We can think of at least two societal instances which, if fit the mold, can be referred to in terms of a swamp; government and religious institutions. Influential in each is the human mind and soul. The beginnings of the swamp in these contexts are not the result of natural laws but rather by the indiscretions of men and women who view themselves possessing an intuitive power that is beyond their capabilities. Based upon education, experience and reason alone, they believe they are endowed with the correct vision for all civilization. But if one did not make the widget, how does one know if it needs repair or if it, in fact, is not functioning as the maker intended?
The initial cause for the emergence of swamp conditions in governmental and the institutional church is the veering away from each institutions’ creed. A creed is a set of beliefs or aims that guide someone’s or a people’s actions. A creed is both altruistic and virtuous in that it seeks but only the common good. It bears witness to any who read it; who we are, why we are, and that for which we stand. Below are the creeds of United States of America and the Roman Catholic Church.
The American Creed is considered to be “The Declaration of Independence.” What follows is the document’s most familiar except.
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And in reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” to our flag, we, in great part, voice our commitment as citizens to that “The American Creed.”
“America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” – G.K. Chesterton
“The Apostles Creed” of the Catholic Church – (The Nicene Creed is the amplified form approved in 381 A.D. at the Council of Constantinople, and is recited by the faithful at each celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass.)
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
With the results of the 2016 election it has become quite apparent that many members of our governing body and non-elected bureaucrats have interests in mind other than those of the people. It is with an elitist attitude that these elected and non-elected believe they know what is best for the people, rather than the people themselves. That attitude is acceptable if liberty and justice are maintained. However, when the common good is not being served then neither liberty nor justice is evident. And that has clearly been displayed by politically correct one-way tolerance; which means intolerance for somebody. Common good has been replaced by might – makes – right. Disagreement is no longer resolved in democratic debate, but is rather silenced by the loudest voice or by plain old restraint. Thereby transforming liberty to slavery and justice to tyranny through the accepted practice of the double standard. When too many lose reverence for the creed of this nation then neither is achieved the common good of the people nor is maintained harmony among its citizens.
There is an ongoing tug of war in the Catholic Church between the conservative and liberal clergy and religious, of which I cannot fathom. Ever since the 2nd Vatican Council convened, the Church-which has always functioned as a balanced 3-legged stool of scripture, tradition and Church Magisterium-has lost its equilibrium through partisan misinterpretation. Intended or unintended, this misinterpretation of the council’s findings has blurred the Church’s identity. Thereby causing misunderstanding, confusion and unconventional practices among the faithful, resulting in a veering from church doctrine. Many of the faithful, having been adversely influenced by this tug of war, have become cafeteria Catholics. If all do not stand together, then many will fall away. And that is exactly what is happening. There are those in the church hierarchy who seek to make the church more world friendly, with hopes of increased attendance and converts. In so doing the church has, so to speak, watered down the Truth for which it was founded to conserve. Thereby diverting attention from its founder, Jesus Christ, to those custodians of that church. It has become the church of nice. But this effort to be world accepted contradicts Christ Jesus, Himself; “The world hates what is not its own. I am not of the world, therefore the world hates Me. I chose you out of the world. If the world hates me it will hate you also.” As Christians, when we stray from our creed, we stray from Him. When the world is not disparaging Church practices a red flag should arise. These circumstances create the conditions for the swamp in the church.
So, then, both government and church have creeds. If we do not adhere to those creeds we then are neither patriots nor disciples but rather heretics. We are not who we profess ourselves to be. To drain these swamps we must revert back to living those creeds with reverent practice. If not we will continue to intensify the chaos that has become our way of life. It will lead us further down a road from which there is no return. It is a road that has exited from our identities, our creeds. An exit from truth which results in lies. There truly are objective truths in this world. For the world was created in the light of objective Truth. A ship that breaches a certain point in taking on water truly will founder. Of all the hierarchies of life, man alone possesses the reason and logic to see the swamp for what it is and has the ability to change it for the better. With the change of a mind, a change in action follows. As one thinks, so one acts. As one acts, so one thinks. The hope is that both the thought and act are virtuous. But, that requires a change of heart. And only God, by His grace, can change a heart.
We can see that it is man himself who is the creator of these swamps. When he abandons his creeds he abandons virtue and altruism. What remains is the contrary; a separation from goodness, a separation from God. We are then left with corruption in the company of the Accuser, for there is no middle ground.
In a Stephen King novel, a new shop named “Needful Things” opens in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, sparking the curiosity of its citizens. The proprietor, Leland Gaunt, is a charming elderly gentleman who always seems to have an item in stock that is perfectly suited to any customer who comes through his door. The prices are surprisingly low, considering the merchandise – such as a rare Sandy Koufax baseball card, a carnival glass lampshade, and a fragment of wood believed to be from Noah’s Ark – but he expects each customer also to play a little prank on someone else in Castle Rock. Gaunt knows about the long-standing private grudges, arguments, and feuds between the various townspeople, and the pranks are his means of forcing them to escalate until the whole town is eventually caught up in madness and violence. – Wikipedia
In light of the story’s circumstances it would be quite reasonable for one to view Gaunt’s intent and actions as quite devilish. Gaunt, it must be noted, was not the cause of the mayhem that ensued, but simply the facilitator. For the devil has no power over the unwilling upright heart. Saint Paul warns us: “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The devil is most comfortable in the swamp. He instigates, manipulates then segregates. The division among citizens and the faithful creates chaos, uncertainty, partisanship and mistrust which eventually if left unchallenged will bring the nation and the institutional church subversives to ruin. Due to the corrosive effects of the swamp environment, nations do fall. However, what is true of a nation is not true of the Church. Archbishop Sheen tells us that: “Our Faith, is first and foremost in Christ, who lives in His mystical body the Church.” The Church, therefore, is Christ. That is why the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her, as told to us in Christ’s own infallible words. Proof of this is in the answer to the question: Where is Caesar? Statues of the great Caesars from Augustus to Romulus Augustus can be seen in Rome to this day. Yet there is no Caesar who reigns. However, also to be seen are the statues of all the Popes of the Church, beginning with Peter. Where is the pope of today? He remains in the Vatican.
The Church is like a building. And its clergy, religious and laity are custodians of the Church as a maintenance crew is the custodial staff to a building. Each custodial group has a standard by which they must operate, which is determined by the architect of the building or the Church, in order to maintain the purpose and integrity of each. When the maintenance crew and Church custodians veer from those standards then the purpose and integrity of the building and Church have been compromised. The building and Church each appears un-kept, soiled, run-down and in disarray. It is not the fault of the building for its unpleasant appearance, but that of the maintenance crew. So, too, it is not the fault of the Church that it has been undermined, but that of Her custodians. To restore the building’s, Church’s and, as well, the nation’s integrity, either their custodians return to their operating standards or those custodians must be replaced.
Man left to himself is incapable of cleansing the swamps in his life. For he is fallible. God, however, is infallible and can accomplish for man, that which he cannot accomplish himself alone. Christ has done so by way of a cross and an empty tomb. We have no choice but to live in the swamps that we or others have created through unbridled pride. But like the wheat that is left to grow among the weeds and is separated at harvest, so, too, can we be separated from our swamps. It is by following the way of that cross that we will discover that the tomb is no more than a womb, which opens to the end of all human trials and into the eternal place that has been prepared for those who have stayed faithful to the creed. A place where swamps are no more.
He who thinks himself liberated from his perceived restrictive creed, soon finds himself imprisoned in a swamp of his own making.