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Defending Christian Culture
An article by Niall Gooch in the Catholic Herald recently caught my attention. Titled, "Christian culture must be defended at all costs," Gooch reflects on the recent news story of Sir David Amess being denied access to the anointing of the sick and then laments about how Christians in the West don't *know* anything about Christianity.
Gooch's conclusion gets at the heart of his concern:
"The end of Christendom will bring many trials and difficulties for Catholics. Greater ignorance of the faith will inevitably lead to greater hostility and repression – this was visible quite clearly in some of the social media comments about the murder of Sir David, when many people mocked Catholics for their concern about access to the sacraments in extremis. Additionally, it will be harder to carve out conscientious objection for Catholic doctors and nurses, and harder to educate children in the faith.
This, I think, is why the denial of Last Rites to David Amess affected me so deeply; it is not simply the personal trauma involved, but the strong intimation of the kinds of difficulties which Christians will have to endure as a matter of routine in the near-future.”
There's so much fear here.
-Fear of losing the privileged place we've had in society
-Fear that practicing the faith may actually cost us something
-Fear that forgets how Christianity grew under centuries of Roman persecution
Those Christians weren't fired from their jobs for following their conscience, they were jailed and martyred. They didn't have access to Last Rites in the colosseum, yet Christianity thrived.
I don't recall anywhere in the gospels where Jesus is on the defensive or asks his followers to be on the defensive. The opposite is true. When Peter tried to defend Jesus by cutting off a person's ear, Jesus rebuked him.
Or take the gospel reading today when Jesus gives testimony before Pilate:
"My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
Jesus was never on the defensive, but the offensive. He came as a conquering king taking back territory from the dominion of sin and death.
We did a liturgy at home this morning with the kids (we're sick, so we stayed home from Mass) and talked about Christ the King. My five year old daughter said that the readings about Jesus on his throne in heaven made her feel like he was a bad king just bossing people around.
But then we talked about the gospel, and how Jesus rules the universe from the cross, with love and personal sacrifice. And that, I think, gets at the heart of it. Jesus conquered sin and death with love and personal sacrifice.
The early Church spread because they served the poor and died for their faith. The mission is the same for us today.
We don't need to be afraid and defend ourselves at all costs. Because, ultimately, if that's our stance, then we will sacrifice our gospel integrity for the sake of clinging to worldly safety, power, and privilege.
We don't need to defend Christian culture, we need to unleash the Gospel.