Emmitsburg Council of Churches

End of the culture wars?
 Are Christians defeated?

Father John J. Lombardi

Item-Many Christians are upset at the 2008 elections and feel defeated.

Item: Cal Thomas, nationally syndicated Christian commentator, seemingly gives up on Christian politics.

Item-President Obama in Europe says America is not a Christian country (nor Muslim or Jewish).

Item: An Easter Newsweek front cover reads, in the form of a cross no less: "The Rise and Fall of Christian America."

Item: A recent American religious Identity Survey national poll shows that Christian numbers are lessening; mainline religions are fading-Catholics and Protestants-are losing hold; and atheists and agnostics are growing

Item: Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, quits its' Board of Directors (after almost 25 years-to make room for others); and says Christians have lost a lot of battles in the cultures wars.

Is it all that bad? Is this really the end of Christianity in America? No, don't give in to nay-sayers-and keep on keepin on!

What are the possible interpretations of all these items above?

1-There's an agenda of much of the press (Newsweek being the most egregious) that continues to challenge Christians-especially orthodox ones--dreaded "conservative" or "right wing-ers" or "religious right"-to intimidate them and make the news instead of reporting it. In other words they're seeing a "window of opportunity" to continue slamming Christianity as a "dinosaur religion" against, you name it: abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research -all of which are wrong and harmful to our culture. Whether it is the media or pop culturalists or educational institutions or scientists, they want to drive a wedge between Christian religionists and the general culture and re-make America as a purely secular-read-un-religious, un-Christian land. This will not happen if Christians and Catholics rise up, love their Faith and


Country-and it's enshrined Judeo-Christian heritage and spread the Light for what is right. Instead of informing today many in the media are intending to intimidate others away from our Christian Faith. Don't be dissuaded.

2-Like a lotta things in life: there' s some truth and some falsity to the above items. Yes: our country isn't inherently only-Christian. However, most of the Founders were Christians-and practicing ones-- and natural law endowed by our Creator are part of country's laws and ethos. Our country is made up of 70% practicing Christians and, despite the polls and agnostics, most pray to and believe in God and basic traditional values. Yes there are moral battles lost recently (Dr. Dobson recounted pornography as one) and there is more religious diversity and agnostics in the culture and yes there must be a certain distinction between God and country, spirituality and politics. But this in no way means the "war" is lost or that Christians are "folding".

3. Christian realism: admits the difficulties but doesn't cave in; we see present evils and yet continue on. Christians don't "put all their eggs in one basket" of a particular president or political party and there is, after all, certain "waves" of ups and downs, battles won and lost and whose in and whose ousted in political and leadership offices. And, Christian leaders are entitled to get a little crabby and upset every once in a while over the darknesses in the world. The political and landscape and moral culture are changing and orthodox Christians sometimes get blasted and are not always the favored kid on the block, but that doesn't mean they despair or throw all their marbles in or deter others from activating in the spiritual and political life

4-We need prophets: today we need leaders like Archbishop Chaput of Denver who has questioned the depth of the general Catholic population in America-many Catholics may be card carrying members but not deep disciples of Catholic belief. He has questioned the Catholic identity of many Catholic institutions and has inferred that

Many studies have shown that Catholics are not really any different than the general culture-especially in terms of divorce, contraception, abortion and consumerism-we fail at being prophetic and counter-examples of the secular culture

5-We need to avoid extremes-From Apathy to Zealotry. Apathy-folks don't care that the most avid abortion-prone president is not only giving a keynote address at Notre Dame University but also getting an honorary award-all against the explicit command of the US Bishops; and "apathists" are also inane to the gigantic civil rights issue of our time, abortion (and they may see a politicians views on the economy as more important) ; and are also apathetic about the moral depravity and alternative lifestyles (family, sexuality) offered in our culture today. On the other extreme we must avoid zealots who preach hate; and flight from duty and political process and engaging in political-religious discourse. The "radical middle" answer means that we should be realistic and active and in the world but not of it.

6-Chritianity in America: Just what about the following short-list don't you get? Christians-along with Jews-- basically founded this country, including: Sabbath rests and Ten Commandments enshrined in the US

Supreme Court building; Washington establishing a Thanksgiving Day; pledging on a Bible to tell the

truth; Lincoln recalling us to God's Providence; on our money is "In God we Trust" a Protestant work ethic building railroads and super highways; President

Barak Obama swearing in with his hand on a family bible as first African-American president; and so many Christians integrating Muslims and other Faiths into their neighborhoods despite all the ambiguities. Despite any possible waning of Christian numbers (I hardly see that in the Grotto; in the prisons and hospitals and schools I visit) Upshot: Christians have been a mainstay of this country and are here to stay!

We need to obviously, encourage preachers and all Christian peoples to promote and protect life (esp. the unborn and the killed-off elderly thru euthanasia) and preach basic Christian and Catholic doctrine (Flannery O'Connor called it the "The Drama of Dogma"-possibly because God the Trinity and the Incarnation and forgiveness of sins clashed against culture and relativism so much)and for all to confront evils (i.e., pornography and anti-family industries) and promote traditional values, nature's laws-that there is a God-order and we are called to conform to it. No question about it: we are now living in a more hostile world. Christians are resilient. We need to wake and shake up not give up and get out like some would have us do.

So, in conclusion, in essence: get back in the religious-secular ring, and represent Jesus Christ and the saints and love God and Country!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi