Editorial: The War against Christmas Is Symptomatic of a Bigger Problem, Intolerant Secularism
understood as an "anti-establishment" clause. It was intended to prohibit the "establishment" of one particular religion - in the sense of a Federal or State sponsored Church which mandated adherence from unwilling citizens.
The American founders fled coercive approaches to religion which compelled adherence to a particular sect. Yet, they were certainly not anti-religious. They were also not against religious symbols or religious expression. Our history is filled with them.
Or, more accurately, it once was. Religious symbols are no longer seen as a wonderful sign of the history of the West and the American founding by the new Judicial Oligarchs or the secularist ideologues that hold some public offices.
Rather, they are seen as a threat in an increasingly intolerant secularist order. When they are allowed they must be demonstrated to have been eviscerated of any religious meaning and somehow thereby rendered "secular" and acceptable.
We will make it through this challenging time. We have done so in the past. However, we need to recognize what is really at work. We need to remember our history not only as American citizens but, even more importantly, as Christians.
The early Roman authorities charged the Christians of that era with "odium humani generis" [hatred of the human race] when they arrested them. Some in Rome had lost respect for the dignity of all human life while still claiming to be enlightened and progressive.
They practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as exposure, the killing of unwanted newborns. The Emperor Nero was overt in his promiscuous homosexual behavior. Some historians note his having taken a male "wife".
The history of ancient Rome shows a correlation between the growth of hostility toward the Christians and the spiraling moral decline of the Republic. The Romans of that age did not want hear the Christians oppose abortion and the practice of "exposure" (the killing of newborns).
Their hedonism was threatened by the Christian witness and lifestyle. They accused those Christians of intolerance and upsetting the public order.
One of the ancient Christian manuscripts from that age, written to a pagan inquirer into the Christian faith, is entitled a "Letter to Diognetus". It spoke of the distinctly different practices of the Christians:
"They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land. They marry like all others and beget children but they do not expose (kill or abandon) their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed."
The insistence of those early Christians on defending all human life and the witness of their faithful monogamous marriages - eventually - transformed ancient Rome. But it was not without opposition, hostility and, sadly, persecution. So it may be in our day.
Out in front in our own age, speaking truth and refusing to worship the new false gods are faithful Catholics. Fortunately the government has not (yet) charged us with "hatred of the human race."
However, there seems to be a growing effort to brand us as extreme or intolerant.
The letter to Diognetus also contained these words:"what the soul is in the body that the Christians are in the world." Those who insist on remaining faithful as Christians (Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox) must not retreat.
We are the soul of the world in this age. That vocation has never been comfortable. That's why we have as our sign a cross.
Our position is the opposite of hatred of the human race. It is borne out of a love for the dignity of all men and women in their person, their bodies, and their families. It expresses our hope to see all men and women experience authentic human freedom and flourishing.
Intolerant Secularism is on the rise. We must not cower when confronted by those who attempt to silence us. Our message is not our own. It is for the whole world and it still sets the captives free.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: secularism, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, Rome, Diognetus, establishment clause, free exercise clause, free speech, HHS mandate, Deacon Keith Fournier
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