Priorities

Vastly more important than the whole matter of who gets to be Vice President is the matter of whether we choose to be disciples of Jesus Christ, putting his gospel first, or… well, putting anything else first (it matters not what).

A couple of days ago, I linked a fascinating discussion/review Tom Kreitzberg is hosting as he reads through Sherry Weddell’s extremely important book Forming Intentional Disciples. I also mentioned in passing Tom’s Disputations Challenge, designed to point out that a vote is statistically insignificant (though, as I point out elsewhere it *is* hugely significant in how it impacts the voter). Guess which blog entry drew tons of traffic and which didn’t? Yep. Everybody is het up about politics. Discipleship, not so much.

As Tom says, “Catholics who manifest their Catholic identity more by talking about Obama than by talking about Jesus aren’t doing a very good job of manifesting Catholic identity.

More starkly: If Catholics would rather talk about math than discipleship, we’re in trouble.”

What is going to matter more and more in the coming years is not who the Prez is, but who we are as Catholics. To that end, I urge you to pay attention to Sherry’s book, which Tom continues to discuss right here.

  • Joe

    I object! Talking about math is way more edifying and helpful to the soul than talking about President Obama! [says a math teacher who got his degree in math]

    That’s why, in medieval times, a degree in “mathematics” (the quadrivium) was a prerequisite for a degree in philosophy or theology.

    [of course, all of those things pale into comparison to Our Lord and that's why this post is intended to be mostly light-hearted]

    [this was the right post ... :D ]

    • Jmac

      Seconded. I’d much prefer talking about maths.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I don’t know. I mean, the entire emphasis for the last five years has been on pointing out that my otherwise useless and worthless vote that means absolutely nothing in the big picture is really all about my eternal destiny, my salvation so to speak. The act of voting, it’s been said, is really all about my relationship to God and my moral and spiritual relationship to God as understood through the teachings of the Church. At that, I can’t see where there is suddenly a big, thick line between ‘politics’ on this side and ‘discipleship’ on the other. Seems as though the whole point of all these years has been to say the two are in fact one.

    • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

      Not sure I follow you. Are you reading Tom’s Disputations post as saying there is/should be a line between politics and discipleship?

      I read it as saying that discipleship is primary, and politics should be lower on the priority scale. Mark’s point, that political action should be determined by our commitment to follow Jesus, is easily compatible with Tom’s point, as I read it.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        No, I’m reading the last five years of people arguing that my vote, which is more or less a waste of time in terms of its global or even national impact, is really only important insofar as it may decide the destiny of my soul. The fact that we can suddenly say voting is here, and discipleship is there, when for years it’s been almost ever and always about the journey of our Christian path, just seemed like a strange distinction to make. If political action should be determined by our commitment to follow Jesus – as I and most Christians I’ve known over the years believe – then there is no reason to think it’s a big separation between ‘they wanted to talk about politics’ here and ‘they wanted to talk about discipleship there.’ Especially in an election year. Now if there was an overwhelming disparity between people wanting to talk about Dancing with the Stars rather than discipleship, then that’s a whole different ballgame. But as it stands, with the way we vote being nothing less than a manifestation of our walk with Christ, I just don’t see the stark distinction worthy of a blog post.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      I think the emphasis for the last five years has been on pointing out that voting is a moral act, and therefore it has an effect on your relationship with God (and, ideally, vice versa).

      Discipleship is a specific kind of relationship with God, one that is established through an intentional, mature choice to follow the Person of Jesus Christ. One may make an intentional, mature choice to follow the Church Jesus founded, or the moral code the Church teaches, but those choices as such do not establish the personal relationship of Master and disciple that is Christian discipleship.

      It’s possible, then, to weigh one’s vote as a moral act, along the lines Mark or I have suggested, without being a disciple of Jesus.

  • J. Chase

    I tend to agree with you Mark. I think one of the reasons that people are so bad about talking about Jesus is that we just don’t know how. Many have bought into the idea that religion is a private affair (at least to some degree or another) and we don’t know how to just bring up Christ in casual conversation. We are also afraid of our ignorance of scripture or (at least in my case) my Catholic faith. Can you recommend some good Non-threatening (or threatening) conversation starters?

  • Ted Seeber

    I think at least part of the reason for that, at least for me is this:
    Thanks to a certain set of postmodernist non-denominational fundamentalists, the whole idea of “Discipling” as an evangelistic method leaves a VERY bad taste in my mouth.

    Give me St. Paul Street Evangelization instead:
    https://www.facebook.com/CatholicStreetEvangelization

  • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

    In this connexion, may I recall here what the heroically forgiving Betsie Ten Boom once said (according to her sister Corrie in the latter’s book The Hiding Place) to a receptive Nazi guard: “It’s good to talk about Jesus; but it’s better still to talk TO Him.”

    • http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/ terry nelson

      “It’s good to talk about Jesus; but it’s better still to talk TO Him.”

      She’s a saint!

      • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

        Best: Talk with Him. (Cribbed from the testimonies that St. Dominic always spoke either of God or with God (“de Deo vel cum Deo”).)

  • http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/ terry nelson

    As Tom says, “Catholics who manifest their Catholic identity more by talking about Obama than by talking about Jesus aren’t doing a very good job of manifesting Catholic identity.

    More starkly: If Catholics would rather talk about math than discipleship, we’re in trouble.”

    This and what Betsy said!

  • Will

    So, does this blog talk more about Christ or Obama?

    • Andy, Bad Person

      No, you use tu quoque!

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      I think every Christian blogger ought to ask himself that question — modified according to personal enthusiasms — every now and then.

      And we ought to be particularly careful with personal enthusiasms related to religion. In my case, I’m uninterested in blogging about politics and very interested in blogging about virtue. But I shouldn’t fool myself into thinking that blogging about, say, the virtue of truthfulness (to choose a recent example) necessarily “counts” as blogging about Jesus. Nor does blogging about USCCB meetings, or the liturgy, or those pinheads three dioceses over. That may be blogging informed by faith in Jesus, but we aren’t actually talking about Jesus if we aren’t actually talking about Jesus.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    If I give heart, mind, soul, and strength to being a disciple of the Lord, then He will permeate my life. Including my political life. I may care passionately about politics and work hard for my party to win, but if I am a disciple of Jesus, I will never adopt the “Us vs. Them” attitude that so seems to permeate our contemporary political scene. The cardinal sins of Pride, Greed, and Wrath – inordinate pride in wanting to be right, a desire to win at any cost, to have my side win at any cost; greed – excessive greed for power and for wealth; wrath – inordinate anger toward those I perceive as my political enemies – should not be a part of my political vocabulary.

    My attitude toward those who represent the other side should be one of love and compassion, even though they are wrong, even though they are ruining the economy, even though the believe in killing babies, even though they are destroying the country, even though . . ., even though . . .

    My love and compassion will not be unmixed with some sorrow because of all the evils we suffer as a result of these wrongs. So therefore my love and compassion will be expressed in a grave, dignified manner and not in a merry or convivial one.

    Nevertheless, love and compassion. If I am a true disciple of Jesus, that is my attitude toward my political opponents.

  • Irenist

    Oh man, oh man, am I totally guilty of this. Thanks for the wake up call.

  • Pancho

    Well, maybe if Tom offered $10 dollars to every Catholic who became an intentional disciple, that blog entry would’ve drawn more traffic.
    Seriously, I think part of it is simply that one (the Disputations challenge) is a lot more tangible (voting and free money!) than the other (intentional discipleship). It’s easier to talk about tangibles than it is about intangibles. Plus, along what Ted Seeber says above, talk about discipleship and whatnot is uncomfortable for many Catholics because it’s the sort of talk they hear from churches seeking to draw them away from the Catholic Church. There’s also that vague feeling that you’re being scolded.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      Well, not just being scolded. A number of commenters clearly felt they were being scolded by the Election Challenge.

      I’d say it’s being scolded *and* feeling like maybe you deserve to be that inhibits comment. And I’d guess not many of us, in our hearts, are altogether sanguine about how close we are to Jesus.

      • Irenist

        “And I’d guess not many of us, in our hearts, are altogether sanguine about how close we are to Jesus.”

        This. I feel pretty confident about my political opinions. About my discipleship, naught but mea culpas, really.

      • Pancho

        Tom K. wrote:
        “Well, not just being scolded…I’d say it’s being scolded *and* feeling like maybe you deserve to be that inhibits comment..”

        I think it’s more like a vague feeling that you’re being scolded *and*….
        ….”Discipleship? But I didn’t get that memo!”, or
        ….”Discipleship? Is there an app for that?”, or
        ….”Discipleship? Does that go between First Holy Communion and Confirmation or does it go after Confirmation or before First Holy communion? (and do I need my baptismal certificate for it?)”, or
        ….”Discipleship? Can we say those instead of the Luminous Mysteries or do we squeeze them in on Saturdays?”
        ….”Discipleship? Are you sayin’ I’m a bad Catholic or not ‘cuz really, it feels like that’s what you’re sayin’.”

        Or all of the above.
        ….

        • Ted Seeber

          Or in my case “Discipleship? Isn’t that what my crazy sister-in-law and her husband are into in that Protestant Church that preached Health and Wealth as going there drove them into bankruptcy?”

  • jcb

    Of course discipleship is important. The more serious disciples the Church produces, the more voters of the right sort we’ll have!

  • Nathan

    Mark, I think you make a very good point. I had been reading the good Mr. Kreitzberg’s discussion of Ms. Waddell’s book over at Disputations, and found it very interesting. I’m not sure, though, that it is really a fair comparison to count combox entries in this case. There seems to be much more combox traffic when a subject has a sharp set of varying positions, such as politics or (as you’ve had the joy of dealing with) liturgical questions.

    Mr. Kreitzberg makes some very erudite observations about the book. However, in the whole, I’m not sure that stating that the institutional church, especially in the US, could stand to do a better job of making disciples would lead necessarily to a lively discussion in the comboxes. It’s sort of like stating that we’re sinners–it’s something we need to work on and make improvement, and you can have a very useful discussion over a beer about how best to do so, but there’s not a lot of disagreement over the premise.

    In Christ,

    • Irenist

      Hmmm. That’s an intriguing take. A post on discipleship does fail to get the “Someone is Wrong on the Internet!” energies going.

    • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

      I agree. As much as I’d like to be able to, I have never been able to get relative comment count to be a meaningful proxy for degree of spiritual progress.

      What I tried to do with that post is come up with a principle that’s true, even if it isn’t demonstrated by the comment counts that got me thinking about it.


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