Thursday, October 16, 2014

But somebody might be reached or some good done. . .

The sad truth is that some of our best intentions end up as miserable failures.  I certainly don't fault the intention of those who struggle to find a cause for unity, who seek in some way to work together for a larger cause of good (say the poor, for example), and who decide to use mostly secular and often somewhat embarrassing occasions to try and speak a witness to the Truth of Christ.  But I also don't fault those who say enough already to the manifold expressions of unity and unanimity that try to paper over differences, substantial differences, for the sake of a noble goal.

A while ago one blog writer came out against the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Al Smith Dinner, and the other events the likes of these.  He presented a cogent and lucid argument against the Roman Catholic Church having anything to do with these anymore.  Although his blog post was shut down by superiors, you can read his words here.  His words may not be well received by those still desirous of some cooperation in externals with folks opposed to nearly everything you stand for, but his point is well taken.  Again, I do not fault those folks who attempt some sort of rapprochement with the diverse and often opposed aims of others but I fear the Church and her representatives are being duped in all of this to the point where we lose more than we gain.

In my own church body there was a big dust up over the participation of several of our clergy in ecumenical observances (they were not church services but neither were they simply secular gatherings either) that our American civil religion loves so well.  Whether Yankee Stadium in the wake of 9-11 or a civic event after a community tragedy, we think it is an opportunity to speak the name and Gospel of Christ in the hopes that somebody might be reached or some good might be done but the world sees only subjective truth in which Christ's is but one among many voices and His truth only big enough for those who like it.

Again, I do not fault those who stood and prayed in those occasions but I think the time has come to admit that we lose more than we Christians gain from such appearances as one of many equal but conflicting voices of God.  Msgr. Pope had it about right, I think.  The time for happy-clappy, lighthearted engagement of our culture may be nearing an end. Sometimes it takes a while to understand that what used to work no longer works.

He goes on:  as for St Patrick’s Day, it’s time to stop wearin’ the green and instead take up the purple of Lent and mean it. Enough of the celebration of stupidity, frivolity, and drunkenness that St Paddy’s day has become. We need penance now, not foolishness. We don’t need parades and dinner with people who scoff at our teachings, insist we compromise, use us for publicity, and make money off of us. We’re being played for (and are?) fools.

We need repentance.  We need piety.  We need prayer.  We need faithfulness.  We need quiet acts of love that do not trumpet or exploit good.  We don't need to share the stage to be relevant or noticed.  There are better ways for the Church to show Christ and proclaim His Gospel faithfully and with more integrity.  Again, I do not fault those whose intentions are good; I just think the train has left the station and it is time for Christians to use other and better venues to engage the culture and speak Christ's voice to the world. 

I direct this at no one person -- certainly not to rebuke the intentions of those who chose to find a way to participate in these endeavors -- but I hope that we can seriously stop fighting over what was done and come together to find better ways to address the world with the Gospel than these civic events that seem to be hijacked against us more than they do anything for the cause of Christ.  The world is different than it was 40-50 years ago and it is time for us to acknowledge that what might have had some credibility at another time is no longer a credible means of engaging the world with the Gospel of Christ crucified.  

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