In a nation which claims (or at least used to) a Judeo-Christian heritage the public response to the horrors recently perpetrated in El Paso and Dayton and earlier in places like Pittsburgh and Columbine is remarkable. Politicians, actors, news anchormen, and even journalists identify white supremacy, xenophobia, hate speech, racism, homophobia, and even the Second Amendment as the causes of these heinous crimes. Some commentators even implicate national leaders as intentional purveyors of these sick ideologies. There is no denying these mindsets are active, but shouldn’t there be a national conversation about what causes their pervasion?
Could it be our society is sick? And that we are sick because too many of us have dismissed the existence of God? In doing so we have abandoned religion – now ridiculed by many as an obsolete and even detrimental construct. The antidote to our illness is not in stronger ethics or in stricter laws. Rather it is in our individual commitment to something or someone greater than ourselves.
Religion is more than a code of morality. It is first a call to honor God and second a call to care for our neighbor. These imperatives require of us much more than the observance of man-made laws and the avoidance of ethical infractions. We are called to live for and in communion with others. Hence the critical role of families, of churches, of volunteer organizations. We can live lonely lives and still be ‘moral’. But there would be no sense of solidarity which is critical for the development of our self-esteem and self-realization. Indeed, it is the search for solidarity that leads so many young ‘lost and lonely’ men to immerse themselves in the nefarious websites we read about. These are the websites that provide false solidarity and promote the sick inhuman behavior manifested in El Paso. The genuine community fostered by religion nurtures within us that spark which illuminates the dignity of humanity in ourselves and in others. This illumination is the inoculation we need to ward off the illness that besets us.
As Americans we accept that as a self-governed body of people each of us can believe or not believe as he chooses. This democratic approach necessitates a secular state which neither promotes nor prohibits religious expression. Because of this secularity the government we form cannot address the cause of our illness. The solution is not political, it is religious. It can only be cured by us individually. Government cannot make us kinder, more compassionate, and more communal. God can.
Today (August 8th) is the Feast of St. Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order. Readers given to Marian piety will be acquainted with the Dominican tradition that the Blessed Mother introduced Dominic to the Rosary in the year 1208. Our Lady instructed this peripatetic preacher that the Rosary would be a weapon against the Albigensians, the then enemies of the faith. The heresy was subdued.
Perhaps we Catholics in America – a nation under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception – should with great humility draw from our arsenal this ancient weapon and employ if for the recuperation of our own sick homeland.