January 29, 2012

+ Welcome to the apostasy

"Let no one in any way deceive you, 
for it [the day of Christ's return] will not come 
unless the apostasy comes first, 
and the man of lawlessness is revealed, 
the son of destruction..."
2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB

The London Daily Mail recently published, "The Specter of 1932: Loss of Faith in Democracy Makes 2012  Most Frightening Year in Living Memory." However, the article misses the real point. The problem is not a loss of faith in democracy, or political leaders, or currencies, or economic principles -- though a collapse of confidence exists in all these areas. The real crisis is a loss of faith in God.

So, with such significant problems on the horizon, will most of us turn to God? I don't think so. More likely, we will see far too many following the advice of billionaire George Soros who "almost gleefully" predicts that the Occupy Wall Street movement that he has financed will turn violent.

Welcome to the apostasy.

In all of Scripture, the Greek word for "apostasy" is found only in the 2 Thessalonians verse above. It has been variously translated as "rebellion," "revolt," and "falling away." However, the original is pronounced "apostasia," therefore "apostasy" seems a logical translation.

So, what is apostasy? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2089), it is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. Apostasy is much broader and more fundamental than incredulity, schism or even heresy. It is increasingly represented by the totalitarian violence of radical Islamists and Buddhists, reported HERE and HERE. However, more subtle attacks on the faith and the faithful are becoming evident around the globe and even close to home.

Apostasy is the environment in which books like "god is not Great" and "The God Delusion" become runaway bestsellers, successfully encouraging a generation of agnostics to become atheists, and atheists to become anti-theists. One of those wildly popular authors, the late Christopher Hitchens, famously observed,  "all religious belief is sinister and infantile." (Well, at least he has faith in that stereotype!) Never one to refrain from hurling an outrageous slander with melodic alliteration, Hitchens described Mother Teresa of Calcutta as "a fanatic, a fundamentalist and a fraud." 

Today, Christmas entertainment for the kiddies comes in the form of the the film, "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas." One reviewer complains that the movie contains lesbian activity among nuns, obscenities hurled at Our Lord Jesus Christ, priests running after an altar boy, and trashing of the Virgin Mary. He calls it "an unspeakable blasphemy!"

In fact, these days it is hard to find some form of popular entertainment that does not feature Our Lord's name, as long as it is taken in vain. (Hey, it's only a Commandment.) The practice is so widespread that it has become a cliche' today, leading our youth to abbreviate the sin just to save time. So, OMG and other more despicable shortcuts have become commonplace.

Or take, for example, the recent hit movie, "The Devil Inside" with its anti-Church agenda. This critic was not alone in ridiculing the film: "Whoever was put in charge of the marketing campaign for The Devil Inside deserves a promotion, a six figure bonus, and — provided that such a thing exists — the marketing equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Shortly after the movie opened on Thursday night, Twitter was flooded with reports of audiences booing, spitting on the floor, demanding refunds, and throwing things at the screen. Audiences rewarded the film with a rare Cinemascore rating of F.... Yet somehow the movie made $34.5 million dollars, the third highest January opening ever...."

For many viewers, it appears that the movie's only saving grace, so to speak, was its bashing of the Catholic Church.

More than ever, there is a lot of money to be made, these days, with fictional stories that feature anti-Catholic propaganda. Dan Brown, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks know it. So, it is not surprising that the director of "The Devil Inside" has been rewarded with another chance to slander the Catholic Church in his upcoming film -- no surprise -- "The Vatican."

Welcome to the apostasy.

Today, we view ourselves as so, so sophisticated. We reject pre-modern faith in religion. We even reject modern faith in science. Instead, today, we proudly proclaim post-modern faith in nothing.

Without a doubt, outrageous scandals have battered the Church's reputation in many parts of the world as a small percentage of shepherds became wolves. In Ireland -- once known for its devotion to the Catholic Faith -- defiance seems to be the order of the day. Could it be a role model for the rest of the world?

One report claims, “The [Irish] government’s decision to close its embassy in the Vatican is a symptom of the profound change in relations between Ireland and the Holy See. In the past, the Church had great influence in Irish society. Bishops and priests were treated with respect and could influence legislation on moral issues. Since the publication of the Reports on the abuse, clerical collars are frowned upon by many and wearers are sometimes insulted in the street.”

In another example, "Is Ireland Divorcing from the Catholic Church?", the author writes that her homeland “once called itself a foremost Catholic nation and most loyal ally of the Holy Father.” Then she describes the Ireland of today: “In the wake of the sex abuse scandals, an anti-Vatican mood is sweeping the land…. One newspaper published a photograph of the Pope in full regalia, with “Persona Non Grata” superimposed on his image. The airwaves are full of bitter remarks… [attacking] the “disgraceful” Vatican, and recommending every anti-church measure from the dissolution of the monasteries to the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio and the severing of all links with the Holy See. (The recall of the Papal Nuncio this week marks the lowest point of relations between Ireland and Rome.) One correspondent wrote that it was his ardent hope that the Catholic Church would follow the example of the News of the World, and hold a “last Mass” before shutting down….”

Of course any international feeding frenzy that features a transfer of billions of dollars will attract some vultures and others who simply enjoy piling on, even if it creates more victims in the process. Priests have been falsely accused, then ruined by reporting that made them guilty on page one until proven innocent on page 38. National Public Radio, making the most of our taxpayer dollars and their tabloid journalism, continued to inflame passions with a clearly bogus headline. Still, it is uncomfortable to harshly criticize even the almost obsessively narrow focus of the New York Times or the obviously greedy lawyers because, after all, the underlying evil acts truly are outrageous and indefensible.

So, prosecute and punish the guilty individuals. Just leave the rest of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church alone!

Anti-Christian resentments are percolating everywhere, it seems, from simple cases of vandalism (like the decapitation of a statue of Jesus) to any number of serious persecutions in the top 50 countries that are persecuting Christians.

Still, it is not just religious extremism that signifies a falling away or rebellion against the Christian faith. Major drug cartels are spreading their violence and power at an alarming rate. Right on our border, Americans are oblivious to the war that is raging. So far, 47,000 civilians have been killed since Mexico's President Fellipe Calderon cracked down on Mexico's drug dealers just over five years ago. Many of the deaths have been shockingly barbaric.

The incredibly lucrative narcotics trade has allowed them to expand rapidly with increasing sophistication that has allowed them to move into other profitable ventures, like human trafficking.

So, it is not too surprising that here, in America, there are now 1.4 million gang members, an increase of 40% since 2009. (Keep in mind that the FBI reports that 48% of all violent crime in our country can be traced to these gang members.) With illicit drugs fueling our bonfire of the vanities, surprisingly brazen crimes are occurring, like when a man recently entered a church with a shotgun, then threatened and robbed the entire choir.

You want a picture of the End Times apostasy? Consider how accurately today's drug dealers are described in Revelation 9:21: "Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." Then remember that the original Greek word used in that verse was pronounced "pharmacon," perhaps indicating that "drug addictions" might have represented a better translation than "sorceries."

With these, and so many other serious problems at our doorstep, we should take St. Paul's advice and "Pray without ceasing."

But we don't.

So, welcome to the apostasy.

  • A sharia court recently alarmed India's Christian community with orders to expel Christians and take over their missionary schools in the region of Kashmir. Even though the Kashmir valley contains just 400 Christians among 4 million Muslims, serious concern is being voiced that radicals are pushing Christians into a climate of fear, there. On bishop called the actions "humiliating and certainly threatening for us."
  • In March of 2011, Muslims burned down 69 Ethiopian churches, as reported here, They beat a pastor to death and, when his pregnant wife rushed to help him, they beat her also. In November, 500 Muslims, including a policeman, shouted  "Allahu akbar" as they burned down a church that they claimed was built without proper permits, even though it had stood there for over 60 years.
  • In Ireland, a priest is prosecuted for "incitement to hatred" after giving a sermon titled "To Trust in God" and saying that the Church is being "attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture." Unfortunately, the prosecution proves his point! The report can be found HERE and the entire homily HERE.
  • In Providence, Rhode Island, demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street movement threw condoms on Catholic schoolgirls, refused to allow a Catholic priest to give a closing prayer, and shouted down a pro-life speaker at a right to life rally.  
  • Another American Catholic Church is attacked, with clear evidence that there is more to this than just stealing money.

PRAYER REQUEST: An Italian priest has been targeted by the local mafia for speaking out against them. Father Ennio Stamile found a severed pig's head on his doorstep when leaving for morning mass. The priest says he will continue to speak out against the cocaine importers even though, previously, a prosecutor and two priests were assassinated when they opposed them. Please pray for our brave clergy, especially for those who risk their lives defending what is right.