I have been a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City for 38 years. I have also served in the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps as a chaplain for 20 of those years. Now, by God’s call, I have become a religious hermit, living alone, with and for Him.
Like all those who served our country in uniform, I raised my right hand from time to time and promised that, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. . . .” I did that freely and proudly, with every ounce of me, and I was present when others did the same. We told each other that that oath did not have an expiration date.
I served our country in war and in peace, afloat and ashore, and at home and abroad. I came close to death a few times on the battlefield with Marines, and close to injury a number of other times. I am proud to have served, and — most of the time — am happy that I survived. Sometimes, though, I do feel guilty that I am still living while others are not. I am not special. I am now “out of uniform” and am no longer called upon to defend our Constitution from “enemies foreign.” I am, however, as are all of us, called to defend the Constitution from “enemies domestic.”
I don’t watch much TV, nor do I receive a lot of newspapers, but what I do see and read causes me great alarm and fear. There are things going on in our country that are just plain wrong, just plain immoral and just plain sinful.
When I am asked to speak anywhere for the first time, I suggest to the people there that they “get involved in the life of our country. If you like things, let the right people know. If you don’t like things, let the right people know.” I say, “It is easy to contact, either by telephone, mail or e-mail, just about anybody who has anything to do with our day-to-day lives as Americans: the president, the vice-president, the Supreme Court justices, your senators, your federal representative, your governor, state senators and representatives, your mayor, your local school board, your local law enforcement, your TV and radio stations and the producers of our movies.”
Over 150 years ago at Gettysburg, President Lincoln said that we are a government “of the people, by the people, for the people. . . .” Today, we are still a democracy, and we need to remember those words and act upon them.
There are certain segments of our country today that are seeking to hijack America and her values and turn her and us into a nation of filth and pathological self-centeredness. Please, do not let them succeed by remaining complacent, quiet and still. The hijackers themselves certainly are not quiet or still.
Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Let those words be your guide.
Keep in mind, too, those Americans who are still in uniform today and going in harm’s way for the defense of our country and our values. Don’t allow the courage and the sacrifices of our service members and our other patriots, past and present, to have been given in vain. We are a democracy founded on good values whose framework is our Constitution. Get involved in the life of our country. Make your voices heard. Don’t let those hard-earned rights and strong values be torn away from us and replaced by lesser and harmful ones, very much to our own personal and national peril.
FATHER CREIDER is a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.