War on Religion?
Unless you were away on a pilgrimage last week, you are probably aware that attacks against religion in the media have reached new highs (better said, lows). You may have even suspected that this recent barrage of insults bears the mark of retaliation against Christian resistance to the HHS mandate.
The attacks themselves have little or nothing to do with the HHS issue. Just the simple fact that several unrelated stories suddenly appear all over the news and throughout the internet, on Twitter, Facebook, You-name-it, suggests that this is a diversion tactic aimed at taking people’s attention off the issue at hand, while redirecting people’s hostility toward people of religion, who are made to look like fools and hypocrites.
Here is a sample of recent stories in the news you should already be familiar with. I’ve divided them into three groups:
- Counter-protests and demonstrations, including Protests against the purported “War on Women,” countering the “War against Religious Freedom,” and Planned Parenthood’s “40 Days of Prayer,” countering pro-lifers “40 Days for Life.”
- Overhyped outrage stories, including the backlash against the 800 priests in Ireland who vowed to defy a law that would force them to report details of sexual abuse revealed to them in the confessional.
- Retro-religion stories, which have dominated the press for the last few days. First, Ross Douthat’s, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, was published on April 17 (I have not read it yet, but I’m ordering it from Amazon). Since then two “scientific” studies about religion have hit the headlines, first, “Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief” (reprinted and rehashed under other titles, such as “Religious People Lack Logic, Study Implies”— which basically means some scientist think you’re pretty stupid, if you believe in God). Just yesterday, Live Science followed suit with this article: “Religious People Less Driven By Compassion Than Are Atheists And Agnostics, Study Says.”There are other unnewsworthy stories topping the charts in national news coverage that aren’t worth recognition (but hat’s off to the large potion of the high school audience that walked out on Dan Savage’s rant last week! I’m including this link to a 2-minute video-segment of his talk. Do not watch this if you are easily offended. It’s ironic that this was supposed to be a talk on “bullying”).
Fight Fire with Fire?
The reason why people think they can get away with publicly insulting people’s religious sensitivities is that Christians tend to be pacifistic. Recently, that trend has started to change. In fact, another article I recently discovered accuses Catholics of “Cyber Bullying”.
One wonders if we can win the cyber-war by simply fighting fire with fire. If our attempts at lashing back are just another case of preaching to the choir, I think the answer is No. Nor do I think that the battle is to be won by getting more actively involved in politics. Christians should be actively engaged in politics and making use of social media to evangelize. I’m not convinced, however that, these are the best ways to respond to the opposition in the present case.
As these events escalate in the media, our lashing back at them online becomes a shouting match that will be stored on the public record for all generations to see. The outcome will be determined by the one who can shout louder and I’m afraid we don’t have the bigger mouth or the louder voice. Cyber shouting is not the way to go.
Ecumenism = More Religion
The best way to respond is by continuing to do well what we are already good at and to do that better. Ecumenism is the perhaps the best way to rally our religious fervor in force.
Ecumenism is “more religion,” not quantitatively, but qualitatively. Ecumenism means “That they may be ONE.” With active Christian ecumenism, the force of one will outlast the scattered voices of many.
In times of war, we need to put any bickering among us aside and focus on the common goal: our love for Christ, our strong religious conviction, and the ernest desire to transmit our faith to future generations.
Many are saying that we are already living in the Post-Christian era; that 9/11/01 will mark the calendars as Day One, PCE.
The New Evangelization stands in contrast to this attitude. The Springtime of Evangelization heralded by Blessed John Paul II is not just a Catholic thing. It’s a Christian thing: That they all be One!
The Catholic Church’s eagerness to engage Christians of all faiths in the New Evangelization are clearly expressed in the documents of Vatican II. This quote from the first paragraph of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which I think stresses that point:
This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.
What more can we do as Christians to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ? We can begin by strengthening our religious conviction and supporting each other with fraternal charity during this episode of anti-religious antagonism.
I believe social media can play a strong roll in fostering Christian unity and I think that may be a better use of our time than lashing back at our opponents. We will show our true colors — our dignity as Christians — if we are able to rise above them successfully.