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Vibrant witness to our faith is the way to change the culture

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by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Some may be suffering post-election trauma!

For the first time, by public referendum, a few states (Maryland, Maine, and Washington) narrowly approved the legality of socalled same-sex marriage. Minnesota failed to pass a state constitutional amendment prohibiting any future legislation from attempting to redefine marriage as something other than a covenant of love between one man and one woman. A couple of states (Colorado and Washington) legalized the “recreational” use of marijuana.

Any hope that the election would solve the attack on religious liberty and conscience rights created by the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate as part of the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) has disappeared. To avoid a crisis of Catholic institutions and Catholic employers having to choose between violating Catholic moral teaching or defying federal law, either the current administration must have a change of heart or the federal courts must provide a favorable ruling. The Obama administration changing its position seems improbable and depending on the judiciary for relief is always risky business.

In the past, and for almost 40 years, our nation has legally sanctioned the killing of more than 55 million of our own children by abortion. During the recent election cycle, we saw the pro-abortion forces resurrecting the strategy that they used to gain abortion’s legalization by focusing attention on the hard, but relatively rare, cases of pregnancy resulting from rape.

Abortion advocates, with a complicit media, utilized two Senate candidates’ remarks that sounded callous toward the tragic plight of rape victims in order to promote successfully a mythical war on women. In so doing, they diverted attention from the federal government’s efforts to coerce religious institutions and individual employers to violate their conscience by paying for and providing abortioninducing drugs as well as contraceptives in employee health plans.

What should we do in the context of a culture that seems more than ever to be “slouching towards Gomorrah?”

First of all, we need to pray for all those in elected office, whether we voted for them or not. We need to pray that our elected officials will put aside partisan politics and make decisions that will rescue our nation from the economic calamity of an unsustainable national debt. Failure to do so will create tremendous hardship for individuals and chaos for our society.

However, even more critical for the long-term health and even survival of our nation is a renewal of family life and virtue within the American people. Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of religion in fostering virtue in America’s citizenry. They realized without virtuous citizens a democratic republic could not survive.

In addition to praying for those in elected office, we need to embrace the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to be active participants in the new evangelization. Ultimately, our elections reflect the values of the American people. If we want to have different results on Election Day, then we need to transform the culture. If we want Americans to make different and wiser choices in the voting booth, then we need to impact what people value.

It should not surprise us that fewer Americans regularly attending church coincides with a smaller percentage being married. Nor should it startle us that fewer children being raised in homes with both their biological parents has happened when fewer Americans claim any religious affiliation.

Sadly, we have experienced too many examples, in recent years, of those representing churches failing to live in a manner consistent with what they preached. From the abandonment of Jesus by his chosen apostles on Good Friday to the present day, we are keenly aware of the human weakness of the church. Jesus cautioned us about the weeds and the wheat growing up together. Despite all of her weaknesses, the church remains essential in Our Lord’s plan of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations and through all time. It is in the church that we receive the forgiveness, healing, nourishment and support to follow Jesus faithfully in the particular circumstances of our lives.

How do we transform the culture? The answer is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago. We must provide the people of our time with heroic witnesses of living our Christian faith with integrity and joy. Cultures are transformed when people are inspired by example to strive for what is virtuous and noble.

Sometimes, the church is mistakenly viewed as the community of “No!” The church says no to same-sex marriages, to contraception, to premarital sex, to abortion, to pornography, to marijuana, to greed, to gluttony, etc. Our American culture through its music, cinema and other forms of entertainment is constantly promoting the opposite — that to be happy you have to be sexually active and rich. From the apple in the Garden of Eden to the present day, pleasure and selfgratification have always been alluring.

The church does not oppose premarital sex, homosexual acts, avarice, illegal drugs, gluttony or any other vice because she wants to prevent our happiness. No, just the opposite: The church understands not only these actions will not make us happy, but eventually they will bring us to sadness and despair.

The new evangelization is a challenge for Catholics first to make the love of Jesus real in the world today. No one can accept the discipline and sacrifices of Christian discipleship, unless they have first experienced the love of Jesus Christ. We must make clear to the world that we love every human being, no matter if they have a homosexual or heterosexual orientation, no matter what addiction enslaves them, no matter their economic status, race or ethnicity.

Why? Because they have been made in the divine image! Because they are an icon of God! Because the Son of God gave his life on Calvary for them, so much did he esteem and value their life!

What can motivate individuals to give up the secular culture’s seductive and false recipe for happiness? The only antidote powerful enough is the witness of individuals who, despite their own frailty and sufferings, are filled with the authentic joy and hope of the Gospel. The best way for us to transform our culture is to live our Catholic faith with fidelity, passion and enthusiasm.

If we live our faith in this way, others inevitably will be drawn to discover the source of our peace, our joy, and our love. Cultures are changed by the transformation of individual lives. A vibrant, authentic living witness of the Catholic faith is the best way to transform the culture, one person at a time. We have something so much better to offer to people than free contraceptives.

About the author

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Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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