Merriment: The Cure for Politically Correct Outrage Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 16:56
A great little essay by my friend Mark Shea in today's Inside Catholic.

The topic: Divine hatred, Divine Love

The reality is not that we are more forgiving: It's that we are more excusing. We have created, for better or worse, a culture that excuses acts that our ancestors would have seen as appalling sin. We have figured out stratagems for avoiding feeling the sinfulness of sin. But when something does break through our comfortable numbness and cosmopolitan relativism, we are as ready to shout curses to the heavens as they were.

As Christians, of course, we cannot give our voice to such cursing. Jesus has very clearly told us that we must love our enemies and bless, not curse, those who despitefully use us. But that does not mean the Old Testament curses are bad or without value. In them, if we know what we are looking for, we see outrage at evil in chemical purity and know it as a gift of God. For righteous anger is not sin if we use it as God intended: as fuel for the engine of moral action. Anger only becomes a sin when we do not put it in the gas tank of action, but instead pour it on ourselves and others and set it on fire. Then it consumes us. The use of anger, like the use of gasoline, is not to bathe in it and drink it, but to turn it toward pursuing the redemptive, active love of God.

The one caveat I would have is that for many of us, our outrage is carefully political. We do get outraged but only at the things our people get outraged about. So many liberals are "outraged" at environment issues and simultaneously "outraged" at the sort of pro-life essay that Dr. Blazek wrote.

And many conservatives get "outraged" over life issues like abortion but sing a very different tune about torture which is also an intrinsic evil and can never be otherwise, no matter what the circumstances. How many of us find ourselves pulling back when "tempted" to be outraged over something that doesn't toe our particular party line? How many of us realize that our outrage is fueled not by genuine moral judgement but by the group energy of our crowd and our desire not to be isolated from them? Political correct outrage is just as operative on the right as on the left.

And that it is fear of loss of our crowd's esteem that makes it so difficult to think of truly loving the politically correct enemy and forgiving the politically correct evil.

Thank God that being open to revelation and attempting to think with the Church can help liberate us from fear of the crowd and enable us to think seriously about moral issues.

Can, I say, because it is obvious as I travel around the Church that Catholic versions of liberal and conservative political correctness have mighty strongholds in parishes and dioceses everywhere. I remember acutely one instance when I was asked to be part of a Catholic university consultation on the formation of disciples. I quickly sensed as soon as I walked into the room that political correctness of a very particular stripe was the order of the day and I was an outsider.

I struggled to grasp the exact nature of the powerful unspoken consensus about me as the day wore on and to determine how I might actually contribute something meaningful to the conversation despite my "deviancy". The most revealing moment occurred in the afternoon when, in some desperation, I finally said:

"But what unites us beyond our differences is the following of Christ."

Complete, horrified silence. I actually heard a stifled gasp from a corner of the room.

Guess not.

If we are women and men of Christ, intentional disciples, we will seek to love what and who he loves - all of it - regardless of where it falls on our political spectrum and our outrage will be the result of seeing those whom he loves being violated. And because we love what he loves, we will also seek to return good for evil, to forgive those who outrage us and others while simultaneously doing all we can to ensure that the justice and love of Christ pervades our particular bit of time and space.

There is a saying that I have heard attributed to St. Francis (that wonderfully iconic character to whom we like to attribute many things, with or without historical foundation). Whether it is genuinely Franciscan or not, it certainly is of his spirit.

"I want what God wants. That's why I am so merry."

Merriment, not politically correct outrage, is the sign of God's saving presence in our lives.