World Youth Day

by Rick Shrader

Colorado has been an interesting place to live in 1993. We’ve watched Amendment 2, Dan’s Bake Sale, Pat Schroeder’s hair style, and now World Youth Day. This last event has been the most amazing by far. 375,000 Catholics from 70 countries of the world came here to observe the Mass from their holiest priest. This is at a time when one in seven Americans born Catholic has left the Church and 100,000 Hispanics alone are leaving the Church every year. Yet this spectacle in Denver left even a casual observer with the impression that every Catholic believes that the church is a cause for rejoicing! The L. A. Times (8/16/93) reported, ‘‘It was the church at its most triumphant; a panorama of trumpet fanfares, large choirs, gospel music, prayers, incense and, of course, the pope himself.’’ All week long our local media fed us with pictures of cheering, applauding crowds of teenagers acting as though they were at a rock concert.

From the earthly side, the American side, I found myself also emotionally attracted to the Pope’s point of view. It was a constant pro-life, pro-morality message. I enjoyed yet grieved as the world’s most prominent religious person scolded the world’s most prominent political figure, our President, for his lack of concern for life and morality.  Too bad!

There were lots of interesting, behind-the-scenes occurrences also. The pictures of acres of trash; 15,000 people treated for various ailments at the Sunday Mass; two people dying of heart failure; thousands of young people dancing to blaring music in Mile High Stadium; and the fact that John Lemke was awarded the exclusive merchandising contract for the event (John Lemke also has the merchandising contract for the Rolling Stones’ concerts).

As a non-Catholic, born again believer, I have a major concern about this event. You, perhaps, have already experienced the concern while reading this article. You grieve over this country’s lack of morality yet you know true morality, the kind that is accepted by God, can only come through faith in Christ. We applaud the Pope for taking a pro-life stand yet he himself is unacceptable to God for his rejection of Christ by faith. This is not a new dilemma for believers of the age of grace. Believers in this age live in two realms. We have an earthly citizenship with other human beings made in God’s image (who are, therefore, governed by a God-consciousness) but we have a greater responsibility to a heavenly citizenship with those who are truly born again by faith. My concern over World Youth Day is the true Christian’s ability to keep these two citizenries in proper perspective.

In our day it seems that we are allured by the sirens of religious unity and togetherness, that to harken to these calls will bring about the advancement of both our kingdom and God’s. We hear the pope say, ‘‘Those young people now know that life is more powerful than the forces of death. They know that the truth is more powerful than darkness, that love is stronger than death.’’ A papal spokesman said, ‘‘I think the pope is constructing the future. He’s not fighting the past. He’s constructing the future, and for that he needs young people.’’ One Monsignor said, ‘‘It’s the rebirth of joy as a Christian virtue.’’

One evangelical writer (who professes to be born again) responded to this rhetoric by saying that these were ‘‘people who believe in and order their lives according to God’s word and his will.’’ And again, ‘‘The pope’s message was to reconsider the principles of scripture, the life of Christ and the teachings of the church that they might not walk down the same alley and be morally mugged.’’ But as born again believers, are we only concerned with temporal morality? Are we as concerned about people being ‘‘morally mugged’’ at the entrance to the heavenly kingdom as we are about this kingdom? Or do we know the difference? Have we forgotten that the ‘‘future’’ for which the pope is fighting may be one that the Bible calls a ‘‘Great Harlot?’’ Columnist Jeffrey Hart observed (8/12/93) of World Youth Day, ‘‘In John Paul II we are in the presence of a world-historical figure who seized the moment for enormous change. Because of him, I think there is going to be a strong and global Catholic movement. His church will fill the vacuum.’’

Again, if the pope scored some points for moral restraint in this worldly kingdom, we will all benefit and I, for one, will be grateful. But my concern remains. As I watched the week’s activities, I saw a real moral contradiction. Here were Catholic people, mostly young people, who love their moral freedom cheering a church asking of them moral restraint! Here was a media, normally condemning of religion, pouring on the compliments ad nauseam! And here was a President (and various other political figures), who is systematically destroying any semblance of moral order in our country, literally and figuratively embracing the mission of a religious body. And this was more than obvious! Teenagers were screaming, people were treated for hyperventilation, Catholics were dancing in the streets! Yet a USA Today! poll of Catholics 30-49, showed that 89% use birth control, 57% have sex out of wedlock, 71% believe in divorce and 71% do not go to confession. Then why the celebration?

Columnist Don Feder writes (8/16/93) that he thinks the contradiction is due to so many Catholics merely being born into Catholicism and so few really adhering to the church’s creeds. But wait a minute! Being brought into the church as an infant is the church’s creed! And this is my point. Catholics are not believers by faith, they are members of an organization. They were born that way! The falseness in their doctrine is that you inherit eternal life from the church because you were baptized into it as a child.

In the Catholic church you can have your religion and your fun too! It is a religion tailor-made for Adam’s progeny. You’re born into salvation! Live as you like! The church is flexible and is able to take you to heaven at no expense to you. (This was vividly illustrated during the pope’s 10th African pilgrimage the week before, when he told African believers in voodoo that they wouldn’t have to betray their faith by converting to Christianity!) So go ahead, abort your babies. Have sex with whom you will. You were born a Catholic and you will remain a Catholic! What a great church!

And, I think, it was that realization that brought rejoicing to Catholics, Liberals and even the otherwise contrary news media. Now watch some right-wing, fundamentalist type go mess it up by preaching the need for personal faith in Jesus Christ to be morally right before God!