July 06, 2010

The Modern Pharisee

Satan is a tactical genius. He found that a media system which stretches from sea to shining sea, across borders, and to all four corners of the globe could be used to broadcast immorality. And because of our inheritance, concupiscence, this exposure to blatant immorality would lead us naturally to imitate. Although it is true that what comes from within does not taint, but that which comes from without, our moral consciences, the level that sets our decision-making straight, must be formed by external material. And if all the movies, songs, and magazines we imbibe contain only filth, we will vomit the same filth back out into the world.

This move the devil has made is not at all his genius strike. With this spear he thrusts not at those dredged in sin - if we can believe Lewis, neither God nor Satan wants the tepid man who sins because he does not know better. No, Satan wields the modern, corrupted media as a weapon against those who would otherwise be holy and well educated. Even those who avoid the sting of the vicious television set are wounded by its filth.

How? If those poor souls secreting themselves away from the vile onslaught do not intake the filth, how can they be hurt? Would not someone who avoids the blow avoid also the damage? However, we cannot assume that because our minds are safe from the numbing sexual images, because our consciences are safe from the ceaseless blows, or because we see no evil and hear no evil, that we will think no evil. One cannot hide from temptation completely.

The fatal second strike of Satan comes at those who hide from him most in their pride. The moment the sheltered Catholic child begins to think in terms of "us" and "them," in terms of good people who watch good movies and bad people who watch bad movies, he falls victim to the sin that Christ condemned most vehemently. "Thank God that I can keep my children from watching these movies," is what any parent would say, but the afterthought lurks in the shadows, unannounced, but deadly, "unlike those other children."

All human beings share the same nature. As a result, any kind of "us vs. them," "Catholic vs. Protestant," "saved vs. sinner," is of necessity a flawed argument. I am not saying, of course, that the all media is good - verily, some of it stinketh. But we can never say that those who produce or consume bad media are bad. We must completely and permanently dissociate the sin and the sinner. This leads us to a strong statement - I and that sinner over there are brothers. Our positions are interchangeable - a human "I" for a human "I."

We cannot assume that simply because we were brought up Catholic, because we went to Catholic schools, because we were altar boys, or even because we go to Mass and pray the rosary daily, that we are better than anyone else. Each and every one of these very good things are gifts from God, and yet none of them make us good people. To use the word "good" in the moral sense to describe a person cannot follow - how can we use an adjective which qualifies a moral act as right or wrong be applied to a human being - a moral actor? We cannot argue that a person who tends to do good things is good or that a person who does bad things is bad. Either of these people is capable of turning towards or away from God in each individual moment. Granted, a person may be virtuous, which would mean only that he tends to do the good, not that he himself is good. We are what God has given us, no more no less. And He called us all "good" after our creation - good in the sense that each of us has the capacity to become what He intended us to be, good in the sense that we each have the blessing of existence, and good in the sense that we can strive to worship Him in every moment, with every choice, and with every breath.

Therefore, any person who calls himself "good," calls another "bad," or makes a distinction between the "Catholic, conservative, homeschooling group" and the "filth-watching, immoral, publicschooling group" is a pharisee. Christ condemned all such people, so how can we avoid the fate of pride? The only means to salvation is through personal contact - with those around us, even those with tattoos, nose rings, and foul language; and with Christ.

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