Our secular society has a big problem… it is deeply afraid.
‘Afraid of what?’ you may ask.
Secularists - those who act as if there were no God - are afraid of Covid, climate change, the state of the economy, racial tensions, political corruption, and terrorism – to name a few.
A while back Dennis Prager noted the irony of the Secular Left mocking Christian ‘end-of-the-world’ predictions, when in fact they had many of their own: ‘[They]… should not laugh too loudly... At least every few years, the secular Left frightens itself [with] … another doomsday scenario. The most obvious current example is… global warming.’[i] Another example by Prager was the ‘1968 book, The Population Bomb, [in which] Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich wrote: “[Due to overpopulation, in] the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.’[ii] Thankfully, this never happened.
The current levels of worry and anxiety in our country are dramatic. As of January 2021, 40 million US adults suffered from anxiety disorders annually; 53% of adult Americans claimed that Covid has negatively affected their mental health; and over 30% of adolescents suffer from some anxiety disorder.[iii] To be fair, these statistics are for the general population, not just unbelievers. However, other studies show that people with strong religious beliefs worry less.[iv]
Why the discrepancy? Let me answer by sharing a story.
A while back, one of my fellow Legionaries was praying the Rosary in front of our center. With his cassock and Rosary, he was rather easily identifiable as ‘Catholic.’ One of the neighbors, a man whom he had never met, approached him, and without any other greeting simply asked, ‘Can you sleep at night?’ It was an inquiry, not an accusation. Now I can only guess at the background behind such a question, but the themes of sleep and faith were obviously connected. It seems as if the implicit question asked was, ‘Does prayer bring peace?’
I believe that the secular crowd is so afraid because they have little recourse when their own strength or solutions fall short. If you have tried to solve your marital problems with all the enthusiasm, hard work, and expert advice you can think of – and things still do not work – what do you do? If you get sick from Covid or lose your job, who will take care of your family? To whom do you turn? Caution is one thing, paralyzing fear another. Referring to secularized Germany, one nun apparently turned Bismarck’s famous quote of ‘We Germans fear God, but nothing else in the world,’[v] to ‘Now that Germans no longer fear God, they fear everything else.’
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?... Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. [Mt 6:25-27.31-33].
Believers also struggle with anxiety and worry. We also try to resolve our problems on a practical level. The difference is that amidst our struggles we can turn to God. And when our faith has matured like that of the saints, we can grow in the conviction that ‘all things work for good for those who love God’ [Rm 8;28]. For example, St. Pope John Paul II, prior to being shot by Ali Agca, was warned by the French Intelligence Service that there was a viable threat on his life by a known terrorist. Nevertheless, the Holy Father refused to change his schedule. When asked if he was afraid, he replied, ‘When love is greater than the danger, there is no fear.’
My dream and my prayer are that the secularizing trend towards an ever more Godless society will crumble from its own weight. Men and women, fatigued from facing their weaknesses and the uncertainties of life on their own, will once again be open to faith in Jesus Christ. By our word and example, may we Christians show them that Jesus can be their Savior from sin… and fear.
God bless you.
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Thy Kingdom Come!
Image: on Pixabay
[i] ‘The Rapture That Wasn’t.’ Dennis Prager. National Review. May 24, 2011. https://www.nationalreview.com/2011/05/rapture-wasnt-dennis-prager/ [ii] The Rapture That Wasn’t.’ Dennis Prager. National Review. May 24, 2011. https://www.nationalreview.com/2011/05/rapture-wasnt-dennis-prager/ [iii] https://disturbmenot.co/anxiety-statistics/ [iv] https://news.gallup.com/poll/144980/religious-americans-report-less-depression-worry.aspx [v] https://libquotes.com/otto-von-bismarck/quote/lbm7f3j