That’s the title of a new book out by Francis Cardinal George. It’s also a recurring theme turning up in news and human interest stories, whether overtly or not…
Here are just a few, which happened in short order.
Listening to a BBC World Service interview on satellite radio in my car, I’m following the plight of European farmers at this time of intense drought. Their personal accounts are both serious and moving, and one French farmer revealed the depth of despair over their dwindling options by saying he had even thought of ‘the final option’, of ending his life to end his dire plight. But, he quickly added, one shouldn’t think that way, so he was still hanging on.
I thought of things I’d read recently or people I’ve interviewed, speaking of the vacuum left in a life that has no recourse to God…
Soon I turned the dial to look for any other news channel with an interesting dialogue, and hit upon one about a Christian Hollywood producer whose strong faith and personal appeal catapulted him in the filmmaking business. DeVon Franklin was saying that he prayed to hear God’s will in his life, and he was sure that ‘whatever I’m doing, that is the Big Thing I’m meant to do.’ He left listeners, especially young people he said, with the message ‘Don’t look at faith or church as an obstacle to your dreams because it’s not.’ Faith is what keeps you strong and keeps you going when you don’t feel strong and helps you find your way.
So within that hour, I wound up opening Cardinal George’s book to at least begin reading, and what he says in the Introduction alone is compelling, and timely.
God’s activity has faded from popular consciousness in societies organized publicly as if God did not exist…God, even in some theological reflection, becomes a force or an inspiration in the deep background of life rather than an agent who shapes human affairs.
What God is prevented from doing in this philosophic scenario is truly acting, for action by God would interfere with human freedom. Individuals can freely choose to relate to God in a personal way, but such “religion” is private and can have no normative value for another or for public life. It is a matter of our choice, not God’s, how wemight rlate to a hypothetical “Supreme Being.” Eventually, since nature does not disclose who God is in himself, he becomes an unnecessary factor in public intellectual life, and the result is practical atheism; we live together as if God did not exist.
Understanding the problem is the beginning of finding the solution.