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Resisting the Religion of the Day

Two thousand years ago, a humble and unassuming religious teacher and his small band of 12 disciples changed the world. At Easter, the Church rightfully celebrates Christ’s conquering of death through his crucifixion and resurrection, but it’s also a time to recognize that it was from this cosmic event that the Church was born and grew. Those 12 men went out into the world to proclaim what they had witnessed and thus enkindled a flame that grew and grew and ultimately changed the course of human history. That same flame remains lit today, but its light no longer burns as brightly as it once did.

There’s no sugarcoating the situation facing the Church today: Christianity is on the decline. The rise of the “nones” — those who are unaffiliated with any religion — is rapidly displacing the number of Christians in society, both in America and around the world. It seems trite at this point to once more lament the end of Christendom, but there really is no better way to describe the world that the Church is trying to navigate through today: Christendom is dead, and we are living in a new apostolic age.

In 2020, the University of Mary published the book From Christendom to Apostolic Mission, which proposed this very premise and offered strategies for Christians to not only keep the faith in these challenging times, but to carry on the mission of going out and making disciples of all nations, as Jesus himself commanded. This book sparked a national conversation that has served as a guiding post for the mission of the church today, not least here in the Archdiocese of Denver, where this book has been fundamental in the move from maintenance to mission.

With From Christendom to Apostolic Mission, an extensive survey of the modern-day landscape that the Church is navigating through was laid out, but the question remained: What exactly are the modes of thinking and ideologies that the Church is up against today? And more importantly, what are those beliefs that are displacing belief in Christianity? This question has been answered in the sequel to From Christendom to Apostolic Mission , fittingly titled The Religion of the Day. The title of the book is derived from a sermon St. John Henry Newman gave with the same name, where he said: “In every age of Christianity, since it was first preached, there has been what may be called a religion of the world, which so far imitates the one true religion, as to deceive the unstable and unwary.”

As the title of both the great cardinal’s sermon and the book suggests, it is impossible for humans to be devoid of all religion. “Nones” cannot truly be “nones”; try as they may to deny all religious belief, and whether they realize it or not, they still think and operate according to deeply held religious convictions of the secular world’s making.

This religion, the authors of The Religion of the Day assert, is best defined as a form of neo-Gnosticism that they refer to as “progressive religion.” Gnosticism is a collection of beliefs that has assumed several forms throughout history, but in this context, the simplest way to describe it is a set of religious beliefs that find their origin and practice in the finiteness of man and not the divine infiniteness of God. To use a more mainstream term, this progressive religion is synonymous with the so-called “woke religion.” The tenets of progressive religion are many, but at its core is an unwillingness to look inward at one’s own heart as the root of the world’s problems and instead blame the world’s problems on oppressive structures of human existence — in other words, everything and everyone else in the proverbial “out there” are the reason our world is so broken, and the only way to enact change is through constant revolution.

This worldview stands in stark contrast with the Christian, biblical worldview, which expresses almost exactly the opposite: It is not through man-made revolution but divine revelation that we find our proper place in the cosmos. Our world is broken because the human heart has become broken through the crushing weight of sin. It is impossible for us to achieve our own salvation, which is why God sent his son Jesus Christ to atone for this brokenness and restore us to right relationship with him. The very fabrics of reality are contingent upon this truth; to deny this truth is to deny reality. One can see, then, why the progressive religion is so consumed with re-creating reality according to their worldview. They seek to bend truth to their own whims and not the other way around. Far be it from the disciples of progressivism to admit that they might just have it wrong — no, because under their worldview, truth is relative and comes in many disparate and divergent forms.

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Notice how in the progressive religion, there is no semblance of accountability or refusing to admit one’s own faults or shortcomings. This is but one convenience of adhering to this system of belief; repentance is entirely unnecessary because there is no clear definition between right and wrong. This absence of difference and lack of distinction accurately characterizes much of what the progressive religion believes.

Indeed, it is through this ambiguity that the progressive religion has gained so many followers. As The Religion of the Day points out, “Progressive campaigns often attack situations that are genuinely morally problematic” (30), and “Progressive religions often begin with an assault upon real injustice” (31). While their cause may seem noble and even well-intentioned, the reality is that they are operating from an entirely different ontological premise than that of the Christian worldview. This is perhaps most evident in their attacks on the unborn and the elderly. Rather than heed the distinctly Christian call to love others who are suffering, the progressive religion seeks to eliminate suffering altogether: “The deeper principles of the two faiths only emerge … when it becomes apparent that poverty cannot be overcome, or that disease and old age cannot be entirely conquered” (31). It is here that the progressive religion overplays its hand: “At that point, the logic of the Progressive mindset makes itself felt, and an insistent call is sounded to eliminate the poor, to abort the abnormal, and to euthanize the elderly. It is not so much love for those who suffer, but anger rooted in pride at the fact of suffering that provides the deepest motive power in the drive for societal change among Progressive faiths” (31).

The key difference here is this: Christianity proposes an eternal hope, one rooted in love of God and neighbor, while the progressive religion only sows despair under the guise of a false and temporary hope — a hope that will never find its right fulfillment. As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “A healthy mind pays more attention to what is good than to what is bad”; and as can be clearly seen in its tenets, the progressive religion only sees the bad. Christianity sees the bad too, of course, but all that is bad in the world is illumined through the infinite good of Christ. To use a layman’s analogy, the constant revolutions of progressivism are fueled by a “glass half empty” mentality, while the divine revelation of the Christian religion sees the world and everything in it through a “glass half full” mentality. They may appear to be the same glass to the untrained eye, but they are diametrically opposed to each other.

If the progressive religion has a symbol, it is the equal sign. To its followers, the equal sign represents the ultimate aim of progressivism: equality. This goal can be derived from the symbol of the equal sign itself: two lines, equal in length and parallel to one another, separated by a small gap. Subtle as it is, that small gap between the lines betrays the good intentions of the progressive religion, because it implies that none of us are truly connected; it’s every man for himself. And indeed, this is how followers of the progressive religion live. They feign compassion so long as it doesn’t interfere with their own version of the truth. Ironically, this symbol represents the disconnectedness that is inherent in the progressive religion.

Contrast that with the dominant and enduring symbol of Christianity: The cross. It, too, is composed of two simple lines, but with dramatically different orientations. Each line is dependent upon the other to maintain its form; remove one, and it’s no longer a cross. In a way, the lines are embracing one another, as if to show they belong to each other. As such, the cross represents the true path to the peaceful and just world the progressive religion strives for; as St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Of course, there’s another key element to the cross: that battered, broken man who was nailed to it and breathed his last while hanging from it. It was through the violence of the cross that the world was redeemed, and infinite hope was thus poured out. There is no cross without Christ, and there is no Christ without the cross. The two are intrinsically connected, and Christianity is intrinsically connected to both.

St. John Paul II gave Christians in this new apostolic age a fitting rallying cry when he said, “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!” Each Easter celebration serves as a living reminder that Christians must be witnesses to the cross and all that it represents if we are to resist the religion of the day and lead those who have fallen for the false promises of the progressive religion back to the true hope and joy of Christianity.

Aaron Lambert
Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the former Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.

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