When we talk about the last 50 years in the United States, we tend to do it in terms of decades (60’s, 70’s, etc.) and the political movements and pop culture trends that typified them. When historians review different time periods, they generally classify them by centuries or eras (multiple centuries) based on socio-economic and philosophical movements (The Dark Ages, the Enlightenment, etc.) as well as their primary styles of art and architecture (Baroque, Gothic, etc.). We are now 12 years into a new millennium, a new century and just far enough removed from a new decade to be able to start analyzing it.
If we were to put ourselves in the shoes of posterity, what would we be known for?
- Lady GaGa in a meat suit
- Rhianna and Katy Perry grabbing their crotches in live concerts (I won't put a link to this)
- Kanye West mocking Jesus with a crown of thorns on Rolling Stone
- Celebrity sex tapes (nor a link to this)
- Glee and its numerous agendas
- "Reality" Television
- College undergraduate more of one big party than academic and professional pursuit
- Corruption and crime in professional and collegiate sports
- Social Networking (Twitter, FB, etc.)
- Terrorism & War
- Financial Crisis (overspending, sub-prime lending, Wall St. greed)
- Devastating worldwide natural disasters (Katrina, Indonesia, Japan, Haiti)
- Hot Topics: Gay/Transgender Rights, Religious Freedom, Sexual Abuse
- Antioxidants/Superfoods (I am throwing this one in for fun to spruce up things a bit)
Some may say I am being too pessimistic or only looking at the bad things. I am looking at the BIG things.The stuff that hits CNN, Fox News or whatever else may be your preference for biased news reporting on a daily basis. When I reflect on these things, I find it hard to believe I will ever look back and say, "man those were the days." If I do, then we surely have dark days ahead.
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus talks about the characteristics of false prophets.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them."
"...such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent." (Romans 16:18)
They come on a platform of CHANGE, of false hope and empty promises, with "flattering speech...[but] by their fruits [we] shall know them."
If I had to choose different words to describe the 2000's, I would have to turn to a number of different -ism's: individualism, naturalism, existentialism, empiricism, modernism, progressivism, secular humanism, moralistic therapeutic deism...the list really goes on and on.
If historians are to name our era, we will surely be called the "Era of Self-Discover-ism's."
Because that is what it all boils down to. Today's society is a "me first" culture. Grocery checkout lines now rival self-help sections and Barnes & Noble for ways to make yourself smarter, sexier, trendier, hipster-ier...
The point is that in a world where self-interests supersede those of others, we certainly aren't living up to the mantra which Christians, Jews and Pagans alike can agree on: Love your neighbor as yourself (I am going to touch on this more a bit further down!).
The reality is that there can only be societal dysfunction when everyone just focuses on his or her own self-interests. Today's youth have a sense of entitlement that rivals that of Prince Harry. When is society going to wake up and wise up to the fact that no spectrum of far left or right is going to meet man's needs unless man himself first changes to be self-less? We have seen the far left (communism and socialism) and its terror, we have seen the far right (Absolutism/Monarchism) and its equal wrath, simony and greed.
The solution? Christianity, namely, Catholicism. And yet it is possible that Catholicism has never been more unpopular or more scrutinized in the public eye than today. It doesn't make people feel warm and fuzzy inside, it doesn't allow them to justify their sins as harmless or not sins at all. Essentially, it just isn't "cool enough."
A friend and former classmate of mine, Stephen Kokx, recently wrote in his article Is Anti-Catholicism on the Rise?:
"The Catholic Church, with its teachings on marriage, contraception, sex, and gender roles, would appear to be the ultimate 'uncool' institution. It preaches humility instead of boastfulness, obedience to a higher power instead of to oneself, prayer and community service instead of material success, and patience instead of immediate gratification."
People today, including many former Catholics, are turning to Protestant churches which promise acceptance for "who you are," or to Buddhism or Hinduism based on tranquility and peace (we live in a stressful world) without fully understanding what those religions actually believe, to atheism or agnosticism because "if it can't be empirically proven, it must not be real; faith in God is a dead medieval school of thought," or even to New Age or Wicca, which the Catholic Church teaches is the most open invitation to let Satan start controlling your life (even Tarot cards and Ouija boards...don't mess with them!).
I would contend that the religious indifference and tolerance that we face today is more of a threat to our humanity than any of the absolutist regimes of the past (right or left). Why? Because war and violence, as is seen in the recent release "For the Greater Glory" (I will write a review of this shortly) are obvious grievances against humanity. Violence and slaughter of innocent people is viewed with universal disgust (save psychopaths). But because this war is so obviously errant and immoral, and based on the string of wars in the 20th and 21st centuries (WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Cold War, Gulf War, War on Terror, African Genocides, Mexican oppression, etc.), we have gone to yet another extreme of placing world peace (much different than divine peace) as the be all end all of human priorities.
The very religious indifference I referred to above is actually forging the path toward a complete and utter loss of conscience, of the moral code which was first promised to the prophet Jeremiah and reiterated in Hebrews as part of the new covenant:
"I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts."
Morality and virtue have been replaced by comfort and convenience. Don't believe me? Ask the 40 million innocent fetuses killed every year.
Morality and virtue have been replaced by comfort and convenience. Don't believe me? Ask the 40 million innocent fetuses killed every year.
That little voice in our heads of what's right and wrong didn't come from thousands of years of psychological and biological evolution. It came as a result of the Son of God dying on a cross, and today people are finding ways to either justify ignoring it.
How are people justifying it? There are three primary ways:
1.) God is merciful and all loving; he will forgive me.
2.) Jesus said to love your neighbor, so why can't you just love me the way I am?
3.) The Bible says don't judge me. You have no right to tell me what I am doing is wrong.
I am going to address these three items below:
1.) God is indeed merciful, and God is indeed all loving. But God is also all just. Let us not forget the wrath of God from the Old Testament, handing down swiftly and severely on those who disobeyed him. This was changed with the death of Jesus, but Jesus himself said he came not to abolish the law or prophets but to fulfill them (Mt 5:17). God may not "strike us with a lightning bolt" if we do something wrong today, but we will still be judged in our own due time.
In addition, we say in the Lord's Prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." I think people like to forget about that second part. Holding grudges or inability to forgive ourselves (sometimes a bigger issue) means God will forgive us as we have forgiven...or not forgiven. We are called to forgive 7x70 (infinitely) just as God would forgive. On a much deeper level, the Bible says the only unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit. I recently heard from a friend that it is believed that this sin, though not explicitly detailed, must be the disbelief in forgiveness. If we do not believe God can or will forgive us, we can't be forgiven.
We must be sorry to be forgiven. But unlike what Rob Bell has led thousands across this country to believe, there is no sound theological support for a chance for a last apology when we stand before God's throne. We are given this life to work toward salvation (Phil 2:12 / 3:12,14), not to squander it and expect to be pardoned anyway. I have heard from two different people that the theme songs sung by those going to hell are "I did it my way" and "Everything is gonna be alright." Pride comes before the fall, and Paul warns that "whoever thinks he is secure should take care not to fall" (Romans 10:12).
The Catholic belief is that anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (see 1 John 5:16-17 for mortal/venial sin). Mortal sin is classified as those who are adulterers, fornicators, thieves or heretics, doomed to be cast into Gehenna (hell). To confess your sins is to admit with a contrite heart to God you are sorry, receiving forgiveness and doing an appropriate penance to make up for it.
2.) Christ instructed us to keep the 10 Commandments, as he told the rich man (Mt 19:16), but then also instructed him to abandon all that he had acquired in this world to follow...and he couldn't do it. This is taking up our cross and following Jesus (Mk 8:34).
The greatest commandment is the 1st commandment, to have no strange gods other than God, and Jesus expounded upon this by saying 1st was to Love the Lord God with all our hearts, souls, and minds...2nd to that was to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Today, people have made two fatal errors:
a.) They have placed the 2nd item (golden rule) above the 1st. They have made love thy neighbor more than love God. This is exemplified by the concessions being made as part of various interfaith dialogues and ecumenical councils, which is modernism at its core. As a friend recently put it, "Your poop is green, mine is brown, that's cool either way. Let's just be friends."
b.) They misunderstand the definition love somehow as tolerance, so we must define love.
Where have we seen love defined? As we hear at so many weddings...
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
PATIENT: Where do we see patience talked about as it pertains to our neighbors who do not understand the word?
Hebrews 5:1-3 "Every high priest...is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness."
We see the need for these high priests to act on behalf of the High Priest (Jesus) to act as vicars here on earth. Just like Phillip had to explain the scripture to the ignorant eunuch in Acts...
The ignorant are those who do not understand the Word of God, which cannot be understood without faith.
(also see NOT QUICK-TEMPERED)
KIND: We are to deal patiently and in full charity (kindly) with the ignorant as explained in 1 Peter 3:16 "be ready to explain the source of your hope but do so with gentleness and reverence"...we should explain the beauty of our faith to others in its fullness, making no concessions or negotiations, but not in a way of condemnation or conquering but in a spirit of wanting the best for another (the best being eternal life).
(also see NOT INFLATED, NOTE RUDE, NOT SELF-SEEKING nor BROODING OVER INJURY)
REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the father except through me." Jesus is the Truth, and it is our duty and obligation to patiently and kindly try to exemplify this in our actions and to explain it with our words. Catholicism is not a system of old fashioned rules and regulations, it is in invitation to the fullness of God's love!
BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS, HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS: Believes all things is our lifelong growth toward perfect faith. Blessed is he who has believed without seeing. Hopes all things is our unwavering hope in the promises made to us by remaining in God the Father (by keeping his commandments) and the Son (by eating of his flesh and drinking his blood) and Holy Spirit (by our fruits you shall know us). We "await the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13). By bearing and enduring all things, we have perseverance (James 1:3-4). We willingly accept the suffering of this life as Paul did: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church (Col 1:24-25).
This is what love is and means. It is eternally compassionate but not indifferent. It is infinitely forgiving but not unrighteous. It is outlined in the Word of God not predisposed to tolerance.
The signs of God's chosen ones as detailed by Colossians 3:12 are holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Tolerance doesn't make that list.
3.) This leads me to my final point: When Jesus talked about not judging, he wasn’t preaching tolerance. He simply said remove the splinter from your own eye first (Mt 7:4-5), he didn't say don't judge a sin to be a sin under any circumstances (for we see Paul go out and call many sinners). It was a warning against hypocrisy, further reiterating the need to walk the walk not just talk the talk.
Maybe in our own inferior human rationale, we don’t understand this. We would like to believe that everyone is going to heaven.
Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."
Romans 9:20 says “but who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God?”
In Matthew 16:23, when Jesus told his disciples of his certain death and after Peter said he wouldn’t let anything happen to Jesus (his own rationale), Jesus rebuked him saying “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He said this to Peter (to whom he would later give the keys to Heaven). How much more inferior are we than Peter who didn't understand?
The first temptation man fell to was the notion of being able to think as God does, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So it would make sense that this first and greatest lie of the devil continues to plague us today. We cannot begin to wrap our brains around the mystery of God, which is in itself a requirement for the belief of an Omniscient God. If we understood him, that would disprove him.
Our primary goal should be love (desiring salvation for many) and therefore divine peace before (but in addition to) world peace.
Peace is the result of resting in a relationship with God. Peace is a tranquility, a state of rest, that comes from seeking after God, or, the opposite of chaos.
The word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by peace, he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be very nerve-wracking, traumatic, or upsetting...Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break him, a person who is possessed by peace is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing.
Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, who brings peace to the hearts of those who desire it. He says in John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
"Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God no matter what the conflict." -Anonymous