January 29, 2016

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Terrorism exists closer to home than we may think

Cynthia DewesDid we ever think we’d be called upon one day to be serious defenders of the faith? It gives us visions of Joan of Arc in full armor, brandishing the French flag and defending God’s honor.

After all, the Crusades and medieval holy wars and all that ancient stuff are long gone. Even though Scripture tells us that we will be persecuted for our faith, how often have we actually felt persecuted that way, especially in the U.S.A.?

Of course, we’ve been called upon at times to inform non-Catholics or-non-religious people in general about our beliefs and practices. But the small discomfort of setting someone straight about their misinformation is a far cry from fearing for our very lives. Visions of martyrs and burnings at the stake come to mind, and it’s scary.

Today we have nut cases like ISIS and other extremists who do terrible things in the name of religion. They behead people, rape women and kill many others, often by committing suicide. They do these things in the name of their God, but what kind of God would ask us to commit these serious sins in order to gain salvation? Even non-religious, civilized people are scandalized at the thought.

Now, most of us, at least in the United States and most western European countries, will not face such personal terrors. Of course, there have been isolated terror attacks, but mostly we’ve been protected for centuries from such violence by distance, reason and the rule of law. Our civilization has progressed, while the ISIS factions still live in the tribal past.

But there are other threats to us, equally as destructive to our moral well-being as ISIS’ tactics are to our mortal lives. Our freedom to express our religious faith, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, is under fire.

In the present culture, religion is mocked, dismissed as a fairy tale, or accused of pernicious motives in its beliefs and practices. The media, politicians, universities and government agencies denounce what used to be common understandings of truth: for example, that life is sacred, that marriage is a life-giving sacramental union between a man and a woman, and that stable families create a stable society.

Now, the moral standard seems to be whatever pleases us at any given time, as long as we won’t get arrested for it. We can abort babies, live in uncommitted sexual arrangements which may lead to parentless children, and abandon other responsibilities which we find uncomfortable or may cost us money.

Sometimes we hypocritically attend church and claim a moral high ground, while at the same time behaving in direct opposition to what the Church teaches. We seem to take God’s unfaltering love and forgiveness as a license to do anything we please as long as it’s not criminal. Indeed, the definitions of what is criminal changes all the time, and not often in favor of former standards.

It seems to me that we have our work cut out for us: namely, to uphold what is right in every way we can. We need to pay attention to changes in our laws and in our public attitudes in the media by voting, writing letters to responsible parties, and protesting lawfully when necessary.

Apathetic or non-religious folks need to be kindly reminded of what society will suffer if such terrorism continues. It may not be the Middle Ages, but defense of the faith is still a big issue.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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