My perspective living in the West Coast has certainly shaped my view of the culture war lately. Out in Washington State, every fight for the good and the true has ended in somewhat of a defeat. I don’t blame the substance of our arguments but certainly the half-heartedness and lack of polish in which the arguments had been framed. As a result, my environment takes on the appearance of being a hostile environment for a practicing Christian.
Then I look at what’s going on in the Middle East and see what a truly hostile environment for a Christian looks like. Yet in both environments, there are opportunities for saintly expression – the soil is fertile for saint-making. In Egypt, the horrific acts by ISIS also yield powerful witnesses of martyrdom. A post-Christian or anti-Christian culture in the Western world means that when education curricula or government policy promote hedonism and nihilism, it creates a values-vacuum for revisiting new ideas rooted in the teachings of Christ.
That’s my hopeful assessment anyway. In the most unchurched part of the US, Christians stand out like a sore thumb – in our choices of how to spend Sunday mornings, in our conduct in relationships, in our attitudes toward those in different income classes or education levels or even citizenship. As a price to pay, we get mocked and isolated…but on individual levels we inspire and set examples. Think of Martin Luther King, who was weird for leading the idea that regardless of skin colour we bear God’s image. Think of Mother Theresa who delved into working with society’s isolated. Think of the woman who is willing to risk her financial success because she wouldn’t bake a cake to celebrate that which is inconsistent with God’s view of what consists a family.
Even through our outward Lenten signs we have plenty of reminders of our weirdness – the black smudges on our foreheads, our dietary choices on Fridays, our palm branches and statues and reliquaries in our homes. I theorize that one of the worst things to affect the cultural Catholic is the normalization of all these opportunities to stand out and be weird. It left us with too much comfort to realize that the cradle Catholic’s upbringing was to destined toward heroic virtue, which requires a grain to go against. This isn’t about being defeatist about the culture of death and destruction, but it is about taking a hopeful and positive view of society as many others comment about it going to hell in a handbasket. Dare to be weird, because Jesus was weird – to the point of death on the Cross.
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