In the newly published encyclical letter by Pope Francis, Section #54 begins this way:
"Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. As an experience of the mercy of God the Father, it sets us on the path of brotherhood.
Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure. We need to return to the true basis of brotherhood."
Modernity is associated with a period of world history in which scientific knowledge was said to have replaced an unfounded belief in God. It began a time that proclaimed a need to replace faith with state authority over all things. Where one is based on truth and love, the other is founded in lies and deception.
Christianity calls for relationships around family starting with God our Father, Mary our mother, and we the children of God. Replicating these relationships in our own lives according to the gospel teaching of Christ is what gives foundation to the Church, the body of Christ, without which we are left with a society dependent not on each other for support and guidance, but detached individuals who owe loyalty only to a government system to which one must look for all their needs.
This "system", of course, is communism, the last and final phase of all socialistic endeavors. One of its primary goals is to remove family and replace it with false promises of equality.
In his book, Modern Times, Paul Johnson references Nietzsche's perception of what would take the place of what Catholics know is truth. "In place of religious belief, there would be secular ideology. Those who had once filled the ranks of the totalitarian clergy would become totalitarian politicians. And, above all, the Will to Power would produce a new kind of messiah, uninhibited by any religious sanctions whatever, and with an unappeasable appetite for controlling mankind." Speaking again of the "modern era" Johnson said, "by the year 1900 politics was already replacing religion as the chief form of zealotry. To archetypes of the new class, such as Lenin, Hitler and Mao Tse-tung, politics - by which they meant the engineering of society for lofty purposes - was the one legitimate form of moral activity, the only sure means of improving humanity. ............ united by their belief that politics was the cure for human ills." Evil is intent on progressing this agenda today, aided by the technology of data gathering and transmission, surveillance and central control over communications, power sources, education, property, and human mobility.
In the Encyclical Letter, Atheistic Communism, written in 1937, Pope Pius XI said this:
"Communism, moreover, strips man of his liberty, robs human personality of all its dignity, and removes all the moral restraints that check the eruptions of blind impulse. In man's relations with other individuals, besides, communists hold the principle of absolute equality, rejecting all hierarchy and divinely- constituted authority, including the authority of parents. What men call authority and subordination is derived from the community as its first and only font.
Refusing to human life any sacred or spiritual character, such a doctrine logically makes of marriage and the family a purely artificial and civil institution, the outcome of a specific economic system. Communism is particularly characterized by the rejection of any link that binds woman to the family and the home, and her emancipation is proclaimed as a basic principle. She is withdrawn from her family and the care of her children, to be thrust instead into public life and collective production under the same conditions as man. The care of home and children then devolves upon the collectivity.
In a word, the communists claim to inaugurate a new era and a new civilization which is the result of blind evolutionary forces culminating in a 'humanity without God.' "
Pope Francis would have no reason to speak again to the faithful about the dangers we face when we fail to recognize this deceitful evil in our midst, but the threat to the Church is no less dire than it was in the first part of the 20th century when we saw the rise of dictatorships around the world. The threat has adopted new faces and one of them is green. It is marketed as the universal effort to "save the planet" and by the use of intimidation and lies, an army of mindless followers, and a deceitful propaganda machine, it has trampled reason and faith into public submission.
Pope Francis continues, in The Light of Faith, saying:
".....the pagan Celsus reproached Christians for an idea that he considered foolishness and delusion: namely, that God created the world for man, setting human beings at the pinnacle of the entire cosmos. 'Why claim that [grass] grows for the benefit of man, rather than for that of the most savage brute beasts?' If we look down to Earth from the heights of heaven, would there really be any difference between our activities and those of the ants and bees?' At the heart of biblical faith is God's love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe; he is cast adrift in nature, either to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him."
There are many "save the planet" groups around the world today, but a good example is Earth First. When you go to their website, www.earthfirst.org, the first thing you see in their logo is a blinking clinched fist, so indicative of socialist movements. Reading the tab, "about us" you find this: It is a belief in biocentrism, that life of the Earth comes first, and a practice of putting our beliefs into action. Their motto is "No compromise in the defense of Mother earth." Note the transference of worship from God, our Father, and Creator, to the earth as the "mother" of life." They have, by removing God, endowed themselves with the power to "judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate." They will use whatever means they need to restrict human use of resources, through land confiscation, preservation, and regulations. Many are duped into thinking maybe they are right. Why wouldn't we want to "preserve" the earth? How can anyone be against that? The first commandment teaches us, "You shall not have other gods beside me." There is a big difference between respecting the earth and putting it above all things, and between recognizing the earth as God's creation and giving it the title of Mother.
In Lumen Fidei, we learn the following:
"Faith, on the other hand, by revealing the love of God the Creator, enables us to respect nature all the more, and to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care."
We honor this gift by using it wisely and by employing what we find to improve our lives and provide for our families while avoiding excesses and wastefulness.
If you've ever been a guest in someone's home then you know what it says to you when you enter the room where you will be staying to find a chocolate on the pillow, a flower on the dresser and fresh towels for your use. You easily recognize the great effort that has gone on before your arrival to be sure you find your surroundings pleasing and comfortable. You can mentally read this in the "grammar" of what you see, that the person who has done this preparation cares about you and is glad you have arrived.
God has done no less than this for us in the creation of our dwelling place. We show our gratefulness to God by our stewardship. This doesn't mean we may not use what we find, nor does it mean that we are to arrogantly presume to know when resources will "run out" or for how long we will need them. To do so would mean we don't trust God to know what we will need for all time.
The buzz word today is "sustainability." I wonder how the planet worshipers know exactly what that is. How does an environmentalist know how long petroleum must last? They can't even know for sure how much exists. How do they know we need to save energy? For what? For whom? For future generations, they will tell you, but how many generations? 5? 10? 100? How can they be so positive future generations will even need what we value today? Do we, for instance, place as much importance on the limited supply of whale oil as did our ancestors who depended on it for a light source?
I think we've all heard of people who died with "the good stuff" they received as gifts from loved ones still in the drawer. They were saving it for a point in the future when supposedly it would be put to better use. They denied the giver of those things the gratitude that using them would have imparted.
I frequently set my dining room table without a table cloth. A friend said to me once, aren't you afraid it will get scratched. My reply was, I'd be more sad if I thought I would die and it still looked brand new. I am grateful to have that table, and to have my family and friends joined around it, but the only way to express my gratefulness is to use it. In using the natural resources of this planet, whether it is water, trees, petroleum, precious metals, gem stones, rocks, coal, etc. we aren't abusing or exhausting the place we've been given to live, we are answering God's message, that "grammar written by the hand of God" in His creation, that we are most humbly grateful for all He has given us. What would your hostess think, if when you left you hadn't eaten the chocolate or used the nice towels, or accepted that second helping of the meal she worked so hard to prepare? Would she prefer you to say, I left that lovely soap unopened for your next guest?
The people who are warning us to avoid the use of land, to refrain from extracting the minerals and other useful elements from the earth, to limit our existence by reducing the size of our families for the notion that the next generation is more worthy to enjoy what we now must deprive ourselves are also those who do not know or recognize God as our Creator, the giver of life, and the provider for all our needs. When we embrace these gifts we acknowledge the giver.
Pope Francis writes: If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened; we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that 'God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them" (Heb 11:16). Here the expression 'is not ashamed' is associated with public acknowledgment. The intention is to say that God, by his concrete actions, makes a public avowal that he is present in our midst and that he desires to solidify every human relationship. Could it be the case, instead, that we are the ones who are ashamed to call God our God? That we are the ones who fail to confess him as such in our public life, who fail to propose the grandeur of the life in common which he makes possible? Faith illumines life and society. If it possesses a creative light for each new moment of history, it is because it sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father.
We should avoid being part of the green movement because however innocent and well intended it may appear, it is a temptation of the devil to draw our loyalty away from the one who made us. To believe any of the false dogma of the green movement, is to deny trust in the fidelity of God. Pope Francis tells us, " Faith, by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer; it is an invitation to turn to the source of the light, while respecting the mystery of a countenance which will unveil itself personally in its own good time."
In 1937 Pope Pius XI wrote the following, which is perhaps even more profound today than when it was written:
".....too few have been able to grasp the nature of communism. The majority instead succumb to its deception, skillfully concealed by the most extravagant promises. "
Imagine you are stumbling around lost and afraid and someone says, don't worry, take my hand, I know the way. It is natural to want to reach out for answers to questions that have puzzled man from the earliest days. As Christians, we know there is only one truth, only one light, only one way, and only one God who loves us and has prepared a place for us in the world to come. The temptation to follow anyone or anything else, leads only to darkness.
Spero columnist Chriss Rainey is a freelance writer who resides in Virginia.