Challenged by Alan Keyes

Challenged by Alan Keyes

I just came back from a daylong men’s conference for the Diocese of Worcester, Mass. Some very good speakers included Sean Forrest, musician and youth minister; Jesse Romero, former US kickboxing champ, former LA Sheriff’s deputy, and full-time lay Catholic preacher; Dr. Alan Keyes, former UN ambassador and presidential candidate; and Joseph Pearce, author of several fine books on the great British Catholic literary masters of the 20th century.

Keyes’ talk was the most challenging for me. He talked about the war, how it is the most serious thing a country can do, and that before we take up the sword we must go through a moral crisis of sorts as we decide whether it is the right action. He didn’t say he was opposed to the war. He just said we must not make the decision lightly. He said he is proud of America because we are so reluctant to take up the sword. He also cautioned against embracing this war too closely, because war—even if necessary—is dangerous, most especially to our soldiers. And not primarily because it threatens their physical lives, but their eternal souls. Every time you take a life, even if justified, you take a drastic step that can lead you into darkness, if you don’t consciously walk back into the light. Killing another person cannot be taken lightly, and especially on the battlefield where it is too easy sometimes for the killing not to end with the justified killing of an enemy soldier, but can progress to murder, when you kill a civilian or helpless or surrendering soldier.

He also spoke about the amazing happenstance that after 9/11 we were united as a country—and almost as a world—in rejecting relativism as we could all agree that the act of terrorism on that day was evil. No one (or hardly anyone) said, well it’s not evil in a certain context, or that it’s only our judgment that it’s evil or anything like that. And, for a time, everyone stood up and invoked the name of God without fear of being labeled a fundamentalist or a cornball. As Keyes pointed out, even during that Hollywood artists’ tribute concert after 9/11, they all stood together at the end singing “God Bless America.” Amazing.

But… and you knew there was a but.. we should not be too sure of our complete moral superiority. What was the evil that the terrorists perpetrated? Not that they knocked down buildings—we do that even now in Baghdad. Knocking down buildings is not in and of itself evil. That 3,000 people died? If a tidal wave struck New York and killed 3,000 people would we call the tidal wave evil? Tragic certainly, but not evil. What was evil about the terrorists’ actions is that they completely disregarded the individual human dignity of the 3,000 people they killed. That is the crime of murder: to disregard the divine image imprinted on us through our human nature, a divine image that imparts dignity and demands respect.

Yet through the laws of our land, we also ignore and trample upon the human dignity of the weakest, most innocent of lives. Abortion is a monstrous evil, maybe even more monstrous than the acts of 9/11 because it is carried out against, not just the helpless, but our own children, and not for a religious ideal or a political ideology, but for simple convenience and selfishness.

That’s not to say we are as evil as the terrorists or that we can’t prosecute the war on terror as long as we allow abortion. But what it should do is convict our hearts so that we put as much energy into demanding changes in our country to allow the right to life of the unborn as we do demanding justice for the victims of terror and liberation for the oppressed people of Iraq.

I have not put it nearly as well as Keyes and I have certainly garbled his message some. I will fix it as soon as I received the audio CD of the talk (in 4-6 weeks!) Nevertheless, as I said, it was very challenging to me and I will be bringing this to prayer for some time to come.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli