CATHOLICS and non-Catholics alike should watch videos by the American Bishop Robert Barron, about whom Laura Perrins wrote in TCW yesterday. He is an expert at evangelism: charitable, intelligent, and orthodox. I have spent hours watching his videos and always feel edified and uplifted.
He recently did a 30-minute video on the ‘New Paganism’. It is theologically heavy, using as its launchpad an article by Ross Douthat in the New York Times, which itself is well worth a read.
The New Paganism is something I have written about before, arguing that ‘the West is becoming Godless but not godless. The secular world has its own multitude of gods and irrational beliefs, just as colourful as the paganism of the Romans and Greeks’. I went on to make a number of similarly devastating points. Take that, atheists!
Bishop Barron’s video was well-timed, particularly in light of news that New York is to allow abortion past the point of 24 weeks so long as it is seen to be damaging to the mother’s or child’s health. Health, though, is a vague term and it encompasses emotional and psychological well-being. Easy to see how the rules might be exploited.
In the pre-Christian world, infanticide – now euphemistically called abortion – was rife, as was slavery, polygamy, pederasty and all manner of human indulgence. Christianity told us that we are not like the animals, that we are different, that we have been given souls and our behaviour ought to reflect this gift.
Yet, relentlessly, this truth is being assaulted. Now we are just ‘naked apes’, living on a rock in the middle of space, spiralling into nothingness. When you tell people that they are animals, why act shocked when they act accordingly?
Whilst it is important to criticise what needs criticism, it is also fruitful to offer a positive case for Christianity and its tenets. Let’s take pre-marital sex, a contentious issue that drives many young people away. This is because they hear it purely as a ‘no’; they see it as something they may not do rather than something different they are being offered.
The Christian view of sexuality and marriage is gorgeous. Marriage has been presented as a means of oppression, the sexes have been pitted against each other for so long, that this truth has been obscured. Christians are told to wait for marriage not because God wants to control them or deny them pleasure, but because He has something beautiful and life-lasting in mind, a life spent with a helpmate, someone you can always rely on, someone you can rear children with.
Yesterday I was at Mass and the priest congratulated a couple on their 63rd anniversary. They had such a quiet, understated love for one another, evident when they affectionately touched each other on the arm and waited to go to communion together. It was humbling and inspiring.
As the New Paganism descends on the West it will be important to trumpet the beauty at the heart of the faith, the truth it speaks to every human heart.
We don’t see children as a hindrance, we see them as a joy and a gift; we don’t see sex as a biological function, we see it as life-giving and world-changing; we don’t see death as the dread end of it all, but the start of something better; we don’t see anyone as unredeemable, anyone undeserving of love, anyone with a life of no worth.
The rumours of Christianity’s death in the West have been greatly exaggerated. There’s no denying it’s on the decline and under attack, but the truth will out in the end. It always does.