How to Make Christianity a “Nice People Club” Destroys the Church
Comply with the increased enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, Bishop Valery Vienneau limited the celebration of Mass to those who have been vaccinated. Although “less than 50 people have died from COVID-19” and the imposition of mass segregation clearly violates the rights to liberty and equality, church and civil authorities have thought it would be prudent to force people to take the jab and possibly slow the spread of the virus.
In other news, Pope Francis challenged an anonymous Catholic TV network (apparently EWTN), calling it “the work of the devil”. Obviously, the station produced programming critical of the Pope and even received official complaints from the Vatican.
That said, the station has also been a powerful tool for evangelism and a great resource for Catholics to learn more about the faith. One wonders how the Pope is comfortable condemning a Catholic TV station in the harshest terms when complimenting a brutal and murderous regime like the Chinese Communist Party.
So what do these two miscellaneous facts have in common besides having to do with the Catholic Church? They are both the result of the same phenomenon that has plagued the church and almost every other political and cultural institution in the developed world: deadly indifference.
I take this term from new book from Catholic writer and editor Eric Sammons on how the church has grown from a large, influential community of practicing Christians to a hollowed out cultural relic ruled by disconnected baby boomers. In short, he argues that church leaders in the 1960s took drastic steps to âopen upâ to different views and practices. Indeed, they have become “indifferent” to often incompatible thought systems.
As Sammons points out, Catholic teaching itself has remained the same, but the focus of that teaching has changed significantly. Catholics would no longer proclaim their faith to the world; they would henceforth promote two-way dialogues with everyone.
They would no longer stand out from other religions and things of the world; they would henceforth seek common ground in the interests of world peace and mutual understanding. They would no longer insist on being disciples of Christ in order to achieve salvation; they would insist on following his conscience and trusting a loving (and remarkably forgiving) God.
Like clockwork, this shift in emphasis precipitated a relativistic mindset that continues to plague the Catholic Church more than six decades later. If a religious practice fundamentally leads to heaven, and every person is fundamentally good, and all religions are fundamentally true, then there is no point in changing behavior or even taking a serious stand on anything. As a result, religious vocations and missionary activity have declined, church attendance has plummeted, and the majority of truly practicing Catholics are often uninformed about much of their own faith.
As it stands, the Catholic Church is no different from most generic philanthropies and non-governmental organizations. Its leaders and representatives raise funds, repeat left-wing globalist narratives, and pursue nebulous goals of being kind and “make the world a better place. âLike most modern philanthropies, it tends to empower more than empower the victims it seeks to help.
So we end up with an obsequious archbishop too willing to treat unvaccinated Catholics like lepers and a dyspeptic pope who cares more about personal criticism than an entire church in dangerous decay. Needless to say, this has been a demoralizing time for faithful Catholics.
For those who view this as a Catholic problem, this deadly indifference dynamic has been happening everywhere, and it all started around the same time. Haunted by the two world wars and the ongoing Cold War, political and cultural leaders have all made the bold decision to build bridges, tear down walls and push for some kind of universalist system where all perspectives were acceptable and any controversy (read: dissent or disagreement) was neutralized. Paradoxically, the ideals of relativism have gradually become more and more absolute over time.
While this approach was successful in minimizing external conflict (and maximizing internal conflict), it also led to a complete dissolution of identity. Being perpetually open-minded seems nice until you realize that it keeps the mind from closing in on anything meaningful or substantial. As GK Chesterton said nearly a century ago, âjust having an open mind is nothing. The purpose of opening the mind, like opening the mouth, is to close it on something solid.
This is how an attitude of conciliatory indifference becomes deadly. After so much dialogue, tolerance and compromise, the majority of people no longer have the capacity to defend themselves against oppressive systems. Any radical who is strong enough or powerful enough can tell them to act against reason and morality, and they will obey because they have never known a time or an occasion when it was okay to do otherwise. After having said yes and adopted so many contradictory ideas, they do not know how to say no and close the door.
To restore the means to resist, it becomes necessary for individuals and institutions to regain a certain exclusivity. They must embrace ideas that accord with the good, the true, and the beautiful while explicitly rejecting ideas that do not conform to these standards.
Not only will this work require effort and intelligence, but it will also require courage. We have been conditioned from an early age to conform and avoid confrontation, but this will inevitably happen when we decide on one set of beliefs over another.
Today, there are more and more burdens with asserting one’s beliefs and values, especially with widespread censorship, fake news and indoctrination. But, we must also understand that these acts of silencing dissenting opinions do it out of insecurity and ignorance. Yes, that even includes the esteemed clergy of Pope Francis and Archbishop Vienneau who use their great moral and spiritual authority to chastise cable television networks and punish unvaccinated Catholics.
This means that a more confident and better informed conservative party can win this battle if they decide to take a stand. Now is the time, and the stakes could not be higher. For believers, waging this battle could save their immortal souls; for people all over the world, fighting this battle could save civilization.