As I argue in Part I of this article, blindness to God has a profound impact on our understanding of the dignity of persons and inevitably leads to attacks upon human beings.
Consider as an example the recent court case in Reno, Nevada: 32 year old Elisa Bauer has the mental capacity of a 10 year old and through unknown circumstances she became pregnant. Her adoptive parents/guardians of twenty six years, Reverend Bill and Amy Bauer, were told by a doctor that abortion and permanent sterilization were in her “best interest.”
The Bauers took umbrage, recognizing that such actions were not in Elisa’s best interest either medically or morally. Both physical and moral health would be at risk if abortion and sterilization were forced upon her. Dragged into court, the Bauers had to fight so that Elisa would be permitted to carry her pregnancy to term. Otherwise, the Judge would secure a court-ordered abortion and sterilization because this was in her “best interest.” The legal team articulated the family’s religious objections to abortion, noting that the Bauers are a religious family and raised their daughter in the faith. The judge, Honorable Egan Walker, responded that religion and concomitant ethical beliefs had no role to play in the decision:
In this room the religion of the situation is legally irrelevant. The Supreme Court has been clear. The founding fathers of our country who were all deeply religious men and woman…were very clear in the United States constitution and the Nevada constitution carries the same requirements that religious issues are not relevant to decisions under law…. What I’m saying is this is not a religious decision. This is a legal decision.
Here we see a judge who has deemed the religious beliefs of a citizen to be of no consequence. To his mind, religion, ethics, morals had nothing to do with recognizing Elisa’s “best interest.” The Bauer’s religion is characterized as “religious feelings” and such “feelings” are deemed “irrelevant” and even potentially harmful to securing Elisa’s well-being. Here you have a court that is blind to God and insistent that those in his court be equally blind.
A strict secularism prevailed giving rise to an inadequate understanding of the person threatening her true well-being. “Consequently, when the sense of God is lost the sense of man is also threatened and poisoned” (EV 22). Judge Walker’s understanding of law leaves no room for religion, fosters intolerance towards religious belief and thus it allows him to seriously consider the possibility of a forced abortion and sterilization. This is a clear example of Blessed Pope John Paul’s admonition that when blind to God, “[the person] no longer considers life as a splendid gift of God…. Life itself becomes a mere ‘thing,’ which man claims as his exclusive property, completely subject to his control and manipulation” (EV 22).
Unfortunately in the United States, such an example is representative and not an outlier to current trends. Increasingly we see God’s name being removed from the public square. Removal of Ten Commandment monuments at court houses, the suppression of prayer in public places, and the repeated omission of “under God” by politicians when quoting the Declaration of Independence are just a few examples of the exclusion of God in society.
“Once all reference to God has been removed, it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted” (EV 22). Such a distortion came into full view during the election of 2012 when at the national convention of the Democrat Party there was a groundswell and majority support for the removal of any mention of God from the entire party platform.
Perhaps it is no surprise that the very individuals who booed God and cheered for His removal from mention in the party platform are among the most ardent promoters and defenders of abortion and contraception on demand. Sadly such individuals believe and live as though God does not exist. Such a denial opens the pathway to a political agenda that represents a full frontal assault on the right to life and religious liberty. John Paul expresses his concern with great urgency:
We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism, which, with its ubiquitous tentacles, succeeds at times in putting Christian communities themselves to the test. Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life… (EV 21).
The loss of the sense of God removes from man’s purview the standard and measure of his action. The virtuous life is not chosen; indeed, it is not even perceived or recognized as a good. As virtue and beatitude fall away they are replaced by a myopic pursuit of efficiency and self-centered pleasure. Intolerance towards objective norms becomes standard.
The life that poses a threat to efficiency, or maximal state of pleasure becomes a threat and man declares himself the “author of life,” choosing to take his own life through suicide, prevent a new life from coming into existence through contraception, or taking the life of the nascent child in the womb (cf. EV 23).
Man must be conscious of God’s presence – His face looking upon him. Only in light of the Truth, can human beings recognize the social evils in their midst and the sin that is chosen through the misuse of freedom. As a culture and even as individuals, we are blind to the gravity of the evils we bring upon the innocent precisely because we have not allowed His light of truth to shine down upon us.
Blessed John Paul II notes that King David is made aware of his sin precisely because he recognizes he has chosen evil before the eyes of God. “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done” (Ps 51:5-6). David is capable of such perception because he has heard the word of God through the prophet Nathan.
If we will transform our culture of death, we must first restore man’s sight so that he might see God and reject a vision of man that has no place for him. John Paul believes that blindness to God is the most serious root that feeds the culture of death. “Thus it is clear,” he writes, “that the loss of contact with God’s wise design is the deepest root of modern man’s confusion” (EV 22). God is the source, measure, and goal of man and we will be blind to the egregiousness of the affronts to life that are characteristic of the culture of death as long as we remain so blind.