I’m not loving. Nor is the Catholic Church. We’re both chock-full of hate and intolerance, lacking equally in understanding and compassion. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve been told.
It’s not, mind you, like I’m torturing puppies in my basement. But I do have the temerity to think that no one should have the right to end the life of a child, born or unborn. I also think that same-sex marriage is a dangerous oxymoron which brings with it body, soul, and culture-destroying consequences. Oh, and I really don’t like it when priests, bishops, and teachers do and say things that lead others to think the Church is hunky-dory with either.
Accordingly, the culture (and a few Facebook friends) tell me that I lack love.
But do I?
Let’s talk a little about love, shall we?
Love, as the song tells us, is a many splendored thing. It’s also a multi-faceted thing. It has many faces.
Sometimes, the face of love looks like this:
But, it can also look like this:
Sometimes, love is patient. Sometimes it can brook no delay.
Sometimes love is gentle. Sometimes love is fierce.
Sometimes love holds its tongue. Sometimes, it cannot be silent.
There are times that love says Yes. But there are other times that love must say No.
There are times when love brings us peace. And other times, when it drives us half mad.
In all that, one thing is clear: No matter what the Beatles say, love isn’t easy. It’s quite hard actually. And complicated. Love in reality doesn’t look like love in the movies. Not for lovers. Not for friends. Not for parents.
And we know that. When we look around us, we see love’s many faces. We see what love demands. We see that loving a person as they most need to be loved won’t always bear the fruits we hope it will bear. They might not love us back. They might get angry. They might walk away.
But that doesn’t mean we choose to stop loving that person. That doesn’t mean we start acting in the most unloving of ways.
Yet that is what the culture is tempting us to do right now.
Lies & Bigotry
It doesn’t say that directly, of course. It doesn’t say, “Be less loving.” It says, “Be more loving.” It says, “Be silent. Hold your tongue. Turn your face. Let others do as they want to do and live as they want to live. Mind your own business. Don’t judge. Be tolerant. Be nice.”
When we don’t heed that advice, it sends slings and arrows galore our way. Those who speak up—priests, bishops, and plain old, ordinary folks—are called unloving, hateful bigots and charged with the capital sin of the post-modern world: intolerance.
It’s an effective tactic. It intimidates some. It silences others. It brainwashes many. Countless Catholics and other Christians have heard those words hurled so many times at opponents of same-sex marriage and other cultural juggernauts that they actually believe them.
They believe, in their silence, in their acceptance, that they are loving as God calls them to love.
But they’re not.
The people doing what the culture smiles upon—aborting their children, hooking up, using pornography, and engaging in same-sex relations—aren’t doing something to smile upon. Those people—those beautiful, blessed, broken people—are just breaking themselves even more.
The less broken we are the more clearly we see that. And even if we can’t see it plainly, there’s a mountain of sociological evidence that tells us the same, that tells of the increased rates of depression and dissatisfaction, abuse, violence, and even suicide among those following the culture’s script on morality and sexuality.
And yes, we all, in some way, are broken and breaking ourselves. The difference is that those of us trying to follow Christ and live according to the teachings of the Church don’t think our failings are something to smile upon. We know, in falling short of what God asks of us, that we’re neither loving him nor ourselves. And we want to do better.
Part of “doing better” means concerning ourselves more with our own failings than with others’. But doing that doesn’t also necessitate standing silently by while others hurt themselves, body and soul. It doesn’t mean never expressing our true opinion about an issue, never explaining why we agree or disagree with a certain behavior, or tacitly cooperating in another’s folly. It doesn’t require we pretend that black is white, up is down, or in is out.
Again, we can’t do that. To do that is to be the very thing the culture accuses us of being. To do that is to fail to love God and others.
Remember, love doesn’t just say Yes. It also says No.
Love says, “No, you cannot have that. It’s not good for you.” Love says, “No, you must not do that. It will hurt you.” And love says, “No, you should not go that way. It will lead you to a place you do not want to go.”
A parent who lets a child play with whatever he fancied, no matter how dangerous, would not be a loving parent. A sister who procured heroin for her addict brother, would not be a loving sister. A man who sent a wandering traveler down a road that was dark, dangerous, and not the desired destination, would not be a loving man.
In the same way, a Church that said nothing when she sees people stumbling along a road that she believes leads to perdition would not be a loving Church.
A Church that sanctioned or facilitated behavior that she believes will hurt someone in body and soul would not be a loving Church.
And a Church that did nothing in the larger culture to clear up the fundamental confusion about life, love, and sexuality would, again, not be a loving Church.
Nor would a person who sees the same and believes the same but acts otherwise, be a loving person.
Now, when we express our views uncharitably or thoughtlessly, when we fail to be kind, welcoming, and generous to those who think differently, when we’re imprudent about when we speak and when we hold our tongue, that is unloving.
Truth and charity are supposed to go hand in hand. Jettisoning one is as bad as jettisoning the other. And these days, we can’t afford to jettison either. It’s not an option for those those seeking the Kingdom of Heaven.
Nor is it an option for those who care about the Kingdom of Man.
The Vandals are no longer knocking at the gate. They’ve broken through and are running amok amongst us. They are destroying the lives of our friends, family, and neighbors. They are destroying our culture. And it’s up to us to stop them. Not with weapons. But with truth and love.
Slings and arrows be damned.