On These Slippery Slopes

We seem to be teetering on the edge, and there is fear that a President Obama will push us over into the long descent into the night. Those of us who value life and cling (bitterly or not) to our religion are, if not terrified, at least horrified at what Obama intends to do in office. Pass the Freedom of Choice Act, an attempt to legitimize abortion across the board. Make a national health insurance fund that is more appropriately labeled as health care. Raise taxes on the rich and give tax credits and refunds to the poor (definitions of “rich” and “poor” still pending) in order to “spread the wealth around.” Focus on Afghanistan to the detriment of Iraq and, in general, the War on Terror.

Most of our energy has been spent on showing exactly how bad an Obama administration would be. In a week, we’ll know for certain whether we have cause to fear Obama in office, or if we have dodged a bullet for another four years.

At which point, we get to fight our way through this mess all over again. If it isn’t Obama this time, then we can be assured that it will be someone just as liberal, just as anti-life as Obama. It won’t stop.

This is because the problem isn’t Obama. It never has been. Obama is just a symptom of the widespread malaise infecting our nation. Obama’s promise to pass the FOCA isn’t the problem; the problem is that roughly half the nation seems to think that FOCA is a good idea. Obama’s strides towards universal health care and other welfare and socialist policies isn’t half as devastating as the number of people who want redistribution of wealth, who want to be taken care of from the cradle to the grave, who want assurances that there will always be a net to catch them when they fall.

Electing McCain instead of Obama will not fix this problem. Nor, arguably, will electing another Ronald Reagan, or some other miraculous conservative candidate. If that is what we’re hoping for, then we’re an entire generation sitting by a country road, waiting for Godot.

In that sense, we’re very much like the Jews when Jesus began preaching to them. We’re waiting for a savior to rescue us from the secular oppressors, someone who will put everything to rights. Someone who will cut taxes and rein in government spending; who will ban abortion and contraceptives; who will defend us from foreign attacks but do nothing questionable in warfare; who will restore us to a Christian nation. We’re waiting for some great conservative to come and throw off the yoke of liberal bonds and deliver back to us the Promised Land.

Unfortunately, we’ve had all the saviors we’re going to get, and He came 2000 years ago. He told us what we need to do, and we need to do it.

The concern, of course, is that a President Obama will legitimize all those social evils that we are fighting against. The fear of such a scandal is definitely warranted: the Jews persisted in allowing idolators and Baal-worshipers to exist in their lands, and the scandal provoked generation after generation to fall away from God. Reading through the Old Testament is like reading the same theme over and over again: “And then the people fell away from God again, and they suffered God’s wrath, and so they repented.” Only in our case, it seems like once scandal takes hold, it will never let go. The people will never repent.

Our task, then, is not to hope for a massive societal upheaval that will change everything at once. Instead, we must work to change hearts and minds little by little. At a personal level, we need to make sure we are striving our best to be holy and perfect. At a family level, we must try to be a strong Catholic influence for our relatives. At a community level, we must most of all be visible. It is a shame when you only know that a family is Catholic because you went to CCD with their kids. Once we are visible, we have to be active. We have to be serious about living our faith, and that no only includes works of social justice, but also evangelization and apologetics.

We need to make clear what we are as Catholics. Too many people see us as just another Christian denomination, interchangeable with the rest, except for the backwards tradition of following the Pope. I had a friend who once complained about the arrogance of Catholics, and when I explained to him that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ, that has the fullness of revelation and the wholeness of truth, it opened his eyes. It was a simple statement, but one that had never been made clear.

Now, if I start suggesting that we should act defiantly in terms of civil disobedience against those laws we find unjust, this will start to sound quite familiar. Indeed, this is nothing more than a page from the civil rights movements. And this page tells us how we got where we are today.

It started small. Change a few minds about the use of contraceptives within marriage. It is a small step, but one in the right direction, and we know that if married couples can use contraceptives legitimately, others will start to think that it should be okay to use contraceptives elsewhere. Once enough people agree, then we can make public the use of contraceptives. It will cause scandal and outrage at first, but once it has been present for a while, the outrage will die down. The fervor against it will eventually fade to prudish disdain, and eventually that will fade, too. Contraceptives will be the norm.

In some cases, this methodology works towards the good. The movements for civil rights for minorities and women have worked wonders and have done a great deal of good. But then, the movements for sexual “rights” (I would even dare say “rites”) have worked hard to degrade us.

But then, how can the same methodology work in both directions? Shouldn’t people realize what is happening when the methodology is applied to our detriment? Well, to some extent we do realize that. We have the term “slippery slope” for a good reason. Why, then, do we find ourselves scrabbling frantically for purchase on the slippery slopes when we knew what would happen?

The abolition of truth is the only way we could have ended up on the slippery slopes. A person who knows the fullness of truth cannot be budged from it. But a person who holds a position, but doesn’t believe there’s any fundamental truth behind it—maybe he assumes a cultural relativism—can eventually be persuaded to compromise just a little bit. And once he has made that small compromise, he has opened himself to other compromises, and soon he has slid his way down the slope.

This is why we must not just be visible and do great works of social justice. We must also affirm the truth that is God, and we must not allow ourselves to be compromised from our positions. We must not concede to the demands of today, that it is somehow not courteous or even rude to say a person is wrong for believing the wrong thing. When that path leads to make-it-up-as-you-go deconstructive essays in English class and fuzzy mathematics, it is no wonder that religion finds little traction playing with the politically correct rules.

As a caution, though, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. We can declare the truth loudly and as persuasively as possible, and people will still not want to listen. It may be the case that the only thing we can accomplish, ultimately, is to ride out the storm when our nation reaps the terrible harvest it is now sowing.

And we must keep in mind that Obama is not a sower of destruction. Rather, at worst he is the first-fruits of what has been sown in the past, and what is now approaching harvest time.