Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two competing movements for America’s soul: Socialism and the New Evangelization

Revised and reposted for new Sky View readers

In 1938, when the free world and communism, was more clearly defined, a Catholic historian by the name of Christopher Dawson reminded Christians of the following:

“The conflict between Christianity and Marxism- between the Catholic Church and the Communist party –is the vital issue of our time. It is not a rival of economic systems like the systems between Socialism and Capitalism, or of rival political ideals- as with the (Parliamentary system) and Fascism. It is a conflict of rival philosophies and of rival doctrines regarding the very nature of man and society.”

Dawson goes on to say that Communism, in fact, challenges Christianity on its own ground by offering mankind a rival way of salvation. In the words of the communist poster, “Jesus promised the people paradise after death, but Lenin offers them Paradise on earth.”

 Just a year before, in 1937, Pope Pius XI wrote a compelling encyclical entitled, “On Atheistic Communism.” In so many words he confirmed what Dawson would later claim; that communism - and here I would include socialism – is more than just an economic ideology; indeed, it is a philosophy of life and a way of living. Pius XI cautioned the world that communism, “more emphatically than similar movements in the past, conceals in itself a false messianic idea…Thus the class struggle with its consequent violent hate and destruction takes on the aspects of a crusade for the progress of humanity.”

From this struggle between the “haves and have nots” comes a political campaign to invoke an all-powerful State to remedy the alleged injustices. But in order to convince the populace that it intends to level the playing field it must acquire the power to do so. And such power can only be purchased from voters with political promises to take care of the needy or the "little guy." In a word, in order for the State to be a master it must first sell itself as a nanny and foster dependence on government programs among its citizens. -

Communism, as it existed in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, that is, in its rigid political form, has yielded to a softer, nanny-like version, namely, socialism. This friendlier version, something akin to what Alexis de Tocqueville styled in the nineteenth century as “soft despotism,” is precisely what is plaguing America today. But long before big government programs- socialistic in nature -drained the U.S. treasury, it first bent and softened the soul of America.

Through State-run education the principles of socialism have been inculcated, indirectly and directly, in the minds of American children for decades; not just in its economic form but in its philosophical and political form. State-run education has fostered a habitual reliance on the State not just by what it emphasizes- be it environmentalism, class warfare, anti-colonialism or just good old fashion statism –but what it doesn’t emphasize. And what State-run education does not emphasize is God, the Ten Commandments, moral absolutes, the dignity of the immortal soul and the sovereignty of the family. Absent these truths, the cult of the State is sure to be propagated as it has been with great success!

The Catholic philosopher Etienne Gilson in 1951 wrote, “…the only reason why a State may not want children to be educated in view of God is that it wants them to be educated in view of itself.”  What we haven’t come to grips with yet is that socialism, affectionately embraced by many Catholics due to insufficient catechesis, is diametrically opposed to Catholicism; just as communism is. It is not only a rival to the free market in some unrelated or compartmentalized sort of way; it is a nemesis to the Gospel itself. It is a way of life to be sure. Instead of Christ as its Good Shepherd - he who should be the center point of society - the State thus becomes the “Good” Shepherd.

In the early to mid twentieth century, Catholics- from the highest ranks to the man in the pew –were ever so cognizant of this looming threat. In fact, Cardinal James Gibbons, in his 1919 Pastoral Letter to Catholics in America, wrote, It is "in the very nature of man that something must be supreme, something must take the place of the divine when this has been excluded; and this substitute for God, according to a predominant philosophy, is the State." And if this State should grow in power and expand its influence over all sectors of society, the repercussion would involve more than just an economic decline.

Gibbons continues: “The spirit of our people in general is adverse to State monopoly, and this for the obvious reason that such an absorption of control would mean the end of freedom and initiative. The same consequence is sure to follow when the State attempts to monopolize education; and the disaster will be much greater inasmuch as it will affect, not simply the worldly interests of the citizen, but also his spiritual growth and salvation.”

Indeed, the penetration of socialism into our public institutions has been a disaster, affecting the spiritual growth and salvation of the citizen. As such, the New Evangelization should take note that socialism is no friend of the Gospel; but rather its rival! But if the Catholic Church is to mount any meaningful campaign against this cultural and spiritual plague, she must first purge her members of it. Then she will be in a position to help America...and even herself!