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Lawrence P. Grayson

Dissonance, The New Normal

    Almost daily, the media report on instances of radical dissension in America. People are split on numerous political, social and religious issues, show no inclination to compromise, and increasingly rely on obstruction to pursue their positions. The result is discord, confusion, outrage, greater polarization, and violence. In the absence of national unity and civilized discourse, how long can America continue to prosper and progress? What kind of nation will our children and grandchildren inherit:

When political rhetoric is so inflamed that a supporter of one party’s presidential candidate tries to kill members of Congress from the other party?

When the defeated candidate for president vows to “do everything I can” to defeat the elected president’s agenda?

When the minority leader of the Senate says he will oppose the nominees for incoming Cabinet positions, even before they are officially nominated or a single hearing has been held?

When nearly 200 Democratic, but no Republican, members of Congress file a federal lawsuit accusing the president of violating the Constitution by profiting from the Trump global organization’s business dealings with foreign governments.

When a comedienne poses for a photo holding a bloody, decapitated fake head of the president, and in response to a strong public backlash blames him for ruining her career?

When a theater company rewrites Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to cast the Roman emperor as a president look-alike and have him stabbed to death in a production in New York’s Central Park?

When there are intense conflicts within the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and other Mainline Protestant religions on “hot-button” moral issues such as homosexual behavior, abortion, physician assisted suicide, and the death penalty.

 When the Episcopalian Church ordains women as bishops, blesses same-sex marriages, and allows cross-dressing clergy, and then spends $18 million suing its own local parishes who wish to secede and join more orthodox congregations?

 When the Archdiocese of Philadelphia holds that divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive Communion, while the Archdiocese of Chicago allows it?

When the Catholic bishop of Springfield, Illinois, says those in same-sex unions should not be admitted to Holy Communion and if they die unrepentant cannot receive a Catholic funeral; yet, there are at least 240 gay-friendly parishes in the country that affirm and celebrate the homosexuality of their parishioners.

When congressmen can kneel and pray in public before starting their annual baseball game, but high school players and coaches are disciplined for doing the same?

When certain Muslim communities in America are being governed by Islamic Sharia law, even when it conflicts with American civil law?

When the federal government can force organizations to provide abortifacients in their employee health plans, in violation of their religious beliefs?

When, according to a recent Pew Research report, 58% of Catholics support same-sex marriage, while 54% believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, though both positions are against Church teaching?

When universities, which should pursue truth and promote an exchange of views, establish “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” so that students do not have to be exposed to ideas that make them feel emotionally uncomfortable?

When, after some seven decades of contentious effort to eliminate racial discrimination in schools and universities, minority students are now demanding to be racially segregated rather than integrated into campus life?

    America is a pluralistic society in which it is common to have divergent and often incompatible views on numerous issues. Throughout the country’s history, however, it has been possible to have national unity based on common foundational beliefs. These have been strong enough to hold in check the centrifugal nature of the heterogeneous views, while broad enough to allow the differing groups to maintain their separate identities.

    Religion has played a critical role in America, shaping the moral beliefs and values of the people, tempering man’s self-interest, and providing a basis for national unity and a civilized community. By and large, people believed in the existence of a Supreme Being, the dignity of the human person, the existence of certain unalienable rights, freedom of conscience, and individual liberty. It is these beliefs that form the basis for America’s social compact and it is fidelity to them that has provided the country’s binding force.

    But, these underlying beliefs, derived principally from Christian dogma, and adherence to the principles and values that flow from them have weakened. The overall culture of the country continues to become humanistic and secular. People increasingly lead their lives as if God does not exist. Reference to religious teachings is excluded from discussions of public issues. Christianity is becoming more of a cultural than a dogmatic consideration.

    As a result, adherence to the shared moral principles and values that have held America together is eroding. If this trend is not reversed, there may not be sufficient foundational beliefs to unify the nation.

    Several times in the past, when religious relevance seemed to be at its nadir, an eruption of spiritual fervor occurred, giving the nation a badly needed moral lift, which led to advances in freedom, civil rights and social conditions. Now, a similar religious awakening is needed to quell the radical national discord and allow the people to work in unity to advance the prosperity and prestige of the nation – to truly be “one Nation under God.” 

Vivat Jesus!

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Published July 2017


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