A couple of weeks ago, I read a post on my nephew’s blog that made me rear up and do my best Church Lady impression. It wasn’t what my nephew said, it was the post he linked to that stoked my ire. And boy, did my ire get stoked, to the point where my nephew asked to delete the comment I had left because he didn’t want a flame war to break out on his blog.
Well, he’s only sixteen and I’m supposed to be a responsible adult, so I cooled my jets and agreed it was for the best. I also realized that calling (or even thinking of) someone as a “smug git” is not the best way to open dialogue. But, by the sweetly even-tempered irenic discourse of St. Jerome, I was tempted to do so. I was all ready with CUTTING SARCASM to do a wholesale demolition of the post. I even looked up an essay online that I saw in a blog link because I was going to mine it for copious quotes and rhetorical questions about “So what is this progress, what is this better philosophy, you are going to raise your child with? Because there are serious modern thinkers who don’t believe in all that apple pie nonsense.” Oh, I would have been such a smart alec about the whole thing!
Luckily, better counsel (my nephew) prevailed. Then I got this in my daily email notifications for “Read the Catechism in a Year” and I figure if the Holy Spirit is whapping me round the back of the head, then going with my first impulses would be a bad idea.
(This is from the YouCat version. YOUCAT stands for “Youth Catechism”. It is an official youth catechism intended specifically for teens and young adults compiled under the direction of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna.)
Is atheism always a sin against the First Commandment? Atheism is not a sin if a person has learned nothing about God or has examined the question about God’s existence conscientiously and cannot believe. The line between being unable to believe and being unwilling to believe is not clear. The attitude that simply dismisses faith as unimportant, without having examined it more closely, is often worse than well-considered atheism. Corresponding CCC sections (2088-2089; 2123-2124;2140)
That’s why I’m not going to rehash the argument I would have made here – because I was not acting out of charity, I was indulging my annoyance. I jumped to a lot of conclusions about the author of that piece based on nothing more than the tone of it and the fact that he regurgitated a talking point recognizably derived from Richard Dawkins. I don’t like Richard Dawkins, which is another failing on my part. When he sticks to talking about science, I am perfectly prepared to give him all the credit he is due. When he goes outside of that, I am not – and that is as much as I should say, before I commit the sin of detraction.
Really, who am I to say what is in this man’s mind, or how his views may change in time? I am assuming that he’s just following the Zeitgeist but how do I know that he has not thought this out, has not attempted to construct an ethical philosophy?
How do I know that he is not reading the same kinds of essays and following the same kinds of discussions I know about? I don’t. But I was all too ready to call my brother a fool, which is what we have been specifically warned about in Matthew 5:22:
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Suppose this man were to ask me why do I believe, what answer could I make? I know the various arguments that get trotted out in apologetics, but is there any way of looking at my life and seeing that as evidence that being a Christian has made a change? So what if he and others like him are living on the scraps of what Christendom created in the culture? Yes, that’s spiritual poverty, but it’s complete dependence on the grace of God even if they don’t know it. They are the poor in spirit, who will possess the kingdom of heaven, where the Pharisees like me will be very lucky to have the intercession of a whore or a tax collector to get us through the side door.
So I’m writing this very short post to tell you all that I’m ashamed of myself, of my lack of charity, of my failure as a witness in my life and my words to the Good News. That’s my big spiritual discourse for this week. And seeing as how the new encyclical is on Faith, and I need to read it more closely, then obviously the Holy Spirit is not done with this teaching moment yet. I hope I survive it.