Saturday, February 20, 2010

Truth or Tin Foil

Well-meaning people forward emails to me everyday. Some of them are funny. Many are political. Depending on the sender, I either peruse them or hit delete. The quickest to the trash are those that question my patriotism if I don’t forward them or promise some reward if I forward them to eight people and back to the sender.

Being a rather conservative Catholic, I share concern with those dismayed by many policies put forth by our current administration. Nevertheless, I get tired of the constant stream of negativity being passed around cyberspace. Yes, we have many things to be concerned about, especially the culture of death, relativism, moral decay, secularism, religious persecution. All of these things threaten our future, but real problems can be obscured by extremists who circulate wild conspiracy theories that often have little basis in reality.

Some conservatives have become obsessed trying to prove our current president is not an American citizen and therefore ineligible to hold the office. It seems like I get an email most everyday containing some new wrinkle about Obama’s birth certificate, his connections to Islam, or his disdain for the military. The smears are endless and merely provide distractions from what really should concern us about his policies. Of course, the leftists did the same thing to President Bush, accusing him of masterminding 9-11 and other ridiculous charges.

We are all aware that many bad things happen in this world. It is nothing new. Evil has been present since the fall of man. We may find new inventive ways of spreading it, but it has always been around. I am not suggesting evil should be ignored, but some people seemed to be obsessed by it to the point where all they see is doom and gloom. We will never see the light by focusing on the darkness.

Our pastor recently handed me a book called Spiritual Dangers of the 21st Century by Rev. Joseph M. Esper. He said, “Read this. There are things in there that will curl your hair.” I took it home and read it. My hair is still fairly straight, maybe a little wavy now. Father Esper writes about the seven deadly sins and how they affect our society. He points out many of the attacks that have occurred on our religious freedom, especially directed at Catholics and other Christians. He warns us of a persecution we are facing. This is a serious concern, but I also found parts of his book to be a little disconcerting.

Some of his dire warnings are based on private revelations discounted by the local bishop, and conspiracy-friendly authors. He focuses much attention on the abuse of modern technology and government intrusion in our lives. He cites articles, some of them from wacko websites, warning of chips being implanted in babies, behavior altering chemtrails being sprayed over metropolitan areas, space-based laser-generating satellites projecting images of Satan’s agent Maitreya in the sky, extra low frequency wave emissions making people think they are hearing the voice of God, and other foolishness. I was beginning to wonder if Father Esper might wear a tin foil biretta. Even the remote possibility that some of these things may be technically feasible does not mean they pose an imminent danger, or even warrant mention in what is otherwise a good synopsis of where we are and where we may be headed.

The Internet provides a platform for anyone to say anything. No longer does one need a discerning publisher or a soapbox in the public square to be heard. Anyone can publish a blog viewable instantly all over the world. Despite the widespread access, much of it finds only a small audience of gullible people to take it seriously. Father Esper cited some of these sources, possibly giving them more credibility than they deserve. He included many footnotes, but questions arose in my mind about the legitimacy of some sources. For example, on page 82, he says, “another estimate suggests that a thousand Christians a day give their lives for Christ.” Wow! Where did that estimate come from, I wondered. The footnote contains a reference to a book by a Christian economist known for his warnings about the Y2K collapse that never happened. The estimate may or may not be accurate. It simply comes from another man’s book.

Serious concerns become diluted when mixed with speculation and unlikely scenarios. I do not doubt that we have many problems facing us as Christians in a secular society, but I grow weary of all the pessimism permeating Christian thought these days. Those choosing the darkened path will not likely be swayed by warnings of peril. Yes, we must be aware of the evil around us, but we should not appear hopeless. We navigate the darkness by following the light. We need to live our Faith in a way that draws others to the beacon of Christ, who gave us a Church and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.