For a number of years, I was privileged to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties.
Its President, Bill Donohue, is an outspoken and courageous defender of Christianity. He never backs away from a fight. The other day, an email arrived with Bill’s comments about a rally in Washington D.C.
Touted on its web site as “The Largest Gathering of the Secular Movement in World History” the rally was intended to arouse atheists and encourage them to combat religious belief and observance in every form.
Here’s what Bill Donohue had to say:
It is impossible for atheists to have a rally without bashing people of faith. They especially loathe Christians, and no group gets them jacked up more than Roman Catholics. Saturday’s rally was no exception.
Although atheists claim that people of faith brainwash kids, it is they who are the masters. “Hey Kids,” one of the signs read, “It’s Okay—GOD is PRETEND.” Being vulgar comes natural to them: “Religion is Like a Penis,” one sign read, “It’s OK to have one…But it is NOT OK to whip it out in public, shove it in my face, or tell me what to do because you have one….” Then there was the gal who held a sign demanding that adherents of the three monotheistic religions “Get Out of My Panties.”
They got specific with signs such as “So many Christians, so few lions.” There was a man dressed as Jesus riding an inflatable dinosaur; another man held a large wooden cross with a mask of “The Joker” on top. They really got specific when Australian songwriter Tim Minchin thrilled the crowd with “The Pope Song.” Here are some of the lyrics: “I don’t give a f*** if calling the pope a motherf***er means…You see I don’t give a f*** what any other motherf***er believes about Jesus and his motherf***ing mother.”
The big draw was Englishman Richard Dawkins. He implored the crowd to “ridicule and show contempt” for people of faith. “Mock them, ridicule them in public,” he bellowed. Especially Catholics. Dawkins not only mocked the Eucharist, he advised the crowd to ask Catholics, “Do you really believe…that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ?”
Catholics take note: The fact that the atheists always attack us more than any other religious group is a backhanded compliment. They know who the real enemy of hate is, and who they must defeat. They don’t have a prayer.
When I was a kid at the Epiphany grade school in Detroit, the good nuns taught me about the martyrs in the early Christian Church.
Saint Peter, who was crucified upside down. Saint Lawrence, who was literally barbequed to death. The heroes and heroines of Christianity. Saint Joan of Arc, burned at the stake. Saint Thomas More, beheaded for refusal to condone the sins of the King.
I often wondered what I would do, how I would react to religious persecution. Would I have the courage to walk in silence into an arena full of hungry lions?
Would I have the faith to forgive those who hate me? Would I, like Thomas More, hand a coin to my executioner, as a symbol that he was just doing his job, and that I bore him no ill will?
Two thousand years of Christianity have not doused the fires of hatred that surround believers. A revolution of instantaneous communication has empowered the enemies of faith. Television, computers, hand held electronic devices introduced and improved week after week provide new and ubiquitous platforms for the trumpets of hate.
My Dad died in 1958. His Catholic faith defined him. But he rarely spoke of it. His idea of evangelism was to live a good and decent life, to be the kind of person who quietly earned the unheralded respect of neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.
The nuns used to say that the blood of martyrs was the seed of Christianity.
So too, is the patient restraint of the taunted and the ridiculed.