If you are bewildered or even frightened about the lightning speed at which the western world seems to be accepting the most nonsensical, sinful beliefs and throwing off any and all notions of traditional, Judeo-Christian, natural law values, take a deep breath. It's not as surprising or alarming as it seems, if you consider the predictable movement of the Ball Bearings in every culture.
What or who are the Ball Bearings?
They are the citizens who will -- with little or no resistance -- go along with the trend, the fad, the popular opinion, or the peer pressure of the day. The Ball Bearings consist of most of your neighbors, your co-workers, some of your friends, and yes, members of your own family. And you yourself may be, as I once was, a Ball Bearing.
As soon as an opinion or a cultural trend becomes the "right" or "acceptable" one (regardless of its veracity or its connection to anything that came before), and especially as soon as there is a real price to pay (socially or legally) for not accepting or embracing it, the Ball Bearings begin to roll.
I imagine a flat plane, maybe like a massive metal tray, with the free-rolling Ball Bearings headed this way or that, depending on how the tray is tipped at the moment. So, for example, when gay "marriage" was unthinkable in this society, the Ball Bearings were huddled snugly and comfortably on the side of authentic, heterosexual marriage. Believing that man + woman = marriage was clearly "approved thought" -- heck, it was axiomatic -- and there was no price to pay, socially or otherwise, for holding that universal belief.
But watch the tray as public opinion changes. First slowly, and then more quickly, the tray begins to tip towards acceptance of gay "marriage". Sure enough, the Ball Bearings start rolling down until they've landed on the other side and are now wedged firmly in the camp that they had previously, and quite recently, disavowed.
Oh, sure, there are some hold-outs among the Ball Bearings, but by the act of holding out, they have joined the minority that I call the True Believers. True Believers (and they come in all stripes and hold all spectrum of opinions, from devout Catholic to radical secularist) do not change their principles based on the winds of change in the culture. They don't follow polls or trends, and they are willing to pay any social or legal price for holding firm to their beliefs.
Right now, it is tempting for those of us who are True Believers in Christ and His Church to wail and lament the tipping tray that is the post-Christian western world.
"Oh, those wonderful societies of old when everyone was Catholic!" we cry. "When the Cathedral was the heart of the town, when there was a Catholic culture and religious processions, when folks never missed mass and knew that the goal was sanctity.... Oh, those were the days of courage and strength!"
But maybe when an entire society is Catholic it's not because of courage and strength, but rather because the tray was tipped in our direction. Maybe -- no certainly! -- the Ball Bearings of those societies did back then what they do now, namely, they went with what was popular and expected and acceptable. There is nothing courageous about going with the flow, even when the flow is fully Catholic. The Ball Bearings in the "golden days" were going to mass and processing and practicing sexual restraint precisely because that's what everyone else was doing. There was a price to pay for doing otherwise, and Ball Bearings never want to (or cannot cope with) paying the price.
The marker for courage in those Catholic cultures would come (as it always does) when the spirit of the age turned from being Catholic to, let's say, Protestant, or Muslim, or secular. At that point, as we see the cultural axis tilt away from the previous Catholic norm, as soon as it becomes uncomfortable or even dangerous to hold the Catholic Faith, we see the Ball Bearings sliiiiiiding down to the new cultural norms. We see the minority True Believers at the top of the tilt, clinging to the Faith. Those are the courageous ones, the ones who won't let themselves take that wide and easy path of least resistance, even as the Ball Bearings roll past all around them.
[And in defense of the Ball Bearings, it's not always true that they roll because they have no convictions. Some of them have convictions, but they do not have the courage of their convictions when the price of stating or living those convictions gets too high.]
Even though (or perhaps because) the Ball Bearings go in whichever direction is safest and easiest, there is a benefit to having a robust Catholic or Judeo-Christian culture. In fact, having such a culture is ideal, as there will be greater human flourishing in such a society. The Ball Bearings themselves benefit greatly when a society is strong in virtue and love of God. As a former Ball Bearing myself, I can assure you that had I been a teen in the 1950s, I would have gone with the expected morals of the day, and I would have spared myself many of the heartaches and sins I took on as a teenager in the '80s M-TV generation. The Ball Bearings end up rolling with the crowd, and when the crowd is pushing virtue, that's a benefit for all; when the crowd isn't pushing virtue, that's a detriment for all.
All this to say that if you find yourself panicked or despairing at America's swift decline into chaos, wondering when we entered the Twilight Zone, relax and remember that this is nothing new. Remember that it's fallen human nature for people to go with the spirit of the age, because being on the "right side of history" is infinitely easier than being on the right side of Truth. Remember that going along with groupthink is how folks protect their livelihoods, their homes, their families, their reputations, their lives. We can understand why it happens, and we can even sympathize and have pity on those who roll into error.
After all, no one wants to go against the popular opinions of the day (including me!). No one wants to give up his own security, be targeted, mocked, ostracized, or persecuted, but we may be called to do so. Heck, Christians are called to be prepared to give up our very lives for Christ and His Truth, so surely we are also called to give up our security and reputations if need be. But it is hard, at least in the early stages of our Christian path to holiness, to give up our comfort and walk in His ways, not the world's ways.
While it's been comfortable to live in an America based on Judeo-Christian values, True Believers should recognize that comfort is not our mission. Truth is our mission. Love is our Mission. Sanctity is our mission. Heaven is our goal. And any comfort we feel (or felt) in a society here on earth can only last until the next "tide of history" or "enlightened ideology" tips the tray and the Ball Bearings slide right down the slope to join it.
Don't be a Ball Bearing. Be the one who helps the Ball Bearings become True Believers.
"In the world you will have troubles, but take courage;
I have overcome the world." John 16:33
I have overcome the world." John 16:33