I have always had this crazy gift of meeting cool people without any kind of effort. Once, I ran into Seether (my favorite band) at the Hooters I had worked at and ended up sitting with them and having a beer. Then, I got them to put me and my best friend, a cancer survivor, on the VIP list. It was the best concert ever, and at the end of it they dedicated “Broken” to us and met us back stage. All of that, with no effort at all. I just stumbled across them at Hooters and the rest just happened. The story of my life.
I don’t know if it’s that weird gift or that I love to talk, but I love learning about people and their life experiences. I never used to get angry when people talked to me about their thoughts on issues that I disagreed with until I became Catholic. Even more so, when I was a Catholic on Facebook during the last election and the Wendy Davis filibuster. That’s when I started becoming someone who I no longer recognized.
I started wrapping myself in Christian bubble wrap to protect myself from THE WORLD. I turned into a cynical, sarcastic, angry, paranoid little Catholic freak. I saw the devil under every rock and everything was sign of him trying to kill us all.
While it is true that the evil one is a roaring lion who never sleeps and is always out to destroy us, it isn’t true that the way to protect ourselves is with bubble wrap to cut ourselves off from the world. Sometimes, the bubble wrap is actually how the devil wins. He does not care if we are jamming the most scandalous rap music while dancing on poles half-naked or if we are self-righteous pharisees who think that we are better than the people who are dancing on poles. Either way, we lose and he wins because we are focused on ourselves and not on God. We are not sharing the Good News with the lost, we are judging them and chest bumping ourselves on how good we are compared to “them”.
Meanwhile, sparky aka the evil one, is telling “them” how they don’t belong with “us”. “Just look at how holy they are, at how they are so good and you aren’t. See? You don’t belong there.” There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear that voice in my head still, even after all these years of being Catholic. And there are moments when people from my own parish make it quite clear that they agree with that voice, that I don’t belong. The voice of Christ telling me that I do, that He loves me, that He’s got me is louder, so I stay.
But not everyone hears His voice.
Yesterday I had coffee with one of those interesting people who came into my life out of nowhere. She is my mentor. And we agree about nothing. She is a pro-choice republican protestant who owns a match making service for gay men. Wrap your mind around that.
How we met is a long story, but basically she is the one who saw me behind a bar and told me that I really needed to get my shit together because I couldn’t work behind a bar forever. That was before becoming Catholic was ever on my radar and before her match making gay men was ever on hers. But here we are, Me: a practicing pro-life, traditional marriage supporting Catholic and her: everything the opposite. And you know what? We still love each other. We can sit and talk about these things and not yell, get angry, cry or stomp out of the room. We laugh, smile and respect what the other one is saying and asking. And we learn from one another.
Yesterday we sat and discussed homosexuality for a project of hers. We talked about what the Catholic Church teaches, what Catholics say and other things. It was so much fun and refreshing. It’s really the one thing that she has taught me: how to be graceful.
In our conversation she told me that a lot of the people (mostly men) that she talks to were raised Catholic and they do not have very fond memories of the experience of being Catholic and gay. I honestly do understand that. I have seen the things that Catholics say about gay people, about Catholics who don’t think it’s ok to say rude things about gay people and just the all around bat shit crazy that is flying around the internet in comboxes, Facebook threads and on Twitter.
I expect that behavior from people who don’t know any better. But when it comes to people who go to Mass, read Church documents, the Catechism and claim to know their faith and Christ, I expect more. First of all, I expect more from myself and I got caught up in the crazy and become a self-righteous jerk for Jesus.
Jerks for Jesus do nothing to bring people in and help keep people out. Guess who wants to keep people out of the Church and away from Christ? You guessed it; sparky.
That strategy works. There are a lot of wounded people walking around who have anger towards the Catholic Church because of Jerks for Jesus. People in bubble wrap who think that they only way to be holy is to keep themselves safe from everyone who isn’t holy or trying to be holy. Not even Jesus did that. When He walked the earth, He surrounded Himself with sinners. He made a few of them His Apostles. The only Pharisee that ended up an Apostle was St. Paul, and that was only AFTER God knocked him off his high horse. Why do we forget all these details?
Jesus said plenty of harsh things to people, but it was mostly to the Pharisees and not the prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers or even the possessed. He didn’t say “You viper! Why are you possessed?!” Nope, He had mercy on the possessed, then He freed them and forgave them of their sins. He called the Pharisees vipers and hypocrites. And yet, we all walk around acting like Pharisees and think that is cool. Jesus is not cool with that. Pharisees do nothing to build the Kingdom. They tear it down by keeping people out.
After my conversation with my mentor yesterday I realized that the bubble wrap had to come off. I have to go back to being me, the person who talks to everyone, whether they are Catholic, whether they are gay, whether they agree with me. Not to preach to them, or to even discuss any of these things, but to laugh with them, listen to them, and to learn from them. Maybe, by the Grace of God, they will learn something from me too.
We Catholics have a lot of work to do in this world and I am convinced that all the BS time we spend on Facebook or wrapping ourselves up from the people of the world is taking time away from that work. The things we are posting online for everyone to see are sometimes helping the evil one convince people that they will not be welcome in our Church. Think about this: What would you do if a gay couple walked into your parish on Sunday? What would your reaction be? Pray about it and be honest with Jesus about it and ask Him if that would be the right reaction. I don’t mean just what do you “feel” about it, I mean really sit with Jesus and discuss it with Him.
I have talked to Him about it and I was not happy with my answer. That was the last straw for me and I deactivated my Facebook account. I’m taking off the bubble wrap.
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