Knowing the Difference: The Serenity Prayer and The Culture War
The world is at war. In physical ways, the devastation of violence and injustice can be seen during every nightly newscast.
In an even more troubling way, the world is also at war invisibly, with an enemy that it is not able to eradicate with guns or a strategic air strike.
The battle is almost as old as the world itself: the culture wars. From the earliest times in human history, man has found himself pushing back against societal policies that have threatened to overgrow the narrow path to holiness. Culture wars waged against the vulnerable of society – the unborn, the innocent; the ever-increasing divide between the wealthy and the poor; the battle of remaining virtuous and humble, in a world that proudly shouts, “Me! Me! And forget the rest!
The Church has had the weapons needed to wage war all along, but many times the noise of the world has been successful in drowning it out. As long as the faithful are seduced by ideas of winning political victories with petitions and protests alone, as long they are content to “tsk tsk” at their Sunday fellowship over the state of “things” and as long as the Church Militant is content to wage these culture wars on their own merit, on their own intelligence, on their own – they will lose. If the battle is fought on the world’s terms, it is lost.
So then, if the culture wars are spiritual warfare, then perhaps what is most needed are spiritual weapons.
The Serenity Prayer, for one, strikes right at the heart of these attacks on culture:
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things the I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things that I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.”
To be serene, to be untroubled about things in this world that are beyond control. This can’t mean wilful ignorance of evil. It is simply an invitation to trust. Trust God the Father – He knows the plan. Trust Christ – He has already overcome. Trust the Holy Spirit – He’s already at work. Trust the Church – the Spirit gives her a broader picture of what has been set in motion. The Book of Psalms echoes this call: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act.” And in this trust, the world will find its peace.
To be courageous is to be brave in the face of injustice. This can’t mean reckless and ineffective action. It is simply an invitation to serve. Christ did not win the world through politics – He wins it by loving it to His death on the cross. Think globally, act locally – grassroots ministries in parishes that are dedicated to elevating the respect and dignity of every loved child of God – these will be much more powerful displays of truth to the world than any political fray waged on its own. Ministry often takes more work, more time and more sacrifice – it is frightening to give up comfort for service. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is courage personified. One cannot stop a bemused smile, imagining the formidable holy woman turning from heated debates and clucking tongues, instead stooping down to embrace a man suffering leprosy. In this courage, the world will know victory.
To be wise is to be a vessel of God’s plan. This can’t mean inaction or an excuse to endlessly “just wait and see”. It is simply an invitation to pray. With so many causes crying out for justice in the world, it is overwhelming to even consider where to begin making amends. Often, the passionate begin emphatically preaching when quiet examples of service would be a more powerful witness. Often, those longing for peace are content to stay with their books and study groups when dramatic work needs to be endeavoured. Wisdom is what moves a holy heart to the appropriate response at the appropriate time. Timing and discernment is everything! And only petitioning God for His wisdom as a guide can correctly direct the soul into effective battle. King Solomon, the wisest king in history, boldly claims that “the multitude of the wise is the salvation of the world”. Oh, that the mind and heart of all humanity were so united with God in prayer that a wise choice would seemingly be the only one!
Christians, it is time to engage in battle! Let the Spirit lead the Church from defence to a decisive strike to the heart of the culture wars. Heaven will win when the Serenity Prayer is lived and breathed every day by every soul yearning for the Lord’s peace to reign.
Christians, the duty and the mission is clear – be at peace in trust, be tireless in courageous action and above all, pray for the wisdom to know the difference!