Communist philosopher Karl Marx with contempt that religion was the "opiate of the people." He felt that organized Christianity with its promises of salvation and eternal afterlife did little to motivate people to do something about the poverty and inequalities that were very much a part of the society of his day. Thus he set out to create a Utopian society without the opiate of religion.
His solution, as with all Utopian solutions, was a dismal failure. Its ultimate undoing was to be Pope John Paul II and his "opiate" religion. What a paradox!
Many people today would like to see Christianity as merely an opiate. They would prefer a harmless Christianity that comforts people in their depressions and lifts their spirits in worship and preaching. But they don't want Christianity with "teeth." They don't want a Christianity that challenges culture with the ultimate truths of morality and spirituality. They would prefer a neutralized, irrelevant Christianity when it comes to the critical issue of life and death.
As we approach the 21st century, our society is becoming pluralistic and suspicious of traditional Christianity. Those in positions of secular power don't want the church's view on abortion, cloning and genetic manipulation. In the area of reproductive sciences, views of traditional Christianity are relegated to obscurity. The philosophy of society's so called "right to choose" regardless of the consequences for others and self, becomes the ultimate truth. This ideology, like communism, will have devastating consequences for individuals and societies.
But there is hope now, as there has always been, hope. This hope comes from a savior born in poverty and obscurity and who is the most radical expression of God's love. In him a new age has dawned. The forces of sin and death are being undermined and eventually will succumb to God's embrace and grace.
Christianity is an "already, but not yet" expression of the Kingdom of God. Placed in a world created by God but fallen of free choice, Christianity speaks strong words of love and challenge. Its word, Jesus Christ, can never be silenced. The church may be suppressed physically and symbolically, but its ultimate power can never die. That power is Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit. His creatures who arrogantly choose lies over truth can never destroy God's truth.
Traditional Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular teach that God's power will redeem this world of ours and not destroy it. While we recognize the ability of people to do dreadful and tragic deeds, we also recognize their ability to say "yes" to God and by God's grace to conform their lives to his truth. We believed in conversion and a change of heart.
Now is not the time for Christians to circle the wagons and protect their own interests, but rather a time for all Christians to go boldly into the world with the message of Jesus our savior. Without raising a sword, the church's message of truth can topple dictators, destroy false ideologies and call people back to cultural and personal morality and spiritually.
The church is of divine origin. Even the oldest government is new compared to the church. If we were merely a human organization, the church would have collapsed early on. The protection of the Holy Spirit will assure the church's integrity and ability to overcome the most powerful obstacles she faces. Just ask Karl Marx.
The Rev. Allan J. McDonald is pastor of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
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