Monday, June 17, 2013

A Fortnight for Christ and for All

St. Thomas More, Patron of Religious Liberty
"An unjust law is no law at all." In their bold document calling for a wholehearted defense of religious freedom, entitled Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, the U.S. Bishops hammer on this quote from Martin Luther King (who himself was citing St. Augustine).  And for the second year in a row, from June 21st through July 4th, Christians of all denominations, believers of all creeds, and all people of good-will are going to be reflecting on why unjust laws must be opposed. 

But what's really going on here?  Many people are confused about just how important this moment is, and what's really at stake.  Many people continue to think in terms of the increasingly irrelevant categories of "liberal" or "conservative," and so they don't know what to make of this question of religious liberty.  The right to follow one's conscience and not be coerced by federal or state governments is neither a "liberal" nor a "conservative" issue.  It is a Christian issue and a human issue.

The U.S. Bishops' Conference has assembled a remarkable array of resources--from  piercing commentaries to bulletin inserts, from in-depth analysis of the threats posed by the HHS mandate to resources for prayer and action.  They have done this neither as liberals nor as conservatives, but in the phrase coined by George Weigel, as "Evangelical Catholics."

There is clearly a great opportunity for public witness here in our country, and Evangelical Catholics seek to collaborate with anyone who cares about authentic human freedom--in the face of cynical wolves who have tried to "divide and conquer" the Christian community.  A brilliant passage from Weigel's Evangelical Catholicism speaks to what is really at stake, and Who is really at work:

Christianity is Christ, and thus it is Christ, not some abstract cluster of "Christian" ideas,
who shaped the culture of the West for centuries. 
It was Christ, working through the people of the Church who are his Body,
who converted the classical world and who saved the
world's intellectual
and cultural heritage through Christian micro-cultures of Benedictine monasticism.
It was Christ, though the Church, who shaped the Christendom of the Middle Ages,
where the foundations of modern science and democracy were laid.
It was Christ in his Church who brought Europe--its peoples and their cultures--
to the Western Hemisphere, shaping the New World's
social, cultural, and political life for over five centuries.
It was Christ whom Jacobin politics, in a line from Robespierre to Stalin,
sought to drive out of
the future of the West by the brutal suppression of the Church.
It is Christ, whom the twenty-first-century Christophobes fear. (EC, pp. 82-83)

As disciples of Christ, we must embrace this moment and respond to Christ's call to defend religious liberty, on behalf of all believers.  We must confront ideologies which seek to redefine the human person, redefine fundamental human rights, and ultimately redefine reality itself.  Christ has been and will continue to be a creative force in Western civilization, if we follow his lead in and through the Church.

So spread the word.  Check out some of the FAQs.  Fast and pray that those who want to seek the truth will be free to do so.  After all, as Weigel puts it, "it is Christ, through Evangelical Catholicism, who will help humanize the earthly city through the agency of the City of God, present in an anticipatory way in the counter-culture that is the Church" (EC, p. 83).

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

P.S.  Here's the link to a brief video clip about the Fortnight, featuring Archbishop Lori from Baltimore who has been heading the sub-committee devoted to this mission-essential task.

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