To be a follower of Christ is to accept to hold an almost unbearable amount of tension: to accept bottomless imperfection, brokenness, woundedness; to consent to any number of extremely unpromising people and situations. But this is where things get interesting. I mean we’re given all kinds of signs to let us know when we’re onto Him, and almost the first sign is that the Way, the Truth and the Life are interesting. You start to change; that’s interesting. You forgive someone you thought it was impossible to forgive; that’s interesting. The MOST unpromising person, or situation, the seeming catastrophe, turns out in the end to have helped you along in some way you could never have imagined on your own: that’s interesting. You forego a slew of money and security in order to pursue work you’re passionate about: that’s interesting.
Listening to a bunch of people try to shout each other down, especially in the name of God, is not only corrupt and depressing, but deathly boring. I once signed up for a day of “community discussion” among a group of artists where, simply in the course of the introductions, I was attacked, twice, for being a Catholic. At the break, I simply left. Not so much because my religion had been attacked but because I knew the conversation would not be interesting. I went home and worked and had a rich, lovely day.
So to be a follower of Christ is not a career move, and it’s not a social move either. It’s not about having a bevy of supportive, admiring, we’re-all-on-the-same-team friends. I can hardly imagine anything worse for a person’s spiritual development than to be told, “Whoa, dude that was a killer pro-life polemic!” or “You really nailed those pederast priests!” No-one, to my knowledge, has ever become a saint on the basis of his or her political views.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t know exactly where we stand, and why. But we stand with Christ. Christ himself neither endorsed nor supported any causes. His cause was love, his cause was truth, his cause was beauty. His cause was to lay down his life for his friends. Being a follower of Christ is not about convincing, it’s about converting. And the heart you should be most concerned about converting is your own.
Here’s how, in my experience, you know you’re becoming a follower of Christ. You begin to want to be seen less, not more. You begin to want to be quieter, not louder. Knowing you’re on the right track doesn’t come from scoring points among your “friends.” Knowing you’re on the right track doesn’t come from winning useless arguments. You find yourself making tiny sacrifices. You find yourself experiencing tiny moments of joy. You find yourself mysteriously drawn to the Gospels, to Confession, to Mass. Do read the whole post.
Heather gets it. Saints are not Republicans or Democrats. Saints are not left wing or right wing. Saints are disciples. Saints—even those who teach the faith—don’t win arguments. Saints win hearts by letting Christ act and speak through them.
One of my biggest struggles is to not engage in religious arguments. Hey I was born in New York. I am ashamed to say that I was never one to shut up and walk away from a war of words.
But some time ago, when I wasn’t paying attention, Christ changed me. I can remain silent without even biting my tongue.
But I sometimes relapse. It is often difficult to keep my ego in check and not revert to type.
Heather, however, is not saying that we should not speak the truth. She clarifies in the comment section:
“To avoid the right and the left as a way to IDENTIFY myself, as a human being, as a Catholic, doesn’t mean not having convictions and opinions–quite the opposite. A preferential option for the poor, the promotion of universal health care, the elimination of abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, war, the prison industry are to me deep concerns: again, as a human being, as a Catholic. Having been a lawyer, I have a perhaps more than ordinarily dim view of the ability of politics or the law or any outside organization or institution to change people’s hearts. But the idea is not to avoid DISCUSSION (obviously, or I wouldn’t have written such a long piece!), but to avoid putting ourselves, rather than Christ, at the center of it…”
It is about thee my Lord not me.