"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Friday, August 19, 2005

When the basics pack punch

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The following from the Pope's first address at World Youth Day is surprisingly basic for such an academician:

"The Ten Commandments are not a burden, but a sign-post showing the path leading to a successful life. This is particularly the case for the young people whom I am meeting in these days and who are so dear to me. My wish is that they may be able to recognize in the Decalogue a lamp for their steps, a light for their path (cf. Ps 119:105). Adults have the responsibility of handing down to young people the torch of hope that God has given to Jews and to Christians, so that “never again” will the forces of evil come to power, and that future generations, with God’s help, may be able to build a more just and peaceful world, in which all people have equal rights and are equally at home."

Basic, but politically subtle. "Equal rights" must be based on the Ten Commandments. How well that resonates with the American Declaration of Independence's reference to "the laws of nature and of nature's God," which specify the "self-evident" truth that "all men are equal" and certain of their right are "unalienable"! So much for secular liberalism. We may and probably should keep church and state separate; but when we thrust God so far out of public life that bedrock moral norms may no longer be acknowledged by the state as anchored in him, then any and all rights are fully reduced to claims that some people not only can but may choose, for reasons of their own, to grant or deny others. There is no middle way. That's a message the EU, and increasingly the US, need to hear. Which will it be?

Following the Decalogue also would help people feel "equally at home." That's why the Pope made such a point of addressing Jews, and the topic of Jewish-Christian relations, as he visited an ancient city in his own homeland. If the German people had truly remembered and cared about the Decalogue, there would have been no Nazi regime and no Shoah. And nowadays there are more nations than the Germans who need to hear the message that all humans equally—the most depraved of malefactors, the innocent in the womb, even the most handicapped—belong in God's world.

There's no better way to get the message heard than to deliver it to young people with the conviction and enthusiasm that can truly touch their hearts. The Pope's full address can be found here.
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