Sacrificing virtue for the sake of relevance
I don’t know about you, but as I look back over the course of my life since I began to take this thing called “faith” seriously, I can see ways the which I have succeeded but also failed as a Catholic. I can see the ways I have witnessed to others and the ways I have possibly scandalized them. Thank God for the sacrament of confession, right? Yet, one of those failures I have seen in myself is something that has become an almost normative approach that many Christians (Catholic and otherwise) are taking to their lives and it scares me.
I was at a show two weekends ago, and a frontman for the local hardcore band Mirrors and Tides said, “The things I hate most in the world are the things I hate most in myself.” I had to agree that I find that correlation not only with the negative things in the world, but also in the local church. When I look at my life, I can see the times when I have chosen to look cool, funny, or simply did not want to rock the boat, instead of being an active witness of the Truth. This still happens for me. We all want to be liked, and it can be really hard for us to stand up and be virtuous in the face of possible persecution. We really hate discomfort. Yet, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
I am tired of the ways I make compromises for the sake of ease. I hope I’m not the only one. Yet, the battle against lukewarmness within myself can be won or lost based on the comprises I make. If you have had dogs in your life, you know well the scent that a dog can take on by simply going outside. If not, just imagine how your clothes smell after spending 15 minutes in a Subway restaurant. Same difference. The same goes for us when we mentally start taking on worldly attitudes. The more time we spend adopting these base attitudes, the less we smell like the Gospel. Yet, many Christians even pride themselves in looking like the world.
There are many examples of this that come to mind, including people like Stephen Colbert, who some people hold up as an example of what a good modern day Catholic should look like. Recently, a video was posted showing him and Jack White of the White Stripes talking catholic jargon (I do not want to link to it because it is highly offensive, despite its theme). These sacred and holy things (for the most part), were sandwiched in-between cuss words. To appeal to a worldly crowd, these two resulted to debasing these holy things with the words they surrounded them with, because to simply talk about this would just be perhaps too extreme for their viewers.
Yet, as I said before, the things I hate in the world are those things that I hate in myself, and sure enough, I can point to times in my life where I’ve done very similar things. My point is that even though I have been the one to compromise, it is wrong, and I’m calling it for what it is. If, as Bl. Paul VI said, “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God,” it has entered through people like me, who have made small compromises, which amount to little cracks in the foundation of our Christian lives. The Second Vatican Council cannot be blamed for screwing things up in the Church for the last 40 years. We need to point to ourselves and see that those fissures are those little compromises which, over time, grew from cracks into gaping holes.
Lukewarmness can affect us all, but it begins to show itself little by little. Though there are many ways this lukewarmness can show up, one of the main ways is in our words and how we speak. I find this most especially true for myself. The way we hold our words can be a great litmus test to see how we are holding ourselves in check and where our self control lies. St. James says in his epistle that, “If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain”(James 1:26). St. James also spends most of the third chapter of his epistle speaking about the restless evil of the tongue. Jesus Himself says in Matthew’s Gospel, that “not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matt 15:11).
The way we speak is a big deal. Our level of self control can be seen at how well we can hold our tongues in check. Again, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. This is a clarion call for all of us to take stock of our words, whether spoken, written, and even in thought. We know that if we struggle with control of our tongues that there may be other things in our lives which also need to be reined in. Lukewarmness leads to little compromises which lead to even greater compromises. Unchecked venial sins can lead to mortal sins. This is just the nature of what happens when we give up being vigilant with ourselves.
No matter how good our intentions are, the more we look like the world, the more worldly we will become. In order to be the “Salt of the Earth” and “Light of the World” as Christ calls us to be, there must be a visible distinction between us and the bland darkness of the world. We have to “run the race so as to win”, not just stand still when it comes to being real life christians. We cannot simply pander to the culture and fool ourselves into thinking people will effectively listen. Our history, especially within the last 50 years of the Church shows that catering to worldliness only serves to cause you to lose the fire of faith. It cannot be transmitted effectively that way at all. The Christian life is like the below video states, “It is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk. Walk and you stay put. Stand still and you go backwards. To get ahead, you have to hustle.” Our actions follow our words. God spoke and it was. So lets get serious about being vigilant with our tongues and using our speech to speak life into the world. May our speech mirror the Life that dwells within us through baptism, who spoke and it was. It’s time to take the race seriously and stop trying to appeal to being relevant at the cost of virtue. Don’t just stand there – hustle!
Posted on April 20, 2015, in Catholic, Church Corruption and Renewal, Current Events, Virtue and tagged catholic scandal, christian speech, relevance, speak life, Tame the tongue, virtue. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.