MITERS THAT MATTER

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the third of four parts of the text of an address which Denver's Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, delivered to the Mile Hi Congress last week. Although they were originally directed to Catholic educators from Colorado, the archbishop's words have obvious relevance for all Christians. They are reprinted here with permission and brought to you through the Catholic World News Service.]

THE TASK OF EVANGELIZATION IN SECULAR AMERICA
Part Three

     That brings me to my second point. Our culture not only drowns out the voice of God; we push Him completely out of sight. We live in a social environment where every kind of outlandish cartoon character has airtime, where the idea of miracles is eclipsed by flying and morphing super-heroes, but where God is almost completely absent from the context of children's TV. It's such an obvious statement, but we need to re-introduce children to the person of God; God not as a force or an abstract idea or a science-fiction energy field, but as a Father with a plan for our happiness who is intimately involved with our lives, and interested in their eternal outcome. 

      We can love a Father. We cannot know, much less love, a force. The personhood of God, especially in His Trinitarian reality, implies relationship-- not only within the Trinity, but with humanity and all creation.  And every relationship implies mutual rights, responsibilities and purpose, which is exactly what's missing from the lives of so many young people. Encountering the Person of God is exactly like encountering the man or woman who will be your spouse -- it changes everything. It gives you a purpose. It orders everything else about your life. It's why the novelist Francois Mauriac wrote that "Anyone who has truly known God can never be cured of Him." 

      My third concern is the nature of truth. A sense of absolute right and wrong is absent not only from many of today's children-- but much more alarmingly, from many of their parents. As we drift away from our traditional religious moorings, we become more and more relativist in our judgment, and less and less able to understand truth as something permanent and objective-- that unique thing outside ourselves which is the foundation of human character. This is why we get the spectacular nonsense of candidates running for office on a platform of high ideals... and then telling us that their personal moral behavior has nothing to do with their public service, once they're elected. 

      Look at the political environment in Washington these days. It would be laughable, if it weren't so fatal to public trust in our leaders and institutions. In America in 1998, what's "true" is whatever a spin doctor can establish as plausible and defensible. We're becoming a people of alibis instead of principles. And in doing it, we're even less able to understand the deeper, divine truth which takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. For many Americans who call themselves Christians, Jesus' words-- "I am the way, the truth and the life"-- have become little more than appealing, but obscure, poetry. 

      My fourth point is the idea of freedom. Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." The truth-- God's truth incarnate in Jesus Christ-- is what makes us free... not 36 different brands of detergent, or a variety of alternative lifestyles. "Choice" is not necessarily freedom, and the idolatry of choice is just another form of slavery; another form of the noise Screwtape talked about.  Once we lose our grip on truth, we inevitably lose our freedom because we no longer have a way of morally ordering our choices.  Our choices become our distractions and our chains.  And that's not what God wants. 

MONDAY: The fourth and final part of this text by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.


March 6-8, 1998 volume 9, no. 47          DAILY CATHOLIC