The other day while I was flipping around on Facebook, I found an article from the National Review, with a huge picture that said, "Americans have a right to insult Islam." I was intrigued, though at first, I admit that I was offended. It was the typical, gasping, knee-jerk reactions to controversy, but thankfully, I quickly recovered.
A couple of days later, as I drove to work, I listened to The Morning Answer with Brian, Ben, and Elisha. The three of them debated the recent incident in Garland, Texas, where Muslim gunmen attempted to shoot up a gathering of cartoonists, there for a contest to draw the prophet Muhammed. Brian challenged Ben to admit that the contest was in poor taste, but Ben brilliantly jabbed back with the question, "was Book of Mormon in poor taste?"
And now "thug" is the new n-word apparently, though it's been used for over 200 years and applied to people of all races. Never mind Tupac's famous album, "Thug Life" and how many kids of many races sought to emulate him. Nope. Someone was offended, so now you can't say "thug" any more (even though Obama uses the t-word). An atheist is offended by a small cross in the middle of a field, and so the cross is removed, despite being loved by so many more people. A university is asked to remove the American flag from its lobby. A Catholic university is asked to remove crucifixes from classrooms because it offends Muslim students who are trying to pray.
And what is done? Not much.
Sure, many cases go to court, such as the bakery shut down over a cake for a gay wedding. A group of nuns is persecuted by our government because they don't want to provide artificial birth control to their employees, so that's in court. There are boards of directors and courtrooms and all sorts of panels of experts and powers-that-be, hearing out people's grievances over these issues. Surely, there is a very serious attack made on basic liberties: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue business according to ones own judgment.
But what about we the people?
Recently, a display at my church was taken down by order of the pastor because it displayed a picture of the Egyptian men who were kidnapped and beheaded by ISIS militants. The picture was not graphic by any means, and the great part about it was that it included the martyrs' names, so that we could pray to and for them.
The display was taken down with no warning and no explanation, but my guess is that the pastor felt that specific picture was political or controversial. Someone likely complained, thought it was "Islamophobic" or something. Without hesitation, then, the entire display, not just the picture, was removed. Never mind that the display was religious in nature and that it called for Our Lady's protection over Africa. Never mind that it inspired people to pray for the people of the African continent in this great time of distress. No questions, no discussion, just gone.
This incident is indicative of what I call the Culture of Cowardice. It is a culture that turns its back on persecuted Christians for fear of offending another group. It is a culture that abandons its love of the flag for fear of offending a group of anarchists. It is a culture that wilts at the mere idea of confronting the issue of gay marriage, for fear of being labeled "homophobic." It is a culture that is willing to allow some religions to be mocked and derided without question while cowering at the smallest suggestion of offending another religion by means of a cartoon.
This might sound a little radical, but I'm just going to say it. I blame secularism for this culture of cowardice. I blame nominal Christians and cafeteria Catholics and Jews in name only and "moderate Muslims" and all the others who don't give two craps about the integrity and intrinsic value of their faith tradition, nor of the entire spiritual dimension of life. I blame a culture obsessed with media and materialism and a pathetic desire to go along with the mainstream rather than daring to think independently.
I also blame parents who are too weak to hold their kids to a higher standard, and who themselves are so into their iPhones and Galaxies and thus comfortably separated from the spiritual and religious development of their own children. And yes, I do think that these parents are too weak to demand that their kids go to church or temple or mosque because they themselves are too lazy and disinterested to go. I blame Catholic schools who hire militant atheists and allow great numbers of their student to graduate, hostile to religion--not agnostic, but openly hostile to religion. I blame people who put politics over faith because they don't care about religion, or even that they hate religion. And I blame these same people for their hypocrisy and their spinelessness when entire groups of people, namely Christians, are being slaughtered en masse.
There's a lot of blame to go around while the moral backbone of our civilization falls into ruins, but all of this reminds me of that famous quote, that "the triumph of evil happens when good people do nothing." Sure, we're all busy with life and family and kids and bills and stress. That's a given. But that is no excuse to turn away when there is real suffering in the world, whether it be the martyrs in Africa or the Middle East, or the unborn slaughtered in abortion mills while the rest of us gossip about Bruce Jenner. But if you speak for the unborn, you're against women. If you pray for the martyrs, you're against Muslims. If you salute the flag or criticize the President, you're a racist. If you support Israel, you hate Palestinian children.
Let's finish this with a brilliant screed by Bill Maher. Normally, I dislike what he says, but on this occasion, I'd say he's got it just right. Take a look:
Amen, Bill. God bless you.
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Culture is all around us, in the city, the country, everywhere. We see it from the old world and the new, and as Catholics, we have a rich tradition of developing Western culture throughout our history.