October 26, 2017

The secularization of America

By Bishop Arthur Serratelli *
Credit: Unsplash
Credit: Unsplash

By year 200 A. D., the Christian faith had spread to most regions of the Roman Empire. However, those early Christians found that their faith was incompatible with the Roman Empire. Of the estimated seven million Christians, as many as two million were martyred for not compromising their faith.

The first Christians lived a life that was truly counter-cultural. Their moral values were at variance with those fostered by the state. Abortion and infanticide were widely practiced among every class of people. A woman was subject to her father and then to her husband. She had no legal identity. No woman could vote or hold public office. Freeborn men could have extramarital sex both with female and male partners, as long as they confined their sexual activity to slaves, prostitutes or concubines. Divorce was widely accepted.

As Christianity spread, believers rejected these practices on the basis of the gospel. Children were accepted even when born ill. Chastity was promoted. Marriage between a man and a woman upheld. And, the status of women gradually improved. Faith impacted public life for the betterment of society as a whole, making it more civil and more humane.

Today we are witnessing a reversal of so many of the basic Christian moral principles that made the first Christians counter-cultural. Our Founding Fathers accepted the moral truths rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But, some people today have rejected wholesale the very idea of moral truth. Instead, they live as if every individual is entitled to his or her own moral truth. The results are frightening.

Some people have bought the lie that one’s sexuality is simply a matter of choice and has nothing to do with human nature as ordered by the Creator. The elites of our day are working strenuously to promote this idea. For them, male and female are interchangeable. The New York City Commission on Human Rights now lists 31, that’s right, 31 different gender choices. Harvard University now permits students to choose their preferred gender pronoun, such as “ze, hir, and hirs.” And, the elites tell us that you can change your gender from one day to the next. No common sense! Political correctness gone mad! Everything depends on how someone feels at the moment. No standard outside oneself.

All these changes in attitudes and values indicate a profound shift in our culture. We are witnessing the secularization of America. Secularism holds that no religious consideration should enter into the affairs of state, government or public education. Many of our university professors and our judges actively promote the secularization of our society. They zealously work to remove any vestige of Judeo-Christian morality from the public square. The Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage merely put its imprimatur on this secularization that has been happening at an accelerated pace for the last 25 years.

Christians rightly distinguish between the secular and sacred. But, this does not mean that Christians should separate their faith and their moral values from their attitudes and behavior. It is naive to think that secularism which declares no religion should enter the public forum is actually a neutral philosophy.

In the 1963 Supreme Court decision that banned Bible readings in public schools, Justice Potter Stewart filed the only dissent in the case. As he astutely predicted, “If religious exercises are held to be an impermissible activity in schools, religion is placed in an artificial and state-created disadvantage.... [The] refusal to permit religious exercises…is…not…the realization of state neutrality, but rather…the establishment of a religion of secularism…” Can a committed Christian endorse such a secularization of America?


 

Bishop Serratelli is the bishop of Paterson, New Jersey.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

Pope Francis in Chile and Peru

Follow us:

Check out Catholic News Agency Polls on LockerDome on LockerDome