Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Outrage and Burnout

If running against men has wearied you, 

how will you race against horses? 

And if you are safe only on a level stretch, 

what will you do in the jungle of the Jordan? [Jeremiah 12:5]

I sometimes think that an election year means that everybody’s IQ suddenly drops 10-20%. People start tolerating behavior in their favored candidates that they would scream in outrage if their opponents used the same tactic. Insults replace reasoned discourse and discerning the truth takes a back seat to making sure “your guy” wins. I find that I really start to feel burned out with all this going on. I feel disgusted when the candidates who stand in opposition to what I stand for attempt to attack all I hold important by grossly distorting it. I feel dismay when I see my co-religionists use the same tactics, making the faith look like a partisan affair. And I grow extremely discouraged when I see people who share my faith say that a candidate who explicitly calls good what the Church condemns being touted as the “most Catholic” candidate. Sometimes I just find myself thinking...

I imagine it might be similar to what Elijah must have felt (though his situation was much worse of course) when he saw the moral ruin his homeland had fallen into:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life, going to Beer-sheba of Judah. He left his servant there and went a day’s journey into the wilderness, until he came to a solitary broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “Enough, Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger* touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.  [1 Kings 19:3–8]

As Catholics, we can’t retreat from the election year idiocy. We need the nourishment God provides to continue our task and not give into despair or the moral corruption that sweeps our nation. We need the grace that comes from God through prayer and reflection on His Word and the words of His saints. Of course, in doing so, we need to remember that if we bring a bad attitude to prayer, with the mindset of “Let those people know my preferences are right!” then we won’t receive this nourishment of grace.

I think we ultimately need to start with the attitude of Our Lord on the Mount of Olives, where He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). That’s not an invitation to passivity or indifference of course. It’s a call to submit to God’s will. In other words, we need to discern what God wants us to do in the face of adversity.

Personally, I find the Liturgy of the Hours to be a great help. The Psalms show the full extent of our concerns before God, everything from “Thank You for being You” to “Why is this happening to us?” I especially am struck by the latter category. We think we have it rough, but so did the early Christians and Jews. In every generation there is harshness and discouraging news, where the faithful individual looks at the physical or moral ruins of his culture and asks “Why did this have to happen?” No, we can’t always understand why God permits things that seem so catastrophic to us. But we need to remember that God is the Lord of the universe and that, while He may permit evil for a time, He will not permit it to ultimately triumph. 

So, it is not wrong to ask God for deliverance from a specific evil. But let’s not blame Him for the evil being there. Let our first step be to pray for and discern what God wants us to do in this situation, accepting His will over our own. We love Him, we keep His commandments (see John 14:15) and we see what His commandments obligate us to do in bringing His kingdom to the world. In doing so, let us remember that our witness to the world by keeping His commandments (without a double standard) is a better witness than all the political arguments we can make for a favored candidate or against one we dislike.

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