From the fringe of Christianity, I look from the outside in and behold not one but two grave threats to Christianity. I behold the serpent who deluded us in Eden and continues to delude us with the illusion that a life lived as gods in godlessness is superior to a life lived with God in paradise. I also behold the knuckleheads. The knuckleheads are so morbidly obsessed with their favorite aspect of Christianity that they no longer see the Big Picture of Christianity. The trees of their pet ideology obscure the forest of Christianity. Their limited view of a small aspect of Christianity is as harmful as the illusion of the serpent.
To counter the threats of the serpent and the knuckleheads, God designed a system of salvation that was foolproof. It has the ability to stop the serpent and the knuckleheads when they take charge of the Church.
The Church is God's gift to the children of Adam and Eve. The Church is the new Moses leading / serving the children of Adam and Eve as we make our escape in a new exodus through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and their holy family in the promised land. The Church has helped the children of Adam and Eve make their escape from godlessness to God for more than two thousand years. Its experience has given it great confidence that it knows how to get there from here.
The Holy Spirit is tugging at our souls. The curious follow the tug back to its source. The movement of the curious back to the source of the tug is the new exodus. The job of the Church is to facilitate the new exodus not to frustrate it or filter it. The job of the Church is to be grease for the wheels of the escape and not an obstacle in its way.
From time to time, however, the knuckleheads take over. When the Church falls into the hands of the knuckleheads, the Church becomes an obstacle in the way of the escape. When this happens, the children of Adam and Eve go around it, under it, and over it. And the Church becomes irrelevant.
When the knuckleheads take over the Church, you will know them. The tree is known by its fruit. The knuckleheads exaggerate their importance in God's system of salvation. God's system of salvation consists of many elements. The Church is but one element in the system. The knuckleheads argue that the Church is the most important element. Such an argument is a waste of time. It is as fruitless as an argument between the heart and the lungs as to which is most necessary to the body. The knuckleheads like to waste time arguing over minutia when there are more important fish to fry. The knuckleheads put themselves between the children of Adam and Eve and the tug of the Holy Spirit instead of getting out of the way. They interfere. Instead of humbly staying inconspicuously in the background as they distribute God's sacraments, they arrogantly move into the foreground as if the gifts they are delivering are theirs and not God's. God is the gift-giver not them. They merely run errands for God. The knuckleheads try to justify their frustrating and their filtering of the new exodus by claiming that their job is to winnow the chaff from the wheat. That is not their job. The knuckleheads are obstacles in the way of the escape.
The escape from godlessness to God is primary. Nothing else matters. Everything else is secondary. Anything that interferes is suspect.
Therefore, God took precautions to protect the children of Adam and Eve from the knuckleheads and the serpent. Here is how God made their system of salvation foolproof.
The first precaution against the knuckleheads is the sourness of godlessness. In it, God lets us stew. The serpent promised Adam and Eve that a life lived as gods in godlessness would be superior to a life lived with God in paradise. Reality shatters illusion. The truth sets us free. Contrary to the propaganda of the serpent, godlessness sucks. By experiencing godlessness for ourselves, we discover the truth for ourselves. By stewing in godlessness, we find out that the serpent is a liar. Furthermore, our baptism in the sourness of godlessness stops us from abdicating paradise when, after our baptism in godlessness is over, God delivers the gift of paradise to us. The prodigal son is never going back to the pig sty and neither are we. Baptizing us in the sourness of godlessness is harsh but effective medicine. It is harsh because godlessness sucks big time. It is effective for the reasons stated above. The only question is does it cross the line from harsh to cruel? It is not cruel because life is an infinitesimally thin slice of time compared to the thickness of eternity. Because life is short, we know God is merciful. If God wanted to really screw us, God would extend our lifetimes letting us stew in this evil baptism for longer than necessary. Once we come to understand the sourness of godlessness, is there any reason for us to experience it anymore?
The second precaution against the knuckleheads is the sweetness of paradise. Because we are stewing in the sourness of godlessness, we do not know paradise. Paradise is unfamiliar to us. For us to know paradise, paradise must be revealed to us. Therefore, the Son of God paid us a visit. God did not delegate to a subordinate the job of revealing the sweetness of paradise to us. God did the job themselves. God got their hands dirty. Imagine that! For approximately thirty-three years at and about the city of Jerusalem in a region of the earth called the Middle East more than two thousand years ago, the Son of God pitched his tent among us. He rubbed elbows with us. At Bethlehem, God delivered to us a living and breathing love note. God sent us a love note! Imagine that! Moreover, at Calvary, the Son of God gave us a guarantee that the love note was genuine. If the love note were counterfeit, God's love for us would have faded as we tortured Him and died when we killed Him. But it did not. It survived. The survival of God's love for us is the guarantee that God put into our hands that the love note is genuine. Calvary extinguishes all doubts about God's love for us. Calvary is the proof that the dial that regulates God's love for us is in God's hands not ours. Moreover, it is set to the highest degree and is locked in place. There is more and better theology in Calvary than in the head of every apologist, theologian, Doctor of the Church, monk, abbot, mystic, priest, monsignor, bishop, Cardinal, Pope, hermit and saint who has ever lived or will ever live. Imagine. The most Holy Trinity themselves wanted to tell us that they love us. And they sent us a love note. And guaranteed it themselves besides! Wow! From the debacle that took place at Eden, they knew that we would not take them at their word. We didn't then; we wouldn't now. So they accommodated us. We did not accommodate God; God accommodated us. How revolutionary! They gave us a guarantee of their word to overcome our distrust. Moreover, talk is cheap. The guarantee, on the other hand, was expensive - exorbitantly expensive. For the guarantee to work, the Son of God needed to pay its costs not from his limitless divine resources but from his limited human resources. No passion; no proof. Therefore, He did not pass the hat amongst us to help Him defray the cost. The Son of God paid the entire cost Himself out of His own pocket. The guarantee would come at a cost the magnitude of which would be unprecedented in the history of the universe. He would pay all for us. He would keep not a penny for Himself. He has never paid more for anything else. Why? To God, we are the pearl of great price. To God, we are the treasure buried in the field. To God, we are the apple of his eye. To God, we are worth it. But, isn't God overvaluing us a wee bit much? We are not worthy. Yet, God thinks we are. And it is God's opinion that counts not ours. Because God's love survived the evil baptism into which we immersed him, we possess an indestructible guarantee that God loves us. This is the sweetness of paradise. This is the good news of great joy. How do we sign up? Where do we enlist? How do we join the kingdom of this God who loves us so much?
The third precaution against the knuckleheads is our rationality. The knuckleheads do not like God's gift of rationality. They become fearful when we exercise it. The knuckleheads want us to take them at their word. We did not take God at their word at Eden or at Bethlehem, yet the knuckleheads expect us to take them at their word. They think we are knuckleheads too. We are not. Our rationality tells us to flee the sourness of godlessness and seek the sweetness of paradise. The sourness of godlessness and the sweetness of paradise are engines that push and pull us from godlessness to paradise. They encourage us to detach ourselves from the roots we have sunk deep into the hostile desert of godlessness so we can make our escape.
The fourth precaution against the knuckleheads is the bloody wounds we opened in the body of Christ while He was human, alive, tender and vulnerable. A potential difference exists between the sourness of godlessness and the sweetness of paradise. All that was needed to get the current of salvation to flow was a conductor between the two worlds. With a conductor, the current of salvation would carry the children of Adam and Eve from godlessness to paradise. God gave us such a conductor. The Son of God is the bridge between the sourness of godlessness and the sweetness of paradise. He is the way, etc. Through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of Christ while He was human, alive, tender and vulnerable, the new exodus led / served by the new Moses makes its escape from godlessness to paradise. Buckets of blood spilled through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of Christ with lash, thorns, nails and spear. On this cataract of blood, His life exited His body. But not a drop - not a drop - of His love for us spilled through them. His most sacred heart stayed filled to the brim with love for us. As we pass through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of the Son of God, we are washed in His love. His love makes us worthy of entrance into paradise. The pilgrims taking part in the new exodus are washed in the blood of the lamb.
The fifth precaution against the knuckleheads is the establishment and mapping of the escape route. To get us from here to there - from godlessness to paradise - God established an escape route, defined it with holy places, made a map of them and entrusted the map to the Church. The escape route is a necklace of fine jewels set in and against the hostile desert of godlessness. At a holy place that defines the escape route, a close encounter with the living God takes place. During a close encounter with the living God, we include God in our lives and God includes us in theirs. Nobody walks away from a close encounter with the living God unchanged. Nobody walks away from a close encounter with the living God empty handed. A close encounter with the living God transforms us. Examples of the holy places upon the earth at which close encounters with the living God take place are the Mass, Confession, the other sacraments, works of charity, acts of kindness, prayer especially the rosary, Eucharistic adoration, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, fasting, the gathering of two or more together in God's name, bible study, contemplation of God, the hour of death, etc.
The sixth precaution against the knuckleheads is the creation of the rule of survival. Our survival is governed solely by a simple but fundamental principle. Humanity in every place and in every age and of every religion is subject to its command. No exceptions. Only by including God in our lives do we live and only by excluding God from our lives do we die. To include God in our lives in the hereafter, we must include God in our lives now! By excluding God from our lives now, we exclude God from our lives in the hereafter. Take an interest in God and God will take an interest in you. Include God in your life and God will include you in theirs. Ignore your God and your God will ignore you. Absent yourselves from the holy places and holiness will absent itself from you. The power of establishing and growing a relationship with the living God is in your hands. It is not difficult to do. God made it easy. All that you must do is seek God and flee from godlessness. Seek God and God will seek you. Pay God visits at the holy places and God will visit with you.
As you can see, God set up a system of salvation so the knuckleheads cannot do too much damage when they take charge of the Church. God rigged the game. The playing field is not level. The system of salvation that God established thwarts both the serpent and the knuckleheads. The current of salvation flows downhill from godlessness to paradise.
What role did God give the Church to play in the system of salvation? The answer to this question is best derived by looking at the roles that God did not give the Church. The Church does not make godlessness sour. Godlessness does this itself. The Church does not make paradise sweet. The indestructible love of God for us is the sweetness of paradise. The Church does not give us the gift of rationality. God is the gift-giver. Although the Church ought to stop fearing our rationality and start perfecting it. The Church did not let us open bloody wounds in the body of the Son of God while He was human, alive, tender and vulnerable. God let this happen to demonstrate their indestructible love for us. The Church did not establish an escape route, define it with holy places and map it. God did this so we would know the way from here to there. The Church did not create the rule of survival; God did.
What role did God give the Church to play in the system of salvation? For more than two thousand years the Church has helped the children of Adam and Eve make their escape from godlessness to paradise. The Church has helped us by
- opening our eyes to the sourness of godlessness (The truth shall set us free)
- opening our eyes to the sweetness of paradise (The truth shall set us free)
- letting our rationality take over to make us flee the sourness of godlessness and seek the sweetness of paradise (The truth shall set us free)
- opening our eyes to the new exodus and the escape route through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of the Son of God (The truth shall set us free)
- teaching us the rule of survival. (The truth shall set us free)
In short, the role of the Church is to show us the truth. The serpent deceived us with falsehood. The Church shatters the illusion conjured up by the serpent with the truth. Reality shatters illusion. The Church was not put on the earth to govern us with an elaborate system of official rules and regulations. We were put on the earth to learn to govern ourselves. We can govern ourselves if illusion does not muck up our rationality. Our God-given gift of rationality does work. God has made us sovereigns over ourselves. The Church's job is to feed truth to our rationality so we can decide rightly. The truth sets us free.
Where does morality fit into God's system of salvation? Morality and the new exodus are not the same thing. The new exodus is the escape from holy place to holy place on the escape route through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and their holy family in the promised land. It is fleeing from godlessness and seeking God. A cross has a horizontal and a vertical member. Think of the new exodus as the horizontal member of a cross. Morality is the vertical member of a cross. Morality is the attempt to optimize the behavior of the children of Adam and Eve at any point in time. Morality is a set of rules and regulations that define ideals of conduct to which the definers of morality desire us to attain. Some of us rise to some of the ideals of conduct. Many of us do not. The Church is not alone in putting forth its opinion of morality. It has competition. Its opinion of morality at times conflicts with the opinion of others including those so-called cafeteria Catholics. What the knuckleheads do not realize is that morality is a byproduct. The straight jacket of the Church's morality is donned more easily by the children of Adam and Eve who are participating in the new exodus on the Catholic escape route. Those not participating in the new exodus reject the Church's straight jacket of morality. Morality is an element in the Big Picture. However, it is just an element. It is not the Big Picture itself.
The knuckleheads do not see the Big Picture of Christianity. They exaggerated the importance of the elements of the Big Picture of Christianity that they favor at the expense of the other elements of the Big Picture. This distorts the Big Picture of Christianity. Typically, they overemphasize morality and under-emphasize the new exodus. The knuckleheads cannot get their minds around the fact that the children of Adam and Eve who fall short of the Church's moral ideals still desire to flee from godlessness and seek God. The unworthy still want to participate in the new exodus despite their unworthiness. This desire of sinners to seek God and flee from godlessness drives the knuckleheads crazy. Grip by craziness, the knuckleheads try to bar sinners from participating in the new exodus. The knuckleheads would only let saints participate in the new exodus not sinners.
Thank God that God is not a knucklehead and does not share the opinions of the knuckleheads. Thank God that God welcomes sinners to seek paradise and flee from godlessness. Isn't it funny that if the serpent or the knuckleheads get their way, paradise would be empty.