Our country is unraveling before our eyes. Our most cherished values are treated with contempt by many of those with influence and power. Our leadership and secular institutions are becoming increasingly corrupt and hostile. But there is still hope if we have the courage to unite ourselves with the revolutionary work of Jesus and the spirit of 1776!
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of independence from Great Britain. Two days later the Declaration of Independence was presented to Congress where it was revised and approved that same day. We still honor and celebrate this July 4th event 238 years later.
However, when we look at our country today, do we know what we are celebrating any longer? Our country is unraveling before our eyes. Our most cherished values are treated with contempt by many of those with influence and power. Our leadership and institutions are becoming increasingly corrupt and hostile. We have killed around fifty-six million American citizens in the womb; debased womanhood, fatherhood and the family; rejected God and embraced a base material existence; and we have traded many of our true rights and freedoms for transient pleasures and a false sense of security.
At this point, we might even wonder if this holiday holds any meaning. Some of the most fundamental truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence are not even accepted by many Americans today. These fundamental truths form the basis of who we are as a people. They also explain why we broke away from England and formed our own nation. We only have to look at the first paragraph to be reminded how far we have moved from these truths.
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
This paragraph specifically mentions God. For most of our nation's existence, God has been understood as the foundation for our freedom. Today we are told that our belief in God infringes on liberty and must be ejected from the public domain.
Nowhere is this thinking more evident than in the modern secularist movement. Secularism is not a benign ideology. It is fiercely anti-Christian. Its goal is to supplant God and make the state into a god, and turn us into its subjects. The modern secular state is not the highest and final authority. We are not its subjects. The founding fathers of our country knew this, and they enshrined this understanding in the Declaration.
It also appears that many of our secular leaders want to do away with the natural law. The first paragraph of the Declaration specifically mentions the natural law. The natural law refers to rules of conduct or morality based on human nature. It also assumes that absolutes exist. This means that the order we see in the universe extends to human nature and behavior. Thus, it is universal and binding on all people and cultures throughout history. As such, we can know the difference between good and evil through the use of our reason, and we are responsible to seek out objective moral truth and submit ourselves to it. This makes us moral beings.
However, today we are led to believe that the natural law, universals, absolutes, or objective truth do not exist. Moral relativism has come to replace these truths which the Declaration either mentions or implies. Except for subjective feeling and consensus, both of which are shallow and fleeting, moral relativism enables our leaders to ignore the natural limitations on their behavior and justifies immorality.
Moral relativism also encourages irrational, fundamentalist thinking. This is extremely dangerous, especially when it corrupts those in positions of influence or power. We can get some sense of this danger with the help of Saint John Paul II and C.S. Lewis.
In his encyclical, The Splendor of Truth, Saint John Paul II says that the most dangerous crisis which can afflict mankind is the confusion between good and evil. I believe that this crisis can be summed up in two words--moral relativism. Saint John Paul II says if politics is not guided and directed by absolute truth, then ideas and, I might add, people, can easily be manipulated. He also says that democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism. In other words, there is a direct link between absolutes, universals, objective moral truths, and freedom. These realities protect our freedom. Moral relativism breaks this link and leads to the loss of freedom.
In his book, The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis says that the final stage in man's conquest of nature entails full control over human nature. When C. S. Lewis refers to "full control," he is referring to a relativistic world view where values are reduced to natural phenomena, and conditioning and propaganda are used to manipulate people and society. He also says that in such a world, people are necessarily divided into two classes, the conditioned and the conditioners. The conditioners control the values. They do not obey them. They are above any value system. But what controls the conditioners? C. S. Lewis says that they are subject only to their impulses (subjective feelings). Under these circumstances, we can only hope that the conditioners will have benevolent impulses. But C. S. Lewis doubts that benevolence will prevail. He says he is pressed to find such examples in history. He believes that the conditioners will grow to hate the conditioned.
When we look around our country today, we can see the rise of totalitarianism that John Paul warned us about, and we can see a new class of leaders who look a lot like C.S. Lewis' conditioners. For instance, Christian institutions and organizations are being suppressed; People are being oppressed for merely disagreeing with the homosexual and feminist agendas; law-abiding citizens are being arrested without cause; Americans are being spied upon at unprecedented levels; and powerful government agencies, like the IRS and the Department of Justice, are apparently being used to intimidate political opponents of the current administration, which shows utter contempt for the people, values and laws of this country.
With these thoughts in mind, we might wonder if this 4th of July we need to declare our independence from the modern secular state. We can begin by resurrecting the 1776 document and shaking off the dust that we have allowed to collect on it over the years. The ideas in the Declaration of Independence are just as true today as they were 238 years ago. We already looked at the first paragraph of the Declaration, now let us look at the second. The first three sentences of the second paragraph state the following:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government. . . ."
Perhaps it is time for a second revolution. I do not mean a violent revolution. Rather, the kind of revolution I am referring to begins with our own radical conversion and prayer. We need to bathe this country in prayer. This will make it possible for Jesus to manifest himself through us, and it will enable us to confront the evil in our country with a divine, sacrificial love.
In a certain sense, Jesus is the greatest revolutionary of all time. He brought about the end of the old world and ushered in the new world. He is still doing it, and we are called to be united to him and his revolutionary work. Although his work reaches far beyond the boundaries of any one nation or even this world, I believe it includes our efforts to uphold the good which is embodied in the founding and traditional values of America.
Consequently, the 4th of July still holds great meaning for us: It reminds us that the fight for independence is just as important today as it was in 1776; and it inspires us to imitate the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence who risked property, reputation and life so that the people of this nation could live free from tyranny and free to worship their Creator.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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