A Catholic Speaks at the Glenn Beck Rally
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the life of good deeds that God has prepared in advance . . .”
There is a struggle in our culture today between two visions of the world and our place within the world. On one side of the struggle, many people—especially many in the mainstream media, and in the elite places of government and academia—believe that the supreme good is autonomy or choice, and emphasize this to such an extent that they tend to deny any objective meaning and value in the world.
Each of the speakers tonight selected a text to comment on. I selected Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the life of good deeds that God has prepared in advance, that we should walk in them.” This text challenges us to rededicate ourselves to basic truths about God and our place in the world.
These people believe—or tend toward believing—that each of us has the right to fashion for himself what will be meaningful and valuable. On this view, there is no inherent meaning and value that we must adhere to. And so, on this view, it is a matter of choice who is and who is not worthy of respect and protection of our laws. It is a matter of choice that we can use or dispose of some human beings for the benefit or convenience of others.
On this view too, it is simply a matter of choice what marriage will be—whether it is between a man and a woman, whether it is between two or three, five or seven—because on this view marriage does not have an objective nature.
And on this view, since autonomy is more important than anything else, and public expressions of religion make some people uncomfortable, we have no actual duty to express gratitude in a public manner to a transcendent Creator.
But there is another vision of the world—and that is the vision that we are here tonight to represent and forthrightly proclaim. This is the vision expressed in the text from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the life of good deeds that God has prepared in advance, that we should walk in them.”
This text clearly affirms three things: First, God has created the world, we are not the creators—God is the Creator. Second, God has a plan for this world, and so we should try to conform our mind and conduct to God’s plan. And third, God has endowed this world with an objective meaning and value that is inherent within it. Autonomy is a good—but it is good only as a means, it is not the supreme good. We are not the creators of what is truly worthwhile, rather we discover and respond to the objective meaning and value that God has created in the world.
This basic truth is also affirmed in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . “
Therefore, since it is God, not us, who is the Creator of meaning and value in the world, we owe to God thanks and reverence for the great blessings he has given to us. And this is true of us not only as individuals but also as a country. This country has been truly blessed in countless ways. Truly, as the song says, America is beautiful, and God has shed his grace on her.
And therefore we have a solemn duty as a community to thank God publicly for his many blessings. Every chance we have we should be able to express publicly and clearly a prayer along the lines of the one that used to be said in public schools at the beginning of each day: ”Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.” This is not the establishment of religion or of any particular religion—it is simply an acknowledgment of a real communal debt.
Likewise, what marriage is, is not up to our choice—what marriage is, is not up to our whims, preferences or desires. Rather, marriage has an objective nature, and we as a community must respect the true nature of marriage. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, the sharing of lives bodily as well as emotionally and spiritually, in the kind of union that would be naturally fulfilled by having and raising children together. It is not within the prerogative of our autonomy, of our choice—and it is not within the prerogative of judicial fiat—to attempt to change the objective nature of marriage.
Concerning life: We as a nation, we as a community, must recognize the fundamental and equal inherent dignity possessed by every human being, simply in virtue of being a human being.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that ALL men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights—all human beings—not just those whose lives are convenient or non-burdensome to us—are endowed by their Creator with equal and inherent dignity and rights.
We must not place choice and autonomy above God-given unalienable rights. The culture that emphasizes autonomy to the exclusion of truth is a denial of the most basic principle upon which our country is founded, namely, all human beings possess an equal and inherent fundamental dignity, and no class of human beings can with justice enslave, use, experiment on, or deliberately kill, other innocent human beings for their own purposes.
This was the principle at stake in the 19th century with the issue of slavery and in the 20th century and is also at stake with the civil rights movement. This is the same principle that is at stake, in the central debates of our times about abortion and euthanasia. Just as all human beings, no matter what the color of their skin, deserve equal protection of the law, in the same way, all human beings, no matter what their age or degree of development, deserve equal protection of the law.
Thus, public gratitude to the Creator, the real nature of marriage, and the real basis of the equal dignity of all human beings—these are truths, not choices, these are truths, not optional creations by us. For we are God’s handiwork, and God is the Creator, and it is his plan that we are called on to live out.
Finally, Our Lord tells us that at the end of the world he will ask us what we did for the least of his brethren. Did we stand up for children who are being indoctrinated to think that religion is a mere private matter, and almost always hateful and bigoted?
Did we stand up for women and children who are gravely imperiled by the profound confusion concerning the true nature of marriage? And did we stand up for the defenseless unborn human beings who are being discarded in garbage cans or ripped to shreds in the name of autonomy?
So, let us resolve, with God’s grace, to respond with courage and urgency, to these profound injustices. May we, with God’s grace, and with the fellowship of each other, walk in the life of good deeds that God has prepared in advance.
Dr. Lee was invited by Glenn Beck and David as the Catholic speaker at the America’s Divine Destiny event held at the Kennedy Center on August 27 the day before the massive rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. In addition to Beck and Barton, head of Wallbuilders, other speakers included Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition, and Rev. Miles MacPherson, pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego. A sold-out crowd of 2,500 attended the Kennedy center event, which can be viewed here.
Dr. Patrick Lee is John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Institute of Bioethics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is nationally known as a pro-life speaker and debater.
Having taught at Franciscan University since 1984, Lee is the author of numerous articles and reviews as well as several books, including, with Robert P. George, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008 and Abortion and Unborn Human Life, Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1996.