Years ago, an agnostic accused me of being a zealot. After considering his accusation, I responded: “If being a zealot means that I am willing to publicly speak out on behalf of the teachings of Jesus Christ and my Catholic faith, I am guilty as charged.”
“Zealots (zel´uhts) were a group who opposed the Roman occupation of Judea, which began in 63 BC. A guerilla band of radical anti-Roman Jews, they advocated for an armed rebellion against the Roman forces. Their numbers included the Sicarii, knife-wielding assassins who would mingle in crowds and stab Jews suspected of collaborating with the Romans. Ultimately, the Zealots and their sympathizers were responsible for leading the Jews into a disastrous war against Rome from 66–73 AD.” (The Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary, 3rd Edition, p.1123) In the New Testament, one of Jesus’ disciples was called Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Given his name, most readers of Sacred Scripture presume what was written: that Simon was a zealot. Certain scholars, however, continue to debate whether Simon was a true zealot and note that his title might simply have meant that he was a person devoted to the law or “zealous” for God (e.g., Num. 25:13; 2 Kings 10:16; Acts 22:3).
Today, secularists remind us that while two millennia separate us from those historic zealots, others have taken their place. There are “homophobic” zealots who oppose same-sex marriage. There are “anti-choice” zealots who oppose abortion and so-called “reproductive rights.” There are “xenophobic” zealots who oppose all that is perceived to be foreign or strange. There are even “patriotic” zealots (I just created this category) who oppose the relentless expansion of government. And if these labels fail to fully disgrace, one should never be afraid to hit them where it hurts and remind that their ideas and way of living should be fully discredited because, after all, they are “religious” zealots.
The latter, of course, provides the real zinger because it is “well known” that “religious” zealots are “anti-science” zealots having little or no capacity for reason. But, of course, this modern accusation bears no resemblance to historic reality because many of the greatest scientists happened to be—-Catholic. For example, three Catholic clerics were scientists: Gregor Mendel (Father of genetics), Roger Bacon (Forerunner of the scientific method), and Nicolas Steno (Father of geology). Among lay Catholic scientists, the list is also impressive. Three prominent individuals that come to mind are: René Descartes (Father of Modern Philosophy and Analytic Geometry), Louis Pasteur (Father of bacteriology), and Blaise Pascal (mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher). Whether cleric or lay, they rest among a large—and growing list— of Catholic scientists who found (and find) no fault in merging faith and reason. And with regard to the Church’s commitment to science? Today, there exists no institution that supports the pursuit of science as does the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Since 1603, it has been “the only supranational academy of sciences in the world whose mission is to honor pure science wherever it may be found, ensure its freedom and encourage research for the progress of science.”
Despite all of this, modern secularists persist in their accusations against the Church and those who uphold such tenets as: traditional marriage, right-to-life, responsible government, and a healthy religiosity. For those who proclaim “science” as their religion, one would believe they would be fully committed to scientific discovery and following Sergeant Joe Friday’s famous words: “Just the facts, Ma’am.” But sadly, this is not the case. For if these “secular” zealots could see and reason beyond their own noses, they would surely:
See the importance of traditional and intact families (mother, father, and children) as the foundation of society. Do they really believe that more than 40.6% of births out of wedlock (and climbing) will create a more peaceful and prosperous future?
See the link between murdering unborn children and a greater violence that has befallen our nation. As Blessed Mother Teresa once stated: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”
See that our $20 trillion (and growing) national debt and tens of trillions of dollars in other “promised” spending is unsustainable and will eventually bring the nation to economic ruin. Do they believe that our collapsing birthrate (encouraged by population-control “experts”) will provide a sufficient number of workers to fund economic support systems like Social Security and Medicare for a growing elderly population?
See that in replacing true religion with government religion (a.k.a. “secularism”), they set themselves up for the harshest of realities. In pondering the fallibility of human nature, Patrick Henry once noted that “we might rely on the present structure of this government. . .but the depraved nature of man is well known.”
Just who are these secularists with the power to accuse others of the practice of zealotry? As the Media Research Center has noted, they may be found within the mainstream media and across the entertainment spectrum. And sadly, a growing number reside in the colleges and universities that educate our children. Once known as incubators and promoters of free thought, most colleges have drifted away from this important mission and adopted views less open to the expression of free thought. In 2015, even comedian Jerry Seinfeld swore them off as potential venues for his craft.
“I hear that all the time. I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so PC.’ I’ll give you an example. My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple of years, I think maybe you’re going to want to hang around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”
This past summer, however, The University of Chicago became an outlier and fired back at this nonsense. In a letter sent to incoming freshman, Dr. John Ellison (Dean of Students) wrote:
“It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive… Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”
While one great university has rightly asserted itself, I remain skeptical that others will follow. One of my favorite college websites is CampusReform.org. Daily, they link to the reality of campus life across the United States. As I complete this essay, these are a few of their headline stories:
“Students plan rude welcome for white, cisgender, Stanford prez”
“Student paper self-censors articles with content warnings”
“AU revamps Vagina Monologues to avoid gender binary”
“UCI student gov demands scholarships for Syrian refugees”
And so we ask: Just who are the zealots in our midst? To answer this question, perhaps we need to broaden our horizons and look beyond those who advocate for traditional families, the unborn, responsible government, and a healthy religiosity. By doing so, we might find the true zealots in our midst.