By Charlie Johnston
Yesterday, I had to go to a government office for something. Alas, you could only see an official there by appointment. There was a greeter in a mask to explain how to make an appointment and the byzantine rules of engagement. Behind me was another frustrated woman in a mask, who just wanted to complete a routine task at a government office. When the greeter went to get some information for me, I grumbled to the lady behind me that they are going to try to shut us down forever. She agreed that it had become utterly insane. I said I was voting against all leftists – that I even looked up who appointed the judges on the retention ballot and voted against them if it was a Democrat. The woman told me that, though she didn’t know about the judges she, too, had voted against every Democrat on the ballot and would do so until the nonsense ends. The kicker was when she told me, “And I’m a Democrat!”
Last Friday I got my copy of the “Denver Catholic,” the magazine put out by my Archdiocese. Even though Archbishop Samuel Aquila is solidly orthodox and has courageously defended the Scriptural and Magisterial faith in every instance, I cringed when I saw the teaser for the “Catholic Voter Guide” inside, as institutional Catholics usually can’t help being smugly vapid when it comes to politics. I was delighted. It listed ten priorities that Catholics must consider when entering the voting booth – and what an authentic Catholic position on each is. It tackled the toughest subjects and, wonderfully, did not do any cheap bumper-sticker sloganeering on any, fully considering the real-world nuances of the issues and problems that must be dealt with by an informed conscience. Even if I disagreed with any particulars, it was the effort of serious people and worthy of serious contemplation. Even on immigration, its position was almost identical to the program I forlornly tried to promote for a decade. (I am much more permissive on immigration than most people realize. Because I insist it be LEGAL immigration and that actual criminals not be let in…and I insist on assimilation, passing both literacy and civics tests after three years, many think I am a mean-hearted Scrooge. Frankly, I think people are an asset, not a liability, if they seek to work and contribute and be part of the society they seek to become members of.)
I should not have been surprised. Abp. Aquila organized the great Jericho March around Planned Parenthood a few years back – and has been tireless and unflagging in his pro-life stance. When the decision on homosexual marriage came down from the Supreme Court, he wrote condemning it and reaffirming Catholic teaching on sex and family life within a day or two of the decision being issued. Abp. Aquila is not a flashy, headline-generating Bishop, but he has been absolutely stalwart in defending actual Magisterial teaching and staying away from mere politics.
In these troubled times, I know many of you live in Dioceses that are, to say the least, not living fidelity to the Gospels. I know I am very fortunate to live in a Diocese which takes some pains to do so with resolve and fortitude – and I give thanks for it. But I encourage you to look in your own back yard for signs of hope in these troubled times. You may find it in a Parish Priest, in a full Diocese, or in a particular order. Even in these times of great apostasy and infidelity throughout the world, Christ is always close at hand. I do not suggest that you make peace with attacks on the faith from within – but look for the good, too. You will find it, even if only in patches. If you focus too insistently on the evil that is around, you risk becoming more engaged with evil and less engaged with Christ. Both cynicism and credulity are tools of the devil. As Jesus commands us, we are to judge righteous judgment. And if you can’t find anything around, move to Denver.
As we get down to the final hour, a couple of things have arisen that trouble me. First, I see more and more Catholic writers speculating that we are barreling towards the actual end of time. My most emphatic ethos since the early 60’s, when I was just a child, was that we were headed for a great global crisis that would feel like the end, but was not the end. If this is the actual end, my efforts have been useless.
I used to get more irritated about such things, but then again, if it will feel like the end, I shouldn’t be so surprised that so many commentators would speculate that it is the end. Then you get to those who speak ominously about the “end times.” Well, actually, “end times” is a specific eschatological term that means the period of salvation history from the coming of Christ until His return. We have been in the end times since shortly after the Annunciation. Yet many people, probably a majority, interpret end times to mean the actual end of time. Others say that we have entered the period of Armageddon. Decades ago, I concluded that Armageddon and the Apocalypse are two different things – things that could happen concurrently but do not have to. Armageddon is the decisive battle between good and evil. The Apocalypse is the end of time. I vetted that with many theologians over the years. A few have disputed it, but almost all have agreed it is a useful distinction. I think it perfectly reasonable to think that we are at Armageddon – or at least a foreshadowing of it. But I am adamant that this is not the end – and I will remain so as long as there is breath within me.
I also have heard more than a few serious Christians suggest that Donald Trump will win this election because God will ensure it. Generally, I don’t think God intervenes in elections, preferring to let them reveal what is in the hearts of the people. On the rare occasions He does, it is by moving on hearts, not by fixing the results. My belief that Trump will prevail in big fashion tonight is purely a political assessment, borne of analytical matrixes that I am not as confident of as I once was. The spiritual perspective gives me great pause – for I think it quite likely that, from that standpoint, that God would harden hearts enough to let the atheist left take control. Think about it: throughout salvation history, when man has moved far enough from God that He lets them reap the consequences of their infidelity, He usually does not intervene on their behalf until a solid core of the people turn back to Him with their whole hearts. Do you think we are there yet? Or even close to there? Would it better serve God’s purpose in humbling us to give us a fighting chance to right this ship – or to let us run it into the ground before He intervenes for us? A very common thing is to think that what we think would be the best outcome is also how God would prefer it be done. But God’s ways are not our ways. What our duty is, is to stay faithful and trust in His providence whatever happens.
If Joe Biden wins and the Democrats take control – and try to enact even a third of what they have promised, social and economic collapse will come quicker than anyone can imagine. Oh, they will probably lift the more draconian Covid restrictions right away so they can tout a return to normalcy. But that will only be prelude to abandoning any semblance of civil liberty entirely – and would be the end of liberty in America, except for the collapse that would shortly follow and toss all schemes into a large dumpster fire. I do suspect that God would like a reformed America to lead the world through this terrible crisis that is happening globally. On that basis, it would make sense that He would give us another chance to right it ourselves. Yet I also think a people rarely rights itself until it clearly understands its absolute reliance on God – and that would best be achieved, I think, by complete systemic collapse.
I am divided this time, in a way I have never before been, over my spiritual analysis of the present moment and my political analysis of the same. What I know is that God does NOT manifest His will by doing what I think is best. He simply demands that I trust Him and persist in acknowledging Him, taking the next right step, and being a sign of hope to those around me regardless of how closely my opinion of what is best matches up with His plan – and it pleases Him especially to see whether I will persist in those things when His plan turns out to be diametrically opposite of what I think is best.
We are at the beginning of a great journey, just leaving the shire. I am adamant that this is not the end; it is the beginning. This is the beginning of God’s great renewal of the faith of the world – and He has work ahead for us if we will accept it. Will you go to work in His service whatever happens? No other choice is acceptable in His sight.
Our organization, CORAC, is working to step forward on behalf of the faith and the faithful whatever happens tonight. We will meet tomorrow on a conference call to begin to chart our course forward, based on what has happened. If you have not joined up yet for updates and action, please do so. Sign up here. We particularly need more people signing up in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. So if you know someone in any of these states who is committed to faith, family and freedom, encourage them to go to the website and sign up.
We are halfway through our fall fundraising appeal – and are halfway to our goal of $15,000 which will be matched by some other generous donors. Thank you all for your most generous support – and if you haven’t given yet but still can, go here. Whatever happens, together we will make our stand for God and country, for life and family.