The Expert

So writing on this blog is admittedly long overdue and part of that is due to the weird place I am in life. Lately I’ve been full of fear which is unlike me. And part of it is because in my soul I’m an introverted person who prefers to remain in the background but as an adult I find myself given more authority and bigger challenges which are really a blessing but which leave me wondering how to walk the littler way.

I think I often get caught up in the grand things I want to do for God. So caught up in fact that I forget that the goal of my faith is not to grow out of my need for God but to deepen it with loving trust. To surrender even more, to become even smaller and need Him even more than I have in the past. Sometimes I think that God loves me profoundly not because I am worthy but because I am so needy, so utterly helpless on my own. And He just can’t resist doing great things for me.

Such love and strength and power fill up every wound, every struggle even when I don’t feel it, even when it’s hard to be grateful and hard to believe. But when I get to heaven I hope I can say with the Blessed Mother that even in the sufferings even in the trials I’m blessed because I have the love that is everlasting living deep within my soul.

Advertisements

Don’t Listen to Justin Beiber

So this probably doesn’t surprise anyone but Justin Beiber is apparently trying to do some damage control for his image as an irresponsible party animal (it is taking every ounce of self-control I have within me not to add something really sassy to the end of that statement). In an interview he did with Complex magazine he even talks about his Evangelical Christian faith, and shares the following observation (which has gotten a fair amount of online traffic) “You don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell that doesn’t make you a Taco.”

We’ll Justin, never say never… (I tried to fight it- I really did!)

jb

But, coming back from the solid two minutes I took to laugh at my own bad pun, in my opinion this is a sad indictment of the public educational system, because this is one of the weakest arguments I’ve ever come across- not to mention one of the crappiest metaphors of all time. When I think Taco Bell my next thought is never Church, it’s college hangovers. More to the point, that is the equivalent of saying A does not yield B and C does not yield D. The relationship between A and B is in no way affected by the relationship between C and D. That is like saying my mother and father got married when they were 22 and have been married for 31 years. My neighbors got married at 22 and have been married for 31 years. Fantastic. But it doesn’t prove a thing because my parents’ marriage is in no way affected by my neighbor’s marriage. If you got married at 22, and had been married for 31 years, that would just add another set of letters (E yielded F).  I would be an absolute fool to use this alphabet soup to assert that if you got married at 22, you would also be married for 31 years (and beyond hopefully). It’s just yet another ill-thought-out argument in the public arena. I don’t know why we pay attention to it.

Perhaps because, regardless of his unimpressive debating skills, the Biebs echos a sentiment I hear a lot from millennials in my generation, the idea that we are more “spiritual” than “religious” and don’t need church for anything. Loving God in a vague and abstract way whenever you personally feel like it is enough. So they say. But it shouldn’t be. Your heart longs for more than abstractions. In fact, if it’s anything like mine then your heart won’t be satisfied with anything less than the real deal, perfect love and true completeness.

Because people aren’t as against church/organized religion/religious institutions as they think they are. It’s simply a product of the indoctrination that we call public education. What people are against is the media portrayal of the church/organized religion/religious institutions, which always show Christians as hateful and stupid, and the Catholic Church as an outdated relic whose teachings are in opposition to “progress”. In general, as part of the “question everything” generation we are taught to question all authority (religious authority included) and then replace it with our own authority. Interestingly that’s one of the reasons, I would argue, that the teacher turnover rate is so high, because the next generation has been raised with this pride, that they already know everything/will figure it out on their own and no one is going to tell them what to do- especially some crap teacher. (Crap is the label given to any teacher who doesn’t give an adolescent their way, so take that with a grain of salt.)

And this anti-authority way of thinking breeds mistrust for the wrong institutions. Don’t trust the moral authorities, which they paint as the overbearing parents trying to get in the way of your life of self-indulgence, trust the authority of the state. You may think I’m exaggerating, but humans have to believe in something in order to give their life meaning, and if you don’t believe in a religious/moral authority this will create a vacuum. And society has a lot of suggestions with how to fill that vacuum: money, sex, power, control, fame, volunteerism, social status/popularity, health/an obsession with diet, entertainment, mass/social media, materialism, Starbucks, political activism/social change, and always looking toward “the future.” A future, they promise, that will eventually fulfill you. Even if you feel horrendously empty on the inside it’s not because you’re subscribing to the wrong dogma and pursuing the wrong things- it’s because you don’t have enough of it yet!!! So quit your soul searching and party! This is your choice baby, your life, your rules- this is freedom!!!!!!

Yes, I’m at it again, I’m discussing the things that encompass the new atheism, secularism with a religious fervor.  With spokespeople such as Justin Beiber.

These people do not love you. They are misguided themselves (and by that I mean they simply haven’t found the truth yet, I’d hate to think they’d lie to you intentionally to promote their own new atheist agenda) and they want you to follow them in order to validate them and their cause. Don’t. Following strictly human authority in isolation from a higher power is like following a herd of sheep off a cliff. What makes you think they know what they’re doing? What makes you think they have all the answers when in reality they are probably struggling with life’s big questions just as much as you are? Sheep need a shepherd. Shepherd’s love their sheep. Shepherd’s guide their sheep.

The Lord is my Shepherd. And though He lives in my heart, it is also crucially important that I meet Him in church because that’s His palace. Because while personal prayer is where God comes to dwell in my soul, the Church is a symbolic place where I go to dwell in the soul of God, to have an encounter with the mysterious nature of God. That is where He generously confers the graces I need, the goodness I can’t muster on my own. That’s where I find my answers. That’s where I learn to love, not just God but my neighbors as well (both the ones that also attend and the ones that don’t- just to clarify for the cynics out there). But most importantly, as a Catholic, it is the place where I receive the Eucharist and engage in the ceremony where God gives me the greatest gift this life has to offer: Himself.

And I would take that gift over absolutely anything else in the world.

I miss debate

I really miss authentic debate. And no, I’m not being wistfully nostalgic for my high school debate team (never joined, don’t even remember if we even had one). But the more I write and the more I get published (and I admit, the more I tackle controversial topics)  the more comments I get from readers. This is good. I welcome feedback. But I get really annoyed at people’s lack of debating skills. If you caught my article about the Pope meeting with Kim Davis, I had a guy tell me essentially that I sounded bitter and that I needed to remember that gay people have souls too.

There are several problems with his critique, the first being that I haven’t forgotten that the members of the LGBT community have souls. The second being that the only mention that the LGBT community gets in that particular article is that the Pope loves them the same way he loves everyone else. That is not an issue with me, and I strive to do the same. Loving people by degrees requires judgment, which I try to avoid like the plague because it’s that deadly for my soul (in that  my personality is easily susceptible to it if I don’t remain vigilant.)

d

Anyway, it’s not the fact that the guy completely misunderstood my article to the point where I wonder if he actually read it that gets to me. I don’t even mind being insulted (between my religion and the way I choose to live my life I’m used to being insulted to my face all the time). It’s the larger issue that bothers me, the observation that people can’t debate to save their lives anymore. Perhaps that’s a bit of an overgeneralization, but it certainly feels that way to me. If people disagree with me it usually goes something like this:

  1. read about 2 sentences of actual article
  2. make assumptions about me as a writer/person in general
  3. (optional) begin to read rest of article with self-righteous indignation
  4. decide that they are superior to me in one or more ways
  5. insult the article/me in some condescending way
  6. feel smugly superior at “teaching me a lesson”/be proud of their attempt to enlighten me to their superiority and the shared superiority of those who also think like them.

This argumentative arrogance strikes me as particularly foolish because their actions demonstrate a low opinion of me that in turn makes them feel justified in not caring about me at all. What would possibly compel me to join a bunch that thinks and lives like that? Elitism is more than a superiority complex, it’s subtle hatred with public approval. You can’t judge someone without loving yourself a little more and the other person a little less. It makes me miss authentic debate that was based in reason and mutual respect, a desire to reveal to the other the truth that defines your life and your choices as an act of love (because real truth brings happiness and fulfilment, which is something at least I want for the people I love). It makes me miss being able to have a rational discussion about where differences of opinion occur, as opposed to the irrelevant emotionalism I described above.

And to respond to that particular stranger- no, it doesn’t make me bitter, this rise in elitism and this process of ineffectual “debating” that I see repeated over and over again. It simply makes me sad, because I respect God’s design of free will, where His love is constantly offered, but not forced on any person. It causes me suffering to see a soul not living in that love, because the alternative is usually some varying degree of a worldly attachment (such as pride) that will never truly satisfy no matter how much you chase it.

Because while the world may be an enticing place, there is so much more to the heavens.