Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas and now a political commentator, recently told an audience of political conservatives that “a society that sacrifices its own children is no better than the ancient Philistines,” and that he “hope[s] we repent before we ever have to receive his fiery judgment.”
Well, this warning probably will not bother most Americans today because the idea of a “fiery judgment” has disappeared along with the sharp decline of morality that has ushered in evils like abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, etc., etc. America may poll well in comparison to Europe on matters like “belief in a god,” but this belief for a majority of Americans, perhaps a vast majority today, is in a god who simply does not judge anyone. That’s why Pope Francis’ little, off-hand comment has become such a constant refrain for the continual quest for less judgment regarding those who engage in or approve such perversions of God’s laws. Huckabee is a Baptist minister, so I doubt this rejection of his language by liberals will bother him, but it should bother him that the notion of a judgment probably does not play well with many of the conservative audience he was addressing either.
The terrible truth is that today a vast majority of most Americans, both Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, approve of abortion in some circumstances, contraception in whatever circumstances, and now homosexual marriage for those who choose it. One might argue perhaps that a significant number of Americans who “approve” of these things, for others, would not approve of them for themselves, at least the first and third things. But the fact remains that these Americans are already in a state of moral deviation and are a significant sign that the culture as a whole is in need of God’s cleansing, which in the end is what a “fiery” judgment means, in this world at least.
Approving of such perversions for others is a fundamental moral choice, a decision that indicates that in themselves these things are not judged to be objectively evil. If they were judged to be truly and objectively evil, then that vast majority of Americans would be saying that they approve of others doing evil, but not themselves. But it is extremely unlikely that this is what most of them are really thinking or saying. What they are asserting by their “approval” is that moral norms as such are purely subjective, that there is no objective right and wrong, and what is evil in my judgment for me is not evil for those who choose otherwise than I do. That in a nutshell is American “morality” today, and it is a perverse moral system that undercuts any sense of objective morality and of divine judgment.
All of this is difficult to square with Catholic Church teaching and the Christian moral teaching going back to the beginning. In Romans 1:32 St. Paul confronts this issue of approving evil done by others. He says, “Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” So nothing really is new under the Sun, and Paul was already confronting this moral subjectivism in his own day and among his own Christians. Giving approval to the evil done by others is itself a moral evil, and it erodes the very moral foundation of any society, leads to its death, including especially the community of Christians where this liberal minded approval takes hold.
This warning about approving evil follows almost immediately upon what St. Paul has been condemning just before: “And the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.” It’s most interesting, the same perversion we face today and the same temptation of Christians to approve of it in others. Of course Paul is also speaking about other evils in this passage, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite.” But the “they” Paul refers to here is certainly those he has been talking about just above, that is, those who having “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” are abandoned to engage in perversity and then move on to “every form of wickedness.”
But of the two evils, the actual acts of perversion and the approval of them by others, it is the latter form of evil that is most devastating to any form of society. Sin, like the poor, we will always have with us in any form of society, and sin clearly harms both the individual who sins and the society. But more harmful to the society yet is their “approval,” that is, the fact that others in society in ever growing numbers “give approval to those who practice them.” That is the dagger at the heart of our society. More and more Americans think it’s morally acceptable for others to do these things, to engage in what all objective moralities have condemned as either crimes against humanity – abortion – or as perversions destructive of social institutions like the family – legalized homosexual unions of whatever kind.
Huckabee is quite right in seeing these things being worthy of a fiery judgment. Indeed, Paul said such perversions were deserving of death. But God’s judgment takes many forms, and for the sake of His elect the final judgment is put off. Justin Martyr put it this way almost twenty centuries ago, “God delays the destruction of the world on account of Christians.” St Peter himself helps us to understand this delay and broadens it, “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. The world, then, should be very grateful to Christians for this delay. And Christians should make it part of their contribution to politics, to the political order, to call this nation to sincere repentance, like Jonah did for the Ninevites. Otherwise, it definitely will not survive for every long, regardless of who is in power politically. That will be its judgment, fiery or not.