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Obedience in America and the Future of our Republic

October 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Book Club, Dan Burke, Finding God Meditation, Vicki Burbach

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Finding God Through Meditation (Week 3 of 7)

Obedience is the most grateful oblation to God, wherein man offers himself for a sacrifice. – Finding God Through Meditation, Ch. 2, paragraph 11

When I first read the above quote by St. Peter of Alcántara, I took issue with the notion that obedience is a sacrifice. I thought maybe St. Peter had something wrong; because personally, I’ve always been pretty good at the obedience part.  But I’m terrible at sacrifice.  Naturally, I wondered how it could be that in obedience I sacrifice, while I struggle everywhere else. Something just didn’t add up.

And then it occurred to me.

Sacrifice is born of love.  But often I obey out of fear.

Even as a little girl, I remember believing that someone was watching me even when no one was around.  But that wariness about the presence of some other person – whom I assumed was God – was not couched in love.  It was shrouded in fear.  Fear that I would be punished for my behavior.  Fear of being smited by God.

Sadly, not much has changed since I was five years old.  While I’d love to say that I obey for love of God, that I long only to please Him and make him proud of my best little efforts down here on earth; the truth is that I fear his disdain more than I seek his pleasure.

And that mindset is not limited to my spiritual life.  Truth be told I break down in a torrent of tears if I’m ever stopped for speeding, not because I was speeding, but because I got caught.  Because I fear being perceived as a bad citizen. A lawbreaker.

Most of the time, fear keeps me from pushing my limits.

Perfect obedience stems from a motivation of love and not fear.  But while fear isn’t the preferred reason for obedience, it tends to work.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, imperfect contrition is still contrition (CCC 1453).  Doesn’t it follow that imperfect obedience is still obedience?

It seems that neither love nor fear serves as much of a motivation these days.  In fact, in our world obedience has pretty much taken a back seat to autonomy.  Disregard for authority is not only growing among certain circles but is even encouraged by elements of the press, the establishment and the macrocosm of social media outlets; young people today are being particularly influenced by this mindset.

Just turn on the TV and you are bound to see another cop harassed or even killed for doing his job.  Or you’ll hear about the spiking crime rate in the inner cities.  These days a healthy fear of authority (otherwise known as “respect for authority”) is virtually discouraged. In fact, in many altercations between police and even habitual criminals, authority figures are presumed to be in the wrong unless they can prove otherwise.

We live in a culture where love does not provide much motivation for obedience because the greatest example of love we witness in the modern world is a love of SELF.  This serves as yet another consequence of secular society – driving God out of the public square left a vacuum that has been filled with SELF-reverence.  I am the captain of my ship; the lord of my castle; the master of my destiny.

What room does that mindset leave for love of God?  For authority?

Additionally, while fear of worldly consequences may provide a slight deterrent (and the jury is still out on that one), there is no longer a widespread fear of eternal punishment.

Face it.  We all know there is no escaping God. For those of us with faith, eternal punishment can be quite an effective deterrent.  It’s not that we don’t sin, but in some fashion, we regulate our own behavior, rather than require the services of the state.

Unfortunately, those with little or no faith refuse to recognize God’s authority.  The number of those with little or no faith is growing. And as a country, we are paying the price. There aren’t enough resources in the world to control a country full of people who refuse to control themselves.

If we continue down this path, our Constitutional Republic may be in jeopardy.

In the 1830s, a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville traveled extensively through the United States, meticulously recording his observations about the success of this great American Experiment.

In his classic, Democracy in America, de Tocqueville concluded that our democracy worked well specifically because individuals were governed by their religious values, and that those values were, in fact, an inimitable contributor to our nation’s success:

I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

Unless we are governed by a love for or fear of God, there is no a police force large enough or powerful enough to control us.  Not to mention the fact that once a nation becomes a police state, it is – by definition – no longer a free republic.  Rule of law in a free society cannot be enforced with tyranny.  It must be freely adhered to by a people that recognizes this world as but a valley, through which they pass en route to their true home.

De Tocqueville asserts that, in order to be successful, a democracy must be undergirded by religious faith:

When there is no longer any principle of authority in religion any more than in politics, men are speedily frightened at the aspect of this unbounded independence. The constant agitation of all surrounding things alarms and exhausts them. As everything is at sea in the sphere of the mind, they determine at least that the mechanism of society shall be firm and fixed; and as they cannot resume their ancient belief, they assume a master.

For my own part, I doubt whether man can ever support at the same time complete religious independence and entire political freedom. And I am inclined to think that if faith be wanting in him, he must be subject; and if he be free, he must believe.

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 4-6

Discussion Questions:

1. The quote above sent my mind on a turbulent ride full of thoughts, ideas and considerations regarding obedience, as you can see by my post today.  What are your thoughts on obedience? As it relates to your personal life? As it relates to America?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. You can also find her at

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  • Mike

    Very interesting paragraph, you should send a copy to the GOP and the president. I Should get a copy of the book. Thank you.

    • Vicki

      Mike, I wish more of our leaders would read Democracy in America. In fact, I think it is a must-read for all American citizens – pretty enlightening stuff!

  • Annie

    I can understand why obedience is a sacrifice. When we are obedient to a higher authority, we are sacrificing our own desires/pleasures/comfort to that authority. What better authority than the will of God, our creator? I am so glad that you included the quote by de Tocqueville in your post. It is so true. We all need to share it with others in the hope that it will create a change in the current political climate.

    • Vicki

      Annie, you are so right. Yes, we are definitely sacrificing. I just noticed that sometimes obedience can be more self-servng than sacrificial – at least in my own experience. I never really thought about that flaw before reading this quote – in fact, I’d even say I’ve tended to be a little prideful about my “by the book” personality and often wondered why others don’t just follow the rules –that pride thing sneaks up on me every time – especially when I least expect it! God bless you!

  • Judy Silhan

    For those older, including myself, obedience and obligation used to have the same connotation. I, out of obedience and obligation attended Mass every Sunday and followed all of the rubrics of the Catholic faith, maybe not agreeing with, nor wanting to do so; but I did – obedience, or you went to Hell, obligation, because that’s what we were taught, and not to question. Being obedient and following rules out of obligation were my Catholic identity. Sadly, this misconstrued idea of obedience and obligation is not conducive to transmitting the Love of Christ to ones children; and because of this, my children no longer accept the Catholic Faith. They were not taught about doing things out of love. Because of my misunderstanding of obedience and obligation, I had no strong foundation in Christ, or the church, to hold onto during the many years of mental illness, thus the many suicide attempts.
    Currently, and after over a year and a half of spiritual theology here at Avila, I now understand the term obedience, which is not the same as obligation. For me, obedience is putting Christ’s will over my own, not just for His glory and honor, but also, so that I may grow, ever more closely, in His likeness and holiness. Yes, obedience can be sacrificial, in that we give of ourselves and all that we are for the good of others and for the salvation of souls. Christ showed us how to be self-sacrificing, when He gave His life, out of obedience to the Father. Having learned of the love Christ has for me, I now see how intertwined this love and obedience, even to the point of sacrifice, really are.
    Obedience with regards to America – As you mentioned, the culture we are living in today has encouraged so many people to focus on themselves. There seems to be rampant disregard for adhering to what is right, and being obedient to those guidelines or laws, natural or otherwise. The only thing I can really say with conviction, is that I will obey God’s laws, not the governments; and I think the time is coming, sooner than later, when I, along with many others are going to have to choose who I will obey, and face the persecution, in the name of Christ.

    • Ms. Joseph

      Hi Judy
      you said well about obedience and obligation. Obeying out of our love is different from doing it as an obligation. Your conviction that you obey God’s law is a good decision or act of will from your side. God always respect our choice, to follow him or follow the world. Thank God for giving you such a grace. When we decide to obey God’s law it shows our love for him.Indeed, it says well in 1 John,:5-3, ” For our love for God means that we obey his commands”‘.
      God Bless

  • Jeff Cann

    I enjoyed chapter 2 and three because it is helpful for me to see a method of meditative prayer. I tried it out this week and was surprised when 30 minutes flew by!

    On the De Toqueville quote, America is Babylon. Our only recourse is our faith.

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