Word Magazine April 1960 Page 8-9
By Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
Under the caption “God and the American People”, an article appeared in the Ladies Home Journal disclosing the results of a survey sponsored by the Journal. The survey had for its purpose the determination as to how real is the religious faith that underlies our democracy since democracy is the product of religion.
The survey carried from coast to coast and disclosed that 95 percent of the American people think that they believe in God; 76 percent described themselves as church members. To the question, “Do you ever pray?” 90 percent answered, yes, 56 percent specifying frequently. Indeed 74 percent said that they had thought about God or religion during the preceding 24 hours.
But what kind of God?
Answers to this question ranged from, “He is the giver of all things and our Creator,”—”God is a spirit within the individual,” to “He is a force with intelligence.” It is notable that only 26 percent of the people think of God in intimate relation to their lives. The remainder seem to regard Him as an impersonal intellect that designed the atom and administers the law of gravitation.
The striking fact is that nearly three quarters of the American people do not consciously connect religion with their adult judgments of right and wrong. The partition which we erect between our religious convictions and our worldly affairs is conspicuously revealed by the question, ‘Would you say your religious beliefs have any effect on your ideas of politics and business?” To this, 54 percent said, no: 39 percent, yes; and seven percent didn’t know.
The above survey leads us to believe that there are several factors which hinder the flow of righteous living and retard the Kingdom of God from coming into the lives of men. The foremost factor is ignorance of one’s standing, of self-knowledge. Most people most certainly, though unconsciously, practice self-deception. Pride and complacency lead them to the belief that they are as good as the next person. They have no discerning sense between right and wrong. A man may be wise in many ways, above the average in education, social standing and economic matters, but if he isn’t wise unto salvation, that is, if he lacks the knowledge that God has first claim on his life, it will profit him nothing.
I often think of the dense and impenetrable darkness prevailing in the lives of many people due to ignorance and pride. I often grieve over the hidden hunger in the souls of men. People who are actually undernourished spiritually, starve because they lack a sense of need for God. The need is there and is felt. The urge is ever-present but it is stifled, covered, and smothered. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God,” was the cry of an ancient prophet coming from a heart feeling deeply the need of God’s satisfying presence. Happy, yes, thrice happy is the person who seeks to satisfy the deep longing, that craving in the soul of man which can only be satisfied by God’s Holy Spirit alone. Christ said. “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” (MATT. 5:6). There is a hidden hunger in every person for that satisfying, life-giving, empowering force, for the water of life, for that stream which gushes from the very heart of God to the heart of any person who meets the conditions.
Second, another thing that hinders progress in the Christian life is indifference with a capital “I”. Indifference finding its way into the life of any person will utterly destroy his efficiency. Nothing gets a person down as badly as that hideous spirit—to believe that what goes on here and abroad is not our concern.
I met a minister at the Kiwanis Club some time ago and when I asked what he was doing, he replied that he is attending strictly to his own business and the rest is not of any concern to him. I thought then and there that this is indeed an evidence of indifference in its worst form, for one’s business, no matter what that business is, concerns the welfare of all people. If my ministry is to prosper and be effective, my activities should extend beyond the confines of my church or my home, else I would discover that my ministry is deteriorating, decaying, drying up.
People will have a mind to work when they are different and not indifferent. Look around and see how some people are actively and gladly serving in their clubs, churches and lodges and try to discover the reason. High sense of responsibility and proper attitude on life are the driving incentives. One’s life, in order to be useful and fruitful, having drive and devotion, must be activated by the belief that he owes the world something, that he came into a world which was already here, and in whose progress and welfare others have contributed of their times and means, and even given their lives. The heritage to which we became heirs, whether church, school, home or business, were the results of hard work and sacrificial living on the part of those who came before us.
The third reason for our consideration which hinders progress in the Christian life is secularism, or inordinate affections for the material to the exclusion of everything else. To make out of material things a rival god, to be intensely gripped by sensuality, fleshly pleasure, to evaluate everything in terms of dollars and cents and material possessions, is one blind alley which leads to no where — except despair.
Consider if you will and visualize the people who are most unhappy, the dejected, dispirited, disheartened are not the poor in material matters, but those whose whole being vibrate to the tune of the dollar’s ring, those whose sole purpose is the accumulation of wealth. The reason for our unhappiness and misery is not wealth itself, but rather the love of it which the Bible characterizes as the “root of all evil”. In other words, the root of all evil springs from ungodly, unnatural, inordinate love for money or its equivalent. The reason is obvious. One would then have driven a wedge, created a barrier between himself and God on the one hand, and between himself and his fellow human beings on the other. Why? Because he had parted company with God. God to him is a partner and deserves recognition only as He dishes out more wealth, but he is willing and ready to deny God if he thinks God has gone back on him. The same thing is true relative to man, he is one’s friend as long as he is useful and profitable in material matters, but once that has been removed, there won’t be any more friendship.
How very different we discover other people who are happy, though poor, who set their love and affection upon God, whose very lives are fountains of love, happiness, and good will, who visualize the world as their parish, which affords them an opportunity for service, ever breathing good will to all and sundry. The reason for this is the fact that they set their love upon God and man and they feel their indebtedness to both. Their lives radiate truth, kindness, consideration and friendship. In other words, they have what money cannot buy and without which money can buy nothing. Such people are not only blessed, but they are a blessing to all with whom they come in contact. They are loved not because of what they have, but rather are loved because of what they are. Surely, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are they which hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.”
Joseph Addison once said, “A contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world.” That this is true, we are quite ready to believe, but the sad fact is that there are many people who never attain that much-to-be-desired state of mind called peace and contentment. What is to be done about it? What is the way to find a genuine peace and contentment in life? I have noted that those who have found the most abiding peace and contentment acquired it through religious faith. The amazing thing about these people is that even in the presence of adversity and hardship, they have managed to preserve within their hearts a deep joy and unquenchable delight in living.
When you live close to God, believing He watches over you and guides you, and when you earnestly try to do His will, you will get a deep, profound conviction that “Whatever happens, happens for the best.” You have no fear nor anxiety, no petulance with incorrigible conditions, no deep, dark pessimism about the future. You simply have a sublime and trusting faith that in His own way, if you do your part earnestly in sincerity, God will take care of you.
Listen to the Divine promise. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” PSALM 91: 14-16.