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Enemies of the people

The power of authority is creating ideological orthodoxy, paradoxically replacing the religious orthodoxy they denigrate.

The power of authority is creating ideological orthodoxy, paradoxically replacing the religious orthodoxy they denigrate.

A transformation of European culture has been taking place since the end of World War II, little by little at first; at a much faster pace lately. Many Europeans have abandoned Christianity and its values to embrace secularism.

Secularism is to be distinguished from the process started in the Genesis account of creation which declares that creation is good because it is coming from God, but it is profane, that is, it is separate from God. This was affirming both the separation between the sacred and the profane and that they are not opposed to each other.

Secularism, or the process of secularisation as it is often referred to, is an ideology that leaves God completely out of the equation. Many contemporaries believe there is no God, and consequently, they do not tolerate anything they perceive as coming from God. This betrays the erroneous notion that God ‘dictates’ values and non-values to us. Intimacy with God simply helps us understand ourselves better. Hammurabi – a secular – knew the Commandments ages before Moses!

The majority is not always right, especially at a time when being politically correct is becoming an absolute

While mainstream is moving to­wards secularism, a few are challenging some of its choices. Some of these are inspired by their Christianity. Others are not even baptised Christian but they recognise Christian values as human values. They raise eyebrows at some of the choices of secularism not because they consider them to be against religious belief but because they evaluate them as not being human.

Those who oppose secularist values are often labelled ‘conservative’ and not moving with the times, people hindering progress and, alas, at times, ‘enemies of the people’, oblivious to people’s suffering.

It is worrying that rather than entering into a fruitful dialogue, mainstream secularism prefers to attach labels to those disagreeing with its propositions.  ‘Conservative’, ‘religious’, ‘homophobic’, ‘obscurantist’ or ‘retrograde’ are some of the labels used. Trying to dismiss somebody who disagrees with you by giving them a label rather than by entering into dialogue with them leads nowhere. Giving labels kills dialogue and the possibility of everybody seeing things more clearly. For sure, it does not prove one right.

Often, this brings with it the tendency to impose one’s views on others based on authority. The authority may be coming from the majority but even then it would still remain an authority rather than a well-argued position. Sometimes, the power of authority is creating ideological orthodoxy, paradoxically replacing the religious orthodoxy they denigrate, to impose its own decrees.

The majority is not always right, especially at a time when being politically correct is becoming an absolute, sometimes even at the expense of not calling a spade a spade. It may validate legislation but it need not lead us to the truth.

Then, when legislation leads to obligation in some way or another, it becomes outright evil. Doctors fired from hospitals because they refuse to perform abortions or euthanasia are victims of unjust legislation.

Challenging certain choices of secular society is a duty that Christians have even though sometimes they may sound radical. Actually, it is being radical like Jesus himself was radical. The Gospel remains countercultural.  However, it does not challenge culture when its choices are not religious as many who dismiss Christianity wrongly assume; it challenges culture when the latter’s choices are not human.

Often, we seek the easiest paths and try to avoid inconvenience as much as possible. When this happens, the Gospel draws our attention that we may be choosing what is not consonant with our being human.

Fr Alfred Micallef is a member of the Society of Jesus.

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