A Religion of Losers

The recent national elections left a great many priests and other pro-life believers in the position of feeling like losers. With prayer and encouragement and many other efforts many had hoped that pro-life candidates would be elected. They were not. Particularly bitter was the knowledge that many Catholics and even some religious violated their consciences and voted for those who support in the most unqualified way the murder of innocent unborn children and even those who are partially born.

Political leaders were also elected who support various other measures which are certainly calculated to undermine family life, which is already weakened in the United States. A very good argument could be made for the events of the past months being the beginning of the decline of the United States that will lead us down the same path that Western Europe has traveled.

Many devout Catholics -- and, in fact, many devout people -- prayed fervently that pro-life candidates would be elected. Despite the predictions and prejudice of the media, they continued to pray right up to the eve of the elections.

The question is: Are we all losers and did God permit us to lose? The answer is, ''yes.'' Christianity is a religion of those who lose. It is the only religion in the world that worships God as a suffering and dying man. It is the only religion in the world that has a sign of death -- the cross -- as its symbol. We often forget that the crucifix is the emblem of ultimate defeat and failure.

Because we know the events of the passion and death of Christ so well we have come to think of them as a sacred drama, when, in fact, they were a terrible human defeat. It is, however, a defeat with the most paradoxical conclusion.

St. Paul saw the irony of this defeat and spoke of it eloquently in the fourth chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians. ''For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake . . . . To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become and are now, as the refuse of the world. . . .''

The most important fact about Christianity is that it succeeds through failure. God wins by having His followers lose. When it became obvious that many Christians and even Catholics were willing to endanger their immortal souls by voting for open infanticide, then we should have known that we were likely to lose, but for several reasons we will ultimately win with God.

First of all, no one tampers with the natural law and gets away with it. The 20th century is filled with those who decided to fight the law of God and who came to tragic ends -- often in ways that echo the Old Testament.

In the past when civilizations openly defied the law of God and the respect that was due to individual human beings, however helpless they might be, sooner or later they brought the wrath of God down upon themselves. Years ago in catechism we used to speak of the sins that cry to heaven for judgment; one of them was willful murder.

And so there is no reason to be discouraged. One might, in fact, prepare to watch the enemies of the divine law undermine their own efforts in the years ahead. The day they win, they begin to lose.

It is no time for discouragement on the part of clergy or the people they lead. It is a time for renewed effort even if that is not popularly received. One of the greatest saints is called ''a voice crying in the wilderness.''

The mystery of the cross reminds us not only of the humility of God but of the iniquity that human beings are capable of -- even out of complete ignorance and stupidity. We priests face a world that is filled with deception. America has been deceived before -- by slavery, by the abuse of its economic system and prosperity -- and it is being deceived now. Good people are being deceived all the time.

It is the special calling of the clergy of the Catholic Church to be voices against deception, to preach in season and out of season, to be prepared to be misunderstood and even to suffer, because, when all is said and done, the truth will absolutely win out; the voice of God will be heard. It may take time. As the old proverb of the Romans went, ''The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.'' TP