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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Whole Truth

I have to confess openly that I do not understand redemption. I could not possibly know the depth of God's love for me and all of us. But to be moving in the right direction is to say that you want to know. You want to grow.

I came to realize today that it's easy for the cares of this life and desires to get in the way of loving God. [That's not news, dummy.--ed.] Well, it was to me. How was RCIA, by the way? [Horrible. These people are way too happy. And this woman was certainly trying to bribe us with cookies.--ed.] I hate it when she does that. I mean, I love it. I mean, I don't want to get fat, but in the moment, I can't seem to care. [So they are sinful, then.--ed.] Simmer down, Calvinist. [I'd like an answer to the question.--ed.] No, the cookies are not sinful, you world-hating dualist. [You should talk.--ed.]

You're doomed, you know. If you keep going, you're Catholic. It's probably already over. [Shut up. I'm not weak and emotional like you.--ed.] We'll see, won't we? Why'd you do it, anyway? [I did it on a dare. No one calls me scared.--ed.] Well, good luck. God's blessings, and all that. [I'll be blessed by God when I walk out of there trusting in the finished work of Christ.--ed.] How right you are. More than you know.

I want to challenge all my non-Catholic Christian friends and brothers to take ownership of your dissent. There's a false ecumenism out there that says we are united in the essentials of faith. We're not. If we were, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Just know that what Holy Mother Church aims to do is challenge the credibility of the foundations for that dissent. You're not Catholic? Super. Then you cannot be united to me (fully) and the rest of the brethren who are. Anybody who tries to build a "unity" based on propositions, or warm fuzzies, or anything else is wasting your time. All of you have a real but imperfect union with the Church, insofar as you do not know that you ought to be Catholic. I digress. That's important because if it is Christ and Him alone that we seek, then we must find him where he is.

If Dylan Klebold or some other killer had a room full of Catholics at gunpoint, and he was going to kill them all, would you say you were among them? Leave aside the question of whether you could save them by giving your life. How important would the niceties be, at a time like that? Let's even say he doesn't know the theological niceties. You gonna stand apart, because 'FAITH ALONE!' and these people probably think God loves them for trying hard, anyway? I don't think so. At least that's true for me.

So I had to realize, if I wasn't ready to die for the particularities of what I'd been taught--we're talking much more specific than, "Jesus loves me, this I know"--then, firstly, I was unserious about the mission upon which I intended to embark as a minister of the gospel. Secondly, I owed it to the very men who were my forefathers in faith to take that faith as seriously as they did. You know, taking ordination vows is a dying to yourself. And those, even when imperfectly and invalidly done, are to God, not to men. And so it is that the heart of the question comes to be seen: Am I certain that these men, and not some other ones elsewhere, are acting in God's person, on His authority, in doing this?

It is in fact these men I would have gone to had I doubted the doctrine of Christ. Not, mind you, to some concept of the Church, but to the very expression of it that I had known. I cannot imagine the truth; I have to hear it. And if these men cannot, on God's authority, tell me what God says, firstly, why would I ask? And second, we do not simply know the gospel, we do the gospel. When the full implications of this run up against the historical witness and claim of the Catholic Church, there is only one thing left to do.

Because I have to know, as a Christian, that the liturgical actions I take, and that are done to me, come from God, with his sanction. At its heart, Christianity is a sacramental faith; this is because Christ is the Word Incarnate. Simple as that. God in Christ has chosen to work through people. All the better reason to ask whether certain men have been sent by God as his ministers. So, at the risk of being rude, spare me the chatter that we are united by we know not what. Our needs demand that we know what God has spoken--and what he has not--and to whom he has spoken--and not. At the very least, this truth should put to death the whole, "We won't know this side of Heaven" approach to the problem of our disunity. Jesus is not a grief counselor, who sits with you in grief, and says, "I don't know" when confronted with the unanswerable question. The present state of Christianity is not a mysterious act of God; it's an entirely avoidable tragedy. A bunch of wicked people doesn't change the truth about the Eucharist, or Christ's resurrection. If our need is holiness, then our need is not new truth, and a new method of finding it.

If we are to be with Christ, we should want all of Him, and all the truth that comes from Him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Relativism

I can't shake this feeling--or this snarky opinion--that everything is infected with relativism, like a disease. I mean, honestly. And you can't even say, "even among evangelicals," because that word is the epitome of the problem.

And don't even get me started on politics. This is the relativist's favorite playground. The only thing you have to do is say, "Well, we don't live for this world" or "Jesus didn't have a political program" or "Pox on both your houses!" or "I'm a moderate" or "I'm a Christian first" and you're done thinking.

That may not be fair, but it's kind of true. And anyone else who even dares suggest that it's more complicated than that, or Heaven forbid, that you might want details, oh, well, you're obviously taking a human, feeble thing way too seriously. OK, sorry I asked.

You know what, Christian Leader Guy? I want definitions of words; not everything is an endless search for a happy medium. And while I wholeheartedly concur that Barack Obama is not the Antichrist, pardon me for suggesting that this whole direction we are taking is illiberal.

This really isn't the time for measured tones, on a great many things. We have done a fair measure of listening, sharing, and mutual affirmation, from politics to ecclesiology, dogma, to family and a million other things. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Because if people can't look in my eyes and see the basic human respect that is there, and most times, should be assumed, nothing I say will change what they already decided. Save the apology tours; I'll make a friend or a brother based on what we actually share, not on feelings.

Just because it may not be cool to suggest that we're politically on a road to serfdom doesn't mean we aren't. And just because someone attends a church that sounds like yours, uses words you would use, and looks like you doesn't mean they aren't a gospel-destroying liar. Or at least imprecise and foolish enough to be used by them.

This is a touch more strident than I like to be. I'm sorry about that. I feel these shackles about me; they are called, "politeness." So many of the things that matter are so much more important than the Red Sox and the Yankees, and yet, people make a cottage industry out of saying, "It doesn't matter," or "Neither," as if we're supposed to be impressed with your detachment.

Niceness is not a gospel imperative; kindness is. And allow me to suggest that if time has weakened your stomach for speaking the truth in love, the wisest, most loving course is to step away.

Monday, November 12, 2012

5 Thoughts For Today

5. A tie? In American football? Really?

4. Ah-HA, Cutler sucks.

3. Skyfall.

2. I mean, Cutler is bad. He's worse at playing quarterback than Obama is at being president.

1. If the principals in the NHL labor dispute can't reach an agreement, they can always console themselves that even while not working, they still suck less than Jay Cutler.