You’ve probably seen the new signs of the culture of death. They’re everywhere. And they’re multiplying. And to be clear, I’m not talking about “warnings” or “traces” that require augury or divination to decipher. I literally mean yard signs.
Some of the signs are simply political. That’s something we’ve become accustomed to. When I was traveling recently through Ohio, it was impossible to miss the signs concerning a proposed amendment to Ohio’s constitution.
One of the most popular has its origin in the front lawn of a Wisconsin librarian. Following the 2016 presidential election, she scrawled on a piece of cardboard: “In This House We Believe / Black Lives Matter / Women’s Rights Are Human Rights / No Human Is Illegal / Science Is Real / Love Is Love.” And the final touch: “Kindness Is Everything.”
But this sign, like many of the other signs of the culture of death, isn’t simply political. It’s making a philosophical statement. “In This House We Believe” articulates a creed. And the problem is that we Christians are always having to make distinctions when it comes to other creeds.
We Catholics don’t deny science; the Church led the way through many developments of modern science, with countless priests and religious making their own contributions. The first woman to earn a doctorate in computer science was Sister Mary Kenneth Keller of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1965. The scientist who first posited the Big Bang theory was a Belgian Catholic priest, Father Georges Lemaître, a professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain. But we do insist that the universe was made by God and is ordered to him. For us, science isn’t less real because of this fact. If anything, it’s ennobled because we believe the entire created order points to God.
So, too, with women’s rights. A culture of life recognizes women are created in the image and likeness of God. Following the lead of Pope St. John Paul II, we praise the feminine genius and continue to encourage women theologians and thinkers to articulate in increasingly rich ways the unique and irreplaceable contributions that only women can make in the world and the Church. We reject the claim that men can become women through surgical means. And we know that joining our voices uncritically to those that want to “dismantle the patriarchy” will come up short. The Catholic response must be deeper.
A Christian sign
We didn’t start this fight, but I think we have to respond. That response should be carefully discerned and will vary from place to place. Some Christians have realized this and responded by printing signs bearing the words of the Apostles’ Creed.
A flag with a Christian image is another option. A friend recently shared with me her enthusiasm about a flag she and her husband have purchased and hung on their front porch that is emblazoned with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In my own front yard at the Dominican House of Studies, we proudly fly the Vatican flag.
Or what about acquiring a beautiful painted statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the pro-life movement? Beauty has its own power to touch hearts and minds.
Not only do our Christian signs and symbols remind our neighbors and fellow citizens that we Christians are here and desire to have our voices heard, our signs and symbols remind us that we’re not alone.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of the culture of death is the way that it alienates even Christians from one another. Our identity can never be found chiefly in our politics. We are Catholics first. And with gusto and fervor we should remind ourselves of that fact.
Our front yards and front porches can be places of encounter. They can be in service of evangelization. They can be used for building up the Church.