For years the slogan “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink and Drive” has been the salient reminder of the dangers of driving under the influence.
This saying has become a part of our culture, embedded into our collective consciousness as a guiding principle in those moments where car keys are in hand after one too many brews. It’s not a bad slogan, as far as slogans go. It is always timely, with an almost proverbial-like quality. But what I’d like to call to your attention is the assumption behind this quote.
The “Friends Don’t Let…” campaign starts with the assumption that you and I have a responsibility to assist others for their own good. It boldly calls us to action in sometimes dicey situations (ever try to get the keys from a determined drunk?). We can be assured that our efforts will not be universally applauded and may perhaps cause some rather angry reactions. But the working assumption is that I have a better perspective than my intoxicated friend and that, for his own good, I am going to take his keys and drive him home. This places the burden on me, the sober one, to be brave enough to speak the truth and act on it. The idea is that if you care at all and are a responsible member of society then you will not “let friends drink and drive.”
I bring this up because I believe it correlates to what I’m going to call the “Catholic Moral Imperative”. The Catholic Church is regularly bashed for its stances on a host of issues from contraception to homosexuality, to the plight of immigrants, to the plight of the unborn.
That’s just the short list. The complaint is that the Catholic Church is meddling in people’s business. The charge is often leveled that the Church is oppressive and anti-fun and hurtful. The culture claims it is fine and can “drive” itself without any help from God, the Church, or YOU.
The problem is that the culture is drunk off its keester.
It is drunk on humanism and relativism. It is suffering from its own over-excesses of pride and self-reliance. It has been blinded by pop-psychology and the feel-good gospels of Oprah and Dr. Phil. It lives in a time where people believe theology is as malleable as a lump of clay and that objective truth is an oxymoron. This society thinks nothing of murdering the unborn or the aged. It doesn’t think that sex is anything more than a recreational biological function. Many people bury the deeper ‘questions of life’ under layers of distraction.
The average “Joe” simply does not realize how much he is weaving across the center-line of his life until he leaves the road and finds himself wrapped around a tree. Yes, our culture is clearly, to continue the analogy, too drunk to drive.
The Catholic Church has an imperative to be the moral voice for a society that has lost its moorings. It is not “nosiness” that motivates us; it is Christ-like concern and compassion. It is not a desire for oppression that calls us to speak out. Quite the opposite, it is the desire to see the oppression of immorality lifted, so that the fullness of life Jesus promises in John 10 can be experienced.
The Catholic moral imperative is to be willing to look foolish for the sake of the Gospel. It is to speak out to an intoxicated culture so that it might improve and that lives may be saved (in this world and in the world to come). This is not a popular position, it will bring us jeers and insults and we will meet much resistance. But hasn’t it always been so for faithful Christians? I once heard a very wonderful and faithful friend say, “Courage begets courage”. May it be so with us!