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Being Civilized in the Midst of Challenges

We face challenges in our world today.  Of course, there has been challenges as long as there has been people making bad choices with their free will.  There has also being illnesses that challenge us but do not know why they exist. 

The challenges come in various forms.  We are becoming more and more a divided people, a polarized people.  We are polarized by differing ideas.  We can see this in how people of different political parties act towards one another but it is not limited to political parties.  We see people polarized over various issues.  If we could only learn to dialogue well.

We hear more and more about shootings and terrorism in schools, malls, and other public spaces.  Some stem from mental health issues by the perpetrator while others stem from hating people of a certain belief, race, or lifestyle.  Is there more hatred today?  Are we growing apart instead of together?

Right now, we continue under partial shutdown from the Coronavirus pandemic.  In some ways the pandemic has drawn people together as seen by people who are donating to help those out of work because of the Coronavirus shutdown.  Unfortunately, there are also people who are divided over how to respond (what to shutdown, when to reopen, etc.).  If we could learn to dialogue better, perhaps we could find a balanced response.

In the midst of the pandemic we find ourselves also dealing with the issues of racism, specifically how minorities are treated by the police.  However, racism is not simply a police issue.  It is a societal issue.  It is an issue that involves faith.  God calls us to love our neighbor.  It doesn’t matter where they are from, the color of their skin, or what language they speak.  We learn to look at people as God looks at them (1 Samuel 16:1-13, especially verse 7).  All are children of God and all deserve to be treated with the dignity they deserve.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen (cf. “How Do We Look at the World?”). 

So, we have the protests where people legitimately call for an end to racism, recognizing the dignity of all life.  Life and dignity are worth standing up for.  Unfortunately, some of the protests have been hijacked and turned into riots with destruction.

At the same time society faces these challenges, at a time when we need our faith, many people have left their faith.  Some have made a deliberate choice to abandon their faith, often becoming atheists while others have simply drifted away, not seeing the relevance of faith in their lives.  Some of these people may be good people.  Some have made earthly things to be their “god”.  Their desire for money, power, and sex become the driving force, i.e. their “god,” in their lives (remember Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “love of money is the root of our evils.”).  I actually read an article, “Sin City: NYC has rules for pandemic sex but no Mass”, for people looking to engage in promiscuous activity at the same time churches were closed. 

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

So, what are we to do?

As individuals, we need to think about how we treat others.  Do we treat them with dignity?  Do we treat them with love?  Are there ways God wants us to stand up for others?  Do we do so peacefully and kindly or do we contribute to the violence and the hatred?

What about the news media?  The role of the news media is to present the facts in an unbiased way without promoting one’s own agenda.  Of course, we all have our own perspective but we need to listen to all sides and rely on the Holy Spirit to help know what is right and just in God’s eyes.  The news media should not be promoting their own agenda.  In the selection of stories, they need to be open.  If they are biased in their reporting, it affects our ability to make good decisions in our own lives.  Sometimes I wonder how much the world is changing vs. how much what the news covers is changing.  In a world of high speed communication we hear about things in an instant that we would have never heard of a hundred years ago.  The news media should also report the good as well as the bad.  We need encouragement. 

The news media should also not be judgmental of others.  Nobody should be.  Here I turn to how people of different views interact.  Even in the way the government responds to the Coronavirus, the differences drive how officials want to respond.  Some bash each other over their responses to the Coronavirus.  Others use it to pass new laws largely unrelated to the virus but have been on their agenda for a while.  Some want the government to do little while others think the government is to be the savior of the world (see my article “Who is Our Savior?”).  The government has a role to play in helping those in need.  That doesn’t make them the source of all truth.  God is the source of “Truth” (cf. my video presentation, Where Do We Go for Truth?)

Here, I think of the example of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More who I wrote about yesterday (“St. John Fisher, an Example of faith”).  They serve as an example of choosing God over appeasing government officials.

We pray for all to know what they should do as individuals, as community groups, and as government officials to make the world a better place. In praying, we must realize God has a place in all of this.  God determines what is good and just, not us, not the government.  Remember the words we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  The “thy” is God.

I have spoken today about division.  We need to learn to respond in a way that does not build division.  We are going to have different opinions.  However, a response that involves negative words or actions to people of different opinions is likely not to help much.

We need a civilized response.  My use of the word “civilized” is not my own idea.  I saw it this past week in a new initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org) called “Civilize It” (www.civilizeit.org).  It reminds us to treat others with dignity.  It reminds us that our response must be rooted in the gospel and a well-formed conscience.  Our response must be rooted in love.  We must make room in our hearts for those we disagree with.

Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God.  The second is to love our neighbor.  In the story of the Good Samaritan, He teaches that everyone, every those we don’t get along with are our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).

Let us civilize our dialogue by rooting in love, in God who is love (cf. 1 John 4:7-9, especially verse 8)

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

3 Comments

  1. Linda House says:

    Our Catholic moral code tells us to love God and love our neighbor. That is not optional. Ethical relativism preaches tolerance and the idiom often associated is “live and let live”. I can’t help but wonder why those preaching tolerance are so threatened by the Catholic moral code.

  2. Fr. Jeff says:

    I share your wonder as to why those who preach tolerance do not seem open to our Carholic perspective.

    Peace,

    Fr. Jeff

  3. WR says:

    We are also told HOW to love our neighbor…. as ourselves. But are we told how to love ourselves? Yes. “Those who love their lives will lose their lives. But those who hate their lives for my sake will gain eternal life.” Dont know about you, but my goal is to keep my eye on the prize ie eternal life with the Lord.

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