Reading a biography of Flannery O’Connor–whose stories emphasize the grit and grotesque of life it reminds me that one of the most nauseating and exhausting things about religious life in America is the pressure by all the crybaby bullies for us to be sugar cookies all the time.
We are expected to tiptoe around every minority group or anyone who imagines that they are part of a minority group. We’re not supposed to call anybody a sinner or even say that sins like adultery or sodomy are sins anymore.
Instead we are supposed to “welcome everyone” because Jesus would always put community before conversion.
What if somebody actually spoke up and said, “You know what? That is just a steaming pile of crap.”
“Oh Father! You can’t use language like that! Oh dear! You might offend someone!”
Really? Have you never read what the early church was like? Community before conversion? You had to go through umpteen exorcisms and catechesis for five years before you could be baptized and enter the community.
Strong language? When was the last time you read the New Testament where Paul not only uses that kind of language but says of those who would twist the gospel that he wishes they would go and castrate themselves.
And the gospel is full of language like that. Where did we get this impression that Jesus was some kind of limp wristed pansy going around giving a group hug every five minutes?
This is the person who fought the devil in the desert for forty days and told the Pharisees that they were whitewashed tombs…that they stank and were going to hell.
This is the person who warned of the fires of Gehenna–“where the worm dieth not”–where the worm does not die–the parasitic worm that slowly eats your insides–the Moray eel lying within your skull–the cancerous worm that inhabits your bowels. Where the worm dies not…
What if we were to actually breathe as much hell fire into the world and growl out the gospel like we meant it?
What if we really did believe that certain sins cried out to heaven for vengeance and that certain behaviors were filthy, disgusting and depraved and that the people who did them were sick–very sick–so sick that the only thing that could cure them was repentance and many long years of reparation?
Then if we really did speak up like that in Clint Eastwood style– the big crybabies would put out their bottom lip, stamp their fit have a hissy fit and prove your point.
Sure, Jesus welcomed the sinners, ate with them and accepted them, but the underlying assumption is always. Always. Always. that they were repentant. They were weeping at his feet. They were reaching out to touch the hem of his garment. They were ashamed to even be near him because they were ashamed of their sin.
They were not like the present crowd of so called Catholics who say, “We want to be accepted just as we are…” which means we’re not ashamed of our sin. We don’t even think it’s sin. We want to do what we want and you have to accept us.
What if we not only growled out the gospel but we began by growling it out to the person we see in the mirror–and what if we really meant it?
“Oh, you’d just be trying to scare people into heaven!” say the sugar cookies.
Well I’d rather be scared into heaven than soothed into hell.