By FATHER DOUGLAS CLARK, S.T.L.
I am the way, and the truth and the life,’ says the Lord.
We have, as a nation, lost our way, or rather, because we have lost our goal, we do not know which way to take. If our goal were still the Kingdom of God, then Christ would still be our way and his Gospel our road map. But in our “tolerant” time, the consensus of past generations has dissolved. All religions, cults, philosophies, movements and opinions being equal in this culture, all ways of life are also tolerated, sometimes with disastrous results. Right and wrong, good and evil have all become matters of opinion or merely of taste. That no one who knew of the Trenchcoat Mafia at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., could find the courage or the occasion to challenge their nihilism or suppress their worship of Adolf Hitler or to take action when they began threatening their peers with death and destruction may be more the fault of a culture without standards and effective sanctions than of particular cowardly individuals.
We have also lost our sense of the truth. Like so many Pilates, we puzzle, “Truth, what is truth?” The extreme relativism of our media-driven culture has led us to hedge our judgments or not to make them at all, even when confronted by obvious lies. In the aftermath of the Littleton massacre, many of the perpetrators’ classmates found it almost impossible to identify as “wrong” their bizarre behavior as it led inexorably to murder. It was as if the negative philosophy, the dark, “Goth” culture, the racial animosity and threats of violence were just matters of taste to be tolerated in this easy-going time, unless and until they produced their bloody consequences, at which point, everyone professed shock and dismay. No one should have been surprised that fans of the Holocaust, known to be armed and seething with resentments, should have attempted mass murder. But they were.
A whole generation or perhaps two generations seem unable to tell right from wrong, thanks in large part to their “values neutral” educations, reinforced by the media. This inability has led to a quagmire of moral relativism that is actually killing people right and left, and in appalling numbers. The disappearance of a generally accepted objective morality has not led us into the promised land of personal freedom and spontaneity but into a wasted desert of endless pain and suffering.
And we have lost our reverence and respect for life, human life, at all its beautiful stages, in good times and in bad. Consequently, we and our children are in constant danger of losing our lives to random and senseless violence anywhere we go. The callous destruction of tens of millions of unborn children simply because they are “unwanted” or “unplanned,” the appalling murder rate in this supposedly civilized country, the unreflective ease with which we regularly make war on other countries, and the inexplicable popular movements in favor of selective infanticide and euthanasia have all eroded that respect for all life without which no life is safe. This erosion of respect provided the context in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold could accumulate an impressive arsenal under the noses of their parents, teachers and court-appointed counselors, and lay siege to their school for five hours, leaving 15 dead, including themselves, and scores more wounded. Because we have made this great country of ours an armed camp, with 200 million guns in the hands of 260 million citizens, we should not be at all surprised when immature, unstable misfits regularly open fire with them to prove whatever twisted point they want to make.
There is one, and only one, solution: Jesus Christ. He alone is the way that leads to the Father. He alone is the truth that sets us free. He alone is the life that never ends.
Father Douglas K. Clark, S.T.L., is editor of The Southern Cross and is in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah.