Political Post #1

I used to have an aversion to politics. Oh, I enjoyed watching the election returns coming in, especially when my Daddy was home (he was a long-distance trucker). He’d let me go with him to the local newspaper office, where the returns would be written in wax pencil or soap on the plate glass windows – local returns on one side of the center door, national returns on the other.

But I didn’t like the debates, the negative tactics, and so on. I couldn’t keep up with issues; I was more inclined to parrot what I heard other people saying.

In the past four years, however, I have begun to be very interested in politics. Having some idea what is happening in our dear Nation, knowing how my elected representatives are representing ME, and having an idea of their intentions while they’re campaigning – it’s all part of good citizenship.

It’s also part of being a good Christian. In the Second Vatican Council, the role of the Christian laity was laid out:

First, to carry the Gospel into the world, into the marketplace, into the highways and byways of society where priests and religious do not frequent, or may not have access at all.

Second, to infuse this world with Gospel values.

Taking a basic interest in politics is very much a part of the latter.

But what are Gospel values? – (to be continued)

In the cultural crisis

Had a good chat with my friend Linda H. this morning. Linda’s active in politics in one of the states south of me, here, and we talked about the corruption and exclusivity that has come to mark the political parties controlling county and state process.

She made what I think was an astute observation, which is the point of this post. We both agree that we MUST have a solid and assertive set of candidates to choose from in the primary, next year. President Obama has already begun campaigning for his second term – and God knows, we cannot survive another four years of this incompetence.

She said, and I agree, that the nation could be heading toward another civil war if things aren’t turned around. BUT – she stressed the spiritual nature of the combat at hand.

And she’s right. The coming battles are those of character and principle and not of personality cults or even agendas. The current political arena is an exclusive old-boys’ club where too often the people with the concerns and the intelligence to DO something about them are locked out. Nepotism abounds – and that’s bad for the nation and for our communities.

We must prepare. We must begin with prayer, with regular, disciplined prayer that transforms us and leads us where we need to go – not the sort of prayer that attempts to dictate to God what we will and won’t have from Him, thank you very much.

And we must understand. Our public schools have been depriving us of understanding for more than forty years, now; we must educate OURSELVES to understand what the principles are, what they mean, how they affect us.

We have a tremendous responsibility. Privileges carry with them responsibility; I believe our rights carry even greater responsibilities. We are, we will be accountable for how we have lived as citizens and sojourners in this world.

After all – it is our mandate as Christians to bring true Gospel values into the world. True ones, not the politically correct ones that ignorant people have been persuaded they have to embrace – ones that even a rudimentary understanding of the Scriptures would show are soul-damaging. To take the Gospel into the world, to infuse the world with gospel values…

We have to begin with prayer.

(to be continued)

Mortal v. Venial

Mortal sin is like a bomb blast: the damage to one’s soul is immediate and catastrophic.

Venial sin is like a termite infestation. It may not seem like much at first, but if you don’t deal with it quickly and decisively, that one or two wee little bugs you almost don’t even notice are going to multiply, and become a colony; and that colony has the capability of doing some serious long-term damage to the structure it inhabits: your soul.

When someone we love is in mortal sin –

It doesn’t matter who it is, or how much we love them, or how “good” that person is:

Our affection doesn’t sanctify that person’s sin.

Okay – it’s understandable that people want to minimize and whitewash their loved one’s flaws. But when someone we love is engaged in acts of mortal sin, we must have the courage to look at those acts and to name them for what they are. I don’t care what your son or daughter or nephew or best friend is doing – if you can’t recognize that their mortal sin is just that, then you’re not loving their immortal soul.

This is called cooperation with grave matter, and it’s also a sin, by the way.

One of the most courageous couples I know did something incredibly hard and risky: they sat their lesbian daughter down and told her in no uncertain terms, “As long as you are involved in the lifestyle, you aren’t welcome here. We cannot, we will not tolerate your engaging in sin as if it were of no consequence.”

It might have been horrible – the daughter might have rebelled, she might have chosen her partner over her family, she might have estranged herself from her family for years and years. Instead, she chose her family – and because they loved her enough to tell her that sin is sin, she is now out of the lifestyle and able to look back objectively and with admirable honesty at what she left behind. At the ugly and manipulative community she escaped.

In any event, she told me, some time later, her parents had made sure that there would be someone who loved her enough to tell her the truth – that what she was doing was morally wrong, unacceptable in a Christian, and dangerous. If she ever struggled or vacillated in her choice, she had the truth echoing in her mind the whole time.

Love cannot – must not! lose sight of the fact that those we love possess a soul that is immortal, that we all will face a particular Judgment and pay the penalties – the just penalties – for our sins. And when we ourselves prevaricate, rather than facing head-on our duty to the Truth, then we compound the wrong; we take guilt to ourselves and we prolong and deepen our loved one’s slavery to sin.

Just who are we, anyway?

Part of my research for Pray, Study, Work – I’ve been reading the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) from the Second Vatican Council. Every Catholic ought to read this, and Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Faith).

In a nutshell (because this has to be a brief post this morning), the laity have two major functions in the life of Christendom:

First, we have a duty, a mandate, to bring the Gospel into the secular world we frequent in our careers, education, and daily associations.

Second, we have the mandate to infuse that worldly world with Gospel values – to be a redeeming influence on it.

Now. It may be because I live in an area where a lot of retirees move, but it seems to me that I far too frequently hear Catholics complain that they’ve “done their bit,” and are now ready to kick back and relax a bit.

Ladies and gentlemen: There is no retirement from the Church Militant. We hope to graduate, but resignation is unthinkable!

This is the sort of attitude I lament in “Spiritual Warfare.” Our culture is in the mess it’s in because good Christian people – Catholic and nonCatholic – have bought into the lie that we have an obligation to shut up and get out of the way so that people who reject our paradigm can do whatever they want in order to think they’re “happy.”

We need to get off our fannies and quit acting as if we were called to be Church Somnolent.

Is “confessing” Jesus enough?

I was observing Morning Prayer, earlier, and the Reading from Romans 10 really jumped out at me:

… if you confess with your moth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom. 10: 9-10 – I’m using the NASB here.)

This is the verse that my ex- tossed at me, so nonchalantly, nearly fifteen years ago, when he had finally come out of the closet and admitted to our daughters (and through them, to me) that he’s homosexual. “So it doesn’t matter what I do,” he concluded.

It bothered me then. It bothers me now. Spouting off platitudes does NOT save souls.

Paul is addressing Roman (Gentile – pagan) converts to Christianity. These are men and women who had made a radical decision to abandon the numerous Roman deities (most notably Caesar, himself) in favor of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through Jesus Christ, Whom they recognized and embraced as the Son of that God.

Conversion to Christianity wasn’t a popular cultural event in Rome. Martyrdom of the Christians had already begun (remember the stoning of Stephen? and how that precipitated the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Christ?). These people were putting their lives on the line, here. They were defying the State religion, the accepted culture – standing out like sore thumbs by adopting this wholly countercultural religious identity with a wholly different set of morals and ethics. No more banquets, complete with trips to the vomitorium. No more orgies. No more acknowledgments of the state deities…

Such bizarre behaviors placed one in suspicion of the authorities. “Hey, you there! we haven’t seen you at the established feasts and altars. We’re told you’ve become one of those dangerous Christians, and your behavior certainly looks that way. Come along now and do your duty! Prove yourself a loyal Roman!”

“Well, see, I can’t sacrifice to the gods. I am a Christian – ”

See? this is what this form of Confession (declaration) does – it verifies and confirms what one’s character and behavior have already demonstrated to the world.

This Confession that Jesus is Lord is subsequent to conduct that has already led to the accusation.

Take someone living wholly in the world, living a regular old licentious lifestyle, no one is going to come persecuting them for being Christian – their lifestyle defies such a ludicrous accusation!

So – once again – lifestyle counts. Morals count. Ethics count. If you will, works count. They give an irrefutable testimony of what we believe, what we value, what we love.

Matt used to say, “Let’s give them the evidence to convict us now.” He’s right. Our words and our actions must coincide. And the words, the Confession, is subsequent to our conversion of heart and values.