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Fr. Glenn: Please … Affirm Me!

on September 15, 2019 - 10:14am

By Fr. Glenn Jones

Was looking at Facebook this morning (yes, kids; old Fr. Glenn knows about Facebook), and noted that the number of “If you believe/agree with this, share!” or the guilt-attempting: “I bet I won’t get even 1 share!” posts. And, of course, who has not received myriad requests to “like” this or that, or to become “friends” with people of whose identity you have no clue—a “friend” of a friend of a friend of...” …in their attempt to “collect” as many “friends” as possible.

The trend is rather disturbing, actually—the persons posting such things seeming to be pleading: “Please … affirm me! Affirm my ideas!”

Perhaps one of the worst pitfalls of so-called “political correctness” and its enforcement is to suppress ideas, either by a bullying if one dares to think differently from the masses, or, in worst case, even by force, as we’ve witnessed of late with the Antifa movement (regardless of the irony of claiming to be “anti-fascist” though using fascist tactics). Such Orwellian thinking overlooks the fact that some of the greatest cultural and societal advances have been by those who swam against the “accepted” current. 

In this nation we might cite the ending of slavery, women’s right to vote, the civil rights movement, etc. In fact, the very founding of this nation was the rebellion against the status quo of the monarchy—a type of government which was the norm throughout the then-developed world. Imagine the founders of our nation logging on to Facebook and gauging their actions on the amount of “likes” received, or how many “shares” or “retweets” of their posts. We’d likely still be flying the Union Jack.

Who of us in the working world have never encountered the “Well … we’ve always done it that way!” attitude? ...even if that way isn’t very smart. Aren’t we glad all the inventors around the world were not stopped by that mentality! The national lab itself showcases the very rejection of the notion that the status quo is “good enough”.

New ideas and concepts are essential to the advancement of civilization, and to communicate those ideas requires that freedom of speech which this nation’s founders held so dear. Imagine had the opponents of the likes of Frederick Douglass or Susan B. Anthony or Martin Luther King, Jr been successful in squelching those leaders’ ideas and causes. Each was despised by many, and yet marched courageously forward nonetheless. Not hampered by crippling concerns over “likes” were they! If new ideas and concepts are unable to be presented due to suppression, how can there be forward movement? Such would go against the very definition of “development”.

And now we can circle around to one of the most unpopular purveyors of new ideas: Jesus of Nazareth … so initially unpopular with the authorities of His time that He was crucified for His “radicalism”. Jesus is, of course, is He around whom all Christianity revolves and is based; yet, is He not also an icon of courage and steadfastness for defending His concepts for others as well?  After all, there is no more beneficial philosophy than His promulgation of “Love thy neighbor” and “Treat others as you want to be treated” and “Forgive” and even “Love your enemies”. 

For instance, Samaritans were despised in Jesus’ native Jewish culture, disparaged as a mongrel Jew/pagan mix. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samarian (Luke 10) and His care for Samaritans and others who were hated (or at least despised) by those of His native culture was a catalyst of a nascent idea of inter-racial and inter-cultural relations that would take (rather, IS taking) millennia to come to full fruition. Would we be as far along as we are if Jesus had not existed and His philosophy not have spread around the world through the Christian faith?

A favorite example of steadfastness is at the end of John 6 when, after many disciples leave Jesus over some of His controversial teachings, He does not run after them pleading “Okay, okay … I’ll change. Please LIKE me!” He simply asks the apostles: “Do you also want to go away?” In other words: “Accept me … or not. Stay with me … or not. It is your choice, but I’m not changing simply because others can’t accept me.” 

Another favorite story is of Eleazar in 2 Maccabees in which he was threatened with torture and death for not renouncing his Jewish faith … refusing even to pretend to eat what was forbidden by his faith: “Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life, lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me …Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.” (2 Maccabees 6:23-28)

Such are choices with which we are daily confronted—at school, work, or just in plain ol’ life.  Of course, the wise will examine all things critically to try to discern their merit, and even be open to adjusting our positions according to new data or understandings. But to be as inconstant as the wind simply in order to be liked is hardly admirable.

Winston Churchill once quipped: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something sometime in your life.” He knew that if we go about life expecting to be “liked” by all, we’re in for grave disappointment. Therefore, realizing that such universal approbation to be impossible regardless of what stand we make, why not hold fast to the right and the good, and let the chips fall where they may. THAT is integrity. That is REAL affirmation.

Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.