Saturday, May 24, 2014

Take a poll

We love to take polls. Not only do we take old-fashioned polls, but we have developed technology to be able to track public opinion like never before. How often do hear 70% of Americans oppose the president on X, 80% of Catholics think the Church should allow Y. The danger of course is that we confuse popularity with truth. 99.9 of people may believe something, it doesn't make it either true, or right.

In fact the warning in the today's gospel is that approval by the majority may mean you are on precisely the wrong track.

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.

The Greek word for Church, ekklesia, literally means called out or called apart. This does not mean that we are supposed to be anti-modern culture, but we are supposed to be discerning. We are supposed to lead the culture, not blindly follow it.

It would be impossible for any human being not to be a product of their culture. We think according the the categories of our native language. How we sleep, how we eat, how we greet one another, what is considered rude, and hundreds of other aspects of life are culture specific.

On the other hand, there is natural law. The law that God has written into the human heart, a law that is universal, super-cultural. The law on which the Declaration of Independence was based. When our founding fathers wrote, "they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights." This was an articulation of a believe in natural law. When we speak of the concept of human rights, we are saying we believe in natural law.

I find it fascinating that we hear the phrase human rights all the time, but I can't tell you the last time I heard anyone talk about human obligations.

It is ok to be popular and we certainly should never set out to antagonize others. As mom told you, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But we should be careful to set back from time to time an look at our lives, our attitudes, and ask whether or not we have become to enmeshed in our culture. And we should never measure ourselves by popular opinion.