I am a news junkie. It’s probably a diagnosable sickness.
I get out of bed in the morning and immediately grab my phone off of the alarm clock cradle in which it rests. The glow of the screen guides my steps to the bathroom. I turn on the water for the shower and get my first “fix” of the day while I wait for the water to warm up.
The news I read is mostly political, but from time to time, I venture on to Catholic news sites for a different perspective. I enjoy reading about the goings-on of the world through the lenses of our faith but, over the last several months, I have noticed a trend, a Chicken Little “the sky is falling” mentality that permeates much of American Catholic reporting.
There is little doubt that we are fighting a culture war. To take it one step further, I’d say that there is little doubt that we are fighting a spiritual battle. The struggle between God and Satan for the hearts and minds of people the world over makes itself infinitely evident each day. Why is it then, that we seem so consistently surprised by what we see?
As disciples and followers of Christ, we are called to be different. Our system of values should be inherently different because we see the world for what it is rather than what it pretends to be when imbued with all of the lies and deceptions of our enemy.
When we answer the call to be like Jesus, to love in a radical way and seek holiness that magnifies our rightful place in creation, we challenge the status quo of the world around us that lives by the rule of personal gain and ambition. While we should never seek to condemn or judge others, the fact remains that when we answer a higher calling, people around us can’t help but react defensively.
Jesus knew that, as believers, we would face this kind of persecution. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, “blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12, NABRE).
So, if we are to expect this kind of persecution, why are we so surprised when we receive it? I suspect that it’s because our expectations and values as Americans so often conflict with our expectations and values as Christians. As Americans, we expect religious liberty, the freedom to express our religious values in any way we see fit. We get defensive when lawsuits are filed that would limit our expressions of faith in public life. We scream and holler when government programs undermine the values that are central to our faith. In short, we’d just like to assume that Jesus didn’t have to be right when he foretold of persecution against believers.
I am not calling for us, as Catholics, to give up on the culture war. I don’t think we should roll over and stop defending our values. It just seems like we can tone down the level of shocked disbelief and fervent declarations of the evil around us. First and foremost, it seems that we should respond in prayer and a quiet commitment to live differently. On the social front of our war, I have rarely experienced a situation in which the loudest voice takes the day. No, its usually the mostly saintly that prevail, the ones that quietly and unwaveringly commit to what is right.
After all, the sky is not falling. The battle is not lost. It’s already been won by the one to whom we need to turn in prayer.