“It is for freedom that Christ has made you free”
Here is a representative sample of where apostate MAGA Christianity is right now:
This is the sort of thing that would have made St. Paul’s head explode. The cult takes things that are meant for freedom, blessing, and love and turns them into laws, shibboleths, and weapons for hurting and excluding. It is exactly the same mentality that made Paul tear his hair out at the circumcision party in Galatia. This early sect took pious practices from Jewish culture and tried to weaponize them in order to exclude from the grace of God those Gentiles seeking Jesus.
Paul would have none of it. He refused to let clubby Christians weaponize their customs into tools for reducing brothers and sister to second-class citizens in the Kingdom or send the message that God disliked them and sided with club members. In his day, those practices tended to come from Jewish culture since the rigorous traditionalists tended to be the Jewish members of the Christian community who saw themselves as the Old Guard and the Country Club and who looked down on the Gentiles as newbies and second-class Christians. That is what Paul is reacting against when he writes things like this to the scrupulous at Colossae:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh. (Col 2:16–23).
It’s important to get the dynamic here. This is a Jewish Christian telling other Jewish Christians to stop forcing their cultural norms on those who neither share them, nor are bound by them. He has nothing against Jewish cultural practices per se. Indeed, elsewhere, he will tell Gentiles and Jews in the Roman Church to be tolerant of how each honors God and not try to make laws of their devotional practices for each other:
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.
One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
So each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Ro 14:1–12).
This Live and Let Live attitude toward piety still survives in the Catholic Church and has borne fruit in a million forms of devotion and piety that are entirely optional for Catholics. If one doesn’t float your boat, then try another one.
(The one tragic exception to this in Catholic history is, ironically, Jewish forms of piety, due to the split and mutual hostility between the synagogue and early Church. In the New Testament Church, the apostles both celebrate Christian rites and observe Jewish customs. They worship at the temple. They sometimes observed Jewish feasts, etc. Paul shaves his head in observance of Jewish custom and even has one of his fellow missionaries circumcises out of respect for Jewish custom in order to be “all things to all”. But as things became more and more embittered between the two communities in the centuries after the apostles, Christians increasingly could not distinguish between Jewish ceremonial piety and the notion that such “works of the law” were intended as acts hostile to the grace of Christ. This eventually led to the Church forbidding Jewish converts to observe their ancestral rites.
Happily, one of the fruits of the rapprochement between Christians and Jews in the past century (and especially since Vatican 2) has been the revival of appreciation of the Jewish rites which profoundly illuminate Christian understanding of the gospel and its roots in the revelation to Israel.
This is not without complexity. For instance, a couple of decades ago there was a trend of Christians celebrating Seders for a while, which Jews understandably resented as cultural appropriation. It was well-intended, but went over in Jewish circles about as well as a Eucharist of Twinkies and 7Up celebrated by Protestants would go over in Catholic circles. Eventually, most Christians got the message and stopped.
That said, it is not uncommon for Christians who come from a culturally Jewish background to celebrate Seders and other feasts of their Jewish heritage such as Hanukkah. Reactionary Catholics hate this because Reactionary Catholicism is suffused with antisemitism, but I can see no theological reason Jewish Catholics should not do it if they like, just so long as such rites are not imagined to put the one who observes them on some imaginary higher spiritual plane than those who do not. They are honoring their own culture just as Catholics of other ethnicities do on St. Patrick’s Day or when they sing “Stille Nacht”.)
All of this has to do with the fascistic tweet above because the Reactionary Catholic world in which Taylor Marshall swims takes exactly the same attitude toward the custom of the Rosary that first century members of the circumcision party took toward kosher food. The rosary is a custom that grew up in late medieval Europe. It is a form of western piety that is in no way mandated by the Church. It is intended as a way of meditating on the mysteries of the life of Christ and of seeing that life through the eyes of his greatest disciple, Mary. It is supposed to be a journey of love into the heart of Jesus.
Marshall’s vindictive ultimatum is deaf to all that. With this tweet he makes a beautiful form of prayer into a legal threat of exclusion whose chief victims will be the scrupulous. Indeed, I would argue that of all the forms of prayer the Church commends to us, the Rosary, while rich and profound for many, may well be the worst form of prayer for those afflicted with scruples and OCD. It can be a form of torture for some who will will completely lose track of the spirit of the thing and spend agonized hours fretting over whether they maintained an accurate bead count. Demanding that All Good Catholics Must Pray the Rosary or Be Excluded from the Real Church is an obscene insult to the spirit of grace and mercy Christ gives.
More than this, Marshall’s ignorant ipsi dixit kicks out of the Catholic communion every eastern Catholic. Whole swaths of deeply pious, good, and holy Catholics have never prayed a rosary in their lives, because their tradition has other forms of prayer that are just as good as this peculiarly Latin rite devotion.
In sum, do not let spouting popinjays like this tyrant kick you around. Say the rosary or don’t as the Holy Spirit leads you.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1