Sunday, November 11, 2012

In the aftermath

Yes, I have done a lot of thinking and praying about the last election. I'm not going to attempt to rehash many of the observations that have been made elsewhere, some of which were masterful. I'm simply going to share my thoughts and perceptions, and reflect on what I think this means for us as a nation.

Of course, I was tremendously disappointed by the presidential election results. I put effort into every election, but in this case I had hope that we'd see some real change, so I worked (and prayed, and fasted) very hard. I hoped that after four years of this country being on the disastrous course we've followed would have awakened many of my fellow citizens to what was really happening. Ellen and I both had a sense (for what that's worth) that in this election, we as a nation were being given a choice. In past elections we've sensed that we were being spared, or that we'd been given over, but this time we both sensed that this election was truly in the hands of us as citizens.

If that perception was accurate, then I got my answer: a slim but critical majority of voters chose to be subjects rather than citizens. We chose the Leviathan State over the Free Republic, and as Fr. Schall and many others observe, we will never pass this way again. We're beyond the tipping point. It's not a question of whether Republicans will ever again gain ascendancy, because despite the thinking of the brainwashed chattering class, it isn't about political parties or power. It's about fundamental identity.

As I struggled with my grief, the Lord helped me see a couple of things that didn't necessarily make things easier, but helped bring needed perspective. One had to do with the election itself. Given that I'd put such effort into working for pro-life candidates – writing, speaking, organizing, praying, etc. – it was understandable that I'd see the election as a decision point, where we as Americans could choose one way or another, and the outcome of that decision could be influenced. But the Lord, from the perspective of His omnipotence, helped me see that it was in one sense more of an indication than a decision. In other words, the decision had long been made in the hearts and minds of Americans, and the election results simply reflected that decision. In that sense, the results were more like test results than they were like the outcome of a choice. This does not mean we are not responsible for the choices we made, but it helped me see that the choices had already been made long before in many other contexts, and the ballots merely reflected those. (It was also comforting to me, because in my own county all but one pro-life candidate won, including the presidential candidate. My efforts were not completely in vain, for I'm sure I had some influence on my immediate area.)

Another thing the Lord helped me see, and this was harder, was that part of my own motive for working so hard was in hopes of making my task easier. Of course, I have to qualify this by making clear that I don't think the whole affair was about me, and of course the Lord would prefer to have a government run by those who respect all human life, families, religious freedom, etc. But at least part of my motivation was hoping that a less hostile regime would enable me to take it a little easier, be a little less vigilant, perhaps kick back and relax a little. But the election makes it clear that there will be no reprieve; in fact, we can count on a more intense struggle in the days to come. So my hope of a little inline vacation goes by the boards – looks like I'll have to keep growing up after all.

But a perspective shift is helpful, since disappointment rises out of the gap between what we expect and what we get. It's been clear to me for some time, and is now clearer than ever, that my citizenship is not of this world. No, I'm not planning to move to a cabin in the woods and totally withdraw from social and political involvement. As a Catholic who takes my pro-life and pro-family responsibilities seriously, I can't do that. But I will recognize that my country has become, and will become increasingly, hostile to those things. The change has already happened, and will accelerate in the days to come. I need to adjust my expectations and actions accordingly.

I'm writing this on Veteran's Day, when there is a good amount of appreciative sentiment expressed toward us veterans for our sacrifices for the country. This is fine, as are such things as July 4th celebrations, but increasingly these will become expressions of nothing more than sentiment. The substance of what was sacrificed will continue to be gutted until there is nothing left but bread and circuses. Students of history know that this decline is as inevitable as the sunset – true freedom and self-governance is an ideal that rarely lasts more than a few generations under the best of circumstances. I know that I will not die in the same land I was born in, and that this is true even if I die tomorrow. I will fight a rearguard action, but much of my focus will be preparing my grandchildren for the world they will inherit. It will be different, and much harder for them, especially if they seek to live out the Gospel with integrity. But it will be better than living as subservient minions of the Leviathan state.

Increasingly the words spoken by a virtually unknown Fr. Joseph Ratzinger back in 1969 ring true:

The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members....
It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek . . . The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution – when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

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