The America Utopia
We do not very often come across opportunities for exercising strength, magnanimity, or magnificence; but gentleness, temperance, modesty, and humility, are graces which ought to color everything we do. There may be virtues of a more exalted mod, but . . . these are the most continually called for in daily life. St. Francis De Sales
For sometime, we have been under a terrible illusion. It has become a sort of American past time, a prime time ritual, watching the nightly cable news broadcasts of our country’s demise. The routine line up of political protests, violence, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, and murder mysteries are paraded in front of us as a warped form of entertainment. The shock of live footage is followed by the endless procession of talking heads and so-called experts who indoctrinate us in the proper manner to interpret the events unfolding before us. Then the opinion polls are broadcast to reward us for our solidarity with the majority. The following day the cycle is completed as we echo our favorite talking points to our coworkers at the water cooler.
Why are we attracted night after night to this circus? Why do we spend countless hours engaging in endless debates with television personalities, as if our living room platform was at all efficacious? Perhaps we each feel a longing within our hearts to cure the ills of our sick society. But if this is the case, are we truly engaging in the work and ministries that are truly necessary to renew our culture? Do we instead, look to our leadership and shake our heads thinking, “Someone should do something?” In doing so we place all of our hope in politicians, who hungry for power, are all too willing to capitalize on our dreams for a utopia, which they ride to their own political opulence. We surrender to them all of our personal responsibility for the cultural decline. When, inevitably, their efforts fail our sentiment turns on them in favor of the opposition party who now suddenly seems so much more competent.
You see, it has become an American custom, every four years, for our leaders to stand in front of us and recite a litany of laws that are necessary to improve the problems of our society. If only we would vote for them and cede to them more power, than amazing and revolutionary laws will reform our society into a beacon of justice. Think of it, in our own lifetimes, how many of these concessions have we given to Washington? Did anyone of them ever work? In reality, there are currently as many as 300,000 federal regulations and 4,500 federal criminal statutes. What was the purpose of all of these laws? Was it not to improve society? When should we see the fruit of all of these efforts?
Our Catholic Faith teaches us why these programs do not work. Even if the politicians who wrote them had the best of intentions, the fact remains that you can not legislate away the consequences of a fallen human nature. The human inclination to sin is an essential truth. Ignoring this truth in favor of the promise of politicians is suicide. While our civic system is certainly a valid tool for maintaining a just and moral society, it is only as good as the people who make it up. Unfortunately the people who make up this society have abandoned the only effective tools for overcoming our fallen nature; grace and virtue.
America has bought the idea that the election of the right man or woman and the implementation of their remarkable ideas will solve all of our problems. We invest all of our hopes in a political system, which without a moral people to guide it, is simply just broken. We must remember that Christ called us to transform our hearts, not to build a utopia. The election of the right man or woman to office, and the implementation of their ideas can, without morality, all of the sudden turn into tyranny.
Never forget, the American experiment is dependent upon the morality of her people. John Adams stated,
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
No matter how wonderful this republic is, it can not negate the consequences of a fallen human nature. It was never intended to do such a thing. It was not designed to replace morality. But this has been forgotten, and now we place all of our hopes in the promise of tomorrow’s political hero. Today we are seeing the consequences of this illusion, because just in the same way that a good and just people can elect good and just representatives, so also can a people lacking in grace and virtue elect an evil empire. How do we recreate the culture? We must return to grace and virtue.
 John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, June 21, 1776.