On this Solemnity of Christ the King, we must wake up to the battle between good and evil that rages on every level of our society. This spiritual battle includes powerful and influential forces, from the corporate, to the cultural, and the political centers of our society. These groups use force and fear to manipulate you and me to live by their lies, ignore their corruption, and doubt the truth of our faith and reason. And, if they cannot force compliance, they will silence us and place us on the margins of society. We can see this happening in real time.
In June of 2019, Canadian police arrested Pastor David Lynn for preaching the Gospel. They accused him of hate speech. And, this threat of fines and jail time continues in Canada to this day. Their new hate speech laws - motivated by Leftist ideologies - use these threats to silence all opposition. Unfortunately, many people in positions of power in this country believe Canada’s laws are a “great leap forward.” They want to strip us of our First Amendment rights. And, they twist words and rhetoric in order to justify their claims. But, even with the First Amendment still in place, these forces already sow discord and silence opposition.
In Colorado, a baker named Jack Phillips refuses to bake cakes with decorations that explicitly support same-sex marriage or transgenderism. And, even though many bakeries in the area would gladly offer their services, legal action groups target Phillips. They sued him not once, not twice, but three times, thus threatening his financial stability and personal reputation. He even faces threats to his life. And, all this because he refuses to bow to the prevailing ideologies in our culture.
In 2014, the professional female mixed martial artist, Tamika Brents, faced a biological male who identified as female in the arena. Brents stated that she never felt so overpowered in an MMA fight. That fight sent her to the emergency room with a concussion and broken skull. But, due to the fear of being called a bigot, she remained silent about the MMA league’s decision to allow biological men into the ring with women.
In February of this year, a group of Connecticut high school, female athletes sued for sexual discrimination against their school’s policy that allowed biological males into their leagues. They reasoned that the physiology of biological males gives them an unfair advantage in female sports; and, this advantage kept the two sexes into parallel leagues up until recently. For standing up for the rights of female athletes - who continue to witness growing numbers of biological males seizing championships in their sports - they received hate mail, ridicule, name-calling and became ostracized.
You, yourselves, experience this force and fear in your own lives. You sense it when you look over your shoulder and whisper to express opinions considered “traditional” or “conservative,” overtly “biblical” or “Christian.” You experience this social pressure in the way you need to flush out a person’s political position, before you speak your own mind. You catch on to this oppression by the way you carefully edit and re-edit your posts, internal work emails, and file complaints to HR. During your work’s ongoing training sessions, that seek to re-educate you with ideologies with which you cannot openly disagree; you fear losing your job or becoming a pariah at work should you speak out or not react enthusiastically enough. In this dangerous situation, we find ourselves facing a backlash against true diversity in thinking. In place of real dialogue, we face the cultural mobster’s threat: “It’s a nice life you have, I’d sure hate for something bad to happen to it; sign this public statement for this ideological cause, nod in agreement during this company’s training session, don’t just hate racism and bigotry, say these exact formulas, express yourself exactly how we want you to, and if you don’t, we will see you for the hateful, closed-minded, person you really are.”
This paradigm of encroachment on free thought and personal responsibility impacts our lives through ever expansive and intrusive protocols surround COVID-19, and the silencing of real debate. The mainstream ridicules anyone expressing opinions outside its narrative, and even censors scientific research that doesn’t line up with their message. This clarifies the message: “shut up” and “fall in line.” If you disagree with any protocol, then they say you are ignorant and “hate grandma.” The edicts of administrative agents, governors and mayors now replace personal responsibility. But, I can love grandma and question these protocols at the same time. Personally, I wanted to visit my grandparents in Painesville, OH. And, without needing a mayor or governor to intervene, because I love my grandparents, I asked them their thoughts on the visit. We talked it out. And, we made a decision that respected their wants and needs. Nine months ago that would not be considered outlandish, but normal. Now, the powers that be deem such personal responsibility a threat to the state and nation. Dialogue is forbidden. Compliance alone is demanded.
I think reasonable measures can ensure our health during a pandemic. But, for the first time in history, the state treats the healthy like domestic threats. Even during the Spanish Flu, polities did not quarantine the healthy, but the sick. Masks did not become politicized, because masks did not become a measure of compliance and obedience to the mainstream. The system now in play does not allow us to question the wisdom of forcing healthy people to wear masks for hours on end. Instead, we see increasing calls to mandate the wearing of masks even in our homes. Breathing in our body’s exhaust for hours on end has brought an increase in lung infections, asthma has been inflamed for some, and it can cause light-headedness and headaches that impair thought and action. But, and here is my main point: no one feels free to bring this up, because they will be told that they “hate grandma” and don’t believe in science. This does not bode well, because real dialogue alone ensures true harmony and peace; whereas the social elimination of dialogue ensures smoldering resentment and eliminates the possibility of seeing new alternatives.
As if this weren’t enough, new mandates took effect or threaten to take effect that infringe upon the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of assembly. People in positions of power believe they can mandate who is allowed in our homes, how many, and what they must wear while visiting. This begs the question that no one feels free to ask: What limits exist on government authority? And, another question: Why can’t people decide for themselves how to care for their families, coworkers, and friends? Apparently, those in authority do not trust that families, those closest to the issue of their health, can decide for themselves what to do or not do. Of course, constitutional rule always allowed for emergency orders when immediate danger required quick action, e.g. cases of natural calamity or invasion. But, today’s emergency orders often include ambiguous and contradictory restrictions, with timelines that can extend indefinitely, and, this, without clearly stated, reasonable goals about an end. The real possibility exists that those not following these potential mandates will become social and political outcasts. It will, and, in many cases already has, turned neighbor against neighbor, and made us suspicious of each other in ways we’ve never had to deal with before in this country. This is not progress. This rampant name-calling and belittling of people thinking for themselves is not the face of compassion, but of disunity that breeds resentment and confusion. And, all this happens while Americans lose sight of their country’s founding principles.
We live in a time when the executive branches of state and local governments now legislate with impunity. Republics do not function this way, but absolute monarchies did. The systems of the separation of powers and of checks-and-balances, at our government’s foundation, gave way to an imposing and invasive authority unlike anything we have witnessed before in this nation. This shift causes real issues. At one point, this unchecked power arbitrarily allowed golf courses and garden centers to remain open, but closed small businesses and non-chain restaurants. But, doesn’t personal health include providing for our families and the ability to determine, for ourselves, how best to deal with an ongoing crisis? These actions push against the core principle of Catholic social teaching called, subsidiarity: this pillar asserts the rights of communities to deal with problems at the most local level possible. All of this includes questions of real justice. And, this includes a notion of health that allows for discussions about mental health and our inborn need for community. Are we allowed to freely discuss these issues? And, how can we citizens actually hold those in authority accountable if social pressures silence such discussion?
Through all of this we catch a central theme: personal choice and responsibility continually overrun by faceless, unaccountable political and social systems that strip us of freedom of thought and movement. This is not the stuff of democratic republics, whereby the people engage in a mutual upbuilding of society through free discourse. This is the stuff of an evil ideological shift towards socialism and totalitarianism, whereby state, corporate and cultural powers demand our fidelity to their dogmas, that we parrot out their specifically worded formulas, and behave according to their rules even in the privacy of our own homes. This is a real battle between good and evil. It is a battle between real rights that entail God-given responsibilities, and ever increasing privileges that curtail the common good for ideological outcomes. And, if we continue to participate in this ideological onslaught against our democratic republic and natural rights, we will see the so-called “brave new world” of so many dystopian novels come to life before our very eyes. In many ways, the seeds of that future already bud forth and threaten to flower. And, for this reason, we need to enter into this Solemnity of Christ the King with renewed strength, faith, and hope.
When all the world says that it has “no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), we Christians stand up and say “my King is the King of Kings, and his name is Jesus! When all the world tells us that Christian morality is hatred and bigotry, we stand tall in the Truth who sets us free (John 8:32), and the Truth’s name is Jesus. When powerful forces in corporations, social media, the news, politics and the university try to silence and bully us, telling us that we are threats to equality, we must not back down. We must point out that their world of so-called “equality and diversity” means everyone must believe only their dogmas, never debate their goals, and live in an equality of impoverishment they establish. That is the real injustice and threat to our democracy.
To confront all this and stand firm in the truth, my brothers and sisters, we will face persecution. Jesus told us that to follow him would include persecution. However, Jesus also said: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus also told us: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). But, we do not overcome evil with evil, rather, as St. Paul instructs us: “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:21). We need to get back to the good and truth of our faith, trust in it, and live from it in order to combat these evil encroachments.
We need to reclaim our Christian identity under the battle standard of the King of Kings. Christianity is not about an impersonal government that helps the poor and underprivileged, it is about Christians helping the poor and underprivileged. Christianity is not about ignoring the differences between men and women by claiming they are interchangeable constructs, Christians embrace that real diversity between men and women that enriches life, makes it exciting, and which has the potential to co-create with God himself by bringing forth children. Being Christian does not make someone hateful, bigoted or outdated. But, being against Christianity makes people closed-minded dogmatists who demand absolute obedience to their pagan religion that worships the State. It is not these new ideologies that help us progress forward, they cause regression. These Leftist ideologies take us back to a time when people were not judged by the content of their character, but by their group affiliation, like their race or sexual preferences or identity. These anti-Christian and evil ideologies cut us off from the wellspring of our surest identity: We are beloved daughters and sons of a loving heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.
We are not crazy for believing in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, for life, and open to the rearing of children; it is the sanest foundation of society. We are not crazy for believing that we are accountable to the one King, Jesus Christ, and that he is the one who commands us to build the Kingdom of God in our everyday lives; that is the deepest foundation of our life’s meaning. We are not crazy for thinking for ourselves, for believing in individual liberties and rights, and for believing that these rights and morality find their foundation in faith and reason; that has been the greatest source of true progress in world history.
When we make the bold declaration that Jesus Christ is our King, it does not mean that we will live tranquil lives amidst our families and neighborhoods. Rather, more and more, to believe in Jesus and follow him will force us to make a choice: Will we comply with the status quo or live our faith in Jesus Christ and stand in the truth? When we worship Jesus Christ as our King, it will mean we bow before Almighty God, and, by that worship, we declare that truth and morality rests in that one God. No ideology can change truth and morality, and no State has the right to impose lies and immorality on its people. Jesus alone is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
On this Solemnity of Christ the King, we catch a glimpse of true freedom: it means we never conform to lies, never play-act with corruption or evil for personal security, and always choose to speak the truth, or at least never say anything with which we disagree (cf. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Live Not by Lies). By our allegiance to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, we will bear witness to a liberty that does not rely on a governor or mayor or pop-culture to tell us what to think and do. It will be a liberty that goes to the very source of life itself and draws from it forgiveness, sanctity, and authentic charity. In Christ is our true liberty and hope. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, forever and always! And, Jesus Christ is not looking for the strong, but the humble. He’s not looking for the already-righteous, but for the repentant, in order to heal them. He’s not a dictator who governs without compassion; Jesus is the very gentleness of the Father. He’s not a tyrant who hates our humanity, he made our flesh and draws even our flesh into the mystery of salvation. Will we choose him as our King? Then, we must do more than admire Jesus, we must follow and obey him. Will we march under the banner of the Cross to live and die under that flag of freedom? Or will we close our eyes to the spiritual battle, with all that is at stake, and only remember the days when men were free?