Monday, June 04, 2012
One need only study American history to realize that the blessings of liberty have been purchased at a great price. The founding of this nation, her imperfect accommodation with slavery, the tragic internecine conflict which followed, and the next 100 years, has taught any student that liberty must never be presumed and the rights bestowed upon the human person by God are not automatically respected by his fellow man.
Those of us in the pro-life movement are reminded of this reality daily. We shake our heads in disbelief that otherwise intelligent people would allow, permit, sanction and even promote the systematic slaughter of innocent pre-born children. We read about the continued assault upon women by abortionists, the abortion industry, selfish abusive partners and are frustrated by the lack of concern by the press, government officials and those in authority. We get even more upset when those who should know better turn a blind eye and ignore our pleas for help.
Watching the new move, “For Greater Glory,” the story of the conflict in Mexico in the 1920s, I was struck by the similar problems, the similar themes and the similar consequences that arise when to recall the word of Edmund Burke, “good people do nothing.”
For those unfamiliar with the Cristero War that brutalized the Mexican landscape in the 1920s, the government of atheist Plutarco Elias Calles sought to suppress the Catholic Church in Mexico by passing and enforcing draconian laws designed to destroy religious belief in Mexico. At first priests were deported and religious services were forbidden. Then when the people resisted, wholesale persecution of those who attempted to live their faith ensued. When peaceful non-violent resistance was suppressed, open armed rebellion followed. The move is a faithful rendition of what happened.
I saw the film this weekend and was moved by the power of the people to resist the onslaught of the government. Both as entertainment and as history the story held my attention. The acting was excellent and the courage of the director not to soften the message about those tragic times must be commended. The personal stories of the men and women involved were brought to life by the actors and one could not avoid feeling the pain and sometimes the anger of the characters as the story played out on screen.
It has not been lost on anyone with a pulse the parallels between what the atheistic government tried and in some ways succeeded doing in Mexico and our current problems with the Obama administration concerning the HHS Mandate and the effort to force Catholics and other believers into violating their rights of conscience and right to exercise their religious freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment. Aside from the obvious sympathy the movie give to the believers (something that with no doubt attract the scorn of the mainstream theatrical critics). The movie asks the viewer to considerif freedom is important. The main character wrestles with his own set of standards and ultimately is moved by the sacrificial love and devotion of those who paid the ultimate price to defend these inalienable rights. One leaves the theater so very appreciative of the system of laws in place that allow us to argue and defend or rights – at the same time realizing that if we are not vigilant, they can be taken away by a power that can intimidate and cajole simultaneously.
The movie does not explain to the viewer that for the next 70 years the party of Calles ruled Mexico with an iron hand and that whatever accommodations made to end the war were not completely honored by the Mexican government. The corruption that has been long associated with past administrations has only served to remind us of the legacy that is mired in the sins of past generations. But the lessons to those who watch the film are clear and bear repeating. We must remain vigilant if we are to protect our freedoms. We cannot presume that government will not seek to expand its control of people’s lives. We cannot ignore what is happening to those who are least able to defend themselves. We must stand up for the right to life and to liberty not just for ourselves but for our fellow brothers and sisters, no matter their status or station in life. We must take seriously our duty to become informed and then to vote for those candidates who will respect rights of conscience, the right to life and the right to religious freedom. And we must hold our candidates accountable so that they do not take our concerns for granted. They must understand that there are first principles that are more important that security, than money, than status or power.
Everyone who loves a good movie will enjoy “For Greater Glory.” Dean Wright, the director does an excellent job of telling a verycompelling story. Andy Garcia and the cast bring the characters to life. Without revealing a particular part of the story, I must also add that the young man playing Jose has a great future as an actor. He was so believable and so genuine as to bring tears to this father’s eyes. The touching scene with the veteran actor Peter O’Toole, who plays an old priest, is one of the archives.
There are many who tout the concept of “American Exceptionalism” and many who deride the whole notion that we in the United States are somehow “special.” Indeed there is enough history of the good and bad in the 236 years since our founding to give everyone plenty of ammunition. But one thing cannot be denied even by the most ardent foe of America. Our founding principles recognize the inherent dignity of man. Our founding documents, however imperfectly implemented, recognize that these rights were given to us from Almighty God. It is this reason alone that vanquishes the argument that somehow there cannot be any recognition of God in our law. Our charter, the Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution presuppose the existence and the sovereignty of God. These founding principles also resume the rights of the people to direct the government to protect and nurture these rights.
We still have the right to speak freely, to protest, to assemble, to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and to worship both within our churches and synagogues and outside them as well. But we cannot be complacent. For there are forces at work ho would take away our right to worship publicly, and to express our religious beliefs in our actions. There are those who do not believe that religious ideas have any place in the public square. There are those who would dictate what “is” religious expression.
Exercise your right to act. Go see “For Greater Glory.” Be inspired by the courageous actions of ordinary men and women who put their love of God and country above political security. Then join freedom loving Americans throughout the country us at 12 Noon on June 8 around the country for a second Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally. Finally get involved and make a difference in your community.
Viva Cristo Rey.