Now there’s a provocative title from an old Baptist – ho, ho, ho, a believer in the sky fairy calling for a reality check. Well, there’s not much you can do with a fellow who thinks Christians believe in a sky fairy; anyone who misuses their intellect to that degree isn’t going to be won over until the Spirit moves them. Anyone with any skills in introspection who cannot find original sin, is not looking and will not see what they do not wish to see. Good and evil we do, but why we incline so easily to the bad and find it so difficult to do the good, are questions more easily answered by Christian theology and anthropology than by a secular mindset.
Be that as it may, what reality do I think folk should be connecting with? The first and overwhelming reality is the flaws in our own nature. We see a lot of folk bandying the word ‘Modernism’ about without defining it – for Catholics it is first and foremost the belief whereby people imagine they’ve a right to pick and choose which of the Church teachings to follow, and which to reject – thereby setting up themselves as the highest authority. It’s something common across the spectrum, though, and not just confined to Catholicism.
We live in a society where freedom has become license, and where our natural disinclination to obey receives perpetual encouragement: ‘love’ that cannot express itself in personal sexual gratification is disregarded, which is why the various churches not only have trouble with homosexuality, but with heterosexual sins: fornication and even adultery seem fine as long as ‘you love each other’; in such a moral climate it is no wonder homosexuals feel discriminated against – why should they be the last group to feel the effects of traditional Christian teaching?
The reality we recognise is that of our fallen nature, and instead, as Christianity has traditionally taught, struggling against it with the help of God’s Grace, we are taught to relax into it – to ‘be ourself’. Which self? The self who, given half a hint of a chance will do whatever is easiest and most selfish, or that other self who will go the further mile? It’s not accidental that Jesus so often uses examples from family life, because it is there our best nature is so often revealed. We’ll do things for our children by way of self-sacrifice that we’d not do for anyone else. I can never read the parable of the Prodigal without tears welling up. We are so often at our best when we deal with our children, and the smaller, nastier, more selfish parts of us tend to fall away.
It is that, redeemed and restored reality with which we need to be in touch, it is the Grace working in us upon which we need to concentrate – then we can be who we really are – made in God’s image. It is to that we should aspire – not be ‘being ourself’ in this fallen world’s fallen vision.