Christians, it is time to speak, act, and risk

Today, the public square is a dangerous place to be a Christian, unless you’re willing to render to Caesar what belongs to God.

"St. Paul Preaching at Athens" (1515) by Raphael [WikiArt.org]

Little Alfie sentenced to death, in spite of his parents’ pleadings and offers of succor. Governments and schools indoctrinating children in soulless and hazardous ideologies. Christian businesses compelled to support personal choices that are contrary to their religious beliefs. Sexuality reduced to entertainment = rampant sexual assault and intimidation. American media elite gathering in Washington D.C. to applaud jokes that unabashedly trash Christian principles.

Not hyperbole—reality. Today, the public square is a dangerous place to be a Christian, unless you’re willing to render to Caesar what belongs to God.

Where will it end? The endgame is obvious if you’ve been paying attention for the past fifty years: societies ruled by the “enlightened”, with the authority and power to control ordinary people, at the expense of personal dignity—in a nutshell, the modern Chinese model. Though wary of admitting it publicly, many of the so-called intellectual elite embrace this model, because they expect to be in the ruling class, or because they are convinced this new order will produce their newly minted definitions of peace, justice, and prosperity.

Anyone who opposes this project—especially a Christian with traditional beliefs and values—is the enemy, and must be marginalized or neutralized by ever more aggressive means, as we’ve witnessed in recent generations.

Now is the time for more than just a tiny percentage of Christians to actively engage the broader, ambivalent, and even antagonistic culture with our written and spoken words and actions. Not words and actions directed at other Christians, or like-minded people, but engaging the culture where it is here and now, at its heart—in the Rome of the 21st century, as Paul did in the Rome of the 1st century. Risking everything.

We must speak to an increasingly hostile culture, and we must do it now.

Here’s the rub: many Christians avoid, or dismiss as frivolous or worthless, engagement with a hostile culture, but the consequences are plain to see.

I’m sharing my own experience not because I’m an exemplar of how to do it, but because I have been doing it for many years: dozens of articles and hundreds of letters published in the mainstream media, and speaking publicly in many forums, some hostile. Many of these contributions could have been better, and a few shouldn’t have been voiced or submitted, but, for the most part, these principles, ideas, responses, challenges, were in a voice too few hear any more.

That goes for storytelling too, and before anyone insists that stories are irrelevant because they aren’t factual or “truthful”, or useless if not explicitly Christian, consider the literary works that first alerted the West to the deeper truth—that is, the horrors—of Soviet communism, not histories or political treatises or expert journalism, but George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. Consider C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories that formed many who weren’t Christian.

This thirty year public mission has been lonely—at times, frustrating and discouraging. Few Christians take it seriously, few clergy provide encouragement, and many look askance at lay engagement in actively challenging the culture. This sounds harsh, but considering the dearth of parish and diocesan programs related to this mission, along with the many pro forma responses I’ve received to suggestions and inquiries, it’s no wonder so few Catholics are engaged in this essential work. On more than one occasion, I became so discouraged I decided to quit: “I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart. I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”

Some prominent people are boldly and eloquently challenging the culture, but far too few to make a dent in the momentum of the endgamers: George Weigel’s powerful article on the Resurrection in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan’s reliable Christian voice, Jim Caviezel’s films and public witness, but such as these are few and far between. We need thousands of Christians—an army—to take up this mission, locally, regionally, nationally, and beyond—and not just in forums where we are conversing with each other either.

What subjects ought to be addressed? In a word, everything: culture, family life, politics, the arts, ethics, science and other scholarly subjects, education, you name it. Christianity encompasses all of these.

How do we go about it? What are the rules of the road I’ve learned, mostly by trial and error? Remember, I’m speaking about engaging an ambivalent or hostile culture, many having a distorted notion of Christianity. The more hostile the forum, the more explicit appeals to Scripture or dogma should be avoided. Instead, focus on reason, evidence, beauty, choices and consequences, examples of double standards and other fuzzy thinking. Hold up publicly accepted exemplars of wisdom or virtue. Get your facts straight. Avoid personal aspersions and attacks (where I’ve failed more than once). Make your written submittal or verbal address as layman-accessible as possible. Back up what you say with evidence or examples.

Be timely, topical, and pay careful attention to the requirements for publications—word count, personal information required. When composing or speaking, prepare well, then accept imperfection with a sporting spirit. Whether the Washington Post or the local PTA or a faculty meeting or a class assignment or a board meeting, don’t fire off or submit the first draft, or speak unprepared. Convey a generous rather than a bitter outlook.

This is more difficult than even a decade ago, as public arena gatekeepers—media, universities, policy purveyors—have convinced (deceived, really) many into believing that Christians and other traditional believers are hateful, racist, homophobic, and anti-science, thereby unworthy of contributing to the public debate, charges not deeply reasoned or demonstrated with evidence, relying on slogans, emotion, and false appeals to fairness and freedom. We must break these gates down, always with charity and generosity, while remembering that courage, fortitude, and perseverance are virtues too: “Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves”.

Don’t think that by laying low or by publicly accommodating these people you and your family will be able to live a privately Christian life. These gatekeepers are constantly tightening the vise—what was personal and private a decade ago is now fair game. This is what you better think and say and, if you don’t, we’ll find you and punish you, take your job, take you to court, ridicule you in the public arena, subject you to threats.

The blowback I’ve experienced is nothing in comparison to the experiences of so many persecuted for their faith, but in the thirty years I’ve been engaging the culture through the written and spoken word, I’ve received many nasty letters, emails, phone calls. During my professional career, in which I led several companies and taught at several universities, I worried about how my public voice might affect my family, my companies and my job. Now, at 64 and counting, I’m convinced that younger, fresher voices are better suited to engage today’s culture.

We must win this war of ideas. Though labeled “haters” by a hostile culture, our ideas are better, more life giving, more generous. If we find creative ways to convey our message, most readers and hearers will recognize the ideologies peddled by the “enlightened” elite for what they are—foolishness, or worse. We are ceding the field to buzzards. We must eagerly and selflessly take on this mission, not in lieu of Christian service, or family life, or personal formation, or prayer (God forbid!), but we dare not embrace these essential things in lieu of courageous witness in today’s Roman Forum. No matter the cost. Isn’t this what the early disciples did?

Every parish and diocese should have a prominent culture-engagement program, led by laymen with appropriate experience and skills; not traditional evangelization programs, because todays’ culture needs leavening before it’s prepared to hear the Gospel.

There’s no time to lose.

About Thomas M. Doran 53 Articles
Thomas M. Doran is the author of the Tolkien-inspired Toward the Gleam (Ignatius Press, 2011), and its summer 2018 sequel, The Lucifer Ego.

22 Comments

  1. Jim Caviezel did the naughty with two different shorties in Person of Interest…he risked nothing for God therein and he killed a corrupt detective with Fusco’s gun and thereby blackmailed Fusco to bury the detective..and conitinued to use Fusco manipulatively. Risking is when an actor says he does not want to represent fornication and blackmail AS AN ATTRACTIVE ICON TO YOUTH OVERALL IN THE SERIES…..even if it means losing millions. Yes a Catholic actor can represent fornication if the series proceeds to show the price he paid in living that lie…but POI did no such thing in Caviezel’s character.

      • The stalker…never content….just appearance. Never data…just appearance. ever causal connections ….just abridged haiku. Enoki mushrooms is what you need for mental acuity which will someday lead to posts with content and data.

        • There is something wrong if you consider anyone who disagrees with you is a ‘stalker”. Your response is an over sensitive, girly approach to things. Your need to slander anyone who disagrees with you is deeply strange, as is your take on Jim Caviezel. Say, you are not stalking him, are you?

          • You don’t disagree. You troll by giving posts that have no content…draw no logical conclusions. Trolling isn’t disagreeing. Disagreeing takes work.
            You avoid that work.

    • OK, fine. But Mr Caviezel is not advertising himself as perfection or sinless. So cut him a bit of slack.
      We need more like him, imperfect as he is.

  2. “We must win this war of ideas. Though labeled “haters” by a hostile culture, our ideas are better, more life giving, more generous. If we find creative ways to convey our message, most readers and hearers will recognize the ideologies peddled by the “enlightened” elite for what they are—foolishness, or worse. We are ceding the field to buzzards. We must eagerly and selflessly take on this mission, not in lieu of Christian service, or family life, or personal formation, or prayer (God forbid!), but we dare not embrace these essential things in lieu of courageous witness in today’s Roman Forum. No matter the cost. Isn’t this what the early disciples did?”

    Evangelization to those of good will? Sure. Engaging in dialogue with those who are not of good will? A waste of time.

  3. Good article. I’ve been doing this more or less for years now as well. It’s easy to minimize or mock online work, but it’s a field of encounter most definitely. The same rules apply, bring reason and Christian values to the world you encounter. You can do this for as long as you can type. It’s no small thing, because, social media. You’ve done your part and that is something to feel good about. It is not easy to be the countercultural voice in this hostile environment, and you are so right, it grows more totalitarian and hostile every day. The Roman Forum will come back in one form or another.
    I believe our words by themselves can accomplish little, although that is what I rely on as well. We may do better by bringing forth the Word of God from scripture rather than avoiding it. God’s word has power, supernatural power, that our words won’t have. I hear what you are saying about reason, and I agree with you, but I wonder if we are disarming ourselves if we do not take advantage of God’s word and speak His truths boldly. Our little words are not going to convince the raging hordes who will want our heads for daring to go against them. I would rather, if I must, go down with God’s word on my lips than a milk-toast appeal to people who I’m probably not going to convince anyway. Just a thought. But God bless you for doing what you have been doing for so long. Onward, Christian soldiers.

  4. I am a Reformed Faith Christian, and I am so pleased and challenged by this article. I have shared it with an e-mail group that contains Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant Christians. This is what I wrote them: Dear Christian friends, You are Catholic, Evangelical, and Protestant. This article is written by a Catholic man and published in a Catholic publication, B U T it is as if Paul and the Apostles are writing to us all, challenging us as mutual believers to come together and fight the good fight, fight for God’s holy precepts and principles for the sake of not just the Church and Christians, but for the sake of all–believer and unbeliever. I have highlighted a few passages that stand out to me. Mr. Doran is firmly speaking the truth in love, and we desperately need to embrace truth and to embrace it as he says, “Risking everything.”

    Please, take time to read this article and to comprehend its implications. We continue to give up so much ground, so much moral ground. Isn’t it time to stop backing away and to first stand one’s ground and then to advance cautiously, kindly, lovingly, but most of all, truefully in the fray, in the public forum for Christ’s sake?

    For me today, I believe more and more that orthodox, traditional Christians, regardless of which branch of the Church, must join together and support one another in confronting the immorality and heretical teachings being spread in our society. Our hour has come to stand up and be counted. We have erred in the past in our attitudes toward one another; this is not the time to continue such error. As Jesus commanded us to love one another, as He has loved us, we have the opportunity to do so by mutually serving Him together and supporting one another in this awesome challenge. I will try to do my part, as a free lance Christian writer.

    Helen Louise Herndon

    • Also, I would also remind all that Jesus Himself founded His Church with St Peter in charge, and that Church is “Catholic” which means universal, therefore we need to try to follow Him.
      The reality here is concerning the truths of the Catholic Church which Christ established on St Peter as His Supreme Vicar and His Apostles, sending the Holy Spirit as He promised: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18) “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name, He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26)

      The Church is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:16).

      The dogma and doctrine which She teaches through Her Popes infallibly to the whole Church has already been protected by Him from error in installing His first Pope as Christ established His Church with four promises to St Peter:
      “You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
      “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
      I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.” ( Mt 16:19)
      “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later, also to the Twelve Apostles].

      Sole authority:
      “Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
      “Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

  5. Today’s Roman Forum is crowded with agents and notions of the Transhumanist Agennda. Observed soberly, the culture is riddled with carefully designed projects and scheduled *soft disclosures*. Transhumanism engineers and drives all aspects and segments of the culture. Pick a part and you will discover how it has been confiscated and now serves the Transhumanist Lords. There is little in your life which does not offer up service. Each time you open your Facebook account you submit to those (that) lords (Lord). Facebook was designed from its (DARPA) origins to capture and transform the very nature of Man and his relations. Even the Kindle Fire in my hand is designed to transform the human right out of me.

    When one *bumps* into those who quake with fear for what they know, for why *soft disclosures* are tumbling into view with alarming speed; when one bumps into the like it colors everything – better, it smashes the rose-tinted glasses. It has consequences. I no longer watch movies (one oversized elephant on the Forum) because I can too easily spot their Transhumanist reveal. That *being in the know* questions every relation, contact, and connectedness. Should I now toss this Kindle with its programmed chains to my Amazon account (another DARPA cutout which, year after year, claims more of my purchasing “power”)? Seems, our daily activity is consumed with positioning our options so we can receive what the Transhumanist Lords are serving up?

    So,tell me, how does the Christian (non-religiously) evangelize (reveal the presence of truth, beauty, and goodness) on grounds so thoroughly filled and seeded as this, on such a Roman Forum? Where does one begin?

    The Christian, the Church, is woefully unprepared. Unprepared, frightfully so, as the *hard disclosures* round the corners and hills of our societies – that is, squat on the Roman Forum for good.

    • “Where does one begin?” Stephen, formation, prayer, reading and listening, generosity, and engagement. You will make some mistakes and fall short. Keep trying. Ananias didn’t reject Paul, even though he was an “enemy”. Some of the “hostiles” are closer than we think.

  6. It is time to resist Caesar’s usurpation of authority over innocent human life that belongs to God alone, and his usurpation of authority that has been delegated by God to parents alone. Actually a Lech Walesa/Solidarity movement type resistance should have begun long ago. It is not too late to start, but the longer we wait the more difficult it will become.

    In the last forty years more innocent babies have been “legally” murdered than the entire human population of planet Earth at the beginning of the twentieth century — nearly two billion babies. It is not like we can say we are waiting until something really bad happens before we deal with this assault on humanity realistically. We are living in the midst of the greatest holocaust of innocent human life in the history of the world.

  7. “Every parish and diocese should have a prominent culture-engagement program, led by laymen with appropriate experience and skills; not traditional evangelization programs, because todays’ culture needs leavening before it’s prepared to hear the Gospel.”

    Can you give some practical advice on how to get this going? The easy thing would be to say the priests and bishops are often obstacles themselves, but the truth is I don’t know how to approach setting up something like this. My own priest and bishop are conservative and we have a good pro-life outreach, but what about all the other areas of the culture. Pro-life is hugely important but for a lot of people that’s their whole thing, and that can’t be the only fight.

  8. Speak, act, risk, indeed.
    How much discomfort and pain can we endure now for the glory God and His reward of Paridise?
    How much can we endure expecting very little support (if any) from the powers-that-be in a diocese or the Vatican?
    Because of the events and changes over the last fifty years, the faithful are completely unprepared for the crap storm which will arrive soon. Very soon.
    Our Lord will not be mocked. He will make that very clear in short order. In that I am confident.

  9. What a great letter from Helen Louise Herndon.
    Also, I would also remind all that Jesus Himself founded His Church with St Peter in charge, and that Church is “Catholic” which means universal, therefore we need to try to follow Him.
    The reality here is concerning the truths of the Catholic Church which Christ established on St Peter as His Supreme Vicar and His Apostles, sending the Holy Spirit as He promised: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18) “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name, He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26)

    The Church is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:16).

    The dogma and doctrine which She teaches through Her Popes infallibly to the whole Church has already been protected by Him from error in installing His first Pope as Christ established His Church with four promises to St Peter:
    “You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
    “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
    I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.” ( Mt 16:19)
    “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later, also to the Twelve Apostles].

    Sole authority:
    “Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
    “Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

  10. The author might be more convincing if he himself followed his own rule about citing specific examples rather than making broad allusions to the self-described battle he wants others to help wage. In the final analysis, it’s next-to-impossible to convince the world that the church, which as an institution not only looked the other way when it came to sexual abuse but then went after the brave victims who stepped forward with their stories, has an equal (let alone better) track record in preventing or combating such abuse. Likewise, the expansion of civil laws permitting divorce and remarriage without the benefit of an annulment or two people of the same gender to marry poses no obstacle to the church continuing to teach what it wishes about marriage. To have civil options in no way mandates that the church go along with them. What is at the crux of the current angst is that the church’s belief structure on issues like marriage has been rejected by a large majority. It can continue to teach as it wishes, but it has no business imposing those teachings on either non-Catholics, or Catholics, for that matter, who believe otherwise. The constitution guarantees “freedom of religion,” not that the opinion of one or more religions will be either accepted or imposed on everyone..

    • John, June 10, 2018 at 5:58 am:
      “ ‘the church’ has no business imposing those teachings on either non-Catholics, or Catholics,”

      As Jesus stated emphatically to St Peter “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later, also to the Twelve Apostles].
      Thus those who know and choose to reject His teaching for His Catholic Church have only themselves to blame.

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