"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Standing firm in the faith

It's fairly easy to adhere firmly to the tenets of the Faith on the Internet. That's almost fun, save when the ensuing, inevitable polemics get tiresome. It's much harder to do so as a lay person planted firmly in real circumstances where the costs and risks are high. As inspiration, I shall present today two examples of that.

One is that of a gay Christian who calls himself "Episcopalienated." He begins:

Before I became a Christian, I understood perfectly well that there was one Biblical standard for human sexuality: that of lifelong, faithful, heterosexual monogamy. No exceptions! As a sexually active gay male, that was one of the best reasons I had for not wanting to be one (a Christian, that is). The Church was honest with me, and I was more than happy to return the favor.

After my conversion to Christ, my understanding remained fully intact and I knew what was expected of me. In order to be faithful to Our Lord and the demands of the Christian faith, active participation in a gay lifestyle had to go, and so it did. I have been practicing sexual abstinence for fifteen years now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It may seem strange to many, but I have actually come to find it quite liberating.

He concludes:

As I struggle with temptation, and against any residual tendencies towards despair and resignation (and I do again and again), I am always drawn to the words of St. Peter to Our Lord: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” To whom else, indeed? And so for me, the journey of faith, and the challenge of faithfulness, continues.

Read it all; the parts I have not quoted are even better. Even so, I particularly identify with Episcopalienated's "residual tendencies towards despair and resignation." Although I do not carry his particular cross, I carry enough others to know exactly what he means. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going are the words to which he is "always drawn." From them, I conclude there is no rational alternative to carrying on in courage despite how I feel. Only when I make that resolution are consolations sent. I suspect the same is true of him.

The other example I want to present is that of a man who calls himself "Woodrow." I cannot think of a better way to describe him than as a "lay evangelist." I found his story today in the combox of this post at Intentional Disciples.

I live in the archdiocese of Detroit. Some cities in the United States have a larger Arab-Muslim population than Detroit does, but we have the largest concentration of Arab-Muslims in the United States. While still an Evangelical Christian, a few years back I volunteered with a local interdenominational Evangelical organization that helped Middle Eastern immigrants learn English, become citizens, and as we made friendships with individuals, we shared the Gospel with them. Some Muslims did become Christians, albeit secretly. Many of them did eventually go back to Islam, but a few have remained faithful Christians. I was hoping the Archdiocese had some sort of similar outreach. When I contacted the main office, I was directed to the priest in charge of inter-religious dialogue. When I asked him whether or not the archdiocese has a program of service/evangelism for the local Islamic community, he was disturbed that I would even think of inviting a Muslim to become Catholic. He so strongly recommended against my doing such a thing that he nearly forbad me to testify about Christ to a Muslim. I understand that the diocese cannot have a public outreach to Muslims because when word reached the Islamic community, they would no longer have anything to do with the archdiocese or with Catholics. I understand that this priest cannot go around meeting leaders in the Islamic community and inviting them right off the bat to become followers of Jesus. However, it's ludicrous for this priest to tell me, a layman, not to proclaim the Gospel to the average "lay Muslim", and it's ludicrous for this priest to be closed to the possibility of inviting Islamic leaders with whom he's developed a good relationship with to become disciples of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit give us love for the world's Muslims, a concern for their eternal well-being, and the courage to boldly proclaim, with great charity and humility, the Gospel to them.

Although my particular calling is not evangelization of Muslims, I can very much identify with Woodrow's story too. He has preached Christ courageously and creatively in difficult circumstances in spite of, not because of, the clergy. In my student days, that's exactly what I was impelled to do much of the time amid my secular colleagues. The priests around me, in many cases, were only nominally Catholic. Two were gay Jesuits: one spread slander about me before leaving the Church for his "lifestyle"; the other, who had taught me courses in both high school and college, eventually converted to Shi'ite Islam. But they were more honest than some other priests I had to deal with: material or formal heretics who remained priests in ostensibly "good standing," they caused gullible students to believe that their heresies were Catholic. I sure had my work cut out for me, and it did not make me popular. Even the orthodox priests did not openly support the efforts that I and my circle of orthodox lay friends made among our peers—even when those efforts were successful enough to bring people to the doors of those very priests.

The names change, but the stories remain more or less the same. It will only get tougher, people. Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
blog comments powered by Disqus