Recently, I have been noticing lots of complaints about so-called “Beige Catholicism”. The complaint is that the Church is losing people because of dull liturgies or preaching that is not theologically pure and correct and what we need are robust Defenders of the Faith to (in the words of one combox commenter) “strengthen the brethren, to comfort, reassure them they’re not alone, remind them to fight the good fight.” To which I reply, “Against who?”
My friend David Mills notes the same bellicosity and empty sense of persecution behind this mentality and remarks over at the Book of Face:
A friend shared an article about beige Catholicism emptying the churches. I commented that one doesn’t want to be cranky, but the article was what? the 10,000th article that’s made the claim in the same way and with the same images, and with the same generality. (The writer referred to our need to be salt, for example. In these articles, salt is often invoked. But what exactly the salt is and what exactly needs savoring is never explained.)
What does this kind of article do besides make people happy to be the kind of Catholics they are? Because no one thinks of himself as a beige Catholic and everyone likes to think the other guys are driving people out of the Church.
Has a single Catholic of the kind who reads such publications ever said, “Wow, I never heard that before!” or clutched the front of his shirt and said, “Oh no, he’s talking about me”?
I’m not arguing that points don’t need to be repeated, and regularly. Anyone who writes a lot would be sunk if they didn’t. But does *this* point made this way need to be repeated, over and over and over? I have my doubts.
David is a nicer person than I am. My own take is that nearly every article I see on “beige Catholicism” by people who advocate “being salt” makes clear that what they really get off on is being salt in the wound, not being salt that makes things taste better. It’s always about being Culture War Aggressors, never healers; fighting back, never being peacemakers; crushing the Enemy, not forgiving him; or maybe, just maybe, considering the possibility that he is an enemy because we’ve been absolute dicks.
Two readers over at the Book of Face commented on this as well, and both remarks are worthy paying attention to:
It’s old and tiresome. My family stopped going to Mass not because Kayla didn’t get to dance or Bob didn’t get to display his felt banners. They stopped going to Mass because Mr Thomas Aquinas Athanasius knew how to attend the Latin Mass but not love his neighbor.
I lurk in a lot of ex-Catholic online spaces. The number of people who say “the reason I left the church was because it was too lovey dovey” is zero. I have never met an ex-cat who left because of kumbaya, hand-holding, or felt banners. Most people who leave do so because of people like the person who posted the article. Or because they are LGBTQ and the church is a hostile place with a hostile theology. Or because they were abused by clergy. Or for a host of other reasons that made the pain of living as a Catholic bad enough that the Eucharist couldn’t compensate for it.
It is lack of love–and what is worse, contempt for love or even common decency–not theological imprecision or liturgical sloppiness that does not merely fail to attract people to the faith, but actively and viciously drives away people who would be naturally drawn to Jesus Christ. (Remember him? That’s what all this Catholic stuff is supposed to be about).
Deacon Steven Greydanus gets the real nature of problem.
What *is* it with liberals? They don’t believe Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, merely because the people who are the loudest about claiming that they do believe it think it is awesome to torture people, horde guns in fear of “invaders from the South”, laugh about Trump’s rape and sexual assaults, claim the women subjected to mass hysterectomies had it coming, defend kidnapping children into rape camps and deporting them without adult accompaniment, cheer for tax fraud, and threaten to start shooting if Trump loses. And all while using the unborn as human shields for the lies, cruelty and death they labor to defend instead of defending the unborn.
“God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24).
The early Christians lived lives that were inexplicable apart from their faith that God had become man and conquered death. They did not clutch their possessions, but gave freely to whoever asked. They did not use violence, but went to their deaths thanking God. They bore the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. They did not live in fear even though they were hated. They returned blessing for curses. They saw their money as a gift from God for those who did not have it.
MAGA Qhristians live lives that are completely explicable as the products of a fearful ideology that leaves them on their own in a universe where they must fight, oppress, and kill the weak in order to clutch at their little piece of gold and their little stab at power while they dream of one day becoming the orange god who uses them and could not care less if they live or die.
Human hearts are still looking for Christ. The MAGA cult is one of the most effective tools Satan ever devised for keeping them from finding him. Far more than its devastating effects on the country, it is its devastating effect on the witness of the Church that is what earns it the curse of God. I pray every day that God destroy it for the sake of the gospel, for the liberation of the Church’s witness from its black shadow, and for the salvation of the slaves who are trapped in it. It is an evil thing and it comes from hell.
Until we face the colossal scandal we present, not as disciples of Christ, but as people who appall non-Christians with our selfishness, we will continue to hemorrhage as a Church.
Judgment begins with the House of God. (1 Peter 4:17)