Thursday, October 4, 2012

Will You Know Them by Their Clothes (or body piercings)?

Dr Charleton has revisited a topic he wrote about, say, a month ago. The question is whether Christians should make their faith known (self-identify), for example, by wearing a Crucifix.  In a post earlier this week, he took a different tack on the question, and between fighting a miserable head cold and working to get some wood floors installed, I've been trying to decide if I agree or disagree.   I've struggled with it, I can't completely disagree, but it brought another aspect of the question to mind.

To begin, his point is that Christians don't have to self-identify because those who aren't Christians, who are anti-Christian are doing a pretty good job of identifying themselves. Those who dress in ways, for instance, that fail the test of modesty or who display anti-Christian symbols on their clothes, or who have Wiccan bumper stickers on their cars, or body piercings in all the wrong places, are very evidently non-Christian.

Yet, I can think of cases that come close to disproving his theory.  In the last few years, I've seen many teens, who don't dress very modestly and who proudly (I guess) display such things as tattoos and body piercings, at Mass. They aren't anti-Christian, but you couldn't say they're fully Christian, either.   They are holding on to some sort of Christian customs, if not to faith, or maybe just trying to please their parents.  They've been pretty well absorbed by the culture and have no idea of the significance of what they're doing.

Also, for many of the people who deck themselves out as Professor Charlton describes, they're must also be at least some of them who aren't anti-Christian but non-Christian. They likely would not disagree with what Christianity teaches, but they totally disagree with what they think Christianity teaches.

To some extent, I think these factors make an argument against what he's saying being true.  But not entirely.  What is true, is that, to the extent they're valid, it's a horrible indictment against Christians and their churches.  It means Christians are failing completely in being witnesses to their faith and in showing others what it means to be a Christian. It  means that many Christians are allowing themselves to be absorbed by the culture rather than living,  their faith. It also means there's a good chance they have no idea that there's anything wrong, since they've never been taught what's right. I think this borne out in a poll I saw today that said 53% of Catholics who attend Mass regularly favor Obama. They don't seem to understand it's a mortal sin to do so. It's appalling.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but it would seem to be a call for Catholics and their bishops to become much more concerned about the state of catechesis in their dioceses. It also means, as I know another blogger suggested, though I can't remember who, that bishops need to clarify the messages they are sending out to the faithful. They don't need to, probably shouldn't, issue a statement on every conceivable issue, they should focus on the few most vital issues and stay with them.  It's also a call for all Christians to educate themselves on their faith.  If you don't know what you believe, how do you know you believe it?

I will have to say that I still like the idea of Christians self-identifying, I can't help it I'm anal, I'm an accountant, I want to see the documentation.

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