In the vault of modern political oratory is a speech of one senator in the 1960's quoting George Bernard Shaw: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’ ” There are noble dreams, such as those of our nation's Founding Fathers, right up to the last century's civil rights movement. Jacob saw a ladder to heaven in a dream. But dreams can also be the sugar-coated nihilism of John Lennon's song Imagine, which is still dear to the hearts of the mindless.
The Risen Christ ate food to show the Apostles that He was not just a dream, and so the Lenten preparation for the Feast begins with hard reality: “You are dust.” This is an alarm clock that awakens us from moral slumber, and we have been slumbering a lot in our culture. The surest way to guarantee that evil can happen here is to say that evil cannot happen here. God constantly posits a choice between life and death, precisely because both are real, even for those who dream of existence with neither heaven nor hell and “only sky.”
Recent attempts of the Health and Human Services Department to promote a culture of death by violating the Constitutional right to free exercise of religion are in part the work of public officials who have boasted of their admiration for a bad dreamer: Saul Alinsky. That strategist for “community organizers” insisted that there is no objective truth. Pope Benedict XVI would call this the “dictatorship of relativism.” Alinsky, as the common man's Machiavelli, used this relativism to approve of corruption in public officials as a matter of policy, the justification of unethical means to achieve ends and the destruction of any opposition. Alinsky's guide book, Rules for Radicals, is prefaced with a tribute to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.”
While some journalists would give the impression that the government mandates are all about contraception, they also cover sterilization and abortifacients. Many Christians themselves do not understand the moral implications of artificial birth prevention as explained in Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae. In 1968 his prophetic warnings were widely ridiculed as nonsense: moral breakdown, increased infidelity and illegitimacy, pornographic exploitation of women by men. Then he asked: “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring what they believe to be the most effective contraceptive methods and from mandating that everyone must use them, whenever they consider it necessary?”
Who will prevent them? Only those wise enough to distinguish between noble dreams and nightmares. They will know what many utopian dreamers do not know: The voice in Shaw's play Back to Methuselah that spoke of dreams that never were and asked “Why not?” was the Serpent in the Garden.
The Rev. George W. Rutler is the pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City. His latest book, Cloud of Witnesses, is available from Scepter Publishing