So we seem to live in an age where you can’t escape the word oppression.
Whoever has the power oppresses whoever does not have the power.
But we do the word a disservice. There is true oppression in this world. People who lose their lives at the hands of brutal regimes comes to my mind as an acceptable example.
However, in America we seem to get a smug satisfaction from labeling anything that remotely resembles authority or tradition as oppressive.
For example, I’m told by people who don’t practice my faith that it is oppressive to my gender. And that takes brass. Because I can’t imagine being that presumptuous when your authority on the matter is sheer public opinion. I don’t care if your professor told you in class or you spent ten seconds reading a news headline that actually claimed to have evidence to that effect.
I’ve never had a bishop slap birth control out of my hand. I’ve never had a priest exclude me from a theological discussion because my weak feminine mind wasn’t strong enough to grasp it. No, I’ve had a very positive experience of the church, and I’ve been very blessed by the various parishes I’ve attended over the years. But what do I know? I have only struggled to authentically live my faith since I reached the age of reason. Obviously my opinion would have less weight than an agnostic materialist with a Facebook page who likes to snark on every article that contains a trending buzzword. That makes perfect sense…
But I get it, I really do. You’re afraid of what my church represents. A voice of truth, reason, and love in an age of hedonistic, self-centered, materialism. An institution that is so confident in its message that it will not bend in the face of atheistic relativism. In short, it tells you what you don’t want to hear and you have to fight hard to deny it, not because it’s false, but so you can live the life you want to live.
Because in the worldly world which we live in, there’s a prevailing notion that success means the ultimate indulgence. You answer to no one. You do what you want when you want. I had an atheist yesterday tell me that he has never subjected himself to authority.
But he lied to me. Perhaps because he is lying to himself. Because he did not realize that our disagreement occurred precisely because we submit to opposite authorities. He only submits to himself and people who agree with him. I submit to God, because He is truth, and unlike man (and I include myself in that term, using it to mean the human race) He is incapable of lying, it would go against His very essence.
This particular atheist has not rejected all authority, rather he has declared himself as the supreme authority. Which is short sighted at best, I don’t want to think about what it will be at its worst.
Because the truth is I don’t want to serve myself as supreme. I know myself. And even at my best I am so incomplete. And from this incompleteness it is easy for me to see that there is much I don’t know. And no pity please, my self-esteem is just fine. There’s an art to not knowing, to accepting that there are mysteries I can’t yet comprehend. That there is something greater, more infinite to the universe than just me and my understanding. And as much as this atheist would condescendingly laugh at me, saying that the art of not knowing explains my Catholicism, I actually feel sorry for this guy, because in his pride and his perfect assurance of himself, he is missing what he is ultimately seeking. God would hand it to him right now, if he would only be brave enough to venture into the unknown, to seek the truth he claims to ultimately desire. But instead he stays on the safe shores of his pride, because the horrible thing I recognized while engaging with this man, and with so many like him, is that it’s not truth he’s after, only truth’s shallow imitation: ego gratification in the realm of human intellect.
And that is why I’m simply no longer on a quest to find myself. It takes me back to that same shallow pool when I could be in the ocean. I get bored and overwhelmed with my own limitations. Because I recognized a long time ago that my soul is restless, and I finally had to admit that my entire being is on a quest to find the ultimate satisfaction, true completeness, and that turned out to be God. All wisdom, all knowledge, all power, all glory, but most of all, all love. Perfect love, that just happens to contain all things within it. And I defer to the authority of the church not only because it is guided by the Holy Spirit, but because the traditions handed down by it are from people who have walked down the path of love and found it. Not just a piece of it, but love Himself.
How can the ultimate freedom of this love ever be interpreted as oppression? Wouldn’t it be more oppressive to confine oneself to oneself alone? That is the very definition of hell in my mind.
Because regardless of what you personally believe, the truth is not a relative thing. This atheist and I can’t both be right, there is no compromise.
God exists, or He doesn’t.
And you will have to choose the truth you live. And be careful when you do, because these decisions have eternal consequences.