On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a country known for its Christian faith. The head of the country spoke out about his Christianity, the people routinely went to Church, gave charitable donations, and celebrated Christian holidays. Then something happened. It felt like overnight, although in fact it was several years in coming to a head. The head of the country started demanding things of his people that those who were truly Christian could not do. People spoke out, but because the government was very powerful, they spoke out carefully. Torture was already being used by this government to deal with people who disagreed with it. Ultimately, a lot of the Christians in the country chose to look the other way. Some of them pretended to go along in public, but tried to keep their conscience clear in private. Only a very few refused to go along at all. Some of those who refused to go along were fined. Some had their property seized, some were put in jail, some were executed. No one would have believed a generation before that these things could have happened. They did happen, however, they happened in England under the rule of Henry VIII and continued under the rule of two of his children. Pray God, that this story is not one that will be told hundreds of years from now about the United States of America. Saint John Fisher, pray for us. Saint Thomas More, pray for us. Saint Margaret Clitheroe, pray for us. Saint Anne Line pray for us.

The question facing Catholics and other Christians who actually hold to Biblical faith today is: will we follow the Thomas Wolseys of the world or the Thomas Mores? Will we follow the Ann Boleyns or the Anne Lines? The choice most assuredly is ours. There were lots of arguments that people made to try to salve the conscience of St. Thomas More, but he cut through them all to the very basic premises. There are lots of arguments being used today to salve the conscience of Sister Carol, and other Catholics, but Cardinal George and Cardinal Dolan have cut through those arguments to basic premises. At the moment no one is threatening to sever the heads of bishops from their necks. They are merely threatening to take away property. Oh, wait, didn't Henry take away property before he took the head of St. John Fisher?

We may believe that none of this could happen here, but tell me truthfully if you were alive 40 years ago could you have seen a state in the United States requiring churches to allow homosexuals to have wedding ceremonies in them if their facilities were available for money? No church in Washington state can now charge for their facilities if they wish to refrain from having homosexual marriage ceremonies performed in them. When you look at all the things that have happened in the past 40 years that no one would have believed if you'd predicted it, how can we know what will happen next. We live in a country that sends drones to assassinate our enemies, we now prosecute whistle blowers instead of praising them, we hold people in jail for years without even bringing them to trial. That sounds more like Soviet Russia than the America I was taught about in elementary school.

Apocalyptic novelists through the years have attempted to predict what's next. Seldom have they gotten things exactly right 1984 came and went and Big Brother wasn't really watching inside our homes. Sometimes, however, some of the more basic ideas in the books have come true. We certainly have news media that serve disinformation a lot of the time. We certainly have schools that either take a "new twist" on history, or fail to teach much of it at all. RH Benson's Lord of the World gives us one apocalyptic scenario that's becoming altogether too believable (euthanasia forced on an old Catholic women who is also denied Last Rites by her daughter-in-law, because after all it's simply superstition). The more recent novelist Michael O'Brien's novels have dealt with things like the curtailment of the freedom of speech, especially for journalists. I must admit that in recent years I've frequently felt like I was living in the beginning pages of a Michael O'Brien novel (right before things got really, really bad). I'm sure that Mr. O'Brien would dearly loved to be proven a lousy prophet. However, so far he's identified things that actually are beginning to happen in places. Once upon a time moving to the backwoods, throwing away the TV, and growing peaches might have seemed like an option. In a world where GPS can locate you most anywhere, and the government can send in drones to surgically remove you from the face of the earth, the more prudent thing to do is to pray. The most courageous thing to do is to support the Catholic bishops while we still can and boldly proclaim that the free exercise of religion is not confined to a worship service on Sunday morning.

Just remember, no Englishman would have thought that his local parish church would be looted, or the common grounds on which he grazed his livestock would be taken away in the early years of Henry VIII's reign. No one would have believed that simply owning a rosary would be a crime. No one would have believed that the medical facilities staffed by monks would have been closed down and the property turned over to friends of the king. So just what will we say twenty years from now about what no one would have believed? When we have turned sex, abortion, and government into religion, and turned religion into something that a candidate is not supposed to truly believe, what else is on the horizon. A few years back a governor of Colorado made news by advocating euthanasia of elderly people. Would it even make news today, when it is quietly happening in hospitals around the country? How much further do we have to drift before even the so- called liberals among us see that we've gone too far? Taking away freedom and life doesn't seem like such a liberal thing to do now does it? However, when the man whom the Pope dubbed Defender of the Faith began the dissolution of the monastaries I suspect that some people were surprised at that turn around as well.

Recently, I've been saddened to see people whom I once thought of as fairly serious Protestant Christians start advocating for gay marriage. I got defriended by one of them on Facebook recently because I put up a link on my page that was protesting the propagandizing of homosexuals in schools. A lot of years ago now I made an observation about the drift of our culture. I couldn't even have imagined either what was about to happen or how fast it would happen. However, my observation was that in my grandchildren's lifetime all serious Christians were going to have to be Catholics because no one else was going to take Biblical faith seriously. At the moment there are still some serious Biblical Protestants out there, but they are rapidly being made unwelcome in any mainline denomination, and even in the evangelical world such compromises have already been made (with respect to divorce and remarriage for example) that I suspect that they are simply a few decades behind the mainline crowd as far as abandoning Biblical standards are concerned. I've watched people I knew to be not simply sort of evangelical Christians, but people I knew to be rock solid proponents of Biblical inerrancy go soft when the culture battles took victims in their own homes.

St. Margaret Clitheroe converted to the Catholic faith during the reign of Elizabeth I. She was the first woman martyr during the Tudor's persecution of Catholics (although not the last). St. John Fisher was the only Bishop in England to not knuckle under to Henry VIII. St. Thomas More of course was made famous by the movie and play A Man For All Seasons. St. Anne Line, like Margaret Clitheroe was martyred for hiding priests. Each of them gave up their lives rather than give up their faith. Today we are reluctant to even give up our social standing with our old friends who've adopted the new wave thinking that the media has promoted. Pray for our Bishops, pray for pastors, turn off the TV and pick up some books written before 1950. The hour is late, but perhaps not too late yet. Margaret Clitheroe believed that what was happening in England in her time was the result of Christians in earlier times giving too little attention to their faith. Perhaps the same is true now. Perhaps for a long time we've been given the pastors we deserve (who merely tickle our ears) rather than the ones we need (who would call us to repentance). Perhaps it's time to pray to be given the pastors and leaders we really need.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Wendy said...

I wish this weren't true. Someone recently asked if we were raising our children to be martyrs. Guess so.

By God's grace, may me merrily meet in heaven!


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