Something to Believe In

One of my favorite movies, and a movie I recommend every young man see, is Secondhand Lions (written and directed by Tim McCanlies). Young Walt is dumped at his great uncle’s farm in Texas by his run around mother, something neither he nor they look forward to. As the movie progresses, Walt finds in his uncles, Hub and Garth, the paternal relationship he had been lacking in his life. Without spoiling the movie, I would like to share a quote from the character Hub McCann (Robert Duvall):

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love…true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

In these modern times, in which secularism and skepticism are treated as virtues by so many, I find a simple yet wonderful idea in these words. Many times we get so caught up in trying to know everything before we commit to it. We like to think we can be certain and avoid taking any sort of risk. The secularists that run amok in our world try to convince us that being a skeptic will keep us safe from disappointments and let downs. The skeptic is held up and considered the ideal. His refusal to believe anything that doesn’t have enough proof to meet his standards is supposed to be the action of a wise man. Whatever happens, he won’t be fooled.

Of course, one of the most famous skeptics was a man named Thomas. In fact, he even earned a nickname: “Doubting Thomas.” He refused to believe Jesus had risen until he saw Him himself, at which time Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Belief is a powerful thing. Most, if not all, great changes throughout history, good and bad, have begun with individuals and their belief in something. For example, nearly two thousand years ago the mightiest empire on the planet, Rome, tried to stamp out an upstart religious movement, hunting and persecuting its followers. Not only did these Christians, as they were called, survive, but their numbers continued to grow and they outlived the Roman Empire and many other empires that came after. In this case and so many others like it, these people held onto simple but profound beliefs. The belief in Jesus Christ’s message of love and forgiveness, the belief in individual freedom and responsibility, and the many other beliefs that have carried men and women through great hardships make a case for the superiority of belief over skepticism.

These people followed their beliefs even when everything seemed to be telling them that there was no hope for them, that their beliefs would fail them. Many times they did fail them in the secular sense, but the beliefs were about something greater than temporal success and enjoyment.

Both the skeptic and the believer can fight to for what they believe in – in the skeptic’s case, egocentric belief in the self – and both can withstand a certain amount of persecution and punishment before they “crack.” When the skeptic, who believes in nothing but himself, reaches the breaking point, he has nothing to fall back on. The only thing he ever believed in is falling to pieces, and he will find it nearly impossible to gather the strength to get back up on his feet. When a believer reaches his breaking point, however, he falls and he is held up by his own beliefs: the belief in indestructible and unassailable values, morals, and principles, things that cannot break even when we do. They give something to brace against and help us back up on our feet, a wall to which to put our backs. Not only do they do this, but they also inspire others: others who will become curious and fascinated, who will wonder what could be profound enough to inspire so much strength and faith, who will eventually become believers themselves.

Though some try to smother them, these beliefs cannot be destroyed. The next option available to the servants of evil in the world is to obscure them, to make it difficult to know what exactly these beliefs are by creating overcomplicated theories and watering down the words and language of these morals until the words have become so disconnected from the actuality that no one is quite sure what anything is. This is why it is important to know what we believe in, to be able to sum it up accurately in a few sentences, so we can find them quickly when we need strength and communicate them correctly and efficiently to anyone who questions us.

In a world overcome by the idea of relative truths, complicated proofs, and a distorted view of “tolerance” which requires one to place his own beliefs as second rate, the sly attacks of the relativists and skeptics against the Catholic Church and traditional values are at the center of this storm, just as they always have been in some way or another.  It is just as important as ever to know the truth and to stick to it no matter how bad things seem to get, because our faith and our God will always support us.

“…blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

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