Living faith in the public square, in spite of scorn and threats

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There’s a change in the air and I’m not talking about those sub-112-degree temps as we head into fall.

Today I saw a motorcyclist riding down the street clad in jeans and a T-shirt emblazoned with huge letters. Pulling closer, I beheld his impious message: THERE IS NO GOD!

Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun and author of “A Martyr’s Crown.” Opinions expressed are the writers' and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.
Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun and author of “A Martyr’s Crown.” Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

Actually, if you Google it, you’ll find several variations on this T-shirt nihilism. For around $30, you can proclaim in-your-face atheism in style. Pink? They’ve got pink. Smaller letters? Women’s sizes? Ditto.

Atheism has been around in one form or another for a long time (though I won’t say “forever” as that would imply a sense of eternity) but it’s not the scandalous thing it once was. People brag about it now. And in many circles of academia as well as the professional world, Christians are often viewed as dimwitted and pitifully deluded (I would say dimwitted and pitifully deluded souls, but, well, you get the point).

Just last week I received an example of this in a press release from The Freedom from Religion Foundation. Setting aside for a moment the dubious wisdom of sending such a release to a Catholic publication, the FFRF was gloating about a decision last month by Arizona’s Thunderbird School of Global Management. After receiving letters from FFRF legal counsel Madeline Ziegler, the school decided to remove Bibles from rooms at the Thunderbird Inn, a hotel associated with the university. The Bibles were placed in the rooms by the Gideon Society.

“Anyone zealous enough to need the bible as bedtime reading will travel with one,” noted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The rest of us paying guests seek a vacation from proselytizing when we’re on vacation. What is offensive at private hotels and motels, however, becomes unconstitutional at public-supported rooms.”

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Isn’t it ironic that the Bible is deemed offensive in a culture where pornography is so rampant? We can’t have university guests reading such subversive, abhorrent texts as, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.” That would be unconscionable!

The truth is that in 2016 it doesn’t take much to get us to surrender our Bibles. A letter from a lawyer pretty much guarantees our capitulation. We’ve become a nation of anemic, half-hearted Christians who are quick to call on God in a crisis and just as quick to push Him away when we feel we don’t need Him anymore.

Today I received yet another press release from the FFRF. This time, they’re taking issue with Tim Jeffries of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Apparently, Jeffries had the hutzpah to tell his fellow employees via his official email about his pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. FFRF also accuses him of — gasp — beginning meetings with prayer.

I asked Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute and one of the main speakers at the upcoming Catholics in the Public Square Legislative Seminar, about this new brand of aggressive atheism.

“We have people in the public square who are actively hostile to our entire world view,” Dr. Roback Morse said. “They are trying to create a fantasy world. It’s not simply the world without God, it’s also a world where man is not what man really is. Just like the communists tried to create the new Soviet man, we’re now trying to create the new androgynous person.”

Here’s a news release for the FFRF: Christians in this country are not going to be silenced by intimidation tactics. We’re going to continue to live our faith boldly.

In that vein, here are some ideas to do so: Sign up for the daily email from the USCCB that contains the daily Mass readings, then take time each day to pray and ponder God’s word. Wear a Miraculous Medal — it’s a quiet witness that often starts a conversation about God. Say grace before meals in restaurants. When people share their hurts with you, promise to pray for them — and then do it! Fall in love with Jesus Christ so that witnessing to His love in your dealings with others is completely natural and genuine. Attend the Sept. 17 legislative seminar and get re-energized to take back the public square.

When we ourselves become people of deep faith, on fire with love for God, we will not be intimidated by the threats and insults of those fighting to silence and crush Christianity. Instead, we will be moved to pray for them and find the courage to help build a culture of life.

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