The Gospel Truth

In the Name of the Father…

November 16, 2011

I can’t remember how old I was when I learned to bless myself with the sign of the cross.

My mother might have taught me or perhaps it was my first grade teacher, Sister Ellen Marie.

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I probably learned how to do this in grade school

It is startling to me, some 62 years later that the sign of the cross and its physical representations seem to have lost their place in American society.

The cross as a religious sign is under siege.

Many people say that they are offended when people demonstrate their religious faith.

They say, not in words, but in attitudes that we must relegate such devotional moments to the privacy of our home.

Perhaps in the closet is the only place suitable because we might offend visitors, delivery men and the like.

Well homosexuals aren’t in there any more.

That should leave some room for us.

To me this is a more than a subtle form of discrimination.

On a deeper level, it has all the earmarks of a modern form of persecution.

I really don’t understand the threat that my Catholic faith has to these forces of prejudice whose pedigree runs hundreds of years…at least to the French Revolution.

Jesus Christ was a simple carpenter to most of them and He preached a revolutionary gospel of love and brotherhood.  Most people like that idea.

I don’t see the problem with that, except maybe for the fact that He left the beginnings of a Church behind that developed a strict moral order in line with his sermons of charity, lust and turning the other cheek.

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What are they afraid of?

Then of course there is the Divinity thing.

Christians have to acknowledge a power much greater than themselves or any government they might create.

Perhaps that’s the rub.

People, especially liberals and other well-educated people see themselves and their will as more important than His.

Maybe it is Jesus’ axiom that the truth shall set you free!

Whose truth?  Certainly not that of a secular government that manufactures its truth daily.

Maybe that’s the reason Marx and his heirs have made it a point to destroy Christianity.

Or maybe it goes back even further than Communism.

Maybe it is the Augustinian dichotomy of the City of God versus the City of Man.

Maybe Nero was the first representative of the latter.

I recently viewed the 1932 movie, The Sign of the Cross and was amazed at the stark contrast between the world of Rome and the promised world of Jesus.

Was risque for its times

It was one of Cecil DeMille’s great religious epics and at that time movie producers were pushing the envelope over the accepted levels of modesty and individual chastity because of declining attendance due to the hard times.

The Catholic Church in Chicago led the charge in producing a self-enforcing code that was handed over to the Will Hays Office and became known as the Hays Code in 1930.

The Eponemous Will Hays

From 1930 to 1934, Hay’s Production Code was only slightly effective in fighting back calls for federal censorship.

However, things came to a head in 1934 with widespread threats of Catholic boycotts of immoral movies.

DeMille’s Sign was at the center of this growing national controversy and probably the main reason for the establishment the Catholic Legion of Decency, which became a formidable benchmark of morality until 1978.

The Sign starred Frederic March and a relative unknown, Italian actress. Elissa Landi.

But the real star turned out to be Claudette Colbert whose notorious milk bath stole all the headlines.

She playfully splashes enough milk so the world can get a fleeting full look at her breasts.

Tame by today

To me that salacious scene is quite tame by our post-modern standards but I can see their point in 1932.

I don’t have any way of knowing how many lustful thoughts emanated from those few brief seconds of visible flesh in 1932, but I can honestly say her playfulness probably exceeded the parameters for intent for John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

She definitely wanted the audience to sneak a peek.

Yet in retrospect I do believe her brief exposure did have at least one redeemable feature.

It helped to provide the sharp contrast between the modestly clad Christian women and the courtesans of Emperor Nero’s pagan court.

While the film was over-dramatized and the filmography primitive compared to our own times, the story of the Prefect of Rome and his obsession with a young Christian woman was very compelling.

It was not only a love story but one of how the purity of a Christian woman who believed in something higher, could tame the passions of a Roman pagan so  much that he gladly followed her into the lions’ den and a gruesome death.


Followed her into eternity

Parallels like that seem lost on the audience of today.

The scenes of vivid and overt savage persecution were gut-wrenching.

But Jesus had warned them that the world would persecute them.  And it still does.

The Romans enjoyed their games.

Besides the standard gladiatorial combats, there  were graphic scenes that served as a near-comic backdrop of African pygmy warriors fighting Amazon women.

Just an appetizer for the pagan Romans

But all this was really the appetizers.  The Romans had come to see the Christians play the lions.

Nubile Christian women who were obviously naked, though strategically placed flower leis did provide a brief modicum of modesty, were tied to posts as lions and even gorillas got ready ready to devour them.

Humiliation and mutilation

While this had a salacious value for many moviegoers, I saw it as a warning as to what my faith can actually cost.

Fortunately for us today, the only lions we let in the arena are from Detroit and the Christians don’t have their own formal team.

That brings me to the saga of Tim Tebow and his career in the National Football League.

Tebow won national acclaim by leading his Florida Gators to two national championships and winning a Heisman Trophy to boot.

His passing style is unorthodox and not very well suited for the pros.

Yet as he showed at Florida, he has all of the intangibles of poise under fire, character and leadership.  And he knows how to win!

To date he has won three of his four starts for Denver this year.

These traits cannot be taught or acquired.

He also engendered the wrath of millions of pro-choice people, who chided his mother for not having aborted him when he was in utero 23 years ago.

Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad Video Commercial Pam

The Tebows angered the left

Their joint prolife ad at a recent Superbowl was just too much for the choice crowd.

Tebow also prays during games by genuflecting after a key play.

Some opponents have responded by mocking his religious devotion on a field similar to the games where they ate Christians, not tackled them.

In a sport where many consider womanizing an adjunct to their prowess on the field, Tebow’s celibacy until marriage is regarded as unpopular as a blind side tackle.

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His critics call this pose--Te-bowing

According to the New York Times, he can be seen as polarized between those who can lionize him (not eat him) as a mythological athlete and those who resent the idea that Tebow taps into some power on the field.

To me this is just another subtle form of persecution and I will always be a Tebow fan, not just for his uncanny ability to always prove the experts wrong but for his undying faith in God.


About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at