Monday, August 13, 2007

No retreat, no surrender

I was watching a documentary on WWII the other day and one scene in particular stood out in great drama for me.

It was a shot of allied soldiers huddling in the rain - tired, brutalized and discouraged - as an enemy plane rained down a blizzard of propaganda leaflets calling for surrender.

Meanwhile the radio cackled with the insane voice of an enemy station trying to convince the allied troops that they were losing the war in spite of all their efforts and sacrifices. Even worse than the actual torments of battle, this constant barrage of bad news and negative propaganda succeeded in reducing a squad of brave men to tears and despair.

Psychological warfare they called it...almost as powerful as the explosive charge of a combat brigade, but infinitely more damaging in its destructive appeal.

That's what happens in a war. You try and break the enemy spirit, rob them of their passion to resist and inflict the pain of despair upon their souls. After that, any attempt to resist will be drained of courage and hope. And when hope is lost, the battle is won even before a single shot is fired.

We've heard so much about the present war against terror. But so little is ever said of the more horrifying and insidious war in our midst, just because its reality and devastation are often invisible to our eyes.

I am speaking of course of the war that St Paul talked about; the spiritual battle that assaults us all, and against which the horrors of this world are but a pale comparison.

As it stands, I can't think of a time in history when the powerful influence of the secular media is more widely employed to discredit Christianity; with more hostility, fervor and sophistication than in recent years.

It seems that everywhere we turn, we are constantly bombarded with the scandals and infidelity of Christians, the righteousness of abortion and homosexual unions, the sexual perversions of our religious ministers, the relentless mocking of our Christian traditions, the overwhelming rise of divorces and failed marriages, and a merciless stampede upon the idea of absolute truth as taught and defended by the Church.

The list goes on of course; not only with news, persuasions and campaigns that are directly abusive towards the Christian religion;( in particular Catholicism), but also rife with every negative image of suffering, corruption, indifference, chaos and cruelty that cloak the human spirit like a blanket of futility snuffing out any embers of hope and courage, as if persuading people of goodwill to give up the good fight since all is lost anyway.

Indeed, why try when you can make little or no difference? Why not instead join the multitudes and at least spare yourselves the sufferings and ignominy of a useless moral stand?

In contrast, little media coverage is ever given to the triumph of the human spirit, particularly when it comes to the glories and righteousness of the Gospel message and the success of its apostles in turning back the tide of materialism and despair.

Even in our entertainment, the values, lifestyles and perceptions advocated in movies and sitcoms are cleverly designed to rob generations of a living conscience and an accountability to God and each other, knowing that countless people act like drones in subscribing to these artificial realities as gospel alternatives to happiness and fulfillment.

So much negative publicity, so much propaganda against Christians, the Church, organized religion, traditional values, the sanctity of family life, chastity, obedience, self-sacrifice and all the glories of Christianity (and often times perpetrated by the very ministers and stewards who are entrusted with safe-guarding these sublime mysteries and truths for the salvation of souls), that one is prompted to ask this question...

From where does all this evil propaganda arise from? Who is really behind this campaign to vanquish and subdue the Christian heart? What conscious force has hijacked and manipulated this sublime art of communication for use in perpetuating distortions and lies?

In truth, who wields a greater influence over the secular media than the enemy of our salvation, whom scripture warns as being steeped in the art of deceit and cunning subterfuge?

Now don't get me wrong, the modern mass media is a miracle of wonder and a great tool for good and evangelization but in our own time, but it has been employed by the powers of this world to subject man to a prison of false ideals and destructive attitudes, instead of helping him to build a more humane and compassionate society based on objective truths.

There is no news like bad news. There is no truth like the one that comes packaged, edited and compiled with precision to fit a social, economical or political agenda. There is no greater accountability than the lust for prime ratings and readership. And there is no greater loyalty to journalistic integrity than the commitment to pander to the crowd.

Give them what they want and they will love you for it.

Isn't that what the Imperial Senate told Caesar in the Roman heydays of gladiatorial games and bloodlust? Win the crowd and you will win Rome? Is it any wonder then that Christians who remain steadfast in their faith are held in contempt?

To speak publicly of Jesus Christ is to invite scorn, hostility, ridicule and humiliation. And just as some Christians in ancient times have been cowered into silence and impotence by the rantings and ravings of an aggressive crowd, Christians today are just as easily overpowered and conquered by the storm of popular opinion.

How many times have I myself blushed with embarrassment as I sit privy to a conversation that criticizes and condemns my Catholic faith with mocking derision, and felt weak in the face of such overwhelming odds? What more those of my brethren whose feeble attachments to the faith are weak at best, and who are often wont to give anti-christian opinions and arguments more blind faith and respectability than they deserve.

Nevertheless, no storm however violent and threatening can stand up to the power of Jesus Christ, who commands the wildest tempests with supreme majesty and might, as the apostles discovered one stormy night upon the raging waters of Galilee...if...we but keep our eyes fixed upon Him, our rock and our foundation, our refuge and safe harbor in this sea of life.

The next time our hearts feel the cold fingers of futility when confronted with the endless array of bad news and scandals in the media and entertainment arts, let us be brave and remember that this is merely psychological warfare; the desperate attempts of the enemy to drive us into surrender lest we remember our invincibility in Christ, who has already conquered this spiritual war; the prize of which is the salvation of souls.

Let us rather pay no attention to the wiles and propaganda of hell, and keep our eyes centered instead on our valiant captain and Lord - the Lamb of God who by His passion, death and resurrection has overcome the forces of darkness and has consigned them to the everlasting death.

Let us truly rejoice to be part of this victorious army, for both scripture and experience tell us that with Christ and in Christ we will always triumph! And if we are careful not to shut our hearts to this spiritual reality, the father of lies will find it hard to sneak up on us who keep the light of Christ before our eyes always.

Instead, let us put on the armor of God - faith, hope, charity, truth and righteousness - and use every means at our disposal to launch a divine PR campaign for gospel truth and divine love, missing no opportunity to speak of Christ our Lord with reverence and love, making no excuses for our faith, and turning back the icy clutches of relativism and false morality in our world today by the sheer warmth and conviction that comes from embracing the fire of the Holy Spirit.

In our work, in our relationships, in our families, in our marriages, let us be living banners proclaiming the grace and mercy of God, and use every ounce of our gifts and talents to promote the gospel truth of Christ.

The war is won but the battle for souls continues. The time is now for those who would act.

For as always, the old adage rings true - evil succeeds when good men choose to do nothing. And the glory of God is man fully alive…in His goodness and truth.