For the last several years I have been watching this country descend into madness. I wonder, at times, if this isn't what people saw in the late 60's as the country fell into madness. Back then, the country was again plunged into a war that showed no signs of either victory or ending. The middle east was a violent mess. The sexual revolution was gaining full steam and gender roles, marriage, family, and sexuality were being redefined at a torrid pace. Violence was erupting among some younger groups, like the Weather Underground and other group who rained terror and destruction on innocent people. Universities were hot beds of dissension. It was age of corrupt politicians and divided parties. It was a time where citizens of this country forgot they were a people and became a antagonistic collection of categories. Churches and religious institutions emptied out.
The more things change the more they stay the same. A war weary country is tired of having our young men and women slaughtered. The middle east has grown into an even more violent mess. The sexual revolution still roars on to where even concepts of gender and orientation are fluid and so individualistic as to almost defy categorization. Violent demonstrations among radicals are almost a daily occurrence. These radicals have become more strident, insisting that their opinion is the only allowable opinion, applying fascist techniques while saying they are fighting fascism. Universities are hotbeds for these radicals, prodded on by an one sided narrative force fed them day in and day out. The political parties are in states of civil war and still manage to be at war with each other. Corruption is still a norm. People are now a collection of adjectives, labeled and categorized as good or evil. Unity is now seen as an enemy. Churches and religious institutions fall and the 'spiritual but not religious' arise in their place.
I know this is a pretty dystopic view of our country. It is the image the media shoves in our face. The media fuels this dystopia, encourages it, and lionizes it. People behaving badly makes for good press. The politicians make their bread and butter by dividing and scraping together enough subgroups to get elected.
There is a feeling by many that just wants it to end. Be it a meteor or some other cataclysmic event or the Second Coming, people are just tired of the drama and the violence. They turn to institutions or to themselves to find answers. They find variations of a theme. More often than not, religious institutions crumbled because they failed to address these things. Some religious ignored what was going on and thought just more rules would suffice. Some religious didn't ignore it, but capitulated to it to the point where what was heard in the house of worship was no different than what was heard elsewhere. What distinguished faith was covered over in a sloppy goo of 'social justice' and spineless capitulation to sin. Some went the entertainment route, if we couldn't show truth, maybe we could entertain them. Slowly but surely those seeking truth saw through it all and left.
You see, the antidote to all of this is truth. What is real? As a priest, my job is to bear witness to truth. That is an art. On the one hand the truth isn't a bludgeon to slay faith. On the other hand it isn't a narcotic meant to numb us. Truth by its nature is challenging. Truth shows us the fallacies and destructive nature of sin. To give an example: when the sexual revolution was raging and many church leaders and theologians wanted to capitulate on the issues of artificial birth control, Bl. Paul VI wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae; a plea for the truth and a warning of what would happen if deceit was allowed in the realms of human sexuality and family life. He was laughed out of the room by these theologians and bishops, but a look now at this encyclical shows he was completely correct. Deceit cannot solve our problems...only truth can.
In the realm of truth, our society is going to have accept that the truth is that the human person is a who, not a what. The human person is not a collection of categories. It is wrong to subdivide the human race into multiple categories and set them against each other. We must admit that our sexual libertine attitude has devastated the family, reduced the dignity of the individual, and emptied our souls of their integrity. The truth is that man is not just another beast on this planet to be herded, manipulated, and disposed of as seen fit. The truth is that there is a loving God who wants to be part of our lives but does not force Himself upon us. The truth is that this loving God is not a sugar daddy, a slave, a pet, nor a disposable machine.
Our churches have got to address deceit head on with truth. We are supposed to agents of healing which is hard to do when we ignore the disease. Sometimes the truth is hard. It must applied with charity, but applied nonetheless. People must find in God a place a refuge and hope. They must find something that spurs them to conversion and zeal. The more deceitful the society, the more of the light of truth we should become. To do this means the churches cannot embrace anything that is deceitful. We can not weasel out by becoming entertainers. If we focus on ourselves and not God, we make ourselves the arbiters of truth. There is nothing solid in that. When our worship services are self worship, we replace truth with deceit, and a just God would get those He loved far from them.
We have some hard decisions to make as a society and as a church. Do we continue down the rabbit hole whose only destination is hell (on earth and for eternity)? Or do we face up to the hard truths and rise from the ashes? Do we allow ourselves to be challenged? Do we get the focus off of ourselves. No other trait so fuels the destruction we see more than the self-centered narcissistic attitude so prevalent today. Narcissism fuels deceit. Truth begs us to look beyond ourselves and at the same time challenges us to be better. We wring our hands about so many things nowadays...but remember it is better to be a light than to curse the darkness.