If there’s one thing this rancorous political season has revealed, it’s that America is in a battle for its soul. Who are we and what do we stand for?
A counselor I interviewed for a story about Proposition 205, the bid to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona, told me as much. The walls of our civilization are crumbling, he said, as drug use, pornography, promiscuity and a host of other ills become increasingly socially acceptable.
I would argue that Hollywood has a lot to do with those crumbling walls. When was the last time you watched a movie or television show that portrayed the negative consequences of marijuana? Or the tragic consequences of pornography and promiscuity? That would be: never. That is, unless the film or program was produced by someone wanting to share the Good News about God’s love and mercy.
Unfortunately, most of us are more formed by the corrupt culture around us rather than the Gospel, mostly because it’s the path of least resistance. It takes effort and commitment to establish a serious, daily prayer life, to root ourselves in Scripture, to pray the Rosary or spend an hour in Adoration. Unlike sin, holiness isn’t something we just fall into. Living in a morally corrosive environment tends to weaken faith. Gradually, it blinds us to truth.
And that’s how, little by little, many Catholics come to believe that abortion isn’t so bad, that contraception is the only rational approach to family planning, that divorce doesn’t hurt children, that gay marriage is only fair, that physician-assisted suicide is “compassionate,” that legalizing recreational marijuana is no big deal. We get overcome by the culture — and then vote accordingly.
It’s also why we should never underestimate the influence of movies, videos and other media when it comes to shaping attitudes. People who may not ever enter a church or pick up a Bible might just be evangelized by a video on YouTube, a Facebook post or a novel on Kindle. And a heart that’s been evangelized can be catechized.
The Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Phoenix is on board with evangelizing through videos and has just launched a series dubbed “Sacerdote” that showcases the priesthood. Part of an effort to reach out to Hispanic families and encourage openness to vocations to the priesthood, the videos were launched on YouTube and are being shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Cristofer Pereyra, director of the Hispanic Mission Office, is hopeful about the new videos’ potential to move hearts. “We definitely need to engage the culture through the media,” Pereyra said. “The harm being done to the family by evil messages is so great that sometimes it’s overwhelming.” And yet, there’s that parable of the mustard seed: it only takes a little faith to move mountains. Maybe even just a little video.
“I am convinced that God doesn’t need us to get things done. It’s more our opportunity to be His servants, for our sanctification, and to do something for His kingdom,” Pereyra said. “It’s going to be Him who is going to multiply it and make it have an impact.”
I couldn’t agree more. As a Catholic writer, I take seriously the responsibility to use words to inspire, challenge and move hearts. I cast my little mustard-seed articles and books, praying faith will spring up. I try not to dwell on the fact that there are 100 million copies of “50 Shades of Grey” out there.
“We’re kind of like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, aren’t we?” I kidded Pereyra about our respective work, and we both chuckled. But still we venture forward, entrusting the gifts we’ve been given to the service of God, knowing that He holds this broken world in the palm of His hands. The election? The cultural chaos that surrounds us? He overcame it all by His death on the cross. Let us be formed by that great act of divine Love and move forward in faith, placing our gifts at the service of the Kingdom and trusting that He will make all things new. Even the culture, and perhaps even still, our nation.