Rage Porn

screaming-kid

My title selection may be a bit shocking, but it is not far from the truth.  No I am not talking about some form of violent pornography. I want to talk about our culture’s addiction to rage. Keep in mind that anything I write about is a reflection of my own struggles.  You can see the first two posts in a series I am working on about anger here and here.

Social media is a great tool. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and people we have not seen or spoken to in decades. This is really great for people like me who are Veterans and who know people literally all over the world. It’s nice to see how people have changed, raised families, and continue on their journey. This is all good stuff. What I am concerned with is the focus on presumed righteous anger within the Church, which is actually sinful anger.

I seldom use Twitter.  To be honest, it overwhelms me with information. I find it is a place where people can share their outrage in 140 characters. It’s a constant flow of bad news and information. Look at what the rad-trads did today and look at what the proggies are up to. Pope Francis is a heretic. Pope Francis is not a heretic. Change is coming to the Church. Obama is the anti-Christ. The world is ending, stock up on canned goods. The onslaught is unrelenting. To see the polarization that is occurring in our country and within the Church, take a moment to read a comments section on a news article or blog.  Then look away and stay away. It is startling.

We are turning the Interwebs into a place of “us vs them” and I can tell you historically that never ends well. We begin turning the people next to us in the pews or on the streets into enemies. There are genuine heretics (not our Pope) and people who are disobedient, but it really is up to a priest or bishop to correct them in private and in public, unless they are a friend who needs our guidance. Admonishment of sinners is not something that needs to be done whenever we see someone sinning in a manner different from our own. I like to share my love of the Sacrament of Penance as a way to help people find healing and strength against sin.  I get the struggle.  I have done it. I have a strong sense of justice and it is troubling to see people flout Church teaching and then proceed to the Eucharist line, but in reality, you and I are not the enforcers of canon law. We do, however, have an obligation to balance justice and charity. We do not overlook sin, but we discern where Christ wants to use us. There are moments we will be used for admonishment, but we should be clear beforehand.

There is little you or I can do about people who choose to be Catholics in name only, except pray for them and try to live by our example.  Let’s show people that things like NFP require sacrifice, but they are doable.  Let’s show love and respect for the gay community without accepting their behavior.  Let’s minister to the person embroiled in divorce and try to guide them through the love of Christ.  Let’s try not to make assumptions because of someone’s political leanings. Human beings are complex.  We are a sum total of a variety of talents, experiences, and above all we derive our dignity from being created in the image and likeness of God. I am not my politics, sexual orientation, or liturgical preference.  What a limiting world that would be!

My point is that social media can be a train-wreck if we make it one. I have shifted dramatically since joining Facebook in 2008.  My posts were almost entirely political.  I supported things that I never would support now, but I was sure through my presumption that I was right.  The Republican Party was the party of the Catholic Church.  I feel absolutely stupid for this now.  No political party is the party of God.  The immorality is on all sides and politics are inherently corrupted by human sin. The Republican Party will eventually fold on marriage.  It is inevitable. So then what? That is a very good question and it will put us in a difficult situation. But, I gave up politics for a while, so I will come up with in answer in a couple of years.

What should concern us, however, is when this toxicity spills over into the Church. Our primary mission to evangelize is greatly harmed by our inability to separate our ideology from Christ. Our political or even “theological” ideology is not a reflection of the authentic Jesus Christ who beckons us to communion with the Blessed Trinity. In fact, my constant focus on click-bait, rage porn drives a wedge between that communion and me.  It takes my focus off of Christ and drives me to dwell on things outside of my control, but in a controlling manner.  I am not arguing that we should not keep track of the world. We need to be aware of the landscape, but we should not constantly dwell on it. When we see bad news or conflict, the first thing that we should do is pray. Yes, while you are looking at your Twitter or Facebook feed, bow your head and pray.  Pray for them and for yourself.

When I see the anger of the Catholic blogosphere, the first thing I see is a lack of trust. I know this, because I have, and still see that in myself. Somehow the Church will perish in flames if I don’t tell Pope Francis how to get things done. If the progressive get their way then the Church will crumble because of changes in sexual morality.  Folks, the Church’s teaching on faith and morals will never change.  It is irreformable.  The Church will never change her teachings on divorce, homosexual acts, birth control, etc.  She can’t because Christ is the head, not men.  So stop worrying that she will.  She can find pastoral approaches to those who have been deeply hurt by the Sexual Revolution, but her mission is to heal and bring sinners to Christ.  To help them see why those sins tore them apart. So stop screaming in fear. Trust. Instead of writing hostile blogs and articles, how about we focus on fixing the brokenness? St. John Paul II left us a wealth of knowledge and tools to help us heal this pain and these sins.  Thanks be to God.  Let’s use Theology of the Body rather than ranting that the Church is going to change. The only one who will triumph in all of these things we worry about is Jesus Christ who reigns as our King, Priest, and Prophet.

And let’s stop being so hostile about the Liturgy.  Full disclosure I veil in the Novus Ordo. I have never been to an Extraordinary Form Mass, although I would love the experience it.  I want a reverent and beautiful Liturgy.  We are working our way back to that.  Christ did not say, in his Aramaic, that all Masses must be in Latin.  Yes, I am aware this argument is poor in the face of tradition.  How about this?  Latin is a discipline, not a doctrine. Yes, Latin has a long tradition and it is still the language of the Church.  I love Latin and chant.  They send my soul soaring to Heaven, but the yelling and screaming is doing absolutely no good.  The issue is not the use of the vernacular, the issue is a breakdown in understanding of the Liturgy and the Real Presence.  That is where our focus should be.  In fact the nastiness should be sending a lot of people to Confession, just like the sexual sins, because of sinful anger.

None of us wants to get pigeon-holed into the idea that we are better because we are not “them”.  Christ dealt directly with this problem.  Remember Luke 18:9-14? If we want to change the world, then we must start with the primary mission of our Baptism: Our individual sanctification.  If we work on our own personal holiness, then we can change the world around us.  Can you imagine how the Catholic landscape in social media would change if we were focused on helping others achieve holiness?  That is the goal: Sainthood.  We cannot help others to holiness, if we ourselves are strangled by our own denial of sin.  It is not that we aren’t supposed to help sinners, it just happens that we must work on our own personal holiness before Christ will use us.

I know this is hard.  Ask my husband about me! You and I have been given a desire to write and share our faith.  That is a stewardship that God has given us.  We should respect it and use it for good.  That does not mean that we cannot wade into political discussions, ethical debates, or the Liturgy.  What it does mean is that we need to go into those posts remembering that we are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are a communion, not a community. We are members (as in limbs) within that Body and that means what we do profoundly impacts the other members.  So do we want to lift up the Body or do we want to tear it down? Do we want to bring people to Christ or drive them away?

Stopping Division in Our Church Communities

KEEP-CALM-AND-DONT-GOSSIP-MMM-02-17-2013

The biggest struggle in Church community is overcoming ourselves. There is a current within ministry, community, and other aspects of the Church that works hard to cling to power and stomp out opposition.  This is tied to fear and our own immature understanding of living a life of virtue and in communion within the Mystical Body of Christ.  We all do it from time-to-time. There are some things that all of us are going to have to confront in order to overcome the obstacles, hostility, and pain division causes.  We have all experienced disagreements or conflict within the Church.

First, we need to know ourselves.  We need to understand what sets us off and what fears we carry.  Then we need to examine whether or not we project those fears on others within our parish or community.  Human beings cling of counterfeits.  That is the nature of sin and the driving force of concupiscence.  Most of all we cling to power.  Power is a false sense of security for us.  In clinging to power, individuals or groups can begin to focus more on power than living the Gospel.  Any “power” that we have within the Church is from Jesus Christ.  If we are leader, it is a position of stewardship and service.  It is not meant to be used to squash others and create some form of authoritarian rule.  Obedience is never about power.  Power also tends to feed on fear of how things look.  In fact, an overemphasis on caring about what people think is toxic to the Christian mission.  People will reject us.  We must accept that.  We have no power over other people’s choices.   It is about understanding that Christ is King and we are not.  This is an easy temptation for all of us.  We are called to serve and share the message, the rest is up to God.  Let’s keep that in mind.

Second, we need to get a firmer grasp on what love actually means. Love is not sentiment, it is not feelings.  In fact, I can wholly dislike a person and still love them.  I have to do it.  We all do.  Love is action.  As St. Thomas Aquinas defined love, “it is willing the good of the other.”  That means I love when I choose the good for a person.  This can in fact include punishment which is linked to justice; however, love never includes vengeance, pay-back, or answering upset feelings.  In fact, a decision to love cannot be based on feelings.  Feelings are largely involuntary and can be driven by the Passions.  That means we must overcome our feelings to choose to love, even the unlovable, and the difficult.  It doesn’t mean our feelings change per say.  It just means that we choose to overcome those feelings.  Love is an act of the will.

Third, gossip is grave matter and usually results in mortal sin. Yes, that is right: a mortal sin.  Why?  Gossip very quickly turns to denigration, division, character attacks, and causes deep hurt.  It is always the result of half truths or imagination and does not allow for a person to defend themselves. It is an attack against the virtue of justice.  We all fall into it, but it is time we start to understand the seriousness of gossip.  We can chat with our friends and work through problems, but we cannot divulge private information, provoke character attacks or personal attacks, launch plans for revenge, and we most certainly cannot use gossip to cause division and hostility.  This is the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are meant to overcome the world and that includes the natural inclination to gossip.  Gossip usually results in back-stabbing.  Gossip within the Church community needs to stop.  If we have an issue then take it up with the individual and deal with it like the adults we are supposed to be.  Once the issue has been talked about, we move on.  This is a problem for women more than men.  We all need to stop poisoning the well against others.

Fourth, we need to start to recognize the different gifts of each person.  This is tied to power and pride.  Each person is a unique body and soul created in the “image and likeness of God”.  That means that God created me to be me and you to be you.  You may not have the same talents, gifts, interests, etc. as I do.  You may be better at prayer, service, or hospitality, while my gifts are largely intellectual and in teaching, with some hospitality.  We are all meant to work together to bring the Good News to the world. We cannot do that when we are too busy trying to tear others down.  We need to stop fearing or trying to control other people’s gifts.  We need to embrace them so that we can learn something that may be lacking within ourselves.  We need to trust in God’s mission for each one of us and stop scrambling for some worldly prize or control.  Embrace everyone’s gifts!  We are all infants on the spiritual journey and we need to learn from the people God puts in our path.

Fifth, we need to accept that conflict will arise.  It is inevitable that conflict will arise at various times.  Even priests and religious have conflict. Gasp!  They are human too. That is how human interaction works.  What we need to do is resolve conflict quickly and move on.  Punishment may be necessary as long as it conforms to justice, which many times it does not because of a lack of understanding of justice.  We need to be mindful and make sure that our choices conform to the virtues.  We work through it, forgive, and move on.  That is the point of the Our Father and Jesus’ call to forgive.  Frequent Confession can also help in dealing with conflict.  The longer we hold on to anger or rage the more likely it starts to destroy groups within the Church community.  Conflict may mean changes in relationships, but it does not mean that sinful anger should be given free reign.  Sinful anger very quickly escalates to mortal sin.  The more I study theology, the more I realize just how easy it can be to fall into mortal sin.  This is very true when dealing with one another within the Church.  Sinful anger that turns to rage is a great threat to The Mystical Body of Christ.  I know.  Anger is something that I struggle with at times.  If this is an issue, go to Confession for healing.  And keep going because some sins are stubborn.

Sixth, everything should be centered on Christ.  All of our actions, choices, movements should reflect our love and service to Christ the King.  The Church is our guide on the path to holiness.  Holiness is the goal.  If all of us set that goal a lot of conflict will begin to disappear.  When holiness is not the primary goal, conflict escalates and grows.  Serving within the Church is not meant to fulfill some desire for recognition or pride.  It is meant to be a self-giving act of love.  That is the same for leaders in ministries as well as other members of the Church.  If that is why we are serving, then we may need to consider a break.

Seventh, burn out is inevitable.  Serving in many groups will eventually lead to burn out, especially when we have families to raise.  When that time comes, it is time to take a break.  “No one else will do it”, we tell ourselves.  False.  We are not indispensable that is the devil feeding our pride.  We cannot serve if we are tired and depleted.  We cannot share joy if we feel exhausted and dead inside.  If you get burned out, then take a break.  It doesn’t matter if people get upset or are angry with you.  After loving God, we are told to love ourselves.  Christ’s command to love others is based on our love for ourselves.  If we do not love and take care of ourselves, then we cannot love and serve others.  Take a break when you need it.  You can replenish your spiritual life and return to serving within the Church when you are ready and God calls you back.  Even Christ went up on the mountain to pray and replenish.  He did so not because He needed it, but because we do.  I made this decision earlier this year.  I needed it so I did it.  It worked out because God called me to work on my Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy while I take a break from leading ministries.  Take a break when needed!

I have written this because I have either done or been the victim of all of these items.  I know the pain and damage that they cause.  I have seen a lot of these things within my own faith community over the past few years.  These are problems throughout the Church because we are sinful. We struggle, but we are called to overcome these struggles.  If all of us can agree that holiness is our calling, then the rest of these things will disappear over time as we work in holiness.  As always, I recommend frequent Confession in order to help us heal from our own iniquities.  The more we go to Confession the more we realize just how stubborn sin is within us.  Do you have any thoughts?  God bless.