He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

So I spend a fair amount of time on social media partially for myself and partially to promote this blog and I follow a lot of Catholic media personalities and groups.

And while I am all for some awesome Catholic culture brimming with youth on fire with the New Evangelization, I confess I think there are some places where it looks a little too much like the mainstream culture. Shiny graphics, websites, talented speakers, large followings… This is a primarily good thing and a lot of work and talent goes into these pages, events, conferences, etc. However, it has one bad thing in common with the culture and that is that it’s hands off. While a post, a Tweet, or a link to a thought-provoking reflection could all have positive benefits, in my opinion it is missing the clincher, the thing that I really think would solidify its efforts to truly evangelize the common man: ordinary Catholic people.

I understand that the goal of evangelization is to have a broad reach but it should be more than a marketing campaign attempting to sell you an enthusiastic cultural Catholicism complete with people you can follow, pages you can like, and (most likely) a rosary of some kind. Marketing has its place, I do a lot of it at my job and in my personal life, but I’ve always viewed it with a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to religion because it leaves you in danger of building a brand instead of a kingdom.

In fact, the most effective evangelization I’ve ever participated in was a downtown area with a large group of ordinary Catholic people of all different ages. There was some singing with basic instrumental accompaniment, some conversation, lots of laughter, and yes, some people were passing out rosaries. But there was something special that made us attractive to passersby and that was our camaraderie. Ordinary friendship infused with the love of God. And it was effective because people actually started opening up to us and wanted to be a part of what was happening.

It actually surprised me. I had braced myself for hostility and the very real possibility that we might be asked to leave because the area I was living in at the time was highly intellectual and extremely agnostic/atheistic. I honestly thought people might even protest our presence because the event was sponsored by the visiting Dominican brothers from their House of Studies in Washington D.C. and they were there in full habit. However, the longer I was there the more I realized that people are more hungry for love than they admit. Nothing fancy, not a cause, just simple, genuine love that expresses itself not in grand gestures but by listening, caring, and most of all just being there for the other person.

And I tell you what I met a lot of people that night. I invited one guy to sing with me and he actually accepted the invitation. Another guy had just lost his mother who had apparently prayed the rosary devoutly and he took one to help him with the grieving process because he had not been practicing his faith without her. It absolutely astounded me how much people wanted to share, and it struck me how few outlets there are for that in our modern world where life is so undervalued and lived in pieces instead of in full.

But before you think the night was quiet and solemn, I should confess that for our final song my sassy Dominican friend chose “He’s got the world in His Hands” and for each verse of, “He’s got _____, in His Hands”  he had us fill in the blank with a name of a person either in our group or that we had met, and eventually it extended to strangers, and then one guy called his girlfriend so we sang to his raised cell phone (I can’t imagine being on the receiving end of that call).

But those words the world throws around like “good vibes”, “togetherness”, and “peace” are a secularization of what is not secular. It is an incomplete imitation of a deeper reality that transcends the purely material world they operate in and it stems from a desire to experience what I experienced that night: a profound moment of discovering God in one’s neighbors, a recognition of their humanity that comes paradoxically because the stranger is not merely human but has the spark of the Divine. And once you catch that spark it becomes a flame and before you know it the Holy Spirit is alive in everyone present and hearts start to change as everyone remembers who they really are and where they really came from even if they can’t quite articulate it yet.

And it kills me that sometimes Christians get so overloaded with causes and movements and the stress of trying to make people cultural Christians that we forget the simplicity and power of Jesus, the One who had all the power of the world at His feet and chose to be a servant, to be there for people wherever they happened to be in life because He loved them. This happy servitude really rocks the very foundations of the world because it defies the worldly hallmarks of power, politics, domination, progress and everything that revolves around the self and instead chooses a life of love which revolves around others.

And when we saw this mystery unfold downtown that night and watched everything come together we believed like little children that He’s Got the Whole World in His hands because we saw the world transform into a playground and strangers transform into a family and the only thing that matched our awe was our joy.

And I can hardly imagine what the world would be like if this began to extend beyond my tiny downtown area. All I know is I’d very much like to see it.

 

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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.)

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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.

So the Pope met with Kim Davis

So the Pope met with Kim Davis.

And everybody is freaking out about it.

And quite honestly, I love the sentiment from non and anti-Catholics who feel betrayed. “Omg I thought Pope Francis was cool and it turns out he’s going to stand with Catholic Church doctrine that unequivocally states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Boo! Hiss! How can he stand in the way of equality like that? What gives him the right to hinder progress?”

It’s humorous to me because I enjoy irony. It shows how they don’t actually believe in their own man-made doctrine of tolerance and acceptance of people who disagree with them. Pope Francis is an extremely authentic and humble person. He lives the gospel on a global scale and has managed to transcend the politics and peer pressure of the world for something higher. He points us all to Heaven by his witness, and that’s a great legacy. He baffles the world because he will not condone gay marriage, but he loves the LGBT community in the same Christ-like way he loves everyone else. He is living the doctrine these progressives envision for the world, tolerance of people whom you disagree with, and they won’t have it. They see him sticking to his principles not as something to be admired but as a sign of hatred for the LGBT community that negates his love and proves he’s a sham- just like they knew all along!

Because what progressives want isn’t really love or tolerance. They want everybody to be on the same side: theirs. You only tolerate those who deserve to be tolerated, people who are “enlightened” like you and share your “enlightened” beliefs. The religionless religion, that measures not in love but equality. Made by the people, for the people. And God has no place in it.

All I can do is wish them luck. Because this new religion will be a very bad social experiment. I know because it is based on a lie, the lie that we don’t need God.

And I think Pope Francis recognizes that for the lie that it is, whether or not the world will stand by him.