On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Life Among "Arians"

In my last post I talked about the word "consubstantial" and how people like St. Basil and St. Athanasius fought against the Arians to retain that concept. Life among the Arians wasn't easy. Catholics who fought for the doctrine that all orthodox Christians now hold to were martyred, persecuted, and exiled. Today we are beginning to see what it's like to live in a culture where orthodox Christianity is reviled.

For a long time it's been possible for us to co-exist with people whose version of Christianity is little more than a warm fuzzy memory. Recently, however, things have gotten a whole lot dicier. In my own extended family there are those who are pro-gay marriage, and vocally so. These views are expressed with absolute contempt for people (especially Christians) who hold any other view. We are not held to be merely of differing opinions (which was how my mother would have been treated by my Methodist pastor cousin's family). We are held to be wrong, evil, uncharitable, monstrous. This morning there was a pretty nasty post on a social network by one of my family members. That's what really inspired me to write this.

Now I realize that my cousins don't really hate me. If we sat down in person and avoided controversial topics they would treat me as kindly as they ever did. I suspect that even if we spoke about the controversial topics they would still treat me kindly. However, in other arenas with broad brush strokes they paint those of us who believe what has always and everywhere been believed by Christians as somehow less than Christian. They have, like those who followed Arius, bowed to the popular culture. The "emperor" is "Arian", thus being "Arian" is not only the safe thing to be, the popular thing to be, but in their eyes it is the obvious and right thing to be.

I'm sure they would see it differently. I'm sure that those Methodists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians etc. who embrace gay marriage don't see themselves as walking away from Trinitarian faith. Yet, they seem to forget that it was Jesus who spoke very definitely of what marriage was. If Jesus was wrong there, if He, who never bent to popular culture, was merely bending to popular culture then, what does this say about His omniscience or His honesty? It's far easier at this point in time to bend to the popular will. It was far easier in St. Athanasius's time to be an Arian.

I'm about to read Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's book about the Arian period in history. It seems to me a good way to remind myself that it's not the first time that orthodox doctrine has been ridiculed. Standing with St. Basil, St. Athanasius, and St. Nicholas may not be popular today any more than in their day. I'm pretty sure, however, that this is where Christians who hold to the historic faith are standing.

Some nearly 25 years ago now I made the observation that it looked as if in my grandchildren's time only the Catholic Church would stand for historic Christianity. I made that observation when I would have still identified myself as solidly evangelical Protestant. I had no interest in becoming Catholic, and I was rather annoyed that it seemed to me that this would be the only option for my grandchildren. Less than 10 years later I found myself standing in the front of a Catholic Church being received as a convert. Now I am thrilled that my grandchildren will be Catholic and I am doing my very best to help my daughter and her husband pass the Catholic faith on to their little girl. I may not always like some of the actions of the hierarchy. I may get very annoyed at the way in which some bishops don't actually follow all of the teachings of the Church. I may be profoundly tired of diocesan flunkies who sometimes are more concerned about the way they look to the well heeled among us, than about following the teachings of the Church about a just wage. Believe me I don't have blinders on. At the end of the day, however, I still know that the Church teaches faithfully, even when some of her shepherds fall down on the job.

I'm sure that for a lot of my extended family, as it is for the culture at large, to stand with all of those Church fathers is simply to be old fashioned, and out of touch. They believe that the Church must move with the times, must interpret the faith in a new way. They believe they are acting with compassion and that those who oppose them are acting out of hate. They cannot see the concern for souls that our opposition includes.

My petition for this week is St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Nicholas pray for us. We need your prayers because our culture is in deep deep trouble, and unfortunately much of my family has embraced the culture rather than the faith.


At 10:17 PM, Blogger ElizabethK said...

Great post, Liz. I've had a few of those Facebook exchanges recently, myself--mine have been about whether gender is meaningless, and otherwise rational people get really angry when you suggest that gender might just be important and real. I live in California, and the aftermath of the passing of Proposition 8 was very ugly; so I think you are exactly right in what you're saying. Putting it into the context of Arianism is very helpful--a good way to put it in perspective and see it clearly. I'm realizing in these times how hard it is to be courageous--even on Facebook! It's hard to know that people think you're hateful for expressing a reasonable opinion, hard not to get angry, and hard not to fall silent.


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