by Father Todd Riebe
Commentators are already busy debating what it all means. Democrats blame it on the "Bush years" and Republicans blame it on Obama's 'misguided' policies and independents have the luxury of blaming it on both!
The poll gives us some insight into our 'American soul' and is an opportunity to do some serious 'soul searching'. Things aren't going well and not primarily, I would venture, because of the policies of Bush or Obama. Things aren't going well because all is not well with the state of the American soul. We are by nature an optimistic people. Europeans have long looked at us as being naive and having a 'Pollyana' type optimism. It's part of our charm, but it has also been a force that has kept us going in difficult times.
It would seem that that optimism is waning thin these days. The more we have moved away from the core values that have identified us as a people, we lose that sense of trust in the future toward which our optimism has always propelled us.
Part of the shift that we have seen taking place in the American soul is the popular idea that a person can be 'spiritual' without being 'religious'. The truth is that spirituality and religion are two sided of the same coin. Religion without spirituality is empty ritual. Spirituality without religion separates the 'being' in whom our spirits are connected from any objective truth. Spirituality without religion can easily lead to creating God in our own image and likeness rather than opening ourselves to being recreated in the image and likeness of God. We become free to do whatever we feel like doing. Truth becomes what each person wants it to be.
The American soul has been 'infected' by this separation and so many of the traditional values that we prided ourselves on as a people and that brought us happiness (family, discipline, respect, temperance, civility) have gone by the wayside. The picture admittedly looks bleak. But for people of faith, there is a supernatural optimism that survives a mere natural optimism. For that reason I continue to believe that the invitation, "Catholics, Come Home" is going to sound better and better to more and more people in coming years. Often times teens run away from home and then discover that what they ran away from were the very things for which they most long. The Church will be here and, as we like to say, "The lights will be on for you!"
In God's love,