…and thought, “I think I need to come to confession here too.”
I have been, as you have no doubt noticed, pretty bitter and angry. I was, in particular, surly with Dr. Ed Feser, to whom I owe an apology (though we still disagree about the death penalty and I will try to return to that later this week). I have also been angry with various others (you know who you are). Much of that has been more visible on Facebook than here, but it’s been here too.
I have gone around and around all this in my head for weeks. Partly it is depression, not a depression as ones I had decades ago (those were crippling). But still enough to make it hard to function.
I honestly don’t know how to talk about it here, since so much of it has to do with a deep sense of anger and betrayal at the demographic in the Church that I always identified myself with. Every time I try to figure out how to discuss it, I get stymied because I cannot, in all honesty, talk about my anger without talking about what is the cause of the anger. And if I do that, I wind up confessing other people’s sins and not mine, which is defeating the purpose.
But today, at confession, I was given the grace to remember something: how much it hurts when people only see what’s wrong with me and never acknowledge anything good about me.
It was a grace because I realized that *that* is what I’ve been doing with other people and that is something I could repent without getting into a whole thing about blame, etc.
I can’t remember if I mentioned this earlier, but the Spirit showed me a little while back that I don’t honor people (now that I mention it, I think I did write about this, but indulge me). It’s not like I go out of my way to dishonor people. It’s just that I have a pagan ethos: be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. Cross me and I’ll fight you. And as I have gotten angrier and more frustrated at my tribe for its scandalous behavior, I have found it easier and easier to ignore the dignity of the people I talk with and harder and harder to honor their good points.
And as a result, I have found it harder and harder to be a source of spiritual food for anybody. I scare people off, even people who like me. I know this. I just have not known what to do about it. Still don’t really.
I cannot convey the sense of heartbreak and scandal I have been struggling with. That’s not an excuse for dishonoring people. It’s just a confession of weakness. I do not know what to do.
Understand, this is not a “crisis of faith” in the sense of any doubts about the Church’s teaching. My faith in that has been, perhaps surprisingly, untouched. It’s certainly a surprise to me. I sort of assumed as a young Christian that “crises of faith” would arise because Christians did some stupid or evil thing and then the believer starts wondering “Is it all a lie?” But that’s not the case with me. I recognize the faith does not stand or fall with peers who blow off the Church’s teaching and embrace political agendas that tell them what their itching ears want to hear. I get that humans are weak and driven by loves and fears because I get them I am weak and *my* weakness does not somehow prove Jesus is a fraud so why should somebody else’s?
No. My confusion is more… sociological? Personal? I’m not sure. It comes down to this: “Where’s the beef?” or “How long, O Lord?” or “When is Pentecost?” or “Where is the fellowship of the saints that, dammit, I need in my bones?” I can’t do this discipleship thing very well even when I do have the company of saints around me (as I have been graced to have in the past to hold me up and help me not be as much of a screwup as I would otherwise be). But right now, I feel not merely alone, but swimming against the tide. A great man people I trusted are, in large and small ways, telling me “Come with us, for fellowship” and all I can think of is “When you are in heaven for doing your conscience I am in hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?” And so I feel the hostility and enmity every day. Yes, I know that a lot of that is self-inflicted because I do not act with love and respect many times. But I don’t know what to do about it very well either. And though I’m wrong in my manners I don’t, dammit, feel for one second wrong in my convictions that the prostitution of American conservative Christianity to Alt Right and the Party of Trump and all the rest of it is a massive calamity and a ruinous failure.
But what was made clear to me (and what I struggle to hold on to against the fog-inducing anger) is this: “If I being what I am, can consider myself in some sense a Christian, why cannot my neighbor?” I ask God “look not on my sin, but on my faith” and I would grieve in my soul–I do grieve in my soul–when my struggles are overlooked an only my sins and failure are seen and despised by my critics. So I *must* not do that to other people.
So here I am with another stumblebum confession and mea culpa, like I have to do every now and then because the patterns of sin in my life are pretty ingrained. I am *sorry* that I have let myself be so focused on what makes me angry and have not first approached people–approached you–as people with human dignity who are trying (imperfectly, like me) to obey God. Please forgive me. Let us pray for each other that we do better and that we treat each other more kindly. And especially that I do that.