Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To Question a President’s Christian Identity

"To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice."

Pope Leo XIII, On the Constitution of States

The public, some politicians and some members of the media have questioned if President Barak Obama is really a Christian. Recently, the media- both Left and to an extent, the Right –sees to it that anyone who is bold enough to question Mr. Obama’s Christian identity is publicly disgraced. Thus far, Senator Rick Santorum has come close to making the charge that Obama is not a Christian by questioning his “phony theology.” However, because of the heat of media pressure, he has politely given the president the benefit of the doubt.

It should be noted, however, that at no time in history has the confusion of what a Christian really means been as prevalent as it is today. Not only do people not know what a follower of Christ is supposed to believe and how he is supposed to be behave, but it is deemed socially and politically inappropriate to give a fixed definition of what a Christian really is. And according to conventional wisdom, it is even more inappropriate to question a person’s Christian identity. Indeed, proponents of secular-liberalism have exploited the weakness of today’s Christianity by mounting public pressure on anyone who questions their religious fidelity or patriotism. And Christians, by and large, have acquiesced to this pressure. They have been silenced; not by edict but through the daily threat of ridicule.

But what exactly is the weakness of today’s Christianity? Well, for starters, Protestant Christianity has been splintering and multiplying into thousands of different denominations since the founding of this country. After the persecution and intolerance of certain churches in 18th century America, it became, over the years, a taboo to criticize others on matters of creed. In the name of tolerance there came a reluctance for any church to proclaim, “We’re right and you’re wrong.” With this arose a growing trend that favored religious relativism (and eventually moral relativism). Indeed, all churches and even Christians came to be deemed more or less good.

Secondly, the Catholic Church did a stellar job of avoiding this kind of relativism for about two hundred years in America. She did not shy away from declaring her God-given superiority as the Church that Christ had founded. But that posture changed in the late 1960’s.

Then it became popular among pastors of the Church to give obstinate, unrepentant sinners equal status to that of faithful and repentant Catholics. As such, there was little distinction between the wolves and the sheep. When I speak of the wolves, I here refer to those who refuse to repent from their advocacy of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, from the practice of contraception and cohabitation, and from many other serious sins which daily cause scandal in the Body of Christ.

The result of all of this is that no one seems to know what a Christian is. And with this kind of ambivalence, moral and spiritual relativism reigns supreme. This is why it is deemed socially and politically inappropriate to say whether or not a person like President Obama is a true Christian.

But we know where President Obama stands on moral and policy issues. He is on record for supporting the following:

• Abortion rights

• Infanticide

• Sex education at the age of 5 years

• Same-sex marriage

• The reinstatement of United States Department of Veterans Affairs manual, the version of which is highly suggestive of favoring euthanasia

• Healthcare rationing of the elderly: His comment about having grandma take a pill instead of opting for a costly surgery is indicative of where the president's priorities lie. And Cass Sunstein, Obama’s Regulatory Czar, said the following: “I urge that the government should indeed focus on life-years rather than lives. A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people.”

What is equally disturbing about President Obama’s moral and spiritual philosophy is this: As most know, he was mentored for 20 years under Rev. Jeremiah Wright from Trinity United in Chicago. The reverend publically supported Black Liberation Theology and one of its prominent pioneers, James Cone. Few know that James Cone and Black Liberation Theology in general favors a heavy dose of Marxism. As the president himself maintains, his salvation depends on the collective salvation of the people. Without going into a lot of details, the belief that groups of people should be saved over that of individuals is based on socialistic or Marxist premise. Such a premise is contrary to the Gospel and it is spiritually, morally and politically dangerous to society. The dignity of the individual person has been and will continue to be seriously undermined under such an ideology. We can already see that President Obama and is entourage of Czars and Cabinet members do not hold preborn babies, infants and the elderly in high esteem. Neither do Catholics fare well under their governance.

To be sure, there are certain things we cannot judge. We cannot judge intentions, motives or whether or not a person will be saved in the end. But we can judge whether or not a person is believing and behaving as a follower of Christ should. As our Lord said, "You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16) In fact, it is the duty of Catholic bishops, pastors, teachers and the laity to make a clear distinction between real Christians and nominal Christians. In the early 20th century, for instance, Pope St. Pius X wrote the following to his priests: "Catholic 'Liberals' are wolves in lambs clothing; hence any priest worthy of the name must unmask for the faithful confided to his care their insidious plotting, their unholy design. You shall be called papists, clericals, retrogressives, intransigents. Be proud of it!" This pastoral wisdom of the saintly pope also applies to Christians in general.

If we cannot say that a “Christian” is not one who would aggressively advances abortion rights, the right to practice infanticide at hospitals and abortion clinics, same-sex rights and healthcare rationing- if we cannot say that this is not what a disciple of Christ does –we are in trouble. We have unnecessarily handicapped ourselves. As such, confusion about what a Christian really is will continue to fog the minds of Americans. The end result is that we will be powerless to resist counterfiet Christianity and those political ideologies which parade themselves in sheeps clothing.

The standard has already been set by Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, the Saints and the Church herself. The legacy of drawing attention to Christians in "name-only" and separating from the flock is legion. There are too many examples to count here. But suffice it to say, this pastoral practice of our Church's watchmen of old secured the moral distinctions between good and evil and the religious distinction between authentic Christians and those who pretended to be Christian for political purposes. We should return to this ancient (and yet not so ancient) practice. The welfare of our country depends on it.