Sunday, November 13, 2016

Nine Things That Young People Have Been Taught by the 2016 Presidential Campaign

(Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on November 13, 2016 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-third Sunday 2016]

The title of my homily today is, “Nine Things That Young People Have Been Taught by the 2016 Presidential Campaign.”

What brought this topic to mind were the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading from 2 Thessalonians 3.  There Paul talks about the GOOD example that he and his companions had set for the Thessalonians when they visited Thessalonica on one of their missionary journeys.  Listen again to his words:
Brothers and sisters: You know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.  
Paul and his missionary companions taught the people by their words, and even more importantly by their deeds.  And so the young people of Thessalonica were truly blessed.  They had a leader—St. Paul—who was a good role model and who taught them well.  He taught them the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he taught them to take personal responsibility for their lives.  He did the latter by working among them and earning his keep.  As he said there, “In toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you.”

Unfortunately, the youth of the United States were not so blessed during this past presidential campaign.  Yes, they were taught lessons—many lessons—by the words and the deeds of the two major party candidates.

But most of those lessons were not good.

I’ll give you some examples—nine to be exact.  (What I’m about to share with you, by the way, is not an exhaustive list.  These are just the ones I came up with the other day—in about 5 minutes!  Sadly, there were a lot to choose from!)

Lesson number 1 that these candidates taught our young people: It’s okay to mislead others, as long as your intention is good.  Or, to put it another way, As long as your cause is noble (noble, at least, in your own mind) it’s okay to lie.

Now there’s a lesson that will take them places!

Lesson number 2 that our youth were taught this year: Don’t take responsibility for your own actions; rather, always pretend it’s someone else’s fault.  Actually, most of our young people had already been exposed to this idea—many times; this year’s campaign merely reinforced it.

Lesson number 3: If you’re rich and powerful enough, you can treat women as objects for your amusement—and get away with it.

What a great lesson for young men to learn early on in life!

Lesson number 4: If you’re rich and powerful enough, you can live by your own set of rules.  The law of the land will apply to other people but not to you.  In this regard, do you know that one of the presidential candidates actually spoke at an African American church service in Philadelphia last Sunday?  Now, can you imagine what would happen if a Catholic priest invited a politician to do that in a Catholic church at a Sunday Mass?  The ACLU would be all over that in a heartbeat!  But the ACLU was nowhere to be found last Sunday.  Neither they nor the people in the mainstream media had anything negative to say about this blatant violation of the “separation of church and state.”  That’s because they know: If you’re rich and powerful enough, you can live by your own set of rules.  The law of the land will apply to other people but not to you.   

That brings us to lesson number 5: When you can’t argue against something rationally and intelligently, just call your opponent names—and make the names as vile as possible!

That lesson was given pretty much on a daily basis during the campaign.

Lesson number 6:  What’s important is not the truth; what’s important is winning the argument.

Or the debate (call it what you will).

Lesson number 7: If someone will help you to get what you want, ignore the evil that they do—even if it happens to be selling the body parts of aborted babies for profit.

Just pretend the evil isn’t happening.

Lesson number 8: Calumny (telling slanderous lies about another person) and detraction (telling the sins of another person) are useful tools to help you get what you want.  So use them!  And if you can get your friends to join you in the calumny and detraction, all the better!

After all, what are friends for?

And, finally, there’s this one (which, in a certain sense, sums up a lot of the others): All’s fair—if YOU say it’s fair.

Let me close my homily now with two requests.  First of all, a message for parents: Talk to your children about this!  Have a conversation with your children about what’s gone on in our country—politically—in the last several months.  That’s so important!  The lessons I just shared with you are some of the underlying messages that the events of this presidential campaign have given to all of us.  And young people (and even not-so-young people) are negatively influenced by these messages—even if they’re not conscious of it.  These messages are part of the cultural atmosphere that young men and women are breathing in every day.

And it’s toxic!

They need you to help them get a healthy perspective on it all.  They need you to help them understand that sometimes adults don’t act like adults, and that there’s a better way—a more virtuous way—to deal with conflict and disagreements in this life.

And secondly, remember to pray for our President-elect.  Pray that he will be a good leader, a moral leader, a unifying leader.  Pray that he will work to enact laws that respect the dignity of every human person from natural conception to natural death.  In other words, pray that he will be a much better president than he was a presidential candidate.