America Is In Serious Trouble
Israel was God's chosen people. He picked them out and distinguished them from the pagan Gentile nations in order to be a special witness to His own holiness. Israel received the Law, the promises, and the covenant. They received great blessings from God. But what happened? They grew comfortable and complacent. Rather than reforming the pagans, they conformed to the pagans. The prophets were chosen by God to call Israel back to covenant faithfulness. Isaiah was one of the first prophets. He recites a song for the Israelites. "My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a winepress. Then he looked for a crop of grapes, but it yielded wild grapes..." What was Isaiah talking about? He was prophesying the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, which would fall in a few short years to the brutal Assyrians in 722 BC. The Israelites of the ten northern tribes were in effect obliterated. They did not heed God's call for repentance.
A little over 200 years ago, God planted another vineyard. In this vineyard there was fertile, abundant land; there was political liberty; there was a the bright promise of a democratic republic in which life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were constitutionally promised to each person. This "vineyard" was founded on high ideals, indeed. The vineyard is, of course, the U.S.A. And so, 200 years ago, what has been called the "American Experiment" was launched. God planted this vineyard. He gave us the wonderful nation in which we live, and made ample provision for much fruit to be borne. Today, God looks to the U.S.A. to see the fruit it has yielded--to see the "grapes." What will He find?
He'll find abortion on demand--about 1,600,000 babies aborted a year (that's over 4,000 a day). He'll find euthanasia--one state has legalized it already, more are itching to follow. Then there is the decline of the family -- about one in two marriages end in divorce. There's a degenerate pop-culture that glorifies illicit sex and violence. There is the billion-dollar porn industry, which has exploded since the Internet. There is last year's presidential scandal, at which time the highest-ranking government official lied under oath and was impeached by the House, using lies to cover up other lies in a sordid media escapade...and what was the reaction of so many American people? So what!! Who cares? Stay out of the man's private life!! Alarmingly, few people seemed to care or grasp the implications of what had happened. Then, God will also find the Littleton, Colorado massacre. I believe that, if God would come today to check out His vineyard, He would find a nation buckling at the knees, becoming more and more desensitized to evil, crumpling under the weight of its own sin. This is not to deny that the U.S.A. offers many benefits. But the fact is, we are in serious trouble as a nation.
How did we get to this point? There are many factors, and of course there is no time to get into them all. Much of the immediate problem can be traced to the early 60's, with the advent of the birth-control pill. This launched the "sexual revolution" which sent traditional morality, sexual restraint, and the traditional family structure reeling (some would say, to the grave). And so it should come as no surprise that, about a decade later, Roe v. Wade should come along and, with it, the legalization of abortion. Americans, after all, needed something to fall back on if their contraceptives failed. But one can ask; where was the Church in the midst of all this? The people of God listened for moral guidance on a tough and muddled issue, and heard little if any authoritative teaching from their local leaders. Many do not know that, prior to the Anglican "Lambeth Conference" in 1930, every Christian denomination denounced contraception. Historically, it is difficult to deny that contraception paved the way for abortion. Could "Roe v. Wade" have been halted if a unified front had been put up by the enormous body of Christians in America?
Some might object to such a link being established between abortion and contraception. However, Pope John Paul II has clearly affirmed such a link. In Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) he wrote that contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree; and that the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected" (EV, 13). Mother Teresa, as well, affirmed this link at her now-famous talk at the "prayer breakfast" sponsored by the U.S. Senate and House on 3 February 1994.
Admittedly, it was hard to see all this at the beginning. The "pill" seemed to offer so much. Of course, abortion was much harder to "swallow." Studies now show that the majority of Americans did not want abortion in 1973. "Roe" herself (Norma McCorvey) has recently renounced abortion and the role she played in getting it legalized. The fact is, like all lies, abortion was euphemized into such code-words asreproductive health, a simple procedure, tissue removal, and the ever-popular choice. This has helped it gain acceptance among the wider population of Americans. But aside from all this, where are we now? We now have the shocking and grisly partial-birth abortion procedure. The House and Senate voted it down twice, and the president--true to his word during his campaign--vetoed it both times. Full-fledged infanticide is now being seriously talked about among political policy-makers. In light of all this, it seems somewhat strange that we are so puzzled by stories of moms killing their babies and leaving them in trash cans, or stories like Littleton, Colorado. We wonder how such tragedies happen, yet they happen daily in abortion clinics around the country.
At the root of all this death is an atheistic mentality and a false view of freedom, one which actually more resembles license. There is a glorification (deification?) of sexual pleasure and a systematic denigration of the family. At the threshold of the year 2000, I'm afraid our Lord looks to America and findswild grapes. What's worse, I'm afraid he looks at the Church and finds her all too often sleeping.
We face a defining trial as a nation. How are we going to respond? There are a few practical things we can focus on which will have far-reaching and very long-term effects for good.
First, there is the family. As the family goes, so goes the nation -so said the Pope in the TWA Dome last January, to a crowd of over 110,000. Do we love the one we've got? The children we've got? Are we open to more children? Back in 1979, at Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., the Pope said that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is more siblings--even if this might be to the detriment of more material-based goods. Are we open to using natural family planning (NFP), the Catholic Church's approved method of regulating family size? Are we even aware that NFP is safe, effective, and highly scientific today? How about other areas of family life? Do we pray together? Eat together? Pope John Paul II has referred to the family as the great wellspring of human happiness, and the first and vital cell of society. And we all know that if the cells break down, the entire organism will be sick. The family is among the greatest strongholds God has against the devil and his culture of death. Do not be afraid to uphold and cherish the family!
Second, there is prayer and fasting. Some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting said our Lord in the Gospel. We can even deny ourselves many of the secular media entertainment -- many of which promote the very culture of death and selfishness we are charged to shun and abolish.
The third means we have at our disposal is our vote. Do not be afraid to vote for life, and to demand life-upholding stances from our public leaders! We face a defining trial in America. The political philosopher Edmund Burke once said, The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Now is the time to promote, defend, and support life! Now is the time for us to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ, even "from the rooftops"! He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
Historically speaking, 200 years is a short time for a nation. Let's not forget that the United States of America is still in some respects an experiment, and that a democratic republic cannot last without the virtue of its citizens. What type of future lies in store for the American vineyard?" Only time will tell. But we must do something, and soon, to change the current tide, or else we face a bad end. Most importantly, what will OUR role be in the destiny of our nation? What will OUR record be on judgment day?
Rev Charles M. Klamut
St Philomena's Church, Peoria, IL