“(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Matthew 5:1-6

When I read the scripture from above, I cannot help but feel that somewhere, somehow there are a lot of Christians that do not heed Jesus’ words here.  Or, moreover, I think a lot of Christians forget this when they persecute others for not being as holy as they.  But then, that’s a lot of finger-pointing shot into all directions.

My question is this, though: can a discussion concerning what the Gospels say about Jesus continue without the discourse devolving into simple finger pointing?  Can we discuss these things without somehow trying to fulfill the human hunger for self-righteousness?  Or is it just the human will to win and feel important in exposing the shortcomings of the opponent?

I feel as if I’m treading on very unstable ground as I think this essay through, not because I do not want to offend or make uncomfortable anyone who may read this, but because I do not want to take the road that I want to discuss here.  Sometimes, people dumbfound me when acting in the scope of spirituality.  This is especially true of people who wrap themselves in the standard of Christianity but spit a snake’s venom into the eyes of those that present a challenge, a differing point of view, or a marked dissent.  It becomes even worse when the venom comes through the teeth of a child.

Being a parent I fully realize that what I say may come straight back out of my children’s mouths verbatim.  This is the way life is with kids, especially younger, more impressionable ones.  As they age, repetitiveness seems to evolve into an utter shut down and, possibly, outright rebellion, but that is an entirely different discussion.  No, younger impressionable children are the worst gatekeepers in the world.  There is no vault tight enough to hold the words just fighting for dear life to sail off the tongues of these babes.  Sometimes this can be funny.  Sometimes this can be startling.  Sometimes it can be revealing.

Our spiritual lives here at St. Matthew’s parish have not been very enlightened since moving here last year.  I’ve gone over this several times in the past, and, indeed, not much has changed.  I do have hope that we can make something more of our Catholicism here in Cedar Rapids, but my hope surely wanes.  Despite our feelings of the general Catholic weather here, if you will, we had yet to feel any real fronted assault to our perceived religious ennui or our beliefs, which are rooted deeply in our spiritual convictions.  This all changed in the last few days.

The assault, as you may have been able to glean from what I’ve mentioned came in the form of a child’s mouth directly at my daughter and indirectly at my wife.  A friend of my daughter began to change her general feelings toward Delphina in the last several weeks.  We’d guessed that perhaps her father did not like the anti-Bush talk at Delphina’s birthday party, or that, perhaps, his conservative views bred into his children (as our liberal views are bred into ours…) were being challenged by our very presence.  It was not completely clear to us, but we felt the clouds gathering for some time and then they released.  Delphina’s friend, during school made several brash comments culminating with “Your Mom is a freak.” This, of course, broke Delphina’s will to argue and made her weep.  What a terrible and spiteful wound to inflict while in what is supposed to be a gentle, caring, and friendly school.  Kim was angered as was I, but it was not necessarily for what was said, but where it came from.  Kids can be mean.  This is no different between parochial or public schools.  Typically, kids are kids and they do this.  But to come from a family of such reputed Catholicism that they do not like that their daughter’s friend (Delphina) says “Oh my God!” instead of “Oh my Gosh!” is what makes me ill.  Allow me this flood of emotion: what self-righteous bullshit was this?  This is a family that is unabashedly proud of their support of President Bush, a very un-Christian individual.  They proclaim that Kim mocks Catholicism by wearing a shirt with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it, and, yet, they see fit to sit in place of God and render judgment against us, people they barely know but surely fear.  They claim we are not good Catholics because we do not go to church.  Well, I claim they are not good Catholics for not living out the Beatitudes as Christ passed them on to all us, His disciples.  But where does this get us?  Nowhere.  It begets nothing but ill will, broken spirit, and demoralization.  It gets us nothing in the end.

What we do in our lives as a family, not that it is anyone else’s business, is to reflect a certain morality that weighs intellectual and scientific truths while being tempered by a Catholic spirit and intention.  We do our best to show our children that intolerance is unacceptable and that there are people different (sometimes far different) than we are and that is okay.  But now that a peer has shattered this, Delphina’s view of their conservatism has only become more solidified, perhaps making her more intolerant.  This is not good.  Ill will spreads like a disease while multiplying like a virus.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way and I expected that if there were ever to be a war of words between us and any other Catholic families, it would be between us, the adults.  I was wrong and I am all the sadder for it.

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