Adapting to Our Brave New World

Brave New World
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It’s a dark time for faithful Catholics in America. The president declares himself a “devout” Catholic, but his policies openly defy the moral teachings of the Church. The vice-president is an ardent anti-Catholic who has shown a taste for authoritarianism. But what’s happening in the nation’s capital is only a disturbing reflection of our broader culture: we are no longer “post-Christian” anymore; our society is now firmly anti-Christian. Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Media, Big Education, and almost every other “Big” is arrayed against us. And it doesn’t look like we’ll get much support from the highest levels of our own Church. In such times as these, how do Catholics respond?

Here’s how we don’t respond: compromise. We can’t compromise on our most fundamental beliefs, such as the sanctity of life and marriage, as well as the God-given and distinct differences between men and women. We also can’t compromise on the absolute essentiality of the Sacraments, not only for salvation, but for living an authentic and fulfilled human life. We can’t compromise on the Lord’s mandate to preach the Gospel to every corner of the globe, from our own neighborhoods to the halls of power in Washington, DC.

So the alternative seems to be: we fight. But what do we do in situations where a direct battle is futile due to the strength of our enemies? In this Brave New World, we might find that we cannot always overcome the evil that surrounds us directly. We like to look to the Maccabees as examples of successfully fighting against overwhelming odds, but we should remember that the Jews were under pagan rulers for centuries and could do nothing about it (and eventually Maccabean rule itself was subsumed by pagan Rome). In many situations that confront us, rather than directly fight we will need to adapt

Adaptation is not something unique to modern American Catholics; it’s how faithful Christians have had to live in many times and places of overwhelming evil: the Roman Empire, 16th century England, the Soviet Union, and modern China are just a few examples. Ordinary Catholics in those times couldn’t change the prevailing regime, but they adapted so they could continue to live their faith.

In the coming days, months, and years, Catholics will likely have to adapt more and more. For example, say every airline requires that you get a particular vaccine you believe is immoral in order to fly. You can sue, but if you lose your lawsuit, fighting is no longer an option. You could compromise and get the vaccine. But another option is to adapt by finding another way to travel, or deciding not to travel at all. 

Or say that your job requires you to attend, and sign support for, “sensitivity” training toward LGBTQABCDEFG peoples—training which directly contradicts Catholic teaching. You’re a low-level employee; you have no power to shut down the training. You could compromise and sign the document. Or you could adapt and find another job, even if it means a decrease in income or a move to another town. The adaptation route allows you to avoid an evil you can’t fight without compromising your principles.

To be clear: adapting is not defeatism! When there are opportunities to fight, we should engage. And we should never compromise. But we have to understand what we as individuals and even communities can and cannot control. We have to face the stark reality that we’ve lost far more cultural and political battles in recent years than we’ve won. Those in power stand against our fundamental beliefs and values—that’s long been true—and they are now quite comfortable using their power to oppress those beliefs and values.

This does not mean we disengage entirely from the political process, but it does mean we should focus more on places we can have more direct influence, such as at the state and especially the local levels. Fighting your county’s intrusive COVID-19-related restrictions, for example, has more chance for success than anything you can do to affect Washington. But more and more we will face situations in which we are not even given a chance to fight; in those cases, we will need to adapt. How?

We must first get our spiritual house in order. And I don’t mean the Church’s house (although that would be nice), but your house, my house. Our first order of business should be to turn to the Lord in prayer. We need to attend Mass as often as possible (which, to the devil’s delight, is becoming less available the more we need it); we need to pray the Rosary daily; and we need to go to Confession regularly (at least once a month). Only by being spiritually prepared can we become mentally and physically prepared for what is likely coming. And spiritual preparation will give us the discernment to know when to fight and when to adapt.

We also need to take practical steps to be prepared to adapt to the challenges awaiting us. Begin with your community. Do you have family, friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners you can depend on if things get tough? If, for example, you lose your job because you hold to the Wrong Opinions, do you have a support system to fall back on? Likewise, can people fall back on you? If public Masses are no longer allowed in your area, can a priest count on you to be discreet, and even to host a Mass at your house? It’s a fundamental truth of faith that we are built for community; start building it now if you haven’t already. 

Another practical step is to look at your dependencies. It’s not a matter of trying to be completely independent—after all, I just noted that we are built for community—it’s a matter of who you are dependent upon. Can you count on your current employer to back you if you publicly oppose our current zeitgeist? Or will your company quickly sacrifice you to the gods of wokeness? How about your parish? Has your pastor been more anxious to serve the State during the recent lockdowns and COVID-19 mandates than to serve his parish’s spiritual needs? If so, perhaps it’s time to look for another parish. 

The process of adaptation might mean major changes in your life: new job, new schooling for the kids, new parish, maybe even a new place to live. All of these things are difficult to change, but none are as important as remaining true to the faith. If the choice is between compromising one’s beliefs or adapting by making one or more of these changes, then the path forward should be clear.

In a fight, sometimes it’s just as important to protect one’s weak side as to take a big swing. We would all like to believe that things will turn around. I know I do. But we must look at our present crisis in the light of history. Our current times have many parallels to other times of crisis, such as the French or Bolshevik Revolutions. Christians in those times were surrounded by darkness, so they knew they had to adapt to keep the faith. So do we. Fortunately, we embrace a faith that is not afraid of the darkness, because we have a Lord who overcame it. As long as we trust in Him, so will we.

[Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

Eric Sammons

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Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did (Catholic Answers, 2017).

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