If you consult the mainstream media, you’d swear that all Benedict (aka “God’s Rottweiler/The Enforcer/Former Hitler Youth”) did is concoct new rules and then “lash out” or “crack down” on people for not keeping them.
Given this view of the faith, discussions in the press often break down into babble about mortal and venial sin. Little lists are bandied about and we are told, in the words of one magazine: “Mortal sins are those that the sinner knows are serious but nonetheless decides to perform. They include the seven deadly sins as well as countless others, like witchcraft or skipping out on Sunday Mass.”
Venial sins, we discover, don’t tick off our inexplicably irritable God as much, but if they pile up, he might lose his always-hair-trigger temper and damn us anyway.
Happily, you can “wipe the slate clean” by confession.
What is missing from all this? Any concept of life in Christ as relationship.
Catholic life is, according to the mainstream media, rules written on a card and stuck to the refrigerator. Break rules on Card A and the Divine Administrator drops your personnel file in the “Go to Hell” tray for processing.
Break rules on Card B and the Divine Administrator marks down the infraction. Earn enough infractions and the Sin Monitor Task Force transfers your personnel file to the “Go to Hell” tray.
However, if you do the religious equivalent of filling out a waiver by going to confession, the Divine Administrator will, for inscrutable reasons, shred your record and let you start your personnel file over.
The goal of the Christian life, in this scenario, is to die with your personnel file spotless (except maybe for a couple of infractions you can work off in purgatory). Then God has to let you into heaven, which is this beautiful park where your favorite dead people have been standing around waiting for you to arrive.
Way to go! You did all the stuff you needed in order to pass and now you graduate to the ultimate happy retirement and go fishing!
What’s missing? The notion of a life of virtue spent trying to cultivate a relationship with God never enters the picture. It’s just a question of keeping and breaking rules — with rewards entirely external to us. And nobody (in the mainstream media) really knows why one rule is more important than another.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Christ, Not Rules
~from National Catholic Register by Mark Shea