February 17, 2017


Living in our post-Christian culture

Hang in there, Catholics and other Christians of faith.

It seems that we are being called out more and more on social media by people who believe that religion should have no role in American society. These people think that people of faith must be unintelligent to actually believe the things we believe, or, in many cases, what they imagine we believe.

There’s even a new name for what’s going on. It’s called “faith shaming.” It’s making fun of people because of their beliefs. And Catholics are often seen as out of the mainstream in our secular culture, which is often referred to as “post-Christian.”

It’s not like that’s something new in American history. Catholics were discriminated against severely during many periods of American history, from colonial times until almost the middle of the 20th century. Then, the injustice came primarily from members of other Christian traditions. Now, its source is largely from secular-minded people opposed to any influence of faith in the public square. In any case, modern Catholics aren’t used to such treatment.

We Catholics surely realize that most Americans disagree with us when it comes to marriage issues. We oppose no-fault divorce and the redefinition of marriage, allowing people of the same gender to marry. We dare to say that men and women should be married before they have sex or live together. We even oppose artificial contraceptives, which a large majority of society approves of.

Furthermore, the Church condemns abortion even though it’s permitted by law, and capital punishment, still practiced in most of our states. It defends the rights of migrants to try to find better lives for themselves and their children, and it preaches a preferential option for the poor. The social justice principles it has espoused at least since 1891 have never been accepted by American society.

So perhaps we should be used to our role by now.

A major problem with that is that too many Catholics are succumbing to criticism of the Church. They are leaving the Church completely, or at least no longer follow some of its teachings, including many of those listed above.

Included among such Catholics should be John Podesta, Hilary Clinton’s campaign manager during last year’s presidential election. He called the faithful who accept the Church’s teachings on various moral issues as “backwards Catholics” in the e-mails that were hacked and leaked by WikiLeaks last October, and wrote about efforts being made to “reform” the Church.

But let’s not become paranoid. Traditional Catholics are not the only ones who are being faith-shamed. We hesitate to revive old battles, but the 2015 controversy over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act here in Indiana demonstrated the hostility that many people have toward Christians who try to practice their faith—often by people who call themselves Christians.

Much of that hostility centered on the issue of homosexuality, especially the redefinition of marriage. The Church continues to consider such marriages as impossible because marriage can only be between a man and a woman, but the Supreme Court has ruled them to be legal. Controversy soared over whether people of faith can be forced to participate in or support such weddings.

The same issue surfaced last November when Chip and Joanna Gaines were faith-shamed. It became known that this popular couple on HGTV’s show “Fixer Upper” were actually members of an evangelical church that doesn’t support the redefinition of marriage. Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur suggested that perhaps they might be intolerant toward gay and lesbian couples who want to appear on their show.

So what are we to do about this?

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to continue to practice our faith. Learn what the Church teaches, rather than what people think it teaches, so you can be prepared to explain its teachings on moral issues if called upon to do so.

Recognize that saying that you believe something just because that’s the Church’s teaching won’t get you far in a discussion. We must use reason to explain why we are for or against something. Better yet, learn what good the Church actually promotes and the reasons it promotes it.

Try not to be argumentative when you get involved in discussions about issues. Explain why you believe as you do, but remember that arguments usually just tend to harden the other person’s biases. Be charitable, of course.

—John F. Fink

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