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The end of "go along to get along" Christianity

Each Friday the bishop of my diocese sends out an email message to the faithful.  In additions to bits of news and reminders on upcoming events, it contains a short homily relating to the readings of the past week and this often ties in events in the wider world.

Of late he has been emphasizing that "nice" is not a Christian value.  A lot of people seem to think that it is, and that good Christians should never criticize anything.  As he points out, that's simply not true.  Jesus was often quite strident and vocal in criticizing things and the Apostles followed his example.

Put simply, there's nothing wrong with pointing out something is in fact wrong.  One need not be a jerk about it, but there are things in this world that are objectively evil.  Noticing this is not just permitted but obligatory for Christians.

I get the sense that when Mass attendance started its long decline decades ago, much of the clergy bought into the claim that it was because the Church was too judgemental.  Particularly in the context of the 1970s self-help "I'm okay, you're okay" era, the leadership made a concerted effort to emphasize love and forgiveness rather than the need for repent and sin no more.

We are now experiencing the bitter fruit of that policy.  Public standards of decency have all but collapsed and many Christian denominations have completely abandoned any kind of moral teaching regarding personal behavior.

If God loves us all for who we are right now, why change?  If we're all going to be saved, why repent?  And if both of things are true, why even go to church?

This in turn results in people who are not only unable to withstand the spiritual warfare of the Enemy, but who aren't even aware it is happening.

As in all other things, the first step in fixing a mistake is to stop repeating it.  I think that is what the Church is now doing, and it's a good thing.   Looking away from someone who is making terrible choices is not nice or helpful.  Again, one need not be vicious, but certain behaviors have to be called out as unacceptable.

It is also true that "hate" has its place in Christian life.  We are not called to love the sinner and the sin but to love the sinner and hate the sin.  For far too long, Christians have decided that the worst thing is making someone feel bad even if they deserve it.  Guilt, we were told, is the worst thing ever.

In reality, guilt is what one typically gets from being guilty.  If one knowingly does something wrong, guilt should be the result.  People who truly feel guilt are sociopaths and a danger to us all.

Of course, excessive or misplaced guilt can also be a problem, and that's where Reconciliation comes in.  It took me a long time to fully appreciate this sacrament, but I'm now a strong advocate for it, especially with my children.  Last month I remarked that we have an ongoing forgiveness deficit, and this is definitely a part of that.

Still, if no one ever tells you what you are doing is wrong, if you are a yard sign Calvinist who thinks that everything you do is justified, then "Christian niceness" just reinforces your bad behavior.

There is a point where "turning the other cheek" is not an act of restraint but moral cowardice.  I am pleased to see the Church's leaders recognizing this fact and finding their voices at last.

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