I have a New Year’s resolution for you to consider. My suggested resolution is doable. It will make a difference in the quality of your life. It will allow you to make a difference in the world around you, including the clergy sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, and in the politics of your community.
Give up defeatism.
You know the sort of thing I mean. “Western Civilization is collapsing. The Church is collapsing. Everyone is corrupt. I can’t trust anyone.” Even worse, the defeatist thought pattern leads to the defeatist behavior pattern: “Nothing can be done. So I will do nothing.”
Sorry. No-go. None of us has the right to excuse ourselves from constructive action.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying everything is hunky-dory. Far from it. We are in the midst of a civilizational shift. The old structures and rules are not working as they once did. We are living in a time of deliberately created confusion, pathological selfishness and the calculated creation of divisions. The world is shaking itself apart. When the shaking stops, we will be in a different world.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to us, God has assigned us to live in this time and this place.
This very moment of crisis is actually an opportunity. In fact, the word “crisis” dates from the late Middle English and is based on a Greek word meaning “decision.” In medical usage, the term “crisis” means the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.
In other words, we are in the process of deciding what kind of world we are going to become. “We” includes you and me, dear reader. What we do matters.
To be fair, not many people actually embrace full-on defeatism. “The end of the world is at hand. Nothing can be done about it. Head for the hills. Hunker down. Protect your own family. Poke your head up periodically to post comments on my internet site.”
But if the material you are reading makes you want to head for the hills and hunker down, you’ve got a problem.
The question isn’t whether or not things are bad. They are. The question is, “What is my responsibility in this situation? What is God asking of me, right here, right now?”
Here are some suggestions for implementing the “No-Defeatism Resolution.”
- Form a prayer group, if you haven’t already. Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” That is a promise we can take to the bank! We are in the midst of serious spiritual warfare. Don’t make the mistake of thinking we can prevail without the highest-quality spiritual weapons.
- Walk away from conversations that have no hope of changing anyone’s mind. Talk to someone else. Or learn how to shift the conversation into a constructive and thoughtful direction. Many pro-life groups have developed good strategies along those lines. Over at the Ruth Institute, we sometimes offer similar suggestions for talking about family issues. But under no circumstances should you waste your time banging your head against the wall (either in person or online) in a conversation that is going nowhere.
- Stop reading websites that make you feel hopeless. I won’t mention any particular sites here. Many sites have a combination of important news and “sky is falling” commentary. Read with discernment. Besides, what makes me feel hopeless may not have the same impact on you. You may feel angry and energized by something that drives someone else to drink or despair. Monitor your own feelings, and act accordingly.
- Find something constructive to do. We can help you in this regard. I’ve talked about my “3½ Step Plan for Reforming the Church” in previous editions of this column. We’ve talked about it repeatedly in the Ruth Institute weekly newsletter, to which you can subscribe here. Volunteer at your local pregnancy-care center. Support local pro-family organizations. I don’t care what you choose. Just do something, other than wallowing in feelings of desolation.
Besides, you will feel better if you are doing something constructive. The world sometimes tries to tell us that we need to feel better before we change our behavior. This counsel is especially destructive for parents of small children. “Make your children comfortable and happy. Then they will behave.” The opposite is closer to the truth. Kids feel better when they behave better. Focus on the behavior. The feelings will follow.
That same principle applies to us as adults. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change our little corner of it. And we’ll feel better when we know we’ve done something constructive.
We are living through some terrible times. Decades of theological dissent have taken their toll. Besides the inept catechesis and poorly formed consciences, we now know that dissent has provided cover for a lot of truly immoral behavior.
The revelations of corruption and abuse are a good thing. The corruption and abuse have been there for a long time. Now that we know, we can do something about it.
The sexual revolution, inside and outside the Church, is imploding. It is collapsing on its own insubstantial core. The sexual revolutionary ideology promised “fun” and “freedom.” Those things do not look so appealing anymore.
We have the opportunity to reclaim lost territory for Jesus Christ and his Church, but only if we don’t lose our heads. We have to keep our wits about us. We must stay on the playing field.
That is why I am resolved: No defeatism in 2019.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute and the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and How the Church Has Been Right All Along.