Our Unexpected Date With the Culture of Death
by Brian J. Kopp, DPM
Let me share with you our unexpected date with the Culture of Death this past weekend. We were in Chicago for a wedding. We had left our children with Sue's parents for this "adults only" wedding and reception (we assumed it was "adults only" to save on wedding expenses). The bride was Sue's best friend from high school. They were in youth group together in Sue's Lutheran church growing up.
Although neither of us were in the wedding, we were staying in the groom's condo (we couldn't afford the posh hotel where they reserved rooms for their out of town guests) and had been invited to the rehearsal dinner. Friday evening we went to the rehearsal. It was in a Lutheran church in the city of Chicago four blocks from Wrigley's field where the Chicago Cubs play. It was a very yuppie, affluent area.
The church sign said "Holy Trinity Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), A Reconciling in Christ Church." I wasn't sure what that meant. There were beautiful icons and many candles in this church, kneelers, a crucifix front and rear, both with a corpus, and a Holy Water font at the entrance. Further, there was a statement in the bulletin about the importance of the role of Mary the Mother of God in our devotions and spirituality and Martin Luther's writings extolling Marian devotion, and the reason they use incense in their liturgy and celebrate weekly "Holy Eucharist" instead of the Lutheran norm, which is far less often.
As we rode to the rehearsal dinner with the groom, I asked him about the church and its pastor. He wasn't clear about all the details because he had just joined this church several weeks before, having just abandoned his Roman Catholic upbringing. However, he thought the pastor had a Catholic background, and that the pastor had some "issues" with certain Catholic teachings.
He said a fellow participant in the "new member" classes the previous week had been in training to be a Lutheran minister. The ELCA said he had to choose between being a pastor or an openly practicing homosexual, and he had chosen the latter and subsequently joined this church. The groom said he was fairly certain the pastor was of homosexual orientation but had chosen to be a pastor, implying the pastor was not an open and practicing homosexual. Further, he said the "boys town" (homosexual men's) section of Chicago was just 2 or 3 blocks from this church. He also suggested we not talk about the subject because people at the wedding would be offended.
Saturday Sue and I went to the church 3 hours before the wedding so Sue could share family pictures with the bride while the bride was preparing for the wedding. I walked around the church and found a bulletin board outside the pastor's office.
There was an explanation that "A Reconciling in Christ" Church accepted and supported the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) lifestyle, newsletters were posted for the Lutheran LGBT ministries, and many pictures of several deceased AIDS victims from this church hung on the walls.
Most eye catching was this headline, "Condom Packing Pizza Party." Alongside was an open invitation for one and all to join in helping to pack 10,000 condoms for the upcoming Chicago Gay Pride parade while eating pizza and Pepsi. It dawned on me that I had never realized that the Culture of Death even throws parties in its own honor. It was clear that this church affirmed homosexuality and homosexual acts as healthy Christian behavior to be celebrated and welcomed and not judged.
By this point, I really didn't care to attend the wedding, and would have left to return home to my kids, but Sue convinced me that it would have been uncharitable to our hosts. The 15 minute Lutheran wedding was thankfully uneventful.
Between the wedding and reception was a 3 hour break. We found a beautiful, huge old Catholic church, St. Mary Star of the Lake, in a Hispanic neighborhood. We attended their anticipated mass, a welcome respite from the tomfoolery of the day so far. The old priest seemed decent but insisted on playing fast and loose with the words of the mass.
As I approached Holy Eucharist in line, I genuflected prior to receiving communion. The priest stopped and said sternly, "May I request that you refrain from genuflecting in line?!?" I did not answer but my heart screamed out, "NO, you may NOT ask me to NOT give proper reverence to the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in this Holy Eucharist!!!" I wondered if he too, this crusty old Chicago priest, had lost his faith like the groom in the wedding. At least the groom joined another church. This was the worst affront to my sensibilities the whole weekend.
We then drove to the "adults only reception," at a restaurant the likes of which I had never entered. It was situated on the top floor of a 40 story luxury apartment building, overlooking Lake Michigan's Chicago shoreline, with the rest of Chicago's skyscrapers in view from the 270 degree view. It seems the reason our children weren't invited had little to do with economic hardship, as 170 guests enjoyed $75 dinners and a world class view.
We sat at a table for eight. One seat was empty. The woman explained her husband could not attend because he had just had surgery, and indicated a "snip snip" motion with her fingers. The guest across from me winced and his wife asked, "How many do you have?"
"Two," was the woman's reply.
The others nodded their approval.
My wife and I locked eyes and exchanged an unspoken expression of disbelief at the never-ending litany of the Culture of Death this weekend had dealt us. After trying for several years now, we had just learned the previous day that once again, God had not yet blessed us with our next pregnancy. And here were healthy young affluent yuppies throwing away their gift of fertility like so many barnyard animals.
Seated next to me was a kind, warmhearted man with an easy smile, whose Albanian Muslim parents had fought communist oppression in Albania and fled to America for freedom in the 1950's. He said he really didn't know the Muslim faith of his father and had never entered a church here in America since arriving here as a 6 month old in 1959. He smiled as we discussed matters of faith. He said it was really great to actually meet someone who went to church every Sunday. He was not joking in any way when he stated that he simply did not know anyone who attended church. He was essentially raised in Chicago with no religion for 40 years, and he knew no one that believed. No one.
We drove home Sunday. It took 9 long hours to return to the loving, happy, screaming arms of our beautiful 3 young children. It has never felt better to be home. I never realized what a sheltered paradise we live in here in this rust belt steel town in the mountains of west central Pennsylvania, where a large percentage are Catholic and a large portion of them still believe and still attend mass regularly. I never missed my two sons and my daughter so fiercely in my life as I did while immersed in that Culture of Death in Chicago. It is good to be home in simple, sheltered, small town USA.
Before we left we placed a small housewarming gift for Sue's friend and her new husband on the kitchen counter, a country sampler of some jellies and jams from our local fruit stand.
On it I attached this note:
"Dear J & C, Congratulations on your marriage! Thank you for letting us be part of your celebration and welcoming us to stay in your home during our visit here.
One thing Sue and I have learned is that the greatest gift of our marriage is our children. The only thing we can do in life that lasts for ETERNITY is bear and raise children to give Honor and Glory to God. We can write great novels, build marvels of architecture, even bring peace to the world through great acts of heroism or diplomacy, but none of these things lasts for Eternity. The only thing we can take with us to Heaven is the soul of a child. Their souls are our only Eternal treasure that we can store up in this life. Be generous in having children and raising them to love Him, and God's generosity will flow in untold and wondrous ways!
Here's a corny poem I wrote long ago for a college friend's wedding, updated a little:
My advice to the Newlywed?
While you're young, use your head!
Have a baby...
Have a few!
I don't mean just one,
or even two.
What about four?
How about eight?
(Making babies is really great!)
Don't worry about braces,
or college, or clothes.
Their every need
God already knows.
Then when you're old,
in time of need,
with no more clamoring mouths to feed,
look to your children
that you (and God) made,
to be your joy,
comfort and aid.
Your babies today
are your greatest treasure.
You will receive
in the amount you measure.
God's greatest gift
to husband and wife?
A newborn baby.
An Eternal Life!
Brian and Sue"
Its a silly little note, and a corny poem, my one and only attempt at poetry. Compared to the sophisticated, high brow company this couple keeps, it will probably seem to them to be so much hayseed and backwards thinking from their eccentric Catholic friends from backwoods Pennsylvania. But Truth has a power all its own, and this couple may never hear this message elsewhere. Despite the culture they live in, like so many others they are good decent people, if a bit ignorant of reality, and deserve to hear the Gospel of Life.
The Culture of Death isn't simply abortions at a clinic. It is any lifestyle that is not open to life, be it one of contraception, sterilization, homosexuality, abortion, or euthanasia, and it is being preached in many pulpits, both religious and secular. I pray they hear this little message, a message of a Culture of Life that groans to be heard above the roar of the Culture of Death out there in that big city and across this nation and world.