"Here in the hall, she casts an unlikely silhouette -- unassuming in a lineup of proud stares, challenging us once more to look up and draw strength from stillness."
Speaker of the House John Boehner was referring to the new statue of Rosa Parks in the Capitol's rotunda.
Boehner told a Washington crowd about how Parks' strong religious faith bolstered her at every turn, and gave her the quiet yet steely courage necessary for the tough civil-rights battles that she fought, and which ultimately changed the face of American society.
"Humility isn't incompatible with bravery," Boehner reflected. "When we put God before ourselves ... when we make 'In God We Trust' not just a motto, but a mission, as Rosa Parks did ... any burden can be lifted," he said.
Boehner's words about Parks are necessary and timely, a refresher on faith's power to motivate, and a reminder that true heroism is selfless.
In a speech on religious liberty last year, John Garvey, the president of the Catholic University of America, talked about a fundamental obstacle to attempts at conversation and debate on American policy. "Our society won't care about religious freedom if it doesn't care about God. That's where reform is needed ... The best way to protect religious freedom might be to remind people that they should love God."
We are already entering into another round of "war on women" campaigns that obscure fundamental policy questions involving, for one, the health-insurance abortion/contraception mandate that has brought more than 100 plaintiffs to court seeking religious-liberty protection. The White House, aided by a willing media, has benefited from a policy of obfuscation and confusion. But they are best aided by a cultural shift that has denigrated and minimized the role of religion in our lives.
This is where we are in America. We have privatized religion to such an extent that it has become sidelined; to suggest that it should guide and shape a life and a society seems a foreign, even ludicrous, contention. We have been so overtaken by secularism and arrogance laced with hopelessness that we don't see truly religious people as integral to a flourishing society.
Five years ago, William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of the National Review and one of the great public intellectuals of the last century, died. He spoke of "What Americanism Seeks to Be" in a speech in 1979. "The Constitution of the United States, and in particular the Bill of Rights," Buckley said, is "essentially a list of things that the government cannot do to the people."