Taking a Stand at the Crossroads

crucifix, jesus, seder, sacrifice, triduum

crucifix, jesus, seder, sacrifice, triduum

The recent United States Supreme Court decision declaring by man’s authority that two people of the same sex have the right to marry in all 50 states is a landmark moment for Catholics called to take a stand. After Roe v. Wade, there is no more compelling issue in the divine order of things about which we ought to concern ourselves.

After the foundational issue of the sanctity of life, embodied by the sacrament of the Eucharist where we encounter in the Living Bread, the matrimonial dimension of Holy Mother Church is fundamental and sacramental, from Adam and Eve through the Wedding at Cana all the way down to the wedding supper of the Lamb at the end of all time.

Two Possible Roads

It is Biblical to notice that there are always at least two choices: “Enter by the narrow gate; the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mathew 7:13-14). If we strive to live out the Catholic mission, we are entering very difficult times. If we live our lives with fidelity to Catholic teaching on marriage and human sexuality we are at harsh odds with the world. We are at a crossroads and our choices are simple, but stark: either we take the wide and easy path of the world or we take the narrow path laid out by Christ.

The Wide and Easy Path

Popular New York Times columnist David Brooks offered some advice in an article on June 16th, 2015. He claims that the war on sexual morality has been lost. He writes to Christians:

I would just ask them to consider a change in course. Consider putting aside … a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

Leaving aside Mister Brooks’ mis-characterizations of the Church, he suggests that we abandon a public stand in favor of God’s plan for human sexuality.  He recommends the alternative that “social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society.” He advises that we “build community institutions in places where they are sparse.” His reason for suggesting that we abandon a public outcry against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments is that “the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon.” He concludes that the “more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable.”

Mister Brooks seems to have a point: it does appear that Catholics have lost the battle against the sexual revolution. However, that is the wrong judgment, because it is only judging by appearances. We are called to take part in the spiritual combat, not to decide whether or not the battle is over. Besides, the war was won by Christ; we have but to play our part that we might end in heaven.

Mister Brooks suggests with the rest of the world that we give in, that we acquiesce and go with the flow. This is the easy road, but it will end in perdition. The alternative is much more difficult.

The Narrow Path

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, publicly proclaimed the narrow path in an excellent statement posted on the diocese webpage and read in every parish a few weeks ago. He began with, “Let me unambiguously state at the outset that this extremely unfortunate decision by our government is unjust and immoral, and it is our duty to clearly and emphatically oppose it.” Bishop Strickland beautifully expresses Catholic truth conveyed by Christian charity as he elucidates the appropriate Catholic stand:

While taking a strong stand for marriage is the duty of all who call themselves Christian, every type of unjust discrimination against those with homosexual tendencies should be avoided. We must treat these individuals with loving kindness and respect based on their dignity as human persons. Christ rejects no one, but he calls all of us to be converted from our sinful inclinations and follow the truth He has revealed to us.

The narrow path is the path of love; but it denies the licentious rights claimed by the world to embrace and celebrate sin. It will cause the world to hate us, even as we love them properly; However, as Christ spelled out, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). To choose the narrow path of love is to insure that the world will hate us. Our response must be to embrace Christ’s twin commandments to love God first and our neighbor second, even if our neighbor is persecuting us.

Where do we go from here?

We are all compelled at this crossroads to take a stand one way or the other. The stand against taking a stand is a choice to take the wide and easy path of indecision. In deliberately choosing a path, we are inevitably going to alienate someone, either the world or God; we cannot please both. To choose the easy and wide path of the world will please the world, but alienate God. To choose the narrow path of Catholic virtue will please God, but alienate the world.

To take a Catholic stand, there is only one choice. It is a difficult choice, because there will be a great deal of blowback for those who stand for truth. It is the stand to which we are called in all generations in this fallen world. We are called to the narrow path, to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). The Catholic stand is to join Bishop Strickland in truth and charity.

Our duty is to become saints by taking up arms in the spiritual combat, cultivating a life of prayer, and doing everything within our power to colonize heaven. This is particularly difficult in this confused age, because the enemy has taken our words and used them against us. Many Catholics may not see what is so wrong with man’s attempt to redefine marriage. But it is certain: Man does not have the right to usurp the Creator’s authority in attempting to redefine the divine intuition of marriage; it is sacramental, and one of the great symbols and signs of salvation.

Christ exhorts us to “enter by the narrow gate!” We are called to take the narrow path of righteousness, the difficult and thorny road found pleasing to God, not the wide and easy road that pleases our fellow man. What stand will you take?


6 thoughts on “Taking a Stand at the Crossroads”

  1. Great piece. Don’t care much for David Brooks or the NYT anyway. Brooks’ comments a so much like all the patronizing garbage Catholics get from the left. Kind of like, “Well, now, you don’t want to be the wet blanket here do you?” And as for being obsessed with sex, that is a somewhat harmful characterization of Catholics. I should think that most if the sexual “obsessions” are manifested on the part of the LGBT movement. To accuse the Catholics of being obsessed with sex is to say that all the striving and political fighting on the part of the gays is inconsequential and can just be ignored. A silly ploy to say the least. The fight for sexual perversion is a big deal when they choose to play the victim card, but nothing of any consequence when they are on the offensive.

  2. It would appear that the secular world is asking us to concentrate the standards of our behavior in our loins rather than our brains. The ash heap of history is replete with “civilizations” that followed that dictum. One would have thought that the lessons of experience would have been learned by humanity by now but it seems we are destined to be caught in a perpetual Groundhog Day redux.It should also be noted that Mr. Hitchens (GREAT first name) expressed some doubt as to the validity of his earlier positions.

  3. And this gives us opportunity for greater reflection…

    “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion, and one would like to think—though the connection is not a fully demonstrable one—that this is why they seem so uninterested in sending fellow humans to hell.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

    1. Steven Jonathan

      Phil, Brilliant quote by Hitchens, but alas, Hitchens is not an authority even in the realm of material science, yet in this quote there are some very interesting things to discuss. It is not true to say that the ancients didn’t know what was going on, where matters of real importance are concerned, they seem to have been far beyond us, but in the material sciences, Hitchens may have a point, the real question is, what is more certain, empirical evidence? or Metaphysical truth? Hitchens himself was not in possession of any kind of wisdom as were many founders of the major religions, so it is doubtful his children have any kind of edge on the great wise men of the past, but the arrogance of that claim is stunning. Christ gives us a real opportunity for greater reflection, for He even created Hitchens.

      If there is anything you would like to particularly discuss, please let me know. SJ

    2. Steven, the ancients knew nothing about what was going on. Lately, I have been reading reading the works of Bart Erhman, the pre-eminent scholar on New Testament textual and historical analysis. The vast, vast majority of Jews in the OT and the NT times were not literate in the slightest. No autographs exist of the NT, nor any codices until at least the third century. The Gospels were scribed and most later versions which have been discovered are both historically and theologically incompatible. Scribes made multiple errors and many conscious changes which were noted by later Church fathers. Pauline letters were sent but had to be scribed and read to the churches of Galacia. “The chosen people” were nomads, totally illiterate, primitive, clanish, etc. As you know the early OT contains a warrant for genocide, slavery, bride price, stoning to death of sinners, etc. Hardly the hallmarks of a society who were iin touch with reason and knowledge; most knowledge came from the mystery schools of Alexandria, I believe that Hitchens who is a brilliant journalist did his homework as did his compatriot Steve Frye and later substantiated by D.S. Murdock in her many works on mythicism.

    3. Steven Jonathan

      Phil, I understand just what you are saying, but Erhman is only a scholar in the reductive sense using the historical-critical methods, there are no great thinkers outside these reductive times who would give Erhman any credibility- You mention literacy as a sort of touchstone for knowing things, and I might agree with you on that except it seems clear that we must have different definitions of literacy- I contend that what is called literacy in this age is really a form of illiteracy and a tricky one too because though most Americans know how to decode words, they do not know truly how to read- the Ancient Jews that didn’t have material reading skills were not necessarily ignorant, and not in the way we are ignorant today. It can hardly be denied that where Athens and Jerusalem meet is where we find the roots of our amazing intellectual tradition. The wisdom of the Ancient Jews and the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks comprise a body of work we have not come close to matching much less surpassing in this arrogant age- Hitchens and Frye are clever men, but they are not wise and though they have done much homework, they haven’t done their real homework. I enjoy hearing them but they are not truly learned though I admit they are very appealing.

      I am afraid it is very easy to look at parts of the Old Testament and abstract a thing and hold it up out of its historical and economical context to ridicule it, but this is not scholarship, nor is it literate to decontextualize it, it is ideologically driven rationalization to de-mythologize the scriptures. It is inaccurate to suggest that these things are any kind of signal that God thought them “ok” it is an infantile way to interpret the scriptures, but i am afraid that Bart Erhman has taken the infantile and conveyed it with enough feigned sophistication that many good folks have been taken in by it. He too is a clever man, but not a wise man.

Leave a Comment