Christianity is Really, Really Difficult

Sometimes I talk to people in the Christian blogosphere, and read what they have to say, and then I wonder about my own life. How do these people manage to be so…Christian?

Like, many are married. For the Catholics and some Protestants, how on Earth do they ever find anybody who is willing to completely forgo contraception? I haven’t met somebody like that yet, and I went to Catholic School. Or met anybody who truly doesn’t want sex before marriage, for that matter. I’m a real weirdo for believing either of these things.

Plus, there is pressure from my family – they’re generally nominal Catholics; I’d frankly be afraid of telling them I don’t want to use contraception. I would be judged for this. Not shunned; my family is very loving and would never do that. But they certainly would disapprove. People in my own nuclear family have called me a “radical” and “extremist” because of my views on right to life issues, contraception, and Catholicism in general, let  alone other people. In College I’m genuinely afraid to speak my mind lest I be labeled a bigot.

Then, there are practical issues. Not using contraception, and using NFP properly, WILL mean a large family. I have no issue with that, but I don’t see where I’ll find a woman that would still be okay to have sex and forgo contraception after the fourth or fifth kid. And it’s not totally unreasonable – raising a family is hard work.

Then there’s reconciliation and Mass. As a college kid who still isn’t driving (there’s a legitimate reason for this) and wouldn’t have a car if he could, I’m reliant on my family for this. Mass is normally fine – except for non-Sunday Holy Days of Obligation. Then forget it. Or really Holiday Masses period. Too long.

But reconciliation – You’re kidding right? If I asked I’d be interrogated (because it must have meant I’ve done something REALLY BAD) and if I couldn’t/didn’t give a reason short of “I stabbed a man in Reno just to watch him die” (I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture), then I’m ridiculous for asking and I’m not going. So when I DO go to Mass I can’t take Communion, something else that’s awkward. My issue is that I don’t take Communion because there are (probably) Mortal Sins on my soul. But if I say that I’ll be asked what they are. Try telling your Mom “masturbation” and see what happens, and sometimes I don’t WANT my family to know my sins. Besides the extreme awkwardness, they’ll also find it weird that I even think that’s a sin. It’s a counter-intuitive notion.

I also live in a world, now that I’m in College, where traditional Catholics are Bigoted People – Traditional Christians period, really. Don’t agree with gay marriage? Bigot. Believe in traditional sexual morality defined in the Pauline Epistles? Sexist. Defend the Church in the face of the sex abuse scandal? What the Hell is WRONG with you?

If I’m seen praying the Rosary, I’m “ultra-religious” which is codeword for extremist. If I start to make an argument and bring up God or love during the argument things either get really awkward or I’m shouted down immediately.

So I don’t understand the world where a lot of these bloggers come from. I mean, avoid miniskirts? Really? I will NEVER find even a girlfriend if that’s a qualifier. Veils in Church for women? Where do these people LIVE? That’s not happening.

In my world, and the world of my friends, some of whom also try to be faithful Catholics, things are never as simple as “Follow these teachings!”. Well yes, okay, but…besides many being difficult in the first place, we live in a culture actively trying to discourage us from practicing our belief system. So when I talk to Christian bloggers and the advice I get is, say, “Go to Confession!” (looking at you, Fr. Z) or “Look for a good Christian wife,” it gets kind of discouraging. If only it were that easy.

I mean, I know I’m not in the Middle East or Africa. The Church is still in relatively great shape here, as are my religious liberties. But what I just wrote holds true regardless.

I could never really do it, and I don’t even think it’s really the right thing to do, but sometimes I wonder how good the Amish really have it. There’s something to be said for leaving the rest of the world behind to live with like-minded people doing only what you think is right. Christians should be willing to leave the world behind to follow Christ anyway. I suppose my biggest concerns with the Amish are that I disagree that it’s inherently sinful to use technology and I think an emphasis should be placed on evangelism, which means trying to engage with the rest of the world. Yet sometimes, I still wonder…

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7 Responses to Christianity is Really, Really Difficult

  1. Crude says:

    The Amish don’t believe it’s inherently sinful to use technology. There’s actually no hard and fast rule about technology among them – there’s different groups who each decide what sort of innovations to allow. For them, the key is the community – they don’t want people in their communities to grow apart, to not talk to each other, to care more about people in some other city or town than they do about the people who are their neighbors, etc.

    The Amish also engage with the world. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Northeast PA, but they are constantly engaged insofar as that means interacting with others – they’re businesspeople by and large, so it’s more or less a requirement. I think what’s key there isn’t the Amish prohibition about technology, but ‘being around like-minded people’. THAT is what is actively discouraged when it comes to conservatives generally, as well as Christians. The idea that you have a community where people are expected to at least nominally adhere to certain standards about sex and, etc. You’re supposed to agree to disagree, and that means accepting the lowest common denominator.

    This is actually the biggest puzzle, and something I have no advice about. Even saying “try to build a community of like-minded people who still engage the world” is difficult, because honestly? The moment anyone gets so much as a whiff that you’re building a community like that, people will try to undermine it. Maybe something like this can be done online? I mean, I know there are forums and so on, but has anyone ever tried to, literally, build a community online with certain standards expressly?

  2. “The Amish don’t believe it’s inherently sinful to use technology. There’s actually no hard and fast rule about technology among them – there’s different groups who each decide what sort of innovations to allow.”

    Maybe not officially, but in a practical sense.

    The Amish also engage with the world. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Northeast PA, but they are constantly engaged insofar as that means interacting with others – they’re businesspeople by and large, so it’s more or less a requirement.”

    Believe it or not, I’ve actually been there.That’s not quite what I meant. What I mean is…well, they don’t leave their community much, really.

    “THAT is what is actively discouraged when it comes to conservatives generally, as well as Christians. The idea that you have a community where people are expected to at least nominally adhere to certain standards about sex and, etc. You’re supposed to agree to disagree, and that means accepting the lowest common denominator.”

    I think this goes to the conservative ideal of limited government and the generally democratic ideal of not rejecting people because of their beliefs.

    “This is actually the biggest puzzle, and something I have no advice about. Even saying “try to build a community of like-minded people who still engage the world” is difficult, because honestly? The moment anyone gets so much as a whiff that you’re building a community like that, people will try to undermine it.”

    I don’t even know what such a community would entail. A Catholic community would be nice. We would place a bigger emphasis, ideally, on evangelism than the Amish from what I’ve seen.

    I still don’t even know if I’d like to join one. The world is very flawed, but I still kind of like it, my difficulties expressed in this post aside.

    • Crude says:

      Believe it or not, I’ve actually been there.That’s not quite what I meant. What I mean is…well, they don’t leave their community much, really.

      Actually, what do you mean by that? I’m guessing you mean ‘they don’t proselytize, they don’t try to convert people’?

      I think this goes to the conservative ideal of limited government and the generally democratic ideal of not rejecting people because of their beliefs.

      I’m not so sure limited government is at work with this one, or at least in that particular case it can go either way. A limited government is a government where a community of people can buy up all the land in a given area and then not sell it to anyone who doesn’t fit their standards, or who can draw up contracts related to such as they see fit.

      The democratic ideal – or at least that cultural feel in general, however… yeah. There’s this idea that if you do not allow into your community person X who is expressly against half of the things your community stands for, you’re worse for it. (Unless that person is against gay marriage or contraception or gun control or, etc. In which case they have horrible ideas and are intolerant.)

      I still don’t even know if I’d like to join one. The world is very flawed, but I still kind of like it, my difficulties expressed in this post aside.

      Well, maybe it’d be worth thinking about what kind of community you’d join, if it only existed. I know what you mean about engaging the world – but I think some kind of reliable, guarded community that still embraced technology to a point would be grand. A place people would actually, consciously want to protect.

  3. blankexpression42 says:

    It’s interesting, isn’t it? we in the “grand old” USofA are promised religious liberty. and while we’re allowed to practice our religion, we can’t do it in public, lest we offend some minority; we can’t use religious standards/morals to hold up any sort of argument because it wouldn’t be politically correct; and whenever someone says something extremely offensive about us, we can’t defend ourselves and no one would be there to say that what was said was offensive/wrong/misinformed.

    Of course, many of us aren’t doing ourselves any favor by not taking a larger interest in our faith, so we’re completely defenseless against any sort of ill-informed statement against us. Many of us are so uninformed about our faith that we don’t recognize the need to receive Confession at least once a year (as is the minimum requirement), or we’re told that “God can/will forgive any sin as long as you’re sorry,” so the need to receive Confession is greatly diminished.

    It kinda makes me wonder where the hell we went wrong and/or stopped caring about our faith. The faith that bound our ancestors into a strong community for centuries. Was it technology, as the Amish (by and large) warned against (which would also account for our extreme collective laziness)? Was it war? Or was it simply a growing feeling of loathing of our own history combined with concupiscence? Whatever the cause, the result is the same, and I, for one, pity those who have forgotten/not been informed as much/well as I’ve been (not to say i’m particularly well informed, though).

  4. Actually, what do you mean by that? I’m guessing you mean ‘they don’t proselytize, they don’t try to convert people’?

    That, and I mean what I said. They don’t leave their community much at all. They basically stay there.

    I’m not so sure limited government is at work with this one, or at least in that particular case it can go either way. A limited government is a government where a community of people can buy up all the land in a given area and then not sell it to anyone who doesn’t fit their standards, or who can draw up contracts related to such as they see fit.

    I’m thinking limited in the sense that the government doesn’t want to draw up rules on who can or can’t do something in a certain area. Though what you say makes sense.

    The democratic ideal – or at least that cultural feel in general, however… yeah. There’s this idea that if you do not allow into your community person X who is expressly against half of the things your community stands for, you’re worse for it. (Unless that person is against gay marriage or contraception or gun control or, etc. In which case they have horrible ideas and are intolerant.)

    I agree on all counts.

    Well, maybe it’d be worth thinking about what kind of community you’d join, if it only existed. I know what you mean about engaging the world – but I think some kind of reliable, guarded community that still embraced technology to a point would be grand. A place people would actually, consciously want to protect.

    Would be nice, wouldn’t it?

    • Crude says:

      Would be nice, wouldn’t it?

      It would be. I think this problem has gone beyond conservatives and Christians in some ways, though. Communities, period – as in actual physical locations with neighbors everyone knows and cares about – have undergone a pretty drastic change. People pick up and move often, they’re suspicious of their neighbors, they have more in common with someone several states away in an online group than they do with the people who drive the same roads that they do. It’s not the same everywhere, but I think it’s more and more the case. Along with some other complexities.

      Like I said, it’s a puzzle. But it’s funny that you mention the amish, because they seem to me to be doing something right. I don’t think it’s, necessarily, the technological limitations. Moderation may play a role there, and then, only in their particular context.

  5. John says:

    Nah, I think it just depends on where you were born and under what circumstances you were raised and grew up on.

    I live in a pretty conservative country so my enviroment was much better than in America, but liberal leftism is still sadly creeping in into my country.

    As for whether or not being a Christian is hard, I think it depends more the situation of each individual actually.

    From your account it seems that America is a pretty tough place for Christians to live in.

    But do not despair. There is a likely possibility that this time of heightened liberalism is merely a historical fad that will eventually fail in a few decades or so.

    Maybe less then 50 years even if we are to listen to the optimists considering that conservatives are having more children than liberals and that conservative ideology and counterculture is growing amongs the youngest generations.

    But you are a cynic so these optimists might not sway you much.

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