Pushing back

Our world is explained by a central historical truth. Our faith conveys meaning through word, story and symbol -- to explain why we are here. We hope and strive to share our meaning with the next generations. Yet it is a discouraging time when public pronouncements denigrate things we believe in.

Some commentators have even suggested that we do not live in a Christian nation. This would be a surprise to the Founding Fathers and is a surprise to the 86 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Christians. But this is the way schools regard Christianity today: as though the nation was founded without Christianity’s teachings.

Religious belief is part of the “non-curriculum” in public schools, something of an oddity. When it is shown, it is antiquated, out of style and pictured as an Amish family riding off to church perched in horse-drawn buggy. Clearly, the cultural center of gravity has shifted against us. Further, many of these attitudes were shaped by schools when we weren’t looking.

Public school classrooms treat religion with trivialization or neglect. Higher education is even more culpable. While believing professors self-consciously stay away from mentioning religion (let alone identifying themselves as such), their agnostic and atheist colleagues aggressively preach a pseudo-scientific world view in which religion is an embarrassing relic of our pre-enlightened past. In religion’s place, they teach the mixed, politically correct bag of tolerance for special group agendas, and socialist-leaning politics.

Both school children and college students are currently major targets for the “green earth” agenda. For example, in a recent article in Miller-McClune Magazine, a wonky research publication, Shahid Naeem, chairman of Columbia University’s department of ecology, evolution and environmental biology, elevates scientists as the new saviors of the world. His creed in a single word is biodiversity.

Naeem knows his science. But in his article he cites William Strutt’s painting “A Little Child Shall Lead Them.” The famous painting depicts the possibility of a peaceable kingdom where wolf, lamb and lion could live in harmony with man, or, in this case, a child. He assumes that the blonde haired child carrying a palm in this English painting is a little girl! The biblical idea is from Isaiah 11:6 or again in Isaiah 65:25: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat.”

Most Christians would see the little child as Jesus. Rather than assume the earth would return to the state of Eden, as the professor’s story would have it, we would take the meaning as the path to heaven, following the teachings of Jesus.

However, the biblical reference is his root and branch to the salvation of the world by biodiversity. Man’s domestication of earth (spelled with a capital E) threatens the future of life. A new environmentalism can save it. Eden shall return. This is a troubling twisting of Christian teaching. Our stories diverge. Our beliefs are different.

Meanwhile our children are taught this world view in public schools. Any divinity other than the sacred earth is ignored, shunned or denigrated. Morality becomes whatever conforms to their environmentalist game plan. Too many people polluting Mother Earth? Simple. Unrestricted abortions. Give away condoms and train children in their use. Capitalism eating up too many of Mother’s natural resources? Destroy capitalism through social engineering.

All of us are driven by belief, whatever makes up its teachings. Whether Catholic, terrorist, animal rights activists, earth worshippers, our beliefs drive our action.

It is our duty to push back when our beliefs, our faith, is marginalized. We can ask questions of teachers and administrators. We can witness our faith by taking a stand against the outrage of abortion. We can even be nice about it. Nice and firm!

Speaking out 50 years ago the late William F. Buckley Jr. reflected on the quality of education undergraduates received at Yale. His acclaimed book, “God and Man at Yale” showed how a school founded on religious belief was teaching atheism; a school funded by capitalist businessmen and ministers preached godless socialism. Buckley bucked the tide. God might not be dead yet at Yale, but close; and man (Homo sapiens) simply had a better spot on the evolutionary chart than the other animals.

Buckley revealed that, under the protection of academic freedom, departments taught whatever they wanted -- and what they, rather than the founders, trustees or alumni, believed. Professors would assiduously disparage the individual, glorify government, enshrine security and discourage self-reliance. And, again, much of this indoctrination took place against a godless worldview.

Overwhelmingly, the revolution at Yale (and we have no reason to believe it is much different on other campuses) was not a Marxist overthrow of existing elites, but rather a revolution which advocates a slow but relentless transfer of power from the individual to the state. Buckley was not a man to court popularity, but he, as a deeply committed Roman Catholic, spent his life pushing against the secular culture that surrounded him. Last year Buckley went to his reward.

The late Flannery O’Connor, the intensely Catholic writer, whose critical recognition grows yearly, echoed Buckley’s spirit. She wrote: “You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you.” This age is certainly pushing against Catholics. Having spent their lives pushing back, we imagine them dancing together in Heaven.

Who among us is going to push back?

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan edited “Why I Am Still a Catholic” [Riverhead Books, 1998] and live in Chestnut Hill, Mass.