unimportant issues, but while we were being rather wholly focused on them we lost the culture.
Yes, it happened on our watch. I am now past the age of fifty and I cannot say that it is all the fault of the previous generation. Even during my relatively short lifetime, I have seen the world as I knew it largely swept away, especially in terms of family life. And now it is up to me to try to make a difference.
How about you? It will take courage and an increasing conviction to live the Catholic faith openly. No more of this “undercover Catholic” stuff; no more of the desire to fit in and be liked. It is long past midnight for our culture, our families, and our children.
In the commercial there is something very wrong with the scene: a superhero ignores the cries for help as the phone screeches its warning. It’s time for our superhero to get off the couch, pick up the phone, re-engage, and get to work. It is interesting to note that the movie he is watching shows a wolf being set loose. Jesus says, Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matt 7:15). Indeed many wolves speaking of (false) tolerance and other pleasantries have badly misled and spread error: calling “good” what is sinful and misrepresenting the biblical tradition.
Well, fellow superheroes, the last time I checked, we are supposed to be salt and light for the world. It’s time—long past time—to bring Christ’s power back to this world. It’s time to get off the couch, pick up the phone, re-engage, and get to work.
Don’t just watch culture; direct it.