Sometimes when I really think about the “controversial” issues of today, I am completely baffled by the fact that they are controversial. Society has made these issues into emotional issues and situations that prevent one from really looking at the truth objectively. I find it interesting that my high school students have been almost more instrumental in my grasping the extent of society’s depravity than the past eight years of college and high school. My students are not depraved but they give me a window into the mind of society. And I find it to be quite frightening. I am realizing, as I told a friend a week ago, that I wasn’t the typical high schooler. As I speak to my students I waver between feeling as though we are in the same generation and then thinking that we are in completely different generations. But, to be honest, I often feel that I am in the wrong era altogether and that I would have fit rather nicely into the 1800s.
My viewpoint into the culture made me slightly frantic this week. If my students, who attend a Catholic high school in a rather conservative state with typically traditional values, seem this affected by the culture, I was quick to bemoan the fate of the entire world. Especially after listening to their defense of their opinions, I was convinced that we, as a society, do not understand truth. My students aren’t stupid and they don’t seem to hold beliefs that they think are radical. There is also an interesting mixture within most of them, they don’t exactly buy the Church’s teaching on human sexuality (for example) but they appear open to know more about it. This doesn’t mean they come off as accepting of it, rather they appear to be skeptical of anything the Church says that doesn’t mesh with society. Yet many of them are hesitant to say they flat out disagree with the Church’s teaching. These opinions provide an interesting blend of hope and despair for me. I have come again and again to the realization that I do not know how to accurately convey my beliefs or the Church’s teaching to them. I accept what the Church teaches but I cannot properly show them how this should impact their beliefs. Multiple times this past week I have felt acutely the limitations of my abilities and knowledge.
What do you do with a society that makes truth seem bigoted and intolerant? How do you present a truth that is immediately labeled as hate speech or offensive? The truth is remarkably offensive. Don’t believe me? Take a quick look at the videos below.
The original TV clip
His defense of “hate speech”
The Media Portrayal
Why does this continue to surprise me? Perhaps because our culture is very good at pinning “radical” and “extreme” to things that are simply not in line with the secular media. If you say things often enough and loud enough, people will begin to think that they are true. So when you begin to speak the Truth, be it ever so softly and charitably, it comes off as cruel and unjust.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.” –Mt. 23: 37-38
It lead me to wonder how one could possibly win. Not because I am making the transformation of a culture into a competition, but because it seems that the odds are so against the truth. Even the fact that when the Church teaches the truth it doesn’t make any head-way in many modern minds, points to a culture so “open-minded” that it is closed off to truth. Modern progress seems to be running full speed away from everything good, true, and beautiful. And the issues that seem to be the most fundamental–marriage, families, life, and the human person–are the most attacked now.
“It is true that I am of an older fashion; much that I love has been destroyed or sent into exile.” -G.K. Chesterton
Perhaps I should have been more encouraging when one of my students asked what we should do when the whole of society seems to be opposed to what the Church is teaching. I told him that we need to be prepared to be martyrs for the truth. That we will be at least verbally mocked and crucified is seeming to be a closer and closer reality. It is not something that will take place when I am old and gray but is gradually sweeping society right now. The hope in this is that Our Lord knows all of this. And the times of greatest persecution and evil are the very times when He raises up the greatest of saints. They give hope and inspiration that standing with the truth is something that is only fully rewarded in Heaven. As for now, we are the Church militant, battling anything contrary to that which is true. Not just “true” by our standards, but is actually and objectively Truth.
“Strive even to death for truth and the Lord God will fight for you.” –Sirach 4:28
This causes me to think of the book of Daniel with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Like them, we should refuse to serve the gods that society worships and refuse to conform our lives to the tune that is being played. Instead, even in the midst of the flames of persecution we should bless the Lord.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever.”