What is the right side of history? That question came up during a recent discussion I had with a decidedly secular friend. I was lamenting the fact that so many Catholics make up their own belief system rather than stick with actual Church teaching.
Some call this “cafeteria Catholicism” but I prefer to call it “opposing the faith.”
As an example, I used the large Catholic support of euthanasia that preceded that grotesque legalization of something no Catholic should have supported.
My friend replied, “Maybe those Catholics did not want to be on the wrong side of history?”
I have heard this argument many times before for all sorts of issues that the Church differs on from mainstream thought. We often call ourselves “counter-cultural” these days for that very reason.
I laugh when I think about this term being applied today to orthodox Christians because that same term was used to describe the Sixties and what were then radical views about sex and society and the length of men’s hair — along with the opposition to the Vietnam War and the support of racial equality. The Sixties, despite being mocked today, did have a good side. And many of those radical views eventually ended up becoming mainstream. Some for the good and some to the detriment of society as a whole.
There are many issues that we as Catholics find ourselves on the “wrong side of history”: We are wrong about gay marriage, we are wrong about euthanasia and abortion because society has moved past our views.
Some Protestant denominations have liberalized their views to be more in harmony with present day culture. Of course, it begs the question what else will less orthodox Christians question to be more relevant: The Resurrection of Jesus? After all, it is hardly scientific. And if Jesus was really God how come he let himself be crucified? That does not make much sense to the modern secular mind.
The Assumption of Mary? Crazy talk. At least Jesus was divine, sort of. Has anyone ever seen a woman lifted into the sky who did not eventually fall back to Earth? Anyone?
What about God? God is not too popular anymore except as a “life force” or as an acceptable sweet old grandfather or grandmother whose only concern is that we be happy.
What about sin? It is so subjective. And it has such a judgmental ring. Talk about a buzz kill.
I once heard an Anglican minister talk about the Resurrection. When he was asked about the Christ’s Ascension into Heaven he said: “Yes, I believe it. But I don’t know or care if his body ascended or just his spirit. And it really doesn’t matter.” I would like to think his views are a minority in his church. But even as a minority position, for a Christian minister it seemed sort of un-Christian. Though I should not judge. I guess.
Are we on the wrong side of history?
We know that the greatest growth in Christianity has occurred in Africa over the past 100 years. Some historians say it is the greatest growth in the faith in the past 2,000 years. We know too that those new converts are more orthodox as a rule. Even among Anglicans, the African bishops have no truck with making Christianity palatable and popular.
In Africa it would seem that they are on the right side of history.
Here in North America, and I suspect most of Western Europe, we are definitely on the wrong side of history. And thank God we are. Someone on occasion has to yell, “Stop!” Someone has to question what becomes so-called common knowledge. Someone has to believe that not everything that has endured going back to our Jewish roots needs to be fixed.
Look at transgenderism. Not only is mainstream society twisting itself like a pretzel to accommodate transgender rights but we have also encouraged something some psychiatrists call a pathology. But to even raise that point is to be reactionary.
The truth is that history is ongoing. Whether history proves us right or wrong does not really matter. We are not here to be popular. We are here to promote the Truth. And that may not fit with history but it certainly does with the history of salvation.
Charles Lewis is a regular contributor to The Catholic Register and a board member of the Catholic Civil Rights League. He has been writing for 36 years. He was also the religion reporter for the National Post until January 2014.
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