Father Eugene Hemrick

Have Americans gotten to the point in which they are asking themselves, “Can you believe anyone anymore?”

Truth and faith go hand in hand. Being lied to, cheated and having facts misrepresented are the fastest ways for people to lose their faith in others. If the contradictions grow more numerous, people just may declare, “I can’t believe anyone or anything anymore.”

We may find ourselves embracing a philosophy of skepticism.

Among prominent thinkers today, there is worry that Western world progress is in trouble.

The worry is based on the possible loss of five major values that in the past have carried nations through mass poverty, plagues and famine, devastating wars, economic depressions and tyranny.

These values are belief in the value of the past; a conviction of the nobility of Western civilization; acceptance of the worth of economic and technological growth; faith in reason and scholarly knowledge; and belief in the intrinsic importance, the ineffable worth of life on earth.

Today, one has to doubt the nobility of society in which the noblest gesture is found in the telling of truth after one has lied. How much belief in the ineffable worth of life on earth do those who freely pollute our air and water have?

There are numerous other examples that seem to say we in the Western world are losing it.

Anyone who has been cheated, defrauded or lied to knows how easy it is to give in to the feeling that everything is going down the drain. This loss of faith leads to a loss of hope and eventually to a loss of love. People begin to say, “There’s nothing I can do about it,” or “I have no control over these events.”

But as bad as the news may be, this is not the time for us to wallow in despair.

An alternate is to be active rather than be passive. If you feel the truth is given little honor in society, don’t say, “Well, it really doesn’t make any difference anyway.” Don’t allow the situation to dictate your values. Instead, accept the challenge to clarify your own values. Decide what difference you believe it makes.

These considerations remind me of a model the U.S. bishops adopted in one of their pastoral letters that discussed economic justice and the family farm.

Noting that the family farm was in trouble, the bishops encouraged parishes and dioceses to get into an active mode on the issue — to educate people on the social, economic, cultural, political and environment issues posed by the decline of the family farm.

The bishops recommended education, training programs and ecumenical cooperation as ways of creating better leadership and getting at seemingly impossible problems. The bishops also called for political groups to monitor and lobby federal legislation that has an impact on the agricultural sector.

The overall picture portrayed in the pastoral letter is one of organizing, regrouping and retooling — taking action and getting involved.

I believe that it might be good to reexamine this model. A lack of truthfulness threatens Western civilization as well as faith and hope. The time has come to educate ourselves about pressing issues, to organize, take up our pens and move into constructive action.