STEUBENVILLE, OH—Dr. Peter Kreeft stood before an audience so large it threatened to cause Franciscan University’s Christ the King Chapel to burst at the seams.
Kreeft’s November 17 lecture, “How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis,” drew hundreds of Franciscan students, faculty, and guests to hear the Boston College philosophy professor—who has published over 63 books—speak on the fate of the Church.
Kreeft used a seven-letter acronym, PHONEYS, to highlight society’s biggest problems—Politicization, Happy talk, Organizationalism, Neoworship, Egalitarianism, Yuppiedom, and Spirituality. With deadpan humor and a collection of “Kreeft-isms,” he explained the challenges they present to the Church.
Beginning with politicization, Kreeft described the tendency Americans have to confuse politics for religion. He drew awareness to the trend of defining oneself by politics instead of religion, saying, “We have persuaded many of them to judge their faith by the standard of ‘political correctness’ rather than vice versa.”
Kreeft’s principle of happy talk raised the ante on the average ignorance-is-bliss mentality. He pointed out that Catholics must first return to being Catholic, and correct their own practices before projecting to non-Catholics. “Catholics abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate, divorce, and sexually abuse,” he said, “at almost exactly the same rate as non-Catholics. Amid this devastation, keep them happy talking. Keep them saying ‘Peace, Peace,’ when there is no peace." He wants Catholics to take responsibility for their behavior, make a conscious effort to change it, and to acknowledge that blame can't be placed entirely on the secular world.
Kreeft also stated that Catholics suffer from organizationalism, causing them to regard everything—including the Church—as business ventures. This is especially bad, he noted, because people have lost sight of the role of the Church, and instead focused on the goals of business. “They must worship success, not sanctity," he said, "and fear failure, not sin."
Describing society's misguided translation of egalitarianism, Kreeft pointed out that “sexism” has persuaded men and women to perceive each other as equal, when they should instead be considered beautifully inferior to each other. He believes in the importance of regarding men and women as separate and unequal, and in acknowledging the positive impact of the differences that define each. According to Kreeft, society's deterioration of egalitarianism fosters “the difference between the beauty of black and the beauty of white reduced to a boring grey.”
Regarding his final topic—yuppiedom—Kreeft described a generation that prides itself on not being prideful, saying, “Let them feel superior about not feeling superior, judgmental about not being judgmental.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, Kreeft told of the time he took a Muslim student to Mass; the student later asked Kreeft questions about what he had seen. A discussion about the Eucharist—a concept the Catholic educator assumed his Muslim pupil wouldn’t comprehend—became an eye-opening situation when the student’s repeated question, "Do you really believe that the wafer is the body of your God?" led Kreeft to say, “Yes, I really believe that I am consuming the body of Christ. Do you find that impossible to understand?”Kreeft was left in awe by the Muslim’s response: His struggle was not in comprehending that Catholics thought they were ingesting God. An understanding of how they didn’t fall to their knees, unable to return to their feet after receiving communion, however, eluded him.
Ending his lecture with a short phrase that holds the potential to defeat the culture war, Kreeft said, “Simply put, be real. Don’t be a PHONEY. Be a saint.”
Kreeft’s lecture was sponsored by Franciscan University's Advancement Office and Residence Life Office as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series, which features leaders who are recognized for exemplary service to the Church and society. Find out more about the Distinguished Speakers Series.