A few months ago, when visiting Edmonton, I was interviewed by a young lady from the Western Catholic Reporter. She plied me with the usual questions about my background and my involvement with the pro-life movement. Then she shot this question at me, “How do you feel about being considered a radical?”
Like a seasoned rugby player, I side-stepped the question by saying, “Most people who call us radicals do absolutely nothing themselves. It is merely a cop out.” She accepted this and went on to something else.
What is a radical?
Next morning I was trying to pray in a church and the question came back to me, “Am I a radical?” I looked up at the stark wooden crucifix above the altar and began to think almost aloud.
The word “radical” comes from the Latin “radix” meaning “a root.” It means getting below the surface of things and down to the foundation. Sometimes the opposite of a word can bring out its significance better than the word itself. The opposite of radical is “superficial,” which means “above the face” or on the surface. Perhaps the adjective “shallow” could best describe a superficial person. I don’t mind being called “stupid” or “dumb” or “ugly,” but I would hate to be considered shallow.
Christ the radical
I looked back at the crucifix. There is something awfully radical about nailed hands, fettered feet, a thorn-crowned head and a riven side. It occurred to me that Christ must be the original radical. I began to look for a simpler term for radical than “radical” and my natural built-in computer came up with the expression, “no compromise.”
Yes, I think that’s it. To be radical means that a person will not compromise on certain fundamental principles.
Applying this to my own life, I realized that there are certain things on which I am prepared to compromise and certain things on which I would never compromise – even in the face of death..
For instance, I am not prepared to die in defence of having my eggs scrambled rather than fried for breakfast. Neither would I take a life-or-death stand on which highway somebody uses to drive me home – provided I get home! These matters are on the surface and to be inflexible about them is to be immature, unreasonable and foolish.
But there are principles or truths on which, I hope, I would never compromise. I say “I hope” because through human weakness I might do “a Simon Peter” and say “I know not the Man.” But my present mind set is such that I hope I would sacrifice even life itself rather than compromise certain truths which form the basis of my whole outlook on life.
If asked to mention just a few, I would probably choose the existence of God, the Divinity of Christ and my loyalty to the Church. These truths, and many others which are based on them, are so deeply rooted and embedded in my soul that to compromise on any one of them would mean being totally untrue to myself.
But if I am a radical about these truths, I cannot be less radical about the logical consequences that flow form them. If I am radical about two plus two equalling four, I cannot be less radical about the fact that 44 plus 44 equals 88.
If I believe that “God is the Sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth and of all things,” I must just as firmly believe that He is total Master of life and death and, therefore, without His permission, nobody can decide who will live and who will die.
Based on the findings of science and the statements of scientists, I am convinced that the unborn baby is a true human being from the moment of conception. Therefore, I must be radical about the right of every unborn baby to be born and to be born and to be given all the care it needs to survive. To deny this truth or to refuse to defend it, would be tantamount, in my opinion, to denying the Lordship of God over life and death.
We need radicals
So I am grateful to the reporter of the Western Catholic Reporter. She made me face up to myself. I shall never again dodge or sidestep the question, “Are you a radical.”
My answer will be “Yes, I am a radical on the truths which I consider fundamental – and the right to life of every unborn baby is one of those truths.”
One of the many problems with our current society is this. We have allowed the principle of democracy – valid in certain circumstances – to so pervade our lives that we have ceased to think for ourselves and so we walk with the crowd. What we have forgotten is the fact that if something is morally wrong, it remains morally wrong – even if one hundred per cent of people say it is morally right or vice versa.
Here is a verse which expresses better than I can what I have been trying to say. “Some men die by the sword and others go down in flames. But most men perish inch by inch in play and little games.”
God preserve me from such a fate. Register me as a Radical!