Chesterton said, “Hope is not hope unless the situation is hopeless.” He meant the theological virtue of hope may be easy during good times (and therefore illusory), but difficult during bad times when human reasons for hope in a happy future evaporate (in illness or social upheavals). So we perhaps unwittingly place our faith in the things of the world, rather than Christ.
King Solomon – initially the model of human wisdom – was so intent on protecting the peace God gave Israel that he presumed the good times were the result of his diplomatic acumen. So he “celebrated diversity” by allowing the worship of false gods. Ironically, his “politics of inclusion” brought division and destruction – the kingdom itself was divided. Solomon failed to remember that God alone delivers on all His promises, according to His schedule and in response to our faith.
A good part of our trouble today, of course, stems from the false god of sex. Suicide bombers blow up themselves and others to enjoy their seventy-two virgins in Paradise. And where would Hillary Clinton stand with Millennials without her unconditional support for abortion, the ugly outward sign of sex-on-demand?
When the “Dot.com” bubble burst at the turn of this century, pornographic Internet sites stood nearly alone as profitable Internet entities. Porn site technology even provided the tools for Internet credit-card and identity security, further enshrining the “right to privacy,” i.e., access to contraception and abortion.
Amidst our multiple crises, we ask: Is God listening? Is God dead?
But how can God be dead when the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, or when it rains on the just and unjust alike, or when birds soar and wheat waves in the wind, or when a baby is born into the world? How can God be dead when acts of human virtue and kindness continue to attest to His presence?
There is also a glimmer of hope – humanly speaking – in news reports emanating from the dark side, as a recent front-page article reports:
A growing body of research shows that online pornography is warping men’s brains, diminishing their sex drives and producing addictive behaviors commonly found among drug abusers, as porn producers experiment with technologies to make the viewing experience more compelling. Advances in neuroscience have helped support the findings: At least 25 major studies published since 2011, 16 of which were released within the last two years, link habitual use of erotic videos with deleterious developments in brain structure, often mirroring those of drug addicts.
Is the world growing weary of the sexual revolution? Will we eventually turn the corner and come to our senses? Will medical science once again become an ally of good morality? This report offers reasons for hope in the future. But our faith in the Gospel provides a theological reason for hope based on revelation.
In Matthew, we read the account of Jesus entering into the Canaanite territory of Tyre and Sidon. The Canaanites perhaps were not aware of it, but as they worshipped their false gods, they were really worshiping demons. (Demon worship today can be largely traced to the Canaanites. I remember a “devil worship” chapel adjacent to a seminary I attended in the 1980s – apparently they target seminaries – one of the adventurous seminarians took a peek through the window and saw the skeletal head of an animal on the altar.)
There are consequences of worshiping false gods, and those consequences occasionally include diabolical possession of the vulnerable. This may explain how the daughter of the Canaanite woman became possessed as a result of her mother’s unwitting worship of demons.
Although she is a pagan, the woman pursues Jesus, calling Him by his messianic title: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David.” She is exhausted and desperately hoping to change her life and her daughter’s. Her persistence receives its reward. The dialog concludes with her humbly begging, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responds, “O woman, great is your faith!” The daughter was healed from that hour. Message: Persist in prayer.
When AIDS burst onto the scene in the 1980s, the gay bathhouses in San Francisco were temporarily closed in response to the health crisis. Many Catholics and others hoped the horror of AIDS – like the atomic bombings that ended the war with Japan – would bring a definitive end to the sexual revolution.
We were wrong. The sexual revolutionaries viewed the crisis as too important to waste, and those with behavior-related AIDS were recast as “victims” of an uncaring, even brutal ruling class. When industrial strength condoms and pharmaceuticals were developed to manage the AIDS infection, the bathhouses were reopened and the sexual revolution continued unabated.
The late Charles Rice, Notre Dame’s renowned legal scholar, used to say, “God always forgives. Man sometimes forgives. Nature never forgives.” When man’s nature is habitually violated, whether through false worship or otherwise attempting to tamper with the Natural Law of the Ten Commandments, destruction, exhaustion – and ultimately death – ensue because we’re dealing with demons who hate us.
A world growing increasingly weary of pornography may still turn again to pharmaceuticals or frontal lobotomies for salvation. So we must admit, unless the end times are upon us, it may take a very long time before an exhausted culture definitively turns to Christ in faith and hope. But even if there is no immediate sea change in the culture, the futility of the worship of false gods may be the grace that brings many individuals to their senses – and Confession.
Time is on His side. This is our faith. This is our hope. Or it should be. Without presumption and with God’s grace, may we remain strong and remain faithful. And may the Lord gaze upon us and our holy persistence and say, always, “Great is your faith!”