One would be tempted to shove one’s head in the sand due to the overwhelming amount of negative information received on a daily basis. But this would be a cowardly act. Last weekend I spent time in G.K. Chesterton’s “The Catholic Church and Conversion”, a book from 1926 that offers hope for the faithful even in modern times.
If we disagree about the value of the Catholic Church, let us agree on one point; She has been consistent to her core beliefs for two millenniums, and her roots remain deep and strong in spite of human generated difficulties from within her own walls. The enemies of the Catholic Church come seldom from the outside as much as from bad seeds within. This is true in every institution, as it is difficult for each of us to rise above our humanity. And because She is so large, it would seem more present. Whether the Catholic Church, Southern Baptists, Hollywood or Wall Street, there is sin within all walls, but no other institution has given the world as much as the Catholic Church.
What Christianity and the Catholic Church give us is, reason. An intellectual and holistic view of life. She offers a way for us to know the truth through the words and work of Jesus Christ. While there are ideas that arise in every age, through the teachings of Jesus, the truth of the word, and a view of humanity through a Christian worldview, we can overcome the latest fear, controversy, ideology, traditions, or politics of our time.
“The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.”
(The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K. Chesterton, 1926, The Macmillan Press, pg. 113)
The Catholic Church is under attack from the outside in our age, because some of her people failed from within. Because Christianity defines good and evil, the Church is properly held to her tenets when she fails. Be assured, She will rise above the failure of some, and the core truth She guards will once again, be unchanged, everlasting and serve to guard against the next danger.
What does She guard? The heart and mind.
Through the Bible we receive revelation. Through Christ, salvation. Through the Church we are fed and serve. Through the body we impact the world. Without argument, the Christian church has given much more than She ever took in her errors.
When the world appears to be spinning off its axis or there appears to be a new idea controlling a culture, the Church keeps us grounded in reality. Reality is a place most people are very uncomfortable as they must confront: their limitations, difficulties, their failures and the failures of others, and an assured coming death.
Modern philosophies fail to live in reality and so coax us into believing we can legislate evil away and at the same time occupy our current comfort forever. This is a lie. And while we rightly despise a man who kills dozens of people in a church or mosque, we fail to despise the doctor that butchers a child. But if we dwelt in reality at all times, both would be seen as offenses against man and God.
“Realism is really a shock of offence.”
(The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K. Chesterton, 1926, The Macmillan Press, pg. 66)
Mother Church carried us out of the second century and solidified our knowledge under the Nicene Creed. Her monastic individuals guarded our faith and texts through the dark ages. She introduced charity into the world. She gave us for the first time in history in 33 AD the equality of men and women. She provided the first free health care for the poor in Paris in 650 AD under Saint Landry. She gave rise to modern science. She gave us our first universities. She defended and continues to defend human dignity. She gave legs to philosophy and challenged the intellect. She loves her enemies and washes their feet.
The Church under the lordship of Jesus Christ will carry us through whatever the modern world brings to us.
“But the Catholic Church is used to living with ideas and walks among all those very dangerous wild beasts with the poise and lifted head of a lion-tamer.”
(The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K. Chesterton, 1926, The Macmillan Press, pg. 103)
No matter the trend of our time, she rises above time and looks down on our moment of history able to help our reasoning and the choices we make as individuals under Her banner.
If you are thankful for equality, caring for the poor, scientific development, and human dignity then you must love The Catholic Church, for without her these would not have been infused into the world, for the banner of Christ was held by this institution for all of modern time. Protestants must remember, you are a new thing on the world scene. Your history is less than 500 years old and it is laced with as much, if not more, human failure.
Belief makes you an outsider. Jesus promised us this would be the case and it comes as no surprise to someone who has confessed belief and understands the content of their decision. We, as the hands of Christ, and the workhorse for Mother Church are to bring reason into our time. The specter of the age does not fool us, and we rise above his magic.
"It is still common to regard conversion as a form of revolt."
(The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K. Chesterton, 1926, The Macmillan Press, pg. 23)
The isms of our day are merely traditions of the current culture: socialism, communism, spiritualism, pantheism, racism, classism, and an endless list of others. But Christianity in its current form was a written truth since the time of Moses, and truth long before his arrival on the earth’s stage. How to respond to the dangers of our days, and the errors from within is held in the never changing truth from the Church.
May we always choose truth over screaming politicians, demonic mass murderers, errant priests and television preachers for they are all dangerous; but the book of man, and the book of God are consistent through space and time and provide us a pivot point for any day and age,
“We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that Is right where we are wrong.” (The Catholic Church and Conversion, G.K. Chesterton, 1926, The Macmillan Press, pg. 115)