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Paul Hayden

Facing the Darkness

September 17, 2007

Much has been made by the liberal media of recent revelations that Mother Teresa experienced feelings of spiritual emptiness frequently during her years of ministering to the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta. However, as Michael Novak has explained in a thoughtful article in National Review magazine, this experience even among the saintly is nothing new and does not, as the critics claim, represent a lack or renouncement of faith on her part.

Those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ as the only Son of God can understand how everyone, no matter how close their walk with God, faces a desert experience at some time in their lives. Jesus Himself experienced this dryness (literally and figuratively) during His 40 days in an actual desert without food or companionship. Like so many of His actions here on earth, Jesus was modeling not only what the human experience is like but how we are to respond to it.

Unfortunately, in this secular, skeptical age, people are quick to jump to the wrong conclusions when one who is regarded as a spiritual titan admits any sort of doubt or feeling of God's abandonment. Such revelations are bound to cause the "see, I told you so" remarks about God's very existence for those who already were doubtful of the fact.

In his article, Novak points to other saints who had similar experiences as Mother Teresa, such as her "role models" Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. All three of these extraordinary women clung to their faith until the end, despite the darkness and suffering each of them endured. As Novak aptly states, "The decades of emptiness, darkness and spiritual pain experienced by Mother Teresa.....follow in a long tradition. They are not really signs of doubt, although at times they feel like that."

Of course, the self-described "antitheist" Christopher Hitchens has his doubts about Mother Teresa, saying in a recent article that she "was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction." This is highly ironic coming from a secular liberal, whose favor of grandiose, government-sponsored social programs has done far more to demean the poor and keep them in that state, than anything Mother Teresa might have done. The latter part of Hitchens' scornful remark no doubt was a pointed attack on Mother Teresa's staunchly pro-life position.

Ironic also is that the monumental skepticism of our age permits the secularists to overlook the immoral and even criminal actions of politicians that they favor. In questioning them about this, their likely rejoinder is, "Well, what did you expect? He (she) is only human, not a saint." In other words, let's not dare to expect very much, morally and ethically, from our naturally flawed leaders.

When doubt creeps in to take over where faith normally resides, people begin to think that they must become self-sufficient. The American tradition of rugged self-reliance has been admired in a society of free markets and entrepreneurs. However, there's a big difference between using the gifts God gave you and acknowledging them as such, and using them for selfish ambition and gain. Rugged individualism may play a part in either scenario, in the sense that one makes one's own way without substantial help or handouts. However, when multiplied by millions, the majority of the "self-reliant" tend to forget the Source of their abilities and material blessings. Some of them become social liberals not only to assuage the guilt they feel from being rich, but also to arrogantly take the place of a God that they believe is not there to help the less fortunate. In yet another irony, many of these "limousine liberals" are much better at campaigning to have the government take our money to give to the poor, than in giving their own riches.

Ultimately, individualism without God will lead, ironically enough, to the rigidity, political correctness and perceived need for a strong central order to control the masses and require conformity to the system. As the United States moves closer to signing on to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty, and to establishing a "North American Union," both of which chip away at our national sovereignty, we risk losing the freedoms that have so much been a part of our national identity. And by signing on to such agreements, we in essence forsake the national motto, "One Nation Under God" by supplanting Him with our faith in multinational, earthly kingdoms. Such decisions, if implemented, will someday lead us into real darkness.

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