Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holy Catholic Blogger Speaks

BloggerTerry Nelson said...
After all of these years I've discovered that very few people are as holy as Catholic bloggers.
 

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 IncorporatedAfter 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.

10 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

Yes - my remark was tongue in cheek - laughing with you. And now you made a wonderful post out of it - thanks for the kind words too!

Scott W. said...

I like to look at this picture when I start getting too big for my britches: http://romishgraffiti.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/tradmeme.jpg

Coast Ranger said...

Kevin, you wrote: "Either the Catechism doesn't condemn lying in sting videos, or lying in sting videos isn't really lying."

I work with the Catechism every day; I've worked with Lila Rose; I know of people who know the faith very well and live it (Peter Kreeft and Jane Smith among them) who would not agree with you.

But you just lump people who see this issue differently than you in the camp of hypocritical sinners.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Coast Ranger: Lila Rose, Peter Kreeft and Jane Smith are very wrong on this issue. Click on the label LYING to see the rather vast amount I've written on this subject. And yes, like me, they are hypocritical sinners.

Scott W. said...

After looking at Kevin's work on lying, here is Ed Feser http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/01/smith-tollefsen-and-pruss-on-lying.html

Follow the links in the second paragraph to get his full treatment. Then the article itself takes on Janet Smith's assertions which, while the most respectable of the bunch, ultimately fails to make the case that lying is permissible if the one being lied to does not have the right to the truth.

Kevin O'Brien said...

To clarify: we are all hypocritical sinners in one way or another. Sometimes we can identify the hypocrisy in ourselves or others (as when people openly defy the Catechism to suit their own agendas), sometimes not. But our tendency to be self-serving and to jettison the gospel of Jesus Christ when it suits us runs very deep.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kevin,
Need to ask your opinion and guidance on something; it probably won't make sense to what you've written here, but from the posts i've read till now you seem to be a strong Catholic and i thus need that little guidance and answers which i'm sure to get from you.
Ever heard of Peterson Toscano? He's an actor who today in my country (Malta) is performing his last night a one man show entitled "Jesus has two daddies"; this actor is gay and from what i read his show is autobiographical, though what bothers me is that he says his faith helped him to accept himself as gay but he doesn't participate in the sacraments or go to mass. Now i don't want to jump to conclusions and brand him as bad, though i fear that the way he's making these performances - from what i got from a non-catholic friend's comment (saying it "brought out more questions than answers" and later saying it's also "honest")and from the info linked to the show on the poster, it's making me feel that somehow somewhere there's a tone of misleading within the event.
I believe that any homosexual who doesn't have a strong relationship with God, doesn't put it to pratice the way the Catholic Church says (and chooses to live the way the world says to live) is not a whole person, does not speak out as a whole person, however ignorant he or she is of the fact. I'm not homophobic, i love anyone as much as the next person, though this sensitive subject has come up in my eyeline when it has lately got interlinked with theatre.
My query is, when it comes to such "theatre" as the way this guy is performing, how do we approach this as Catholics, is there a danger of misleading people who come to watch it, should i be worried if people would use the play to make some sort of contradictions against the faith? What is your opinion of this man and his agenda, and what advice could you give me as a fellow Catholic theatre lover and performer?
I hope i'm clear,trying my best here cos it is a very sensitive subject to ask. All i know is that the one man i met who is Catholic and gay and who lives his life in Christ gave out a natural peaceful presence that made me feel that he is sure of himself as a person and i saw him as a giant, who made me feel i'm in earnest pleasant company. THOSE sort of people need to be heard and taken note of, for sure.
Can you help me out dear brother in Christ?
D.Misanelle

Kevin O'Brien said...

Dear D., the play sounds horrid, as does the agenda. Avoiding sin and art that sells sin is not being judgmental, nor is it being "homophobic". If the play is indeed making a case for a life devoted to sodomy, it is simply another sick attempt to advance the Culture of Death. And you can no more be a good Catholic and commit sodomy than you can be a good Catholic and commit adultery. Art that justifies sin should be avoided, and people should be made aware of how insidious this kind of propoganda is.

Hope that helped!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply Kevin, though need to clarify some things here, specially that this is my 2nd attempt in writing this message cos i lost the first draft and trying to remember what i wrote first. What shook me in the first place was the LGBT support behind the play which always gave an ambiguous presence and message to me (http://www.facebook.com/drachma.lgbt - see videos) When i said "i believe . . ." etc i was not defining the show but merely giving my opinion on people who don't live in Christ. As i was looking up further, i found that this actor is a bible scholar and a Quaker and went through an experience where he went through sessions of de-gaying himself if that makes sense, which he said he displayed in the shows. Here's the links that i saw and looked up in my search, sorry for not posting them in the first place, it was late in the evening and i was typing on the effects of a bad headache:

http://petersontoscano.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/a-roman-catholic-defects-from-the-church/

http://petersontoscano.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/doin-time-in-malta-again/

http://www.petersontoscano.com/daddies

But my attempt here is to show no signs of being judgmental and i desperately needed peace of mind and was in search of answers; this is why i turned to you knowing your theatre background and you being a strong Catholic, rather than i kept staying in this predicament and shake in confusion without answers. Hoping that the sources makes my query abit clear, and with this info more into light, could you tell me what you think please?

Thanks for your reply though, it has helped me specially if i ever face such a theatre in the future. Being honest on the fact that i didn't see the play, i still needed to search if such a play like this had "risks" behind it and how to face them, however positive a character the man i'm referring to is. Again no judgment intended here, but still feel confused about this guy.

Thanks for your patience, looking forward to your reply.
D.Misanelle

Anonymous said...

P.S. Happy 15th anniversary of your conversion to Catholicism, i pray that God will convert the hearts of many others to happiness and fulfillment in their lives just as He did for you, along with their embrace of their personal calvary to gain victory in God's name and glory and gain their homeplace Heaven. Salute.
D.