Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Our truest self

Each year on the Fourth of July I am reminded how blessed I am to live in Virginia where so much of our nations history is within easy driving distance. It is important for each of us to remember the ideals on which our nation was founded.

The right likes to scream about the liberal media bias and the left likes to scream about the president. But behind both problems is a deeper issue.

As Christians we believe that human beings were and are created in the image of God and are therefore good. We simultaneously believe that everyone of us on this earth today suffers the stain of original sin.

St. Paul articulated the struggle best in his Letter to the Romans when he wrote,

I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.

We strive to do the good, even though we fail on a regular basis, because we know that the good is what we were created to be and what we are called to be. Or at least we used to know this.

Sunday in response to one of the president's tweets, a spokesperson applauded him for being "genuine." I found the defense more disturbing than the tweet because it reflected a deeper more recent cultural turn that has largely happened in my lifetime.

When I was growing up we were taught that a part of maturation was impulse control and learning how to behave in civilized society. In the 60's impulse control was labeled repression, and good manners was relegated to the land of snobs. To be authentic meant letting your most basic impulses out in public -the stereotype of the hippie. Now this attitude is being embraced by both left and right.

As Christians we believe that doing good is as genuinely human as doing evil. In fact we are more human when we chose the good. As Christians we can distinguish between suppression and repression. Suppression is a good thing. It is the result of a choice we make. We have the bad thought and we chose not to give voice to it or to act on it.

Acting contrary to our impulses is not hypocrisy, it is how we grow. In the words of C.S. Lewis, "Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Some will call the founding fathers hypocrites because they did not live the values they professed. They were not hypocrites but people knew their flaws but also knew that we are called to be better, called to be more.

On this Fourth of July, let us pray that we never settle for who we are today. Let us keep the ideal ever before us. There was since the fall only one who was authentic — the one who was true God and true man, Jesus Christ. If we want to be authentic, we imitate him.