Combating Islam and Secularism

Combating Islam and Secularism

The Catholic Church faces two formidable challenges today, from Islam and from secularism. The responses needed to these two are not unrelated.

The adherents to Islam are intensely dedicated to Mohammed, and to the book he claims to have received from God, the Quoran. Yet, several books have recently been published abut Moslems who have become Christians—Evangelicals and even Catholics: From Islam to Christ, by Derya Little; Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi; The Price to Pay, by Joseph Fadelle; and Hiding in the Light, by Rifqa Bary. All four of these, written by people from Moslem societies in different countries (Turkey, Iraq, United States and Sri Lanka), give similar pictures of the people in the societies in which they grew up.

All four report intense dedication to Mohamed and the Quoran, yet Qureshi (in another book, Answering Jihad) is insistent that very few Moslems are given to Jihadism, and we should make a careful distinction between these, and not treat peace-loving Moslems differently from other American citizens. Yet, the fanatical Moslems refuse to allow the peaceful ones to remain that way; they insist that all become jihadists, and they point to verses in the Quoran that say that Allah requires this from all Moslems.

From all four books, we detect certain elements in common:

  • The intense loyalty to Mohammed; all Moslems praise him and seek to imitate him;
  • This is not due to intellectual conviction, but rather to the pressure of a society in which they have been raised from birth, and which enters into every aspect of their lives and, gives meaning to their lives;
  • Becoming a Moslem is a simple matter of saying a short formula of words, acknowledging Allah and Mohammed, while one has internal acceptance of their meaning;
  • Their most conspicuous actions are praying five times a day, and fasting during daylight hours during the sacred lunar month of Ramadan;
  • The daily activities of Moslems are regulated by a legal code known as Sharia, some provisions of which disallow freedom of speech, allow male domination of women, and authorize amputation of limbs, whipping, or stoning, as punishment for some offenses;
  • The level of seriousness in applying these rules depends on the interpretation by the local imam (a prayer leader at the mosque) who can vary considerably by country, and for city versus rural;
  • In Iraq, a Moslem who was convinced of Catholic truth, and sought baptism, was rejected by the Church because of fear that he might be an agent sent to deceive them, and an entire congregation would face arrest;
  • Although a large percentage of Moslems claim to favor Sharia law, Qureshi states (Answering Jihad) that when they consider individual provisions, many of them change their minds;
  • Moslems fear to examine the sayings of the Quoran that forbid any questioning, since death is the penalty for violating this precept;
  • Members of one’s own family would not hesitate to be the executioners;
  • The words of the Quoran are simply taken at face value, and not considered in their implications;
  • Very few Moslems make an examination of the Quoran, and compare it with other writings, but very often those who do, become followers of Jesus Christ rather than Mohammed;
  • They do not consider any other religion unless they first come to see Mohammed as a man who lived an immoral life, who was cruel and self-serving, not at all worthy of imitation;
  • Women, especially, are repelled when they discover his attitude toward, and treatment of, women;
  • Moslems will not examine the Quoran, and compare it with the New Testament gospels unless they are led there by some dedicated Christian, who may even take enormous risk in leading them to this.

That last statement is what leads us to a consideration of the other threat to Catholicism, which is secularism; there are simply very few Catholics who have a dedication to Jesus Christ that matches the dedication that Moslems have to Mohammed. Yet, of the two challenges to Catholics today, secularism is the more dangerous. Secularism is leading us to ignore Christ and His Church, and we have an obligation to make these uppermost in our lives, regardless of whether there is an external threat like Islam.

The effort must have a strong emphasis on young people, since they are the ones most willing to respond to a challenge. First, it is necessary to gain their attention, then to win their allegiance in the face of attractions to entertainment, and to sex, pervasive in the surrounding culture, then to transform thinking into action which will solidify these gains. It will have to be accomplished by the example of those already dedicated, and carried out in the parish, the school and, especially, in the family. Young people will need a motive, a leader, and recommended actions, and the Catholic Church has all of these.

Action must come early in the process because that’s what’s needed in order to gain attention, something that arouses notice, and that people can then do themselves. In this case, the first required action is attendance at Sunday Mass. Parents must, themselves, return to Mass, and bring their children with them. Besides being the perfect form of worship of God the Father, it is also the action which brings to us the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ to strengthen our spiritual life. Scott Hahn’s book, The Lamb’s Supper, can help communicate an understanding of what the Mass truly is, and the meaning of the words and actions during Mass.

The homilies delivered at the Mass must communicate the motivations—reverence for Jesus Christ as Son of God; the purpose of our life; and the realization that Mass is the re-presentation of Christ’s voluntary sacrifice on the cross, that won for us the opportunity for salvation. Homilies must also communicate our responsibility for evangelizing others, and inspire us to work and pray for our own salvation, and for the conversion of others. And they must make very clear that God is offended by our sins, and what actions are actually sinful, including the ones that secularism attracts us to, such as contraception, which has led our culture to accept same-sex marriage and transgenderism.

Our main objective here must be that of promoting the person Jesus Christ as truly the Son of God. We have the evidence—His claims to be God; the proof provided by His miracles; the testimony of His chosen witnesses, the Apostles; and the copies we have today of their writings from a few decades after Christ’s death. Modern miracles at Lourdes and Fatima are strong confirmation of God’s approval of this.

Especially, we must call attention to the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It was a huge surprise to the world of the first century, and is just as much of a surprise to the secularist world of today. But, again the evidence is there—the consistent teaching of the twelve men who had seen Him alive after His resurrection, and their proclamation of this in the face of persecution, torture, and death. Add to this the negative items of evidence—the empty tomb; the failure of Christ’s opponents to find His body; the obviously false statement that the Apostles stole the body while the guards were asleep; the charge that the Apostles were gullible, when in actuality they were reluctant to believe; the claim that a myth had developed about Christ, although myths take much longer to develop than the seven weeks between Easter and Pentecost.

All of this can convey a strong sense of Christ’s power, leading to faith in Him as God. But it is also necessary to communicate a sense of His goodness, the fact that He cares about us. The evidence for this is twofold—the fact that the majority of His miracles were for healing the sick and the disabled; and His voluntarily suffering a torturous death to gain salvation for all members of the human race. The essence of that salvation is eternal happiness, in itself a very strong motivation for courage and right action on our part.

Faith in Christ must be strengthened by daily communication with Him, actually conversing with Him in a two-way conversation, which is prayer, and this is the second of three actions that must be taken. It is helpful to follow the suggestions in Romano Guardini’s book, The Art of Praying, which presents practical methods of prayer, so that we may develop a facility in how to converse with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

All this should prompt us to the third action, which is to make necessary, and even some voluntary, sacrifices to gain eternal life for ourselves, and to show gratitude to Christ for giving us that opportunity. An important element of that sacrifice can be fasting from the amount of food we eat, or the types of food we eat. Young people want a challenge, The Church gave up the forty-day Lenten fast in the middle of the twentieth century, and it would be difficult to return to that immediately. But we could introduce a lesser schedule of fasting by bringing back the ember days, three days of fast and abstinence—Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the same week—four times a year—during Advent, during Lent, following Pentecost, and near the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September fifteenth. And we should also reintroduce and make mandatory Friday abstinence.

A regular practice of fasting would certainly strengthen the character, the resolve, of all Catholics who participate. It would give each of us a sense of standing out, of solidarity, of willingness to be recognized as Catholics, and convey to the world around us an awareness of Catholic dedication. It would do this by making use of an action that one cannot avoid—the act of eating several times a day.

Such actions require explicit motivation which should be centered on Jesus Christ, the God of power and of goodness, whose willingness to suffer in order to redeem us, should be presented in such a way as to arouse a generous response from us, to strive earnestly to achieve the salvation He wants to give us, to make sacrifices that can be associated with His, and to lead other people to make the same response.

Centering our motivation on Jesus Christ, requires getting to know Him better, which one can do by studying His life as proclaimed in the four gospels, thinking carefully just how each incident has an application for us in our own lives. We can talk with Him about what He wants us to do, and this two-way communication is the essence of prayer, which we should do several times a day, morning and evening, and as we move from one task to another. Praying the rosary, thinking about the incidents mentioned in each mystery, and the motives of the people acting there, is also an assist to understanding the life of Christ. While we need to concentrate on the life of Christ presented in the four gospels, we should also become familiar with the Old Testament, starting with the historical books, so that one might gain an appreciation of how Christ’s coming is the long-awaited fulfillment of a divine promise that was slowly revealed. A helpful work is Every Catholic’s Guide to the Sacred Scriptures, from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Growth in understanding Christ,, and His teaching can be advanced by training in apologetics, which present the reasons behind Catholic teaching. Patrick Madrid has written several books that can be helpful for this, including How to Do Apologetics. A recent book by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., Saved—A Bible Study Guide for Catholics, takes an apologetics approach to Bible study, mostly from the gospels and epistles, but with some Old Testament indicators.

Prayer and apologetics can work together to develop the motivation for our own spiritual life, and to give us the reasons we need to present the Faith to others.

All of this should be augmented by encouragement to become familiar with the lives of saints and of our contemporaries who make sacrifices to follow Christ, to follow through on this by watching EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) and by listening to Catholic radio.

Of the three initial action items—frequent and regular participation in the Mass, prayer and fasting—two are practices also observed by Moslems, and both of these were very likely adopted by Mohammed from Catholics and Jews in seventh-century Arabia. The Mass, of course, is uniquely Catholic, and it is the highest form of prayer to God the Father.

This entire program is directed at awakening an enthusiasm for Christ, and His Church, that will motivate everyday Catholics to bring the Faith to others, including Moslems. More importantly, it can inspire us to grow in our own spiritual life as the means to our salvation. This return-to-basics approach to Catholic living is needed to help us stand firm against Islam when it tries to force others to accept it and to join it, while also regaining our culture from the inroads of secularism that has deceived us into living the secularist way of life, while thinking erroneously that it is really Catholic.

Don MurrayAbout Don Murray
After earning a degree in English literature at Fordham University, Mr. Don Murray served as a photo interpreter with the U.S. Air Force, and as a part-time reporter and editor for a Catholic club newspaper. His major career occupation consisted of providing the technical assistance for IBM’s computer marketing. For the past dozen years, he has been a speaker with the Catholic Evidence Guild in New York, giving street talks, leading classes in apologetics, writing apologetic tracts, magazine articles and letters to newspaper editors regarding Catholic issues. His voice has been heard on Radio Maria, Answers Radio and the Sirius radio channel of the New York Archdiocese. He lives in Manhattan.

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