Monday, December 1, 2014

Christians and the Cowardice of the Indefinite

We prefer things blurry.

One of the reasons we are so cowardly, and why Christians have become salt without savor, bland,
lifeless, lukewarm and lame, is that we lack the courage
  1. to see that at thing is
  2. to see what a thing is
  3. to call a thing by its proper name
We are cowed skeptics.  We are afraid to acknowledge the reality of things.  But that is the beginning of sanity and of our engagement with the world.  As G. K. Chesterton said ...

Every sane man believes that the world around him and the people in it are real, and not his own delusion or dream. No man starts burning London in the belief that his servant will soon wake him for breakfast. But that I, at any given moment, am not in a dream, is unproved and unprovable. That anything exists except myself is unproved and unprovable.

It takes a kind of manliness, courage and common sense to begin at the right place, to begin with, "this is real".  It takes a kind of leap of faith, a primordial leap of faith, for, as Chesterton points out, the reality of the world cannot be proven.  It may indeed all be a dream, and it's only the solid joy and exuberance of gratitude and wonder that gives us the courage to affirm the reality of the world and to follow that up with recognizing the demand a real world places on us.

We must begin with the sturdy courage to accept that a thing is, to have to fortitude to examine what the thing is, and the shocking strength of our father Adam to give the thing its proper name, a name that is not merely arbitrary, but that describes the thing's essence (see Gen. 2:19).

But what does this have to do with how we live our lives as Christians?

Take the following examples.

  • The archdiocese of Miami is controlled by a gay cabal.  Even the left-leaning Gawker reports on this.   Now, a diocese that's run by a gay bishop whose vast majority of priests are actively homosexual and quite promiscuous could be called many things.  It could be called good or bad or shocking or what you will.  But it cannot be called Catholic.

  • Many of the right-wing Devout Catholic readers of this blog are adamant that torture, lying and contempt for the poor are fine and dandy, and to hell with what the Catechism teaches on these subjects.  You may call these readers many things, but you cannot call them Catholic.

  • Bishops who put children in harm's way, protecting pedophile priests, lying about it, and focusing on fund raising and glad handing can be called many things, such as scoundrels and villains and men-pleasers and even pimps.  But you cannot call them Catholic.

Of course it must be said that on the one hand every baptized person is Catholic, but on the other hand, not every Catholic is in full communion with the Church.  Many are heretics, picking and choosing their favorite teachings while ignoring or trying to change or explain away the rest.

And I'm not saying we should get into a position where we're constantly worrying about how Catholic our fellow Catholics are.

But I am saying we need to have the balls to say, If it doesn't look like a duck, or quack like a duck, or fly like a duck, it's not a duck.  

The Catholic thing is a very real thing.  It is Jesus Christ incarnate.  It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and stirring us up.  It is God the Father and His saints, both on heaven and on earth.  It is sinners being saved or sinners being damned.  It is bigger than any other thing, and also smaller than any other thing, like the "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12).  But, big and vast as it is, it is (like all real things) definite and distinct, meaning it has boundaries and can be defined.  It is not vague and vast.  It is not everything.  It is not whatever.

It is not Inconsequentialism.  It is not comfort and suburban security, in a life filled with contraception and abortion, perversion and self-indulgence.  It is not the abuse of children.  It is not a fashion like the kind of clothes you wear or the kind of music you listen to.    

It is as real as the Son of Man that we all hung on a Cross many years ago, so real that we're afraid to admit it.  We would rather go on living the way we always have, too scared to acknowledge what's right before our eyes.  Too scared to call a spade a spade.


Anonymous said...

This is so good.

Anonymous said...


How can you wake people up? How can you make people want The Truth? How can you make baptized Catholics act like Saints?

I have not been able to come up with a solution. The only thing I can do is work on myself and hope that I am living up to The Gospel and that others will see Christ in me and want to try to do the same.

Otherwise, I don't have an answer. It took the sheer terror of being in hell with eternal separation from God to shake me out of my sinful lifestyle. I lived most of that time during the pontificate of St. John Paul who preached and lived The Gospel and I still didn't listen.

Dr. Eric

John Henry said...

Speaking as a convert, I don't think you can make people want the truth. The lies of the world will do that all on their own. The job of the Church is to make sure people have somewhere to turn when that happens. Witness to the truth; that's your job. What people do with that witness is the job of the Holy Spirit.