My friends in Christ, at long last we come to the conclusion of the Easter Season, that great feast of joy and glory wherein we celebrate God the Holy Spirit: the Solemnity of Pentecost. Long has the universal Church celebrated this day not only in honor of God the Holy Spirit…but also as the “birthday,” as it were, of her very self – the Catholic Church…. And thus was begun the world-changing – the history-changing – revolution of Christianity.
Now, I bring that up because as we all probably have recognized and experienced by now, it is, sadly, a radically post-Christian world out there right now. On the very day of that first Christian Pentecost, people were entering the Church by the thousands…but now, and much to our sorrow, in our own day and age some two thousand years later, people are leaving the Church by the thousands.
On Tuesday just this past week, May 26 – which was the ninth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood – it was reported that more than ten thousand people formally withdrew from the Church in the Archdiocese of Munich, in Germany – which, for centuries, had been the very heart of Catholic Germany there in beautiful Bavaria. What sad, horrifying news to read, and on the very day of my ordination anniversary no less! Ten thousand people (just in one diocese…and just in a single year!)…leaving the Church and making it official…. And Germany is just one example of many such sad instances of departure.
My friends in Christ, we are in a post-Christian world, and make no mistake about it…. But then again, there is some very interesting, hopeful news that I read at about the same time that I read the news of people leaving the Church in Germany. Interesting, as I say, because this strange news is a claim being made about the Church by atheists, of all people. And hopeful, as I say, for the very same reason…. This oddly hopeful news features atheist historian Tom Holland, who wrote that if the West had not become Christian, then “no one would have gotten woke.” In his new book that defends Christianity (called Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World), he offers a clear argument that the ancient world, pre-Christian, was brutally savage. So-called “imperfect” children
were routinely murdered. And in fact, infanticide in general was fairly common. The poor and the weak had no rights whatsoever. There were slaves in abundance, and their bodies were treated like outlets for the physical pleasure of those who had the power. And that is only a small part of what he reports in his awful telling of the ancient world in the pre-Christian West.
But then, Jesus Christ came along, and the Christian movement that followed. And then all of a sudden, Christianity began to revolutionize sex and marriage, exhorting men in particular to be in control of themselves, prohibiting rape, confining sexuality to a monogamous marriage. Beyond the realm of sex and marriage, the overall role of women in society was greatly elevated. Christians utterly transformed the world.
In later centuries, of course, Christianity would give rise also to the hospital, the city school, and the university open to all people and not just the royalty and the noble. Christianity gave us the printing press, that the Bible could be more widely published and distributed for the masses. Why, Christianity even gave us beer! (They will try telling us that the ancient Egyptians actually invented beer…but come on! Monk beer is just way better!)
Christianity gave us modern genetics, the Big Bang Theory, and the beginnings of computer science. Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and Mark Zuckerberg would just have nothing but for Friar Gregor Mendel, Father Georges Lemaître, and Sister Mary Kenneth Keller…. The stark claim is made that without Christianity, the Western world, as we know it, just would not exist. Even the anti-Christian social justice warriors of our own here-and-now all embrace values of love, tolerance, and compassion which are solidly grounded on a Christian foundation. And so I say it again that if the West had not become Christian, “no one would have gotten woke.”
And Mister Holland is not the only atheist historian who suddenly comes to the defense of Christianity; in fact, many of them are doing so. And even if for whatever reason they cannot quite
bring themselves to believe that Christianity is true, they are at least finally beginning to understand the fact that Christianity is necessary.
Indeed, this interesting and hopeful phenomenon of atheists coming to the defense of (and even praising) Christianity is actually growing. Gone are the days of the infamous atheist Christopher Hitchens and his fellow secularists raging against the so-called “poison” of religion. Why, even the militant atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted that Christianity just might be more preferable to the alternatives; once upon a time, he called for Christianity to be destroyed, but now, he admits (albeit begrudgingly) that Christianity does in fact have some good effects on society.
Interesting, hopeful…and yet also a warning. A warning to the West. Without Christianity, we would be doomed to fall back into a brutal and terrifying darkness. Christianity gives us human rights. Christianity gives us protection of the weak. Christianity gives us compassion that is rooted in the mandate of love. Christianity tells us to forgive even our enemies. Christianity revolutionized the world entire….
But now, we as a society in the so-called “enlightened” West, and in our raving madness of arrogance and stupidity…deliberately or passively, we are engaged in the deconstructive process of undoing that glorious Christian revolution. Some might even say that we have in fact replaced the Christian revolution with the sexual revolution…. But before our raving madness hits fever pitch, I think that we do well probably to consider what we are destroying before we carry on; and we do well probably to ask why the fence was built in the first place before taking it out, or why the tree was planted before ripping it down. We do well probably to listen to such Christianity-defending atheists who are crying out to us that Christianity is in fact necessary…. And we definitely do well to fight, thus to ensure that what is now post-Christian becomes once again a pre-Christian world.
May the Holy Spirit empower us in this holy and glorious endeavor, this good fight of faith in which now we find ourselves. And may it be that the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, will be with us
through it all, thus to fulfill what He Himself has promised us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
on Wednesday, June 3 at 9:17AM