February 2, 2021 (Edward J. Barr) – If you think the United States is in freefall, you are correct. As much as we like to view America as the beacon of freedom shining on the hill, we as a people have succumbed to the same temptations that have afflicted all peoples from the beginning. Ever since the Fall of our first parents, mankind has been caught in the grip of concupiscence. The unremitting desire for pleasure, power and possessions is a fact of human nature that challenges all of us. It also challenges a people, even those “set apart.” The Old Testament is replete with examples of the chosen people rebelling against God, despite the providence He provided them. We see the start of this ingratitude in the Garden, when the Devil tempted Adam and Eve with the promise of being like God. Of course, they were, being made in His image and likeness. Yet the sin of pride always tempts man to ask for more, to see in created things the happiness only the creator can provide.
The book of Judges gives particular focus to the “Cycle of Sin” or “Cycle of Disobedience” that is repeated throughout salvation history. The Cycle begins from the corruption that idolatry brings to a rebellious people. “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 3:7-31).” This evil is usually some form of the sin of idolatry. Sin punishes itself, and rebellion is soon followed by punishment, be it war or judgement. “So, the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them to their enemies.” (Judges 2:14). Even if a nation is or believes it is divinely graced, judgement may befall it. In salvation history punishment or judgement generally motivated the Israelites to repent. Repentance is the critical element of the cycle of disobedience. It occurs only when a people possess the humility to turn back to God. “But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord…” (Judges 3:15). God’s mercy follows, as the repentant people receive deliverance from their travails.
Before the anointing of King Saul, this deliverance entailed appointing a “judge.” “The Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel.” (Judges 3:9). The Lord was the true deliverer, a fact Israel frequently forgot. Alas, even the creation of the Kingdom of Israel didn’t stop the cycle. In fact, the desire for a King was a repudiation of the requirement to put trust in God alone. For the Lord told Samuel, the last judge, that it was not him that the people were rejecting when they asked for a king, but God himself (1 Samuel 10:19). The people wanted to put their trust in things of this world, to be like others. The united kingdom of Israel and Judah started out positive, had some bumps, then some glory, but it didn’t last long. Whenever a people reject God, there are consequences. So, where does the United States in 2021 stand in relation to the cycle of sin, punishment, repentance, and deliverance?
Not many would dispute that the United States today is in the midst of a steep moral decline. Though America was never perfect, it has never been so Godless. Today our society accepts as “normal” euthanasia, suicide, abortion, homosexuality, gender “fluidity,” and even infanticide is considered. These are all dipped in a putrid bath of materialism and selfishness sanctioned through a perverted view of freedom. Our idols may be different from those of the ancient Israelites, yet we may have exceeded them in our rejection of God. According to the Pew Research Religious Landscape Study, the number of American’s claiming no religious affiliation continues to grow. Those claiming to be atheists and agnostics is growing. Almost a quarter of the population claims no religion affiliation at all. Many who claim a belief in God have created God in their own image (see Christian Smith on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism). We have emphatically checked the box on the first step in the Cycle of Disobedience, sin.
While many who ascribe to the above perversions may disagree, we have certainly checked the second box of the Cycle, punishment. According to multiple studies, drug overdoses, suicide, and substance abuse have had grown in sync with the movement away from God (see the Commonwealth Fund Study). Despite overwhelming evidence of the benefits of the traditional two-parent family headed by a mother and a father, American society endorses and promotes pathologies that guarantee despair. The denigration of fathers has been particularly devastating. Among the numerous snapshots of the punishment brought by modernity’s attack on the family and especially fathers, consider: 90% of the youth in the United States who decide to run away from home, or become homeless for any reason, originally come from a fatherless home; 63% of youth suicides involve a child who was living in a fatherless home when they made their final decision; 85% of all children which exhibit some type of a behavioral disorder come from a fatherless home (U.S Department of Justice), and 85% of youth who are currently in prison grew up in a fatherless home (Texas Department of Corrections).
Have Americans started to recognize the despair they have created by being disobedient to God? Are we on the path to repentance? Has the era of punishment ended? Hardly. Rather than focus on the Almighty, Americans are focusing more on themselves. We seek salvation among men, be it specific men and woman in the political sphere, or among the creations of man, in material goods. Above all we continue to seek salvation in ourselves (remember Barack Obama’s “we are the ones we were waiting for?”). Even mainstream (read “anti-Christian) publications such as Newsweek recognize the growing narcissism in American culture. Social media plays a major role in the selfishness syndrome, yet it is but one of many temptations that modern society offers. Looking to government is futile. We must work to better our society, but our salvation will come only through our Savior. Our second president, John Adams, was aware of this fact. He noted that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Today, Americans are moving away from “moral and religious” toward “other.” Is it any wonder the Constitution is marginalized?
There is a foreboding convergence of complete elimination of faith in God and a secular syncretism of Christianity in American life. It normalizes evil amidst a demonic chant of “who are we to judge.” It views sacraments as “nice to have” reminders of faith rather than the normative means of salvation. We see this being played out in the Church. Some bishops have embraced a secular Christian culture in the misguided hope that not antagonizing Caesar will cause him to welcome Christ back into the public square. They don’t recognize the stakes of the spiritual battle that is roiling the souls of our countrymen. The enemy has been winning. Priests champion inherent evils and self-identified Catholic politicians who make a mockery of the faith are supported by bishops. Why would the evil one compromise when he is winning? We need to pray for our shepherds and remind them that Satan must be crushed, not appeased.
The punishment will certainly continue. We have the most anti-Christian, anti-Catholic and amoral government in the history of the Republic. The quest for truth as been replaced by the quest for power – at any cost. Be prepared for a growing, more overt persecution of faithful Catholics and institutions that support Catholic teaching. That the perpetrators are frequently self-identified Catholics or supported by Catholics shows the demonic influence at work. Persecution won’t end soon. The current trends in American show that we as a people are far from embracing the key virtue that leads to repentance, humility. Without humility, the prodigal son would never have turned back toward his father, who in turned offered a joyful and heartfelt deliverance to his son. Turning to the Father is the only way we can acquire such humility. It is recognizing the reality of the spiritual realm, a critical reality lost in our culture. Paul teaches “look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18) This is the only path for the redemption of the Republic, a conversion both of individuals and the culture. It will only succeed by obedience to the teachings of Christ and His Church. Unfortunately, that is the path less taken by Americans today.
Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, a Marine, and a university faculty member. He just completed his studies for a Master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com)