Faith Challenges of 2013: Repenting of My Self-Sufficiency

This has been the year of two living popes.

It’s been a year of new mass shootings, government shutdowns, spies turned whistleblowers and the revelation that our government is doing everything but looking up our skirts and down the fronts of our blouses in its efforts to spy on and criminalize the entire American populace. I’m not ruling the skirts and and blouses part out, but we have no confirmation of that.

It’s been the year when the Supreme Court drop-kicked DOMA and took gay marriage off the leash, the year when we the people actually got our fill of senseless war and stopped the bombing in Syria. It was the year when the economy rotated in place and a big piece of my part of the world was blown to smithereens.

There’s been the flop of the Obamacare start up; the push for gun control and a nervy stand-off in Texas over a commonsense pro life bill that would simply require abortion clinics to provide the same levels of safety to their patients as any other free-standing surgery clinic.

My brother-in-law died, leaving my sister as one of the walking wounded. My mother has been in and out of the hospital.

And me, I’ve just kept on passing bills and writing blog posts. I still haven’t lost weight and I still can’t make my hair do one single thing that it doesn’t want to do. I have taken up piano lessons, and I am the proud possessor of a new camera.

Life, as they say, goes on.

One surprise to me has been how hard it is to blog about matters of faith and still keep my religion. I’ve spent years dealing with that very thing as a legislator. The process of getting whammed around because of my beliefs has toughened my faith and made it stronger. But I’ve also found, as I’ve started writing about it, that it has made me more than a little impatient with people who aren’t as willing to go out there on the ice for Jesus as I am.

I’ve forgotten how I was before the pro abortion people made me the target of an orchestrated campaign of character assassination. They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus. I’ve forgotten what it was like back in the days when I hadn’t been called every ugly name I can think of.

Who was I back then?

I honestly can’t remember.

All I know is that talking about these things with you good people here at Public Catholic and witnessing your attempts to work through them yourself has acquainted me with the simple fact that I’m different now than I was before these things happened to me. I see the world differently than I did before I chose Christ in an active way during adversarial politics.

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a forum where we can work through the process of finding our voice in the face of the often daunting ugliness of attacks on the faith in this post-Christian society of ours. It’s ironic how often the blog and I get targeted by people who make it their business to attack Christians and Christianity. That can be disruptive to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but it is, in its own backhanded way, a great privilege.

Whenever anyone targets me for personal attacks and vendettas because of my stand for Jesus, I am blessed.

But this blessing leads me to the faith challenge that has troubled me most of this past year. It is easy to get caught up in these attacks and start feeling besieged. Instead of drawing me closer to Christ, that kind of thinking can build a barrier between me and Him.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding these things as being about me. It’s also easy to fall into the parallel trap of trying to deal with them on my own.

One of the surprising pitfalls of blogging about faith is that I can spend too much time talking about Jesus and cheat myself of time spent talking to Him. It seems some days that the more I talk about Jesus the less I talk to Him.

This tendency to talk about Christ without talking to Christ is a dangerous road to take. I think it would lead me inevitably down the path of becoming my own little g god. I could eventually come to a point where I lose my relationship with Jesus and begin to lecture and hector about Him without any guidance or input from Him. These attacks from the Christian-bashing peanut gallery — and my own temper — push me hard down that path.

That would be disaster, not for you who read the stuff I write, but for me. I can not allow anything to come between me and my relationship with Christ, even if that thing is my attempt to stand for Christ. I can’t because to lose Christ is to lose life itself and all that matters.

The only way I know to avoid this is by retreating. I don’t mean by not writing this blog. I mean by not making the writing of this blog into what passes for my relationship with Christ. The life of a Public Catholic should be mostly Catholic and only a little bit public.

What I mean is that any public statements or actions about my faith should be the outflow of a fruitful walk with Christ that is mostly hidden and that is nurtured, sustained and informed by the quiet times of simply being with Him. If most of my faith is what people see, then it is an anemic and ultimately destructive excuse for real faith. The way to achieve this kind of fruitful walk with Christ is not by pushing on, but by making regular, nourishing retreats away from the public part of life.

This is similar to the lesson that I learned in how to live a real life while in public office. I had to withdraw and go home to my real life. You have a real life by living one. By the same token, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time with Him.

I am not talking about going to mass, although going to mass and partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord is essential. I am talking about spending time in prayer, and by that I mean mostly just being with God. I certainly don’t mean dumping out a laundry list of wants and needs and then going back to your busy-busy life. Prayer is, or it should be, mostly companionship. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to get some alone time with God. But it’s not necessary, if it’s not do-able.

I experienced the profound conversion that changed my life while I was driving my car on the way to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. God is with you, always. You only have to start talking to Him.

I’m still learning the blogging ropes. At the same time, I’m also trying to learn how to live my first vocation, which is simply and always to love Jesus and let Him love me. The challenge to my faith in 2013 has been the surprising reality that I need to learn how to speak about Jesus in a public forum and then just go home to Him the rest of the time.

I think talking about this on this blog is highly appropriate. It is, after all, called Public Catholic and is dedicated to helping all of us, you and me both, learn to live our faith in the public side of our lives. We live in a society where the public debate, the media and most educational institutions are dominated by an anti-Christian viewpoint that is not the least bit ashamed to engage in Christian bashing that rises to a discriminatory level. We have reached the point where at least in some quarters verbal abuse and hazing directed at Christians is considered a form of righteousness.

Every one who stands for Jesus is going to pay a price.

The only way this blog can help to empower Christians to find their voice for Christ in the face of that overt and ugly resistance is if we talk honestly to one another. We need, all of us, to base our efforts to speak for Jesus on a real faith that is nourished and sustained in the private side of our lives.

Nobody told me this rock was out there under the blogging water when I began doing this. I did not realize that I would learn that I had to repent of my self-sufficiency. I had to hit the rock of spiritual dryness and feel the unpleasant thunk all on my own.

For all I know, the other Christian bloggers here at Patheos have never come up against this. I tried a few months ago to talk to a priest about it because I thought that, of all people, a priest who has to go out there and wear his faith on his collar all the time would understand. He just stared at me like I was speaking Klingonese.

I decided then that I was on my own with this, or, rather, I was on my own with Jesus. But that’s how I became a Christian in the first place; just me and Jesus.

What that means for me is making time for the simple things: Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, go to mass. I can leave the heavy lifting to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to sustain my relationship with Christ by my actions. All I need to do is stop ignoring Him in my zeal to defend Him and simply talk to Him. I am a child of God, and like all true parents, He will always answer when I call.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Sounds like you just take any form of disagreement or criticism as an “attack” on your faith. Which is why you’ll likely delete this comment, too.

    • hamiltonr

      Why all the venom and personal attacks Hemant?

      I can actually talk about my beliefs without attacking individual people. In fact, I’m never going to attack you.

      Ever.

      I doubt very much that I will ever write a blog post about you or anyone else on the atheist portal. I’m also not going to either traipse over to your blog and try to tell you how to run it or criticize how you conduct your business from my blog.

      I think that’s your business.

      Is there something in your philosophy which makes you incapable of collegiality?

      • FW Ken

        Blessed are you when men revile you…

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        You can do whatever you’d like on your blog. But your ideas are bad ones and I’m calling you out on them. When my commenters have posted fair, non-malicious criticisms on your site, you’ve deleted them immediately. I’d love to know why.

        • hamiltonr

          Hemant, I’m not too keen on your ideas, either. But I don’t have to say anything about you personally to explain why I believe the things I believe. In fact, I don’t consider you a problem in any way. No matter how much you try to be, you are not my enemy, and I am not yours.

          I don’t see this as a problem with you. I don’t even think your behavior is a problem with you. I think it is your hopeless philosophy that is driving you to be so ugly and bullying in how you express yourself.

          I disagree with some of your thinking — not all of It, I would imagine, but then I’m not much of an expert on Hemant Mehta. :-)

          We are colleagues here at Patheos, and I will do my best to treat you that way. That includes giving you the dignity to run your blog as you see fit without me telling you how to do it or making public challenges about your blog policies. I honestly feel that your question about how I run my blog is out of line and I’m not going to answer it.

          If you chose to continue attacking me, that is your call. If you honestly can not express your beliefs without personal vendettas, then that is your disability. If, on the other hand, this is simply your choice, then, well, it is your choice.

          Engage in whatever attacks you think make your point, I will not retaliate in kind.

          I am going to continue to write about the things I believe. If that rankles you, then be rankled.

          I serve a risen Lord Who loves you just as much as He does anyone else.

          You are not an enemy to me Hemant. You are an intelligent — and from your photo, very good looking — young man who is lost. I wish you could find the genuine freedom that loving Christ gives, including the freedom to just say no to attacking back.

          You are my colleague, and I am going to do my best to treat you that way, no matter how you behave. I also pray that one day you will see how bogus and destructive your rejection of Christ truly is. You are in my prayers Hemant. I mean that in the kindest, most loving way possible.

          I wish you Happy Secular Holidays while I enjoy my Merry Christmas.

        • FW Ken

          Now that the holiday is done, I’ll ask my question. I read several conservative Anglican blogs, as well as this and another couple of similar Catholic sites. Atheists never show up at the Anglican blogs to wish them an early and painful death, or even call them names. Is it the Catholic connection? A Patheos thing?

    • AnneG

      Hemant, go read some of the comments here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/12/dozens-protest-catholic-school-for-firing-married-gay-vice-principal/
      You may think they are ok. To me many are rude and vile. Rebecca deletes a lot of the really nasty ones. Just think about it.

    • chezami

      Normal people hear somebody talking about enduring a lot of suffering and respond with compassion to this expression of pain and loss by a human being in human terms without trying to score stupid debating points. Internet atheist jerks like you respond, as usual, with all the sensitivity and social skill of Napoleon Dynamite with a mean streak. Way to kick a wounded human being in the teeth. Go catch somebody a delicious bass, Hemant.

      • hamiltonr

        Chezami, I appreciate the support, but please don’t resort to name-calling against Mr Mehta. It’s not necessary.

  • AnneG

    Beautiful. Since everything you say or write is out there that would be difficult. I can see how it would be very distracting to always make sure you say or write the right thing.
    Merry Christmas and time to enjoy The Lord.

    • hamiltonr

      Thank you Anne. A Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • George.a.da.Jungle

    May God bless you, Ms. Hamilton, and may you have a very Blessed Christmas. Thank you for leaving in those comments on the other post. It was educational. And that’s what you deal with daily … I’m adding you to my prayer list. The devil is after every one of us, each in our own way … mine is utterly private and yours is prominently public. May God have mercy on us both.

    • hamiltonr

      Thank you George, especially for the prayers. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • SisterCynthia

    The folks in seminary warned us when my class started (I think it was a perennial warning), to not let studies “about God” take the place of our relationship WITH God. I can say, after a year and a half in that academic world, they were right. It just seems to be the danger of engaging your faith with the world, you feel like you can “check the God box” on your daily to-do list because you spent so much time and energy talking, learning, and writing about Him, forgetting that you barely turned your heart towards Him at all. Since we are called to engage (at least on some level), it’s something we get to learn to push back against. May the Lord help you as you keep trying to be faithful to Him. Merry Christmas, Rebecca. :-)

    • hamiltonr

      Merry Christmas to you, Sister. Thanks also for you wise comment.

  • Sus_1

    Merry Christmas, Rebecca to you and all the commenters here. I feel very blessed to have found this community you have built.

    • hamiltonr

      Thank you Sus. You are a wonderful addition to Public Catholic. Have a blessed and merry Christmas.

  • peggy-o

    Rebecca you are so not alone. Theresa of Avila went through exactly the same thing and then her interior life deepened greatly. Lots of priests have support groups for the same reasons. I’ve definitely had challenges and spiritual warfare to battle this year. Having a good spiritual director has been a great blessing and every challenge that sent me running to Christ made me stronger. This blog has been a great blessing to many..I always recommend it. I’ll try to stand up more next year…Go girl!

    • hamiltonr

      Wise words Peggy. Thank you.

  • Bill S

    They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus.

    That is tough. I sympathize with you. I think that people form an opinion of what this Jesus expects of them and they try to live up to it as best as they can. I personally think that they are wrong about a handful of issues but I admire their resolve.

    Conversely, I can relate to the frustrations that non-believers feel toward those who think they are doing the will of a deity. Especially on specific issues frequently discussed on this blog.

    • hamiltonr

      The problem I encountered was that these people wanted me to represent them rather than my district (which re-elected me handily when these folks tried to defeat me in an election) and vote according to their beliefs, rather than my own.

      I had and have no quarrel with them disagreeing with me, and I took it as their right to try to defeat me in an election (though I also took it as my right to try to win that election) but the personal attacks, vendettas and flat-out lies in order to “punish” someone for disagreeing with you is never ok. It doesn’t matter if the person you are doing this to is an elected official or not.

      I think it’s a reflection of bad character and no class, not to mention evil and absolutely unjustifiable.

      • Bill S

        I think it’s a reflection of bad character and no class, not to mention evil

        The only problem I have with anything you have said is the word “evil” in the context in which you use it. Christians think that to be anti-Christian is to be evil. This is because they refuse to consider the possibility that they could be wrong and their opponents could be right and justified in their anger.

        • hamiltonr

          That’s not what I said, Bill. I said that slander, lying, vendettas and character assassination are evil. It doesn’t matter who does it. In fact, it may be more evil when a Christian who claims that they follow Jesus does it. Jesus said that to those whom much is given, much is required.

          However, that does not give those who are not Christians an excuse to behave in ways that every decent person knows is cruel, dishonest and destructive to other people.

          We’ve been over this particular argument many times in many different guises Bill. I realize that it’s standard fare among unbelievers to justify their outrageous unkindness to other people by claiming that the other people “deserve” it.

          Why do you keep repeating this nonsense? No one has to “understand” the motivations of someone who is attacking them. There is a word for demands like that. The word is co-dependence.

          It doesn’t matter why they do it. I tell you sincerely that when someone behaves like that, I don’t care why they do it. I can’t stop people from behaving that way, but I won’t have it in my house.

          Slander, personal attacks, vendettas, character assassination and all the horses they rode in on are outside fair comment and discussion of issues. They are not understandable, acceptable or tolerable.

          I will not allow it on this blog.

          • Bill S

            I agree that non-believers have less inhibitions keeping them from bad behavior. And I don’t know the hurtful things they do and say to you. I understand their frustration but I don’t condone their behavior. I didn’t mean to give you the impression that I do.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    The comment I left at Anchoress’s Merry Christmas post seems to have disappeared. I don’t know what her comment policy is. What I said there was that I wish all the bloggers at Patheos a wonderful holiday, and that you all enhance my faith.
    Which I think leads into one of the themes you have on this post Rebecca. You worry about not speaking to Jesus enough while in the process of speaking about Jesus. I can see your problem. Perhaps you just have to set certain time allotments aside for both. If you have less blog posts then perhaps that’s a reality. Plus in my opinion a blogger loses impact with too many blogs out the same day. I limit myself to one blog per day. Now I’m not trying to earn money from it, and all I have is a miniscule following, and I’m blogging strictly as a hobby. Do you really need to have five or six blog posts out the same day? Perhaps if you prioritized and limited yourself to no more than say three (or whatever you think) you might have more time for prayer and either have more impact or at least the same. Just a thought.
    Also on another theme in your post here, remember life is a process and coming to the Lord is most definitely a process. But our opinions and thoughts we write down are of the moment. Even if people are locked into a position in their comments, it doesn’t mean that your spreading the Good News doesn’t ultimately have an impact on their evolution.
    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and the very best for you and your family in the coming year.

    • hamiltonr

      That’s beautiful Manny. You may be right about blogging less. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ll bet your comment on Elizabeth’s blog just went to spam or something. I don’t look at spam very often, but when I have, I’ve found things that had not business being there.

      • hamiltonr

        I just went to look at my spam, and it’s loaded up with people trying to sell me courses on playing the piano. I guess my posts on piano lessons tickled some internet something or other. :-)


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