In my perspective of the Christian religion I see two types of Christians: traditional and progressive or in other words, conservative and liberal. The traditional Christian is exclusive in that they want to preserve what is there. In the words of Balthasar they want to “raise the bastions” to keep out the corruption of the world. The progressive or liberal Christian is very inclusive even to a fault; willing to change hard and fast church doctrine in order to please everyone. Neither of these is healthy; true Christianity lies in a delicate balance between these two extremes. Today I want to talk about the ultra-conservative and why it is so toxic.
“Angelism” is where you over spiritualize and you lose your humanity in the process of deepening your interior life and that is false. That has always been rejected by the church… the deeper you go in prayer, the more you should be capable of being in communion with others, and I mean everyone… – Fr. John Nepil of the podcast “Catholic Stuff You Should Know”, episode “ecclesiology of communion” (Where I stole this whole blog from!)
God loves unity. The fact that God is three in one shows us how He loves unity and communion. Separating yourself from being overly conservative or traditional undermines this fundamental principle of God. The more we pull away from “the other”, the more we pull away from God himself. They are trying to grow in their own personal holiness and they think, say for Catholics, receiving on the tongue is an outward expression of their own deeper inner spirituality. It is the same with wanting to bring back the Latin Mass or kneeling to receive communion. These things are attractive because they are meant to express a deeper desire for God, but instead it comes off to others as pretentious and even arrogant. To common people it looks like the traditionalist thinks they are “holier” than the guy coming to Mass once a month and guess what, they aren’t! Maybe it is true that the traditionalist does have a deeper devotion, but there is no need for him to let anyone know that except God!
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1
Madeline Delbrel is a woman who lived a life where she was under communism but lived in communion with strong communists which also meant for the most part they did not believe in God. There is this sense that we are in a hostile world and we need to retreat away to protect what is left of our Christian identity in society, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to show people our compassion and our joy! One thing I enjoy about Catholicism is how intertwined with the culture it has been in the past. The priest would go to the bar to have a smoke and a beer and be in amongst the regular working-class people. We have started doing the opposite where we retreat away because the world is “going to Hell in a handbasket”. We feel we need to separate ourselves from “those people”. Madeline Delbrel after her conversion was dedicated to helping other people find happiness which she believed was through her new found faith.
So who are “those people” that Christians seem to be hiding from? Homosexuals, abortionists, divorcees, pro-choicers, liberals, atheists… No. The Christian that thinks that they are closer to God than someone else only hides from themselves. They hide from their shame, their own sin, just like Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden. It would seem they need to place someone else as evil in order to justify them being good, since they only know and fear how far they themselves truly are from God. The righteous man knows himself to be a sinner, and assumes everyone else a saint. In “Dare We Hope” by Hans Urs Von Balthasar he quotes three people, Soren Kierkegaard, St. Anthony of Egypt and another unnamed church Father. All three quotes express the same sentiment but I will quote Kierkegaard,
“Telling other people “You are eternally lost” is something I cannot do. As far as I am concerned; the situation is that all others will, of course, go to heaven; the only doubt is whether I shall get there.”
This attitude, this concern for one’s own salvation without calculating the odds or being concerned about the likelihood of others going to heaven or hell, is what I believe a saint is made of. Doesn’t Paul say, “I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3) so then do we think we can judge others? This is why the traditionalist mindset is so toxic; it places yourself on a pedestal while you condemn everyone else. Any time you see others as wrong or less holy you automatically place yourself of the right or holy side. You become the man on the milk crate screaming about the apocalypse… A make-shift pedestal that makes you feel bigger, meanwhile everyone else can see that you placed yourself up there (Not God!) on that shaky unstable plastic.
by Duncan Michael McPherson, Later Days.