There are many pitfalls when you are both a Christian and a pundit. It is too easy to lose sight of the purpose of any argumentation or fisking on a subject. Scoring rhetorical points can override defending and trying to make known the truth. We can toss up lines like "hate the sin, but love the sinner", but it is quite another matter to not mix up the two on a day-to-day basis. Self-righteousness is the briar patch that it is all to easy to fall to when your are criticizing the actions or beliefs of others. I have heard that converts such as myself are especially susceptible to the dark side of radical traditionalism where Masonic plots dot the landscape. It is easy to get frustrated seeing liturgical abuses, but we must give all our trust in the Lord that he is guiding his Church and where there are problems that we do what we can to remove them. I think a useful Gospel passage from Luke 18 is always a god thing to meditate on, especially for those defending the faith.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
When viewing this highly secularized culture via the eyes of faith it is easy to see all of the sicknesses and problems that the culture of death produces. We can see those without faith as the proverbial "them" instead of a brother in need of the Gospel. We can grow outraged at headlines, articles, news stories and have anger towards those involved. While righteous anger over sin is good, it is worthless if not basked in charity and backed up by prayer and in some cases action. John the Baptist preached the message of repentance and was a pundit when it came to the marriage of Herod the tetrarch. But first he was rooted in asceticism and prayer and probably spent much time as a hermit in prayer before engaging the public. Jesus often had harsh words for hypocrites and others and over and over again he goes away to pray.
Prayer is the very foundation that has to be built first if we truly want to evangelize others and to spread the truth. I am no prayer warrior (still in prayer boot camp actually) but I know the dangers of punditry without prayer. When you are not praying and meditating daily it is too easy to become uncharitable. First reflect on your own sin before raising your gaze to others. I work to start each day with the Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual reading, prayer, and meditation before the first electron buzzes around in my computer. There have been times when I was slothful in that habit and I noticed the negative effects it had on my days. There have been posts that I have started by not finished because I realized that they crossed the line from charity into something else. The same thing happens sometimes with items I posted where later I revised them to be more in conformance of charity. Parody and sarcasm can sometimes be useful tools to illustrate a point, but prudence has to be used to prevent them from slipping into what I call sarcaustic comments.
In some ways spending most of my life as an atheist has helped me prepare in my writings and judgments. That I now have faith is something I see only as pure gift. I thought throughout my life that I had been seeking the truth when actually it was the opposite and truth was seeking me. Who am I to judge as to when someone might come to faith. Whether it is in the morning, midday, or end of life that someone comes to faith I can do nothing but rejoice. In Matthew 20 it says:
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last."
So if someone yet has no faith then I can only pray that they come to it and that nothing in my words or actions will harden them to God’s grace. What would pundits have said about a pre-conversion St. Paul? Well we do know that they were quite suspicious of Saul’s sudden conversion. But this conversion of his into a new life started with prayers of St. Stephen as he was being stoned to death. And if somebody has faith but their actions do not yet reflect it; we can remember Peter before and after Pentecost and pray for the Holy Sprit to come down upon them. Reading multiple stories and news sources should provide plenty of opportunity to spark the practice of intercessory prayer. If we can go through a day’s reading and not pray for someone during that time then we really need to reevaluate our attitude. Again I am speaking of the voice of some experience with multiple failures in this area.
An examination of conscience for pundits.
When we are complaining about our Bishop, first are we praying for them?
When we complain about the dearth of vocations, are we praying to the Lord of the Harvest to provide.
When we complain about the heretical views of Catholic politicians, do we also remember them in our prayers.
When a priest falls or seems to be preaching other than the true faith, are we praying for them?
For those faithful clergy and lay people are we praying to support them and thanking them when able?
When we complain about the destruction of the family our we also praying with and for our families?
*This post is part othe Christian Carnival that Karen Marie Knapp of From the Anchor Hold is hosting this week on the 14th of July.