Friday, February 6, 2009

The Rise Against Intellectual Apathy

I had the privilege of participating in a Cathedral Mass a few weeks back, the celebrant was Archbishop Charles Chaput. The Sunday happened to be Epiphany Sunday when we celebrate the coming of the Magi to the foot of Christ’s crib (cf. Mt. 2.1-23). If you have ever had the opportunity to attend a Sunday evening Mass at the Cathedral, then you know that a homily by his Excellency is something you simply do not want to miss. I can say confidently that I would take notes if it wasn’t for my pride persuading me that people would deem me as one of “those” who wears a Holy pocket-protector! While much of what he said on Epiphany Sunday has been forgotten, there is one piece of his homily that has stuck with me to this day and that I find particular pertinent to our upcoming debate on campus.

Like any good homilist, Archbishop began his homily by painting the historical and sociological landscape on which this event of the Magi occurred. Unfortunately, such an accurate portrayal necessitated a significant correction in popular thinking. When we think of the Magi, phrases such as “the three kings,” or the “the three wise men” often come to mind. Such conceptions are nearly entirely wrong or at least a gross exaggeration of the original words. Whether there were three of them, or whether they were “wise” is completely absent from the original text. In addition, evidence for their kingship is about as strong as evidence for their queenship! What we can learn from the text is that these Magi were magicians which was something considered deplorable to Jews and Christians to this day. In other words, they were genuine pagans.

A light may have flickered for those of you reading this. There is an irony to be said, a perplexing puzzle to be solved. We see in this narrative an unexplainable interest by a number of pagan magicians in a rather obscure Jewish prophecy, all the while a near silence befalls Jerusalem for whom this prophecy has been fulfilled. In other words, there is a greater expressed interest in the covenantal God of Israel by pagans than those who claim to be Jewish believers! It is in this rather perplexing inverse of prophetic interest that the Archbishop provides an acute observation in its application.

The archbishop has keenly observed that at times there appears to be more non-believers interested in God today than believers! I actually have a tough time saying those words as they are difficult to stomach. Putting the archbishop’s observations to the test, I did a little research project. With the debate only days away I did a couple google searches. The first search I committed to was to see what results I could obtain in support of Hitchens (the Atheist coming to our debate) in light of this particular debate. I immediately received a rather large number of blogs and other websites talking about this “great opportunity” with many atheists making plans to carpool with one another. With hopeful expectations I then searched for results that would include those people in support of D’Souza (the Christian) in this particular debate. Excluding those sites originating through our own publicity, the results came back with……..ZERO. Sadly, it appears that the archbishop has been proven correct.

I wish I could say that my experience as the Director of Outreach and Evangelization could help curb these disappointing results, but they do not. FOCUS has been doing some incredible work getting the word out on campus about the debate. After a day of success in the distribution of tickets, a missionary made a casual comment about how she felt that “nearly 60 percent” of tickets she distributed were to atheists. In light of the overall population of atheists in Boulder, that is quite a skewed statistic.

I say all this not to be a dirge, but rather to act as a call to arms! We live for a reality that is deeply personal but it is NOT private. We have a public commitment to our faith which must be imbued with both good and beauty, but it also must be grounded in absolute Truth! We are not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for everyone who places themselves in that love who is Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 1.16). We have no need to fear the truth of our faith for it stands unabated with or without us, but we are called by St. Peter to give a reason for why we believe to those who inquire about it (cf. 1 Ptr. 3.15). We have many opportunities to satisfy this call to take arms which Hilary spoke of in last week’s column. May we continue to deepen our love for God with all our mind (cf. Mt. 22.37), and may we find such pursuits personally enriching and fruitful. May God Be Praised!

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