The news keeps getting darker and darker. The United States borrows about 40% of every dollar it spends. That amounts to about 120 billion dollars added to the debt each month. The current U.S. debt, not including unfunded future liabilities, is 14.5 trillion dollars. Add in those liabilities and you have 76 trillion dollars. To cover just the current year deficit alone, each taxpayer in the U.S. would need to pay an additional $7,000 in Federal taxes. That means $21,000 from my household.
This debt does not include the enormous personal debt already carried by U.S. taxpayers who spend more than they earn nor does it include the debt owed by state and local governments. The recent acrimonious debate and resulting debt deal reached by the government did not reassure the markets or the ratings houses… and from discussions I have had with others, it did not reassure the average citizen.
This crisis affects all of us. It is staggering. Unemployment in the U.S., as reported by the government, is 9.1% and this does not include the under-employed and those who have given up trying to find a job. The uncertainty created by governmental policy is likely to continue to dampen future economic growth.
This article is not about solving the budget/debt crisis nor is it about the state of politics in the U.S. and around the world. These issues are simply presented as one backdrop to the mood of the country. And this mood has manifested itself in all sorts of unacceptable behaviors, not the least of which is the decline in civility, virtue, ethics and religion. The rise in violent flash mobs is only one extreme example. Drug use and sexual immorality are rampant among the young. Children find it easier to belong to violent gangs than to live and grow in peace in the home.
Certainly there are other, non-economic factors contributing to this dour mood, but the point is that many people seem to have lost hope in the future. We don’t trust the government and we don’t seem to trust ourselves, even when we act like it is ourselves only we trust.
A recent Rasmussen Reports survey indicates that only 14% of the country believes the U.S. is headed in the right direction and 80% say the nation is on the wrong track.
There are indications that many have lost hope and trust in God. A 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey revealed that over one-third of native-born, cradle Catholics in the U.S. have left the Church. 10 million of these are no longer affiliated with organized religion. The large number of converts to the Catholic Church and the influx of Catholic immigrants to the U.S. has somewhat hidden this decline. Mainline Protestantism is in deep decline. Evangelical Christianity appeals to many, but in my ministry, I see its shallow depth in the lives of those who have tried it and become disillusioned. Admittedly, there are signs of hope in this darkness, but any way you cut it, the situation in the nation and the Church is dire.
Should we be surprised?
We are a nation that has turned its back on God. The more than one million children killed each year by abortion is proof enough. Any student of Salvation History knows full well the consequences of a people that turn away from God and embrace idols. We have plenty of idols in our nation today: power, sex, drugs, wealth, selfish individualism, pride and avarice. We have stopped loving God. We have stopped loving others. Even our love of self is, thus, disordered. One of the most destructive idols we worship is the god of convenience and gratification. It has led to sex outside of marriage, birth control and abortion. This is not freedom, it is enslavement.
In her address to the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the U.S. Congress, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta proclaimed:
“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her
child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.
“By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
A Wake-up Call
All of these woes might distract us from God… or they might serve as a clarion call to return to Him. It is no longer politically correct to call on God in public to help our nation, but call on Him we must. If we are to return to a time – if any of us can really recall such a time – where we can work together for the good of the other, we must first return to God in repentance and with a contrite heart. The way to a peaceful and spiritually prosperous future will not be easy, it will take lots of work, humility, generosity, self-control and pain; but the path is a simple one… turn back to God in selfless, loving prayer. An advancing life of prayer consisting of both individual and liturgical prayer is essential to our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is essential to our relationship with one another.
Now, more than ever, our nation needs to heed the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. As she closed her 1994 prayer breakfast address, she called on America to be great again:
“If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak – the unborn child – must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless you!”
Listen to Blessed Teresa’s entire 1994 address to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
Download a copy of Blessed Teresa’s 1994 address to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
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