Much has been reported over the past year about the increasing threats to the free expression of religion in our nation. Service programs operated by Catholic organizations have ceased functioning because of Catholic refusals to violate the tenets of our faith regarding sexuality, marriage and life. The mayor of New York City attempted to restrict religious groups’ access to public property when Protestant faith communities were informed that they would no longer be able to rent public buildings on Sunday mornings. The mayor of Chicago publicly announced that a private business is not welcomed to establish itself in the Windy City because the business owner believes that marriage is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman.
Those of us who are familiar with the founding documents of our nation are appalled. Demonstrations are held to bring the public’s attention to these matters. Legal challenges are mounted by agencies discriminated against because of their faith practices, only to frequently be denied by the courts. And so it goes. But in the meantime, the moral decay of the nation continues and is evidenced by declining educational achievement; diminished health and well-being of adults; high infant mortality; an unprepared and underemployed workforce. How do we turn this around?
Our assent in faith to the teachings of our Lord and God transmitted through the ages by our church seems to be the only plausible plan. Bearing witness to the reality of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection in our age of skepticism and repression may seem impossible. But Jesus fulfilled what was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, confirming that we are made in the image of God, a God who seeks us and grants forgiveness and joy through love in the face of sin, sorrow and death. A Judeo-Christian experience and ethics encourage a worldview that says truth is to be sought and may be found; that love is the answer to the tragedy of sin, suffering and pain; that forgiveness overcomes trespass.
Now is the time to become apparent in our faith; to serve one another with graciousness. It is time to pray for the courage of the Holy Spirit so that we may speak truth. Truth about human life, like life begins at conception; that children fare best when raised by their married-for-life biological mothers and fathers; that through our bodies, our spirit is expressed; and that human dignity is protected when we respond with love to each person in our path regardless of her or his state or stage in life.
Christians have lived through tough times before. Recall the martyrs of the early church and Rome, yet Christianity changed the world. Let us pray that through our lives, the world will see the joy of the Lord. Thank all of you who do so much to insist on respect for human life.
Armantrout is life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester.