From the trenches of the culture war

From the trenches of the culture war July 19, 2011

Those scanning the web this morning will find, among other things, two views of the culture war, from two very different perspectives — but both writers come to conclusions that are more similar than you might think.

From Elizabeth Scalia, over at First Things:

Recently a reader at my blog asked me what it would take for me to call “heresy” on someone else. Apparently, to refuse to lightly j’accuse is to be continually vomited out of Jesus’ mouth in a lukewarm stream, but I may find redemption if only I will carp endlessly about how the world is ending and the church is dying, and lay the fault for it at the feet of the bishops and possibly of me, myself.

Hyperventilation seems incongruous, to me, with all we know about our church. It is not the way of the saints. Our early fathers and mothers preached and suffered but they did not fret, and where they engaged in criticism they always saved some for themselves.

Where the great reformers saw problems they worked hard to correct them with a detachment that communicated humility. Most of them, by the way, had folks in their retinues who struggled with faith. I am reading Sigrid Undset’s excellent Catherine of Siena, and am struck by how generously she dealt with those who wished to follow her example but would get distracted and wander off for a little while. One such “son” in particular did this several times, and Catherine never condemned him—always welcoming his return, accepting his contrition and shooing him off to confession before putting him back to work. She seemed very content to pray for him and trust God to bring him about in God’s good time, which is indeed what happened.

Read the rest, which is surprisingly full of hope.

From the other end of the spectrum, there’s Michael Sean Winters at NCR, mulling the day’s news about Charles Chaput, a “culture warrior” bishop:

The problem with the culture war approach is that it loses the Gospel in its defensive moralism. So busy wagging a finger at the culture (certainly never at oneself or at the Church) the culture warrior never engages the culture in a way that makes evangelization possible. As Cardinal Francis George has written, “We have to form people with a genuine love of today’s city and love our culture itself. Even with its demonic elements, the culture must be loved, because you cannot evangelize what you do not love.” …

… Last week, as I sat at Mass listening to the Gospel, I wondered how Archbishop Chaput would preach on that text. The Master is quite explicit – do not pull up the weeds because, in doing so you might destroy the wheat. At the end time, the Lord will send his angels and they will separate the wheat from the weeds. One of the problems with culture warriors is that they always think it is the end time, and they also mistake themselves for God’s angels. They are always trying to uproot the weeds with little concern about any damage their actions might cause to the wheat. So focused on the weeds, and so focused on their own role in the divine economy, so absent of trust in God to deal with the weeds in His own way and in His own time, they are unable to recognize that the little faith of the mustard seed can grow into a great tree, that the leaven will affect many loaves.

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