Friday, September 3, 2010

Living within the Truth

Some time ago, I saw an interview with the actress Ashley Judd in which she gave the following definition of the craft of acting:

Living truthfully in imaginary circumstances

It struck me as a very good definition. Christians know that, while our present circumstances are not imaginary, neither are they eternal. Nevertheless, we are called to live within this world that, while not imaginary, is also only a dim and bent shadow of eternity. In his recent address to a symposium on canon law in Slovakia, Archbishop Charles Chaput recalled former Czech leader, Vaclav Havel's idea of "living within the truth".

The bigotry of the post-Christian leadership class, while not overtly oppressive as was the system of persecution under which Eastern Europeans lived for half a century, is enabled by the historical ignorance and (frankly) ennui of so many Christians within the States. They seem to neither be aware of Europe's past or care that the first distant rumblings of that manner of persecution are happening here in these United States. Time will tell whether recent political and patriotic rallies are a harbinger of a serious change in that mood or simply a blip on the radar of history. What is certain is that the blood of the martyrs has proven, once again, to be the seed of the church now that the snows of Communist oppression covering much of Europe have melted.

We do well to heed the Archbishop's reminder that "freedom of worship" is a much smaller sphere than "freedom of religion":

Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith.

In short, freedom of religion means what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says it means - free exercise. On the other hand, "freedom of worship" encourages recollection of the ominous forecast of C. S. Lewis when he warned that we will be allowed to have our religion in private, and then they will make sure we are never alone.

Instead of being satisfied with the sort of public ceremonial deism that is our wont, Christians must learn the discipline of "living within the truth":

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God's Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living with the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Standing alongside those things is the recollection, the re-learning of history. For, if we don't know our history, we don't know who we are and we have no context for moving forward. We will be lost on the "progressive" sea -- either being pulled along by the tide of the progressive voices that out-shout us or we will be left attempting to row across that tide. Even if we succeed in escaping it, we will surely be caught in it again because, without history, we have no anchor.

"Cardinal Henri de Lubac once wrote that, "It is not true . . . that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true, is that without God, [man] can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism."

See the entire speech here

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