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By Deacon Keith Fournier

1/29/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Some parts of the event devolved into a profane affront to conscience, intended to mock the Christian vision. It was co-opted by a few who are committed to an agenda that is not progressive, but regressive. An agenda that will not lead to human flourishing and liberation, in spite of its claims, but rather to human degradation, denigration and cultural collapse.

A popular music performer moved suggestively up and down on a broomstick while satanic images and hellfire surrounding her. Homosexuals and lesbians purported to be married- in an in your face act of defiance and rejection of the Natural Moral Law. Where did this all occur? In an ancient scene from a film depicting the internal moral corruption of the Old Rome? No, it all took place before anyone who simply wanted to watch the 56th annual Grammy Music awards on television Monday evening.

Katy Perry at the Grammy Awards

Katy Perry at the Grammy Awards

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/29/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Grammy Awards, Katy Perry, Same Sex Marriage, gay marriage, anti-Christian, pre-christian, post-christian, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - A popular music performer moved suggestively up and down on a broomstick while satanic images and hellfire surrounding her. Homosexuals and lesbians purported to be married- in an in your face act of defiance and rejection of the Natural Moral Law.

Where did this all occur? In an ancient scene from a film depicting the internal moral corruption of the Old Rome? No, it all took place before anyone who simply wanted to watch the 56th annual Grammy Music awards on television Monday evening.

A small, elitist segment of the entertainment culture is convinced they offer a path to liberation. Anyone who questions their assessment is disparagingly labeled and dismissed; seen as a threat to the proposed new order and some throwback to the past. Sadly, many viewers, this writer included, who wanted to watch many of the performers, could not do so.

That is because some parts of the event devolved into a profane affront to conscience, intended to mock the Christian vision. It was co-opted by a few who are committed to an agenda that is not progressive, but regressive. An agenda that will not lead to human flourishing and liberation, in spite of its claims, but rather to human degradation, denigration and cultural collapse.

The next morning I received by E mail a reflection by a New York Catholic priest who offers his homilies and writings online. His name is Fr George Rutler. It touched upon a parallel which I have written of often, the collapse of Ancient Rome and the trends in the United States. Here is his insight:

Pliny the Younger, governor of Pontus from 111 to 113, had a problem. Growing numbers of Christians were unsettling the pagan establishment. He wrote to the emperor Trajan: "I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished."

He deemed them superstitious because "they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god." Superstition was not a crime, as it was rife in the Empire, but these Christians refused to worship the gods of the land and would rather die than worship the Emperor himself. Trajan replied that the "spirit of our age" required that the governor should persecute only those who refused to cease being Christians.
 
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently declared on a radio program in Albany that those who refuse to go along with state legislation on such matters as abortion and the redefinition of marriage, have "no place in the State of New York." He did not threaten to throw Christians to wild beasts, but the tone of the governor of the Empire State was decidedly imperious.

Attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, but more probably the words of Joseph de Maistre, is the warning: "In a democracy, people get the government they deserve." Catholics fragile in spirit who symbolically offered incense to Caesar by voting for such present leaders, were either ignorant (and ignorance, unlike stupidity, can be cured) or selfish in placing material considerations above moral standards. But they certainly have got the government they deserve.
 
According to tradition, when Trajan was en route to Armenia, he stopped in Antioch where the bishop Ignatius was brought before him. The emperor was perplexed that such a gentle man would not water down his faith in order to cooperate with the state.


Before arriving in Rome where he was tossed to the lions, Ignatius wrote to the Christians in Ephesus: "Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such a one becoming defiled {in this way}, shall go away into everlasting fire and so shall every one that hearkens unto him."

Reading Fr Rutler also called to my mind a piece written last year by Elizabeth Lev, the outstanding Art Historian based in Rome. She did a review entitled Celebrating Constantine; Remembering the Martyrs for Zenit News. The Vatican exhibit she reviewed was worthy of reflection on many fronts. For me, it was her insight concerning what happened in Rome which came back to my mind this morning. It filled me with hope. Lev wrote these words:
 
For reasons unknown, (sources suggest it was an unsuccessful divining rite,) by 299 Diocletian developed an active desire to obliterate Christianity from the Empire. In 303, he emitted a series of edicts, burning Christian books and destroying Christian places of worship. Christians were expected to renounce their God and pay open homage to the emperor as their true god. Those who refused were harshly punished with torture and death.

It is very much the mode to downplay the Christian martyrs these days, something done most often by pseudo-scholars who confuse cynicism with wisdom revealing both intellectual and spiritual poverty. But from this age emerged Saints Agnes, Sebastian, Susanna, Marcellinus and Peter as well as many others. These heroic witnesses have been acclaimed in art, literature and song, and will be remembered long after the latest Oscar winner is forgotten (oh by the way, who won best supporting actor this year?)

Ceramic bowls and cameos illustrate the prevalence of pagan divinities in everyday life; accessories, plates, and a few fresco fragments remind the visitor that the indoctrination to the pagan beliefs was a constant presence, much like advertising today, which insistently beats the wrong set of values into our lives.

The Christians who tried to resist the enculturation were mocked, and often killed. Several terracotta reliefs show the entertainment of throwing men and women to wild beasts such as happened with St. Ignatius of Antioch and Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Another faint graffiti shows a coarsely scratched stick figure on a cross with the head of a donkey while another figure stands below. "Alexamenos adores his God" reads the scrawled caption -- not so different from late night comedy shows, no?

It must have seemed to the Christians under Diocletian that the end had come, that all their efforts and little concessions gained under more tolerant emperors were for naught, and that the world might be coming to an end. But it was not. Rome was simply proving the old adage that is darkest before dawn.

Victorious
The exhibit actually spends less time on the age of martyrs than I did, choosing to join Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea's  joyful cry in his the Ecclesiastical Histories, "After dreadful spectacle (sufferings of martyrs) we have been privileged to see and celebrate such things that many of the martyrs before us craved to see and did not."


Although Constantine wrote the Edict of Tolerance in Milan, the moment that brought about his eventual conversion took place in Rome. On the eve of the battle to wrest Rome away from his usurper brother-in-law Maxentius, Constantine spoke of receiving a vision of the cross with a message, "in this sign you will conquer." Painting the cross upon the armor and standards, Constantine won the day at the Milvian Bridge on Oct. 28, 312.

Few would have thought that a turnaround of the decadence and moral collapse which had besieged ancient Rome could happen so quickly. But it did. What replaced it was the message of true liberation, human flourishing and authentic progress called Christianity. It can happen once again in our own age.

In 1996, a professor of Sociology and comparative religion named Rodney Stark wrote a compelling book entitled "The Rise of Christianity." Rich in sociological and empirical data it detailed the growth of Christianity at the beginning of the first millennium. The book chronicles the rise of the Christian faith from a small Jewish sect in the first century to extraordinary cultural dominance 300 years later.

Using historical sources, the author demonstrated how the early Christians lived in faithful, heterosexual, monogamous marriages in the midst of a pagan culture, claiming to be "enlightened" while they decayed from within. The lifestyle of the Christians had an extraordinary affect over time.

During the early part of the first millennium, in the culture of ancient Rome, fidelity between a husband and wife was uncommon. Sexual promiscuity, hetero and homo- sexual aberrant behaviors were common. Women (and some men) were considered to be property and used as sexual objects.

Primitive forms of abortion, infanticide, and exposure (placing children on rocks to die by the elements or be picked up by birds of prey or slave traders) were commonplace practices and allowed under the Roman Law.  Epidemics began to multiply, apparently related to the lifestyle of sexual excess, causing civic and Roman/Pagan religious leaders to flee the cities, leaving the sick to die.

In contrast to this, the Christian way of life stood out as an attractive alternative to many who came to see the emptiness of dancing with broomsticks in decadence. The emphasis of the Christians was upon marrying once. Husbands and wives remained faithful to one another. Children were welcomed, cherished and seen as both gifts from- and the means of serving - the God whom they proclaimed in both word and lifestyle. Christians did not abandon the sick, but cared for them all, to the point of sacrificing their own health.

According to Stark, Christianity helped to explain "why bad things happen to good people," through the proclamation of the suffering and Cross of Christ. The Christian faith answered the existential questions that were unanswered in classical paganism. The Christians lived the love they proclaimed and had a strong family system that was increasingly attractive to the pagans.
This lifestyle also allowed the Christians to live longer.

The author wrote that Christian values of love and charity, from the beginning, had been translated into norms of social service and community solidarity. When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival. This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger and larger percentage of the population even without new converts.

Stark noted that Christianity brought a new culture: To cities filled with homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.

The Christian Way of Life transformed ancient Rome. Christianity went from being a small persecuted sect into the major dominating faith and force of the age. It transformed the world of the First Millennium and the Second. It can do the same in the Third Millennium.

In a May 2012 article in Catholic World Report entitled "Gay Marriage-Nothing New Under the Sun"  Benjamin Wiker cited sources which affirmed that, Gay marriage was-surprise!-alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time. What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to our "enlightened age," but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality.

Wiker is correct. The contemporary cultural progressives are regressive. They seek to lead to lead the West to Pre-Christian, pagan sexual immorality. I have said for years that classical, faithful, believing, Christians, Catholic, protestant and Orthodox, would all be better off if we stopped speaking of the cultural collapse evident in the United States as a sign that it has become Post -Christian.

Instead, we need to rediscover our long history as Christians, learn from it, and realize that we are living in a new missionary age. The United States is Pre-Christian. It is time to form the alliances which the age demands and get to work. Ancient Christian manuscripts such as the Letter to Diognetus or the accounts of Justin Martyr as well as sources such as those cited by Benjamin Wiker reveal cultures like our own, cultures of use where people were treated as property - cultures of excess where freedom was perceived as a power over others and unrestrained license masqueraded as liberty. There is nothing progressive about our current moral decline.

Many of the gods and goddesses of that Pre-Christian worldview promoted lifestyles of selfish excess, homosexual practices, and hedonism masquerading as freedom. The myths concerning them had them acting in much the same way. Their lies have simply been reintroduced today. Only the myths and statues look different.
 
What is happening in our Nation involves competing definitions of human freedom, human flourishing and human progress. It is the promotion of faithful, monogamous marriage, family, authentic human freedom, the dignity of every human person - and the insistence that there are objective truths that can be known and unalienable rights endowed on all men and women - which have guided true progress in human history.

The Christian vision and worldview has helped overcome the slavery arising out of flawed ideologies which treat people as property to be used and manipulated. This vision of true progress has inspired leaders to speak truth to power, condemning the lies that elevate power and function over the primacy of the person, suppressing the deeper and higher values that civilize and set people and Nations free.

Will we face the shedding of the blood of martyrs which accompanied the transformation of ancient Rome? In some parts of the world it is already happening. In the West, the persecution is softer, at least at the moment. 

The Grammy Awards revealed the collapsing culture and the Christian mission in a Pre-Christian Nation. It is time to increase our prayer, join together, and get to work.

---


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