This comment appeared on my post Scratch a Catholic, and it took me a while to realize that this was Terry Nelson of the consistently well-written and challenging blog Abby Roads. Naturally, it was delivered tongue-in-cheek, and it may have been simply a joke - or the implication may have been that Holy Catholic Blogger (i.e., "fraud") that I am, I should not be throwing stones at the Devout Catholics around me who reveal themselves, time and again, to be far less Christian than they either pretend to be or attempt to be.
And this is a hazard for any critic or satirist. We knock down idols made by human potters when we ourselves have feet of clay.
But that's really the point I'm trying to make. It's not your fault out there, it's my fault in here.
Fifteen years ago this coming Sunday - Sept. 23, 1997 - I had a remarkable conversion experience that brought me from atheist to the Christian Faith. I have described this in detail on The Journey Home and elsewhere, but the upshot of that rather remarkable night was that I realized that if this "Christianity" thing I had been pondering from the writings of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and the Bible was real, I could not leave it on the shelf. It had to be lived.
And so the first thing I did was try to pray; and then try to start being honest in a business / financial situation that I had been cheating on that entire summer. Soon after that, I even made a swing at trying to root out lifelong sexual sins, and though it took me eight years of struggling, God gave me a great deliverance from what was really addictive behavior, from what was a great perversion of Love (in the form of Eros), a tremendous enslavement to a way of life that prevented me from being happy or from being effectively engaged in any creative way with the world around me.
This is why I have great sympathy but little patience for those who try to rationalize their sins of the flesh. I know both how miserable things like that make you, and I know how enslaved we become to them without realizing it. Heroin has nothing on porn, for example.
After a few years of "mere Christianity" and of participating in the spectrum of mistakes about Christ, from being a fundamentalist Missouri Synod Lutheran to being an ultra-liberal-indifferentist Episcopalian, my wife Karen and I were finally received into the Catholic Church on July 30, 2000 - a date I later learned was the 78th anniversary of G. K. Chesterton's reception into the Church.
Since then, I've again traveled the spectrum, from being around ultra-liberal-indifferentist suburban Catholics to being surrounded by hateful-and-deliberately-miserable city-church attending radical traditional Catholics - from living with, as it were, Stanford Nutting for a bit and then with his mad-trad half-brother Williamus Filius Johani (Bill Johnson) for a bit.
And since my conversion, our greatest spiritual adventure - and our greatest mistake from a worldly perspective - was starting the Theater of the Word Incorporated . After five years of this ministry, we have still not financially recovered. Bankruptcy continues to loom as an option for the O'Brien family. The only thing that may save us is that we are booking fewer Theater of the Word shows - and the more shows we do, the more money we lose, so fewer bookings means things are looking up! I have not drawn a salary from Theater of the Word Incorporated for over three years, and while our secular business Upstage Productions supports us, it took a large financial hit when we started our Christian drama apostolate, and we are still struggling to get Upstage to recover.
(Thus the life of what Michael Voris disdainfully refers to as a "professional Catholic".)
But my point in all of this is what I'm learning from the Spiritual Journey.
I have recently seen that for many years I've been involved in a very sinful and damaging situation in my life that I had utterly rationalized away. As I said in "Scratch a Catholic",
Yes, Devout Catholics have little blips and tics that reveal a troubled conscience over the compromises they make, but in general even Devout Catholics have imbued the secular attitude that We Have a Right to Do What We Want, and if What We Want contradicts Church teaching, well it's easy enough to explain away - we either expand the teaching to cover our behavior, or define our behavior in such a way that it fits Church teaching (for example, either the Catechism doesn't condemn lying in sting videos, or lying in sting videos isn't really lying).I was not pointing fingers at others with that statement; I was not being the Holy Catholic Blogger throwing stones at y'all. Yes, I was talking about the rest of you; but I was also talking about myself.
And as I also wrote not long ago ...
We invite sin in, we set up an easy chair for it, we make it a nice drink, we invite it to sit down and visit with us. We even take it into the bedroom and make love to it. It bears our progeny. And we laugh and go to Mass on Sunday and parrot the Act of Contrition and secretly, silently harbor this hidden sick cancer that enslaves us and pays us nothing but the wages of death.In this very same spirit, I had treasured and nurtured my own secret sin(s), I had convinced myself that the Church (and my conscience) really didn't condemn what I knew was wrong; or that my precious sin was really just borderline behavior that fell shy of the border-line and not well over it. I had even thought that I received confirmation of this rationalization in prayer.
But then the bottom fell out and I saw how sordid and selfish the whole thing was from the get-go - a truth I had known all along, but had been trying to compartmentalize away.
So here I am, not only a Holy Catholic Blogger, not only a Devout Catholic, but also Grand Eparch of the Church of the Kevin, and I've been as much of a hypocrite as all those other lousy Christians, especially those self-proclaimed ones.
I'm tempted to say that if you really want to ruin your life, spend some time with self-proclaimed "Christians", especially "Serious Christians" or "Devout Catholics". Worse, work for a few "Devout Catholic Organizations" - either the Church or various lay apostolates.
There's an organization I've been working for (for free, of course) for a long time, and it only recently became clear to me that the reason they've been treating me and my friends like crap, and the reason they're compromising the content of the supposedly Catholic material they provide, is simply that they're not really Catholic.
But is anyone really Catholic?
Is anyone even merely Christian?
Are we just members of this club so that we can feel good about ourselves and use this same club to beat other people over the head with it?
If Jesus Christ is not the center of our lives, then what the hell have we been doing and saying and blogging about for (in my case) fifteen years this coming Sunday? And if we rationalize sin, make excuses for Lying and voyeurism and torture and bad music and art and various forms of unchastity and child abuse and usury and greed and on and on and on - then Jesus Christ is certainly not the center of our lives.
Notice I said "our" lives.
The story of all of Scripture, all of the Church, and all of our lives really comes down to this -
- The Father's gift of grace and our rejection of it (see the Old Testament)
- Christ offering to save us and us resisting that offer (see the New Testament)
- the Holy Spirit showing us our sins so that He may lead us to repent, and us shutting our eyes that we might continue to be blind (see Church History ever since)
Of course, that's the tragic part of who we are.
The comic part - the True Part - runs deeper.
For the Good is real; and the evil just a twisting of it. Love remains, even in the midst of sin, and God continues to be patient with us, and to write straight with our crooked lines.