Thursday, July 02, 2015

How to Proceed Now 2 – Standing Your Ground Amidst Divisions

Not unlike Roe v Wade, Friday’s Judicial Coup has already made our divisions worse – which is to be expected.  When one closes off constitutional democratic means to address an issue, the losing side becomes angry and resentful (and rightly so) and the winning side is tempted to become insufferable in victory, to put it nicely, and often gives into said temptation.

As Rebecca Hamilton writes, this has already affected even relationships.  Perhaps I should say this has especially affected relationships:

The Supreme Court sent a number of people my way since last Friday, all of them looking for solace in the face of personal attacks they had suffered because of the decision on gay marriage. They called me on the phone, approached me after mass, in checkout lines and while I was running errands. I also had internet encounters of the same type that went far beyond the boundaries of my community and my personal friends.

Here’s the summarized version of what they told me:

There was a lot of yelling and screaming in certain circles this weekend. It was directed at Christians in their personal, and, heretofore, safe personal relationships. It was also directed at priests who spoke about the decision from the pulpit. One friend, who gave me permission to discuss this, witnessed an ugly blow-up at a longstanding poker game she and her husband go to. The people there hold diverse opinions about matters of faith and morality, but they’ve been meeting for this friendly get-together on a regular basis for years.

This week, the atheists in the group refused to practice civility. They cursed the Lord, called Christians bigots and homophobes and were otherwise verbally insulting. According to my friend, this began with a celebration on the part of the atheists over Obergefell. She said she felt like, “OK, you won your deal, have your celebration.” She said the Christians at the table kept silent.

But when the celebration turned to repeatedly cursing the Lord and calling Christians ugly names, she said one of the Christian men told them to shut up. It devolved from there into two men squaring off to fight one another. At that point, my friend stood up and told them to stop it.

She said, “I’ve never forced my faith on you. I don’t come here with a Bible telling you what to do. But you are disrespecting me and my Jesus and I will not stand for it. You stop this now or my husband and I are leaving and we won’t be back.”

My friend is the most soft-spoken Hispanic woman you’d ever meet. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Not once. Not ever.

She said the room fell silent and everyone sat back down. But she doesn’t think she and her husband will be back for more fun next week. They are through with the group.

I’ve heard stories of spouses calling one another names and people walking out of mass on their priests.

I, too, may have lost at least one friend of over 15 years.  He posted an obnoxious post on Facebook saying last week was a bad one for bigots.  I let him know that constitutional democracy was the presenting issue and that his post was deeply offensive.  Instead of engaging with me at all, I’ve discovered he’s un-friended me.  I’ve since messaged him that I thought better of him than to act that way.  But I am not very hopeful of reconciliation.

But in times like these, you discover who your real friends are.  And you discover some “friends” really don’t even respect you:

I heard a discussion this weekend in which someone more knowledgeable in these matters than me said that these kinds of attacks on the integrity of another person’s soul are always an indicator of disrespect. They do not respect you and your right to believe as you believe.

Disrespect at this level is disrespect of you as a person. You have a responsibility to yourself, to God and to the person attacking you not to accede to this. Mutual respect is the beginning of genuine trust. It is the foundation on which all good human relationships are built.

If I cannot trust you to respect me as a person enough to allow me the dignity of making my own choices in matters as profoundly personal as faith and morality, then I can not trust you at all. There can be no friendship, no true relationship, without this basic level of respect and the trust that comes from it.

And it’s difficult to let friends and family go.  You keep on loving them.  But if they disrespect, even hate you so deeply that they insult you and walk away, then basic dignity requires you to let them go.

As Hamilton writes, you stand your ground regardless.  You do not wimp out on Jesus or on his word.  If that loses friends and family then so be it.

Oh, being a Christian means losing friends and family?  Often, yes.  And Jesus told us so:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matt. 10:34-39

You stand your ground on the truth, take up your cross of rejection and persecution with the rest of God’s faithful Holy Church though the centuries, and follow Him.

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