Christianity in the USA  by Ellen W. Fielding


          For several years, Evangelical authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have been turning out runaway best-selling novels based on “the Rapture,” the belief of some Protestants that just before the emergence of the Antichrist and the great period of tribulation foretold in the book of Revelations, the saved will be seized up into heaven.  There is something imaginatively appealing about this idea, especially if we assume that we rank among the saved.  

          But even better would be a reverse Rapture, in which the evil and unsatisfactory are carted off early to their final destination, leaving only the forces of light.  Wouldn’t we love a ringside seat of the reverse Rapture reaching the Supreme Court chambers, producing vacant seats for the next president to fill?  What about the spaces opening up on the editorial pages of our favorite newspapers, or the disappearing TV talking heads, or the removal of Michael Caine right in the middle of his Oscar acceptance speech for the pro-abortion Cider House Rules, or…well, you get the picture.

But remembering the parable of the weeds and the wheat, growing side by side until the harvester’s sickle mows them down together, we must reconcile ourselves to the likelihood that the good, the bad, and the mediocre will bump heads all through our earthly journey.  Evil must be fought day by day, inch by inch, over and over again, like soap scum and dirty dishes.  In a very modulated kind of optimism, T.S. Eliot reminded us that there were no lost causes because, in human history, no causes were irrevocably won.

The tail end of this past Supreme Court term reminded us of that very forcefully.  The Court has knocked down Nebraska’s partial‑birth abortion ban because it would inflict “undue hardship” on women seeking late‑term abortions.  Earlier in June the justices banned public prayer at school sports events‑because, Justice John Paul Stevens intoned: “the delivery of a pre-game prayer has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship.”  He makes it seem as though the students were engaging in ritual slaughter. In forceful dissent, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote that the majority opinion “bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.” He is, of course, correct.  

But why such a disconnect between a praying, believing public and a Court that treats prayer like a shameful or unnatural act, something no good American would inflict on those around him?  One editorial writer noted Peter Berger’s quip that if India has been called the most religious population in the world, and Sweden the least religious, America is a nation of Indians governed by Swedes.

Our Swedes may not give us much room to maneuver, and the weeds may seem to be gaining on the wheat, but it is our job, at the very least, not to be intimidated into forgetting which is which.  It is the wheat that nourishes, not the weeds; it is the prayers who will save our nation, if anyone can.

            We should not exaggerate the situation of Christianity in America today.  A refugee from Afghanistan, Sudan or Indonesia or China would stare in amazement to hear American Christians complain of “persecution” by the ACLU or the New York Times.  Serious persecution is being imprisoned, sold into slavery, or killed for your faith.

         And yet those same Sudanese and Indonesian and Chinese Christians would recognize the slaughter of one million‑plus innocents a year as persecution, especially when the Swedes among us will not even outlaw the grotesquely unnecessary method of execution called partial-birth abortion.  America’s legalized abortion institutionalizes a kind of religious persecution similar to Hitler’s, because both brush aside what it means to be made in God’s image--you know, with certain unalienable rights.  The partial-birth abortion decision is a much viler act of persecution than the school prayer decision.  But they are related, and together they remind us not only to act in defense of life but also to pray for it.

Courtesy of Catholic Eye.  2000 by The National Committee of Catholic Laymen, Inc.., N.Y.  All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission

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