Mark, I really do get where you’re coming from. There’s a lot that needs to be said in what has become of the pro-life movement and our Catholic faith in America. Consistency is sorely lacking, and remembering that ideologies must be subordinate to our treatment of the human person instead of the other way around is an especially timely reminder to us in these days. I’m glad you’re saying these things.
I would like to gently remind you however, that the principle of reaching people through the human heart extends to those dubbed as “Christianists” as well. I see the same disturbing trends within our ranks you do, but when we resort to letting our frustrations spill over into verbal tongue-lashings, no matter how accurate we think the labels are or lashings deserved, we forget our mission: To lovingly bring back our brothers and sisters to be more like Him.
I don’t see myself bringing back the Christianist Cult of Trump. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have that power, but it belongs to the Holy Spirit, not me, to convert hearts hardened by impenitent and grave evil. I regard Christianism as a diabolical cult of personality that is rigidly committed to defending lies, evil, racism, the caging and abuse of children at the border, misogyny, rape apologetics, the worship of money, the worship of power, and (very simply) any evil Trump and the Right Wing Lie Machine organized to defend him commands the faithful to defend. That it did not end with this is already an appalling indictment of the Cult:
That it has gone on for two more years after this with Christianists defending everything from confessions of sexual assault to mockery of POWs to spitting on Gold Star families to praising Nazis and calling peaceful black protesters “sons of bitches” to the host of vile policies such as caging toddlers, raping the earth, and screwing his constituents in a hundred ways while enriching the 1%–all while re-funding Planned Parenthood eight times and teaching Christianists to say, “Who among us has not tried to rape 15 year old girl?” makes clear to me that if there was ever a time to not cast my pearls before swine or give what is sacred to dogs, now is that time.
I speak about, not to, Christianists. And I do so for two reasons:
First, to distinguish this diabolical cult devoted to a false gospel from the gospel of Jesus Christ and from true discipleship to Jesus Christ.
Second, to motivate all those of good will, Christian or not, to make war on that false gospel in the public square and at the ballot box. I don’t care about trying to convert Christianists. They have already made abundantly clear they are willfully at war with Christ, with the Church, and with common human decency. I mean to defeat them. If they want to repent once their power is broken and they are ground into the dirt, I am happy to extend them a magnanimous offer of forgiveness and mercy. But till they surrender, I am at war with them for the sake of their many, many victims.
For inspiration, I see men like Daryl Davis, who has spent the last several decades converting the hearts of (now former) Klan members primarily through the act of making himself vulnerable to them and showing them his humanity and friendship, as instrumental in their example. His success at healing divides and human error without compromising principles shouldn’t surprise us as Catholics. It’s a path well trod by our Savior.
And bravo to him. But I am not in a place to do what he does since I am (except as a diabetic threatened by their sadistic love of destroying health care), not one of their victims. I am part of the white Christian (formerly) conservative “prolife” ruling class that benefits from sadistic anti-christ policies that Trump and his Christianist base inflict on the least of these. As such, it is my responsibility to say to those scandalized by this godless pack of nihilist predators posing as Good White Christians that what they offer is a false gospel at war with the teaching of the Church, the least of these, and with God himself. My mission is to bear witness to my children and grand-children that not everybody whored themselves out to this dimestore antichrist. And it is to nerve those feeling overwhelmed and crushed by the epic failure of “faithful conservative Catholics” to bear witness to the gospel that remains the Truth despite the lies of men and despite my own sinful failures to live it.
What a black man did to change the hearts of Klan members is what we need to do with all our ideological opposition, especially in these times: be willing to let Christ transform our hearts of stone into tender hearts for those who would oppose us; to wholly risk ourselves so that we can truly make ourselves useful to Him and His purposes. If our words be not a plea to our fellow man out of concern for their souls, then they are only for ourselves and those who already agree with us, and that is not what we are called to do for one another.
I confess that this a place I struggle. I know we have an obligation to love even our enemies and my anger at the magnitude of the betrayal of the gospel by Super Duper Catholics is the thing I struggle with the most. In my defense, I will say that I have never wished their expulsion from the Church, nor sought to deny them the grace of Christ that so many have routinely wished on me. As to the rest, I go to confession frequently (only to be told by the Greatest Catholics of All Time when I mention it that my confession is insincere and that grace is therefore denied me). God forgive them.
It’s probable you don’t feel very much like altering your approach when it comes to those we would both agree seem to have a rather large blind-spot in their faith and end up causing harm they do not see, but I would implore you to do so anyway. I think it would make you a much more effective apologist and an effective agent of Christ in these polarizing times, when such voices are needed most.
I believe in Just War. And I think the Christianist cult is waging aggressive, vicious, and unjust war on the gospel, on the least of these, and on Jesus Christ and his holy Church. I try to use the weapons of the Spirit with such wits as I have. I’m doing my best. We live in polarized times because the enemies of Jesus Christ have chosen to worship, serve, and obey a lying, grifting, misogynist, racist enemy of the truth and enemy of God in their lust for power. I pray God have mercy on them and him. He (and they) preach a gospel that says “If somebody hits you, hit them back ten times harder.” And they hide behind the unborn to preach it. I will fight the diabolical spirit of that lying gospel as long as I have the strength to do it.
It’s time to stop talking past our adversaries or over their heads, and start talking to them – all of them. It is a noble – and difficult – thing to walk alongside our adversaries, find common ground and steer them towards good ends as far as those paths may go, as you have noted yourself. Just don’t stop doing that when the adversaries are from within.
I do not see the slightest indication that they want anybody to walk alongside them. I see a cult blind to everything but Trump’s will to power and their desires for vengeance against the poor, women, and the brown. Once their power to hurt the innocent is broken, then let’s talk with them. Starting with the words, “Repent or perish.”
I appreciate the gentleness and irenicism of your note. And I pray you do not lose your reward for the spirit behind it. “Blessed are the peacemakers” is, like all the beatitudes, a Lenten blessing and one which finds its fulfillment, very often, in the next life. In this life, peacemakers often wind up hated or dead, like Martin Luther King. They are seen as traitors by both sides. I do not see you as a traitor and I want you to know that. I see you as an honorable Christian man attempting to do the work of the gospel. I merely think that we have made a different set of prudential judgments about how to achieve that peace. God bless your good heart in Christ our Lord. Amen.