Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NEW YORK TIMES WEIGHS IN ON CHRISTIANITY'S DECLINE, BUT IS IT A FALL?



My comments first: David Brooks makes some good points and perhaps he unwittingly supports what Cardinal George is purported to say or at least legend has it. The last part of what the late Cardinal said is apropos:

"I will die in my bed; my successor will die in prison; his successor will die a martyr; his sucessor will rebuild the ruins of society."

 Of course history repeats itself and ties into what we know Pope Francis said just this past Monday to Archbishop Blase Cupich and the other archbishops around the world receiving the palium:

Everything passes, only God remains.  Indeed, kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ.  Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness of life, after the example of Peter and Paul. 
  
Yes, many Christians to include not only Evangelicals but also Catholics are involved in the culture war concerning the sexual revolution and what it has done to the very fabric of family life in America and which is contributing to the decline and fall of this great nation and of western civilization. Some have not used the spiritual weapon of love, authentic love, to communicate the Church's mission.

Pope Francis, much to the discomfort of angry and shrill Catholics isn't using the weapon of shrill and anger in this culture war. He is using honey to attract sinners. Seems like a good approach today. He has shifted the Church's culture war to that which even an atheist could agree, the love of the world that sustain life and protecting it, helping it to heal. 

He is calling on Catholics and all the world to assist the poor and to become poor in assisting them.  He hasn't changed one iota of Church teaching concerning sex, her social agenda or any other dogma or doctrine, but His Holiness is calling for a new way of speaking and dialoguing with the world. 

The Holy Father is beginning to pick up the pieces of an already declined and fallen world. This is what the Church has always done in these kinds of times. He is showing us the way to counteract a world obsessed on self, sex and money not by anger and shrill arguments but with love and reconciliation.  
David Brooks – New York Times – 25 June 2015

Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.

Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues. More and more Christians feel estranged from mainstream culture. They fear they will soon be treated as social pariahs, the moral equivalent of segregationists because of their adherence to scriptural teaching on gay marriage. They fear their colleges will be decertified, their religious institutions will lose their tax-exempt status, their religious liberty will come under greater assault.

The Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision landed like some sort of culminating body blow onto this beleaguered climate. Rod Dreher, author of the truly outstanding book “How Dante Can Save Your Life,” wrote an essay in Time in which he argued that it was time for Christians to strategically retreat into their own communities, where they could keep “the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness.”

He continued: “We have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist.”

Most Christian commentary has opted for another strategy: fight on. Several contributors to a symposium in the journal First Things about the court’s Obergefell decision last week called the ruling the Roe v. Wade of marriage. It must be resisted and resisted again. Robert P. George, probably the most brilliant social conservative theorist in the country, argued that just as Lincoln persistently rejected the Dred Scott decision, so “we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation.”

These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.

I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.

17 comments:

Angry Augustinian said...

Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day? Is this a recommendation. God help us.

Anonymous said...

We're obsessed with sex? On the contrary...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The media is obsessed with sex not the Church. I watched the first part (one minute or less) of celebrity family feud on Sunday (replacing America's Funiest...) and it was so trashy and disgusting I couldn't take it and this show has such potential to be a fun family show, but has become obsessed with sex, body secretions and functions and the rest of it.

Jdj said...

Fascinating... Much food for thought and prayer here--most especially the last sentence.
What DOES our faith teach about fighting the culture wars? How DID Jesus fight that war in His day, modeling for us?
I'm asking because I have pondered and prayed, not knowing all the answers.
Very serious Christians, Catholics seemingly even more so, are so divided by the crushing social culture wars of our day. It's no wonder we can't fight the war against ISIS bloodbaths properly when we are so distracted (obsessed?) with fighting our in-house wars? Satan, the great deceiver, is arguably doing his best work with us right now. We could all learn a strong lesson from little Mother Emanuel AME Church
right now: love is the answer, forgiveness is the key. We have the fullness of the faith to guide us...Right Church, right people, right time...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Yes, Dorothy Day.

13 November 2012 - "The U.S. bishops, on a voice vote, endorsed the sainthood cause of Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who was famously quoted as saying, "Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily."

David Brooks writes of Day in "The Road to Character" - "She often sought out occasions for moral heroism, occasions to serve others in acts of enduring hardships."

"She wasn't choosing to work at a non-profit institution in order to have a big impact; she was seeking to live in accord with the Gospels, even if it meant sacrifice and suffering."

DJR said...

"He is calling on Catholics and all the world to assist the poor and to become poor in assisting them. He hasn't changed one iota of Church teaching concerning sex, her social agenda or any other dogma or doctrine, but His Holiness is calling for a new way of speaking and dialoguing with the world."

Father, with all due respect, does this purport to be a serious observation? And I don't mean to be rude by any means; it's an authentic question.

Pope Francis is calling for a new way of speaking and dialoguing with the world? Sometimes I just can't believe that I inhabit the same planet as other people.

On the contrary, hasn't the Church been speaking and dialoguing with the world in the exact same manner as Pope Francis for the last half century? What's new about it?

The world has gotten demonstrably more evil, and Catholics themselves have lost the Faith by the tens of millions.

While Pope Francis is "dialoguing," we are witnessing such spectacles as that which recently occurred in "Catholic" Brazil: an enormous parade of 2 million perverts openly blaspheming Almighty God and desecrating the most cherished symbols of our Faith.

The time for the alleged "new" dialogue is over. First, there's absolutely nothing new about it; secondly, it hasn't worked.

Mark Thomas said...

<<<"Pope Francis, much to the discomfort of angry and shrill Catholics isn't using the weapon of shrill and anger in this culture war.">>>

Dear Father, Pope Francis recently spoke in shrill fashion against Christians who profit from the armaments industry.

Pope Francis spoke in shrill fashion against powerful groups who tie population control to foreign aid that is sent to poor countries. The Pope referenced the complaints of bishops from Africa who lamented that Western powers use money to control the populations of African nations.

His Holiness Pope Francis likened said Western groups to Nazis. That is powerful language in regard to the cultural war.

Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Fr. Kavanagh. Why were't you posting during the flurry of recent threads on the same-sex marriage ruling?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Good point Mark. His Holiness has called nuns pickled peppered faces, seminarians little monsters and priests, well, we don't want to get into that. Yes, His Holiness is judgmental in some things and lax in others. Haven't all popes?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Oh, I forgot His Holiness Christmas gift to the curia.

Angry Augustinian said...

So, then, why do you get your cassock in a wad when we are judgmental on here?

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald:

Thank you for posting this excellent article by David Brooks, who is very thoughtful and a_real_conservative in my view.


Bee said...

Dorothy Day?? Oh PLEASE!! She's an early version of the liberation theologian. And her morals - well, supposedly she was "religious" but lived what is politely known as a "bohemian" lifestyle, which hopefully ended after she was baptized Catholic, but whether it did has always been unclear to me. What is clearer is that the Catholic Worker houses were not exactly sanctuaries of purity and morals.

In addition: From Wikipedia: Around 1932 she wrote "Oh, far day of American freedom, when Karl Marx could write for the morning Tribune in New York, and Kropotkin [a Russian Communist] could not only be published in the Atlantic, but be received as a guest into the homes of New England Unitarians, and in Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago!"
and
"In 1970, at the height of American participation in the Vietnam War, she described Ho Chi Minh as "a man of vision, as a patriot, a rebel against foreign invaders"..." Also from Wikipedia, about Ho Chi Minh: "...as many as 500,000 North Vietnamese may have died during the 1950s and 1960s as a result of the policies of Ho's government." A man of vision indeed! A totalitarian communist dictator.

I do not and cannot admire so-called Catholic socialists and Marxists, because they amputate the Gospel, emphasizing the corporal works of mercy while excising the spiritual ones, and omitting piety, the worship of God, and especially the virtue of obedience, among other things. They never speak of the soul. It's a subtle heresy.

So I just can't buy someone like Dorothy Day was a saint. She was an activist and sought solutions to social problems through politics. She points not to God and His providence as the Author and Ordainer of all things, but to herself and the political ideas of men.

But who knows? As the leftists take over and get more and more influence, maybe they'll just change the definition of sainthood the way they did the definition of marriage, into something that fits they people they'd like to grant sainthood to. Then Stalin and Ho Chi Minh can be saints too!

Jusadbellum said...

The last 50 years is no refutation of conservative beliefs or praxis.

The vast majority of religious orders of men and women and most dioceses have NOT been hot beds of conservative, traditional Catholicism 101. So our praxis has not been tried and found wanting.

Instead we've had the sexual revolutionaries coordinating their blows against Christendom with the liberal Catholics running religious orders of women and men and dioceses.... and the people flee from these wishy washy or scandalous prelates and religious.

It's not therefore ours to give up and surrender. Hell no. We have not yet begun to fight.

Angry Augustinian said...

I had a comment about Dorothy Day, but Fr. did not post it. It wasn't profane, only true. Let's say the same squirrels that are after Schellenhuber have her in their sights, as well.

John Nolan said...

Fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council concluded. Its aim was to present the unchanging truths of the Church in a way more relevant to contemporary man. Whether or not it succeeded is open to debate (I know which side of the motion I would speak on, but that's by the by).

In 1965 the accepted norms of society were still aligned with Judaeo-Christian morality. Homosexual behaviour was still criminalized and even those who favoured liberalization were not suggesting it should be regarded as morally acceptable. Children who were born out of wedlock still carried the stigma of bastardy. Single parents were called 'unmarried mothers' and were not entitled to live off the State. Divorce entailed protracted litigation. Britain and France still applied the death penalty for wilful murder. Schools expected good behaviour and if necessary enforced it with corporal punishment.

This no longer applies. Liberals would celebrate this as a great advance in civilization, but I see a marked decline in civilized values. I accept that this may be a generational thing.

I will not join in the general excoriation of Pope Francis. He talks too much, is often imprecise and contradictory, and has a tendency to scold, which is unbecoming for someone in his office. I get the impression he is out of his depth. But he is the Pope, and has my loyalty and respect. I lived through the disastrous papacy of Paul VI; if ever a man deserved compassion, it was he. The last ten years of his life must have been a bitter trial. Orate pro eo, requiescat in pace.

Jdj said...

Excellent post, John Nolan. I, too, lived through all of that history.
And I, too, will not join in the excoriation of Pope Francis, but also believe he is "out of his depth"...
I believe he is a good man who deeply loves his Church, however misplaced his efforts might be.