Holy Nones, Pray for Us

Print More
Just one week after the diabolical torchlight parade in Charlottesville – replete with frothing at the mouth Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us” – angels of light, of all races and nationalities, swooped in on the streets of Boston to declare, by their very essence, that love is still alive in America.  Based on the news footage, though there were not many overt displays of religiosity amongst the Bostonians marching in the name of love, the spirituality of the event was nonetheless palpable.
In recent years, media outlets have reported on the phenomenon of the so-called “nones” – people who mark no religious affiliation at all on religion surveys – and the efforts of Christians to evangelize them.  Rather than fretting over how to convert the nones, perhaps modern-day evangelizers, Catholic and Protestant, would do well to simply watch and listen how nones – like no doubt many of the Boston marchers – are confronting evil in our world. Chanting “Black lives matter, gay lives matter, trans lives matter,” it seems many a none are doing just fine in combatting the diabolical forces in our society.
You might not know that if you just listened to Christians convinced that nones are, ipso facto, moral lesser thans.
In a July article from Catholic News Service titled “Bishop Barron: How to evangelize the nones,” auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Robert Barron, lamented, “Our society today is like a big lazy lake, all of us floating individually, tolerating each other, not getting in each other’s way, but without energy, without purpose.” As the Boston marchers collectively resembled more a rolling river of justice than a lazy lake lacking energy and purpose, one might reasonably wonder how the good bishop could come to such sweeping generalizations about our society.  Could it be that Barron’s sociological misdiagnosis has its root in the same blind spot that enables theological anti-Semitism, precisely by giving it such a prime place in the Catholic lectionary?
Tellingly, the very Sunday after some forty thousand protesters filled the streets of Boston to denounce the Nazi movement taking shape under the Republican president, the second reading in the Catholic lectionary was from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here is what Mass attendees the world over heard proclaimed from the lectern on August 20th:
Brothers and sisters, I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race [the Jewish people] jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. (Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32)
The magisterium of Catholic Church is responsible for compiling the lectionary.  Instead of casting public doubt on the morality and commitment to humankind of nones, perhaps the magisterium, including Bishop Barron, should give deeper reflection on the theological hatred they continue to plant for this and future generations of Catholics.
Though they hated Christianity, the Nazis of the 1920s and 30s deftly used Christian theological anti-Semitism to further their genocidal program.  Surely the tiki torch Nazis who descended on Charlottesville are similarly delighted that the Catholic Church, even after the horrors of the Holocaust right in the belly of Christian civilization, continues to inculcate the notion that Jews are disobedient – even under divine curse, as St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2: 16).
Christian history has shown that it’s no big leap from the mass mental conjuring of Jews as spiritual degenerates to pogroms and genocide. Adolf Hitler was a baptized Catholic, as were countless Nazi executioners, along with plenty of Protestants. So why does the Catholic Church, and all Christian denominations for that matter, continue to include the theological anti-Semitism of St. Paul in its lectionary ? Would all modern-day disciples of Jesus somehow have their faith and trust in Jesus quashed if deprived of a sense of spiritual superiority over the Jewish people?
Hopefully, the holy nones who are so dedicated and effective in combating the ravages of white supremacy will also pray for those Christians whose very relationship to God still hinges, similar to a white supremacist’s mentality, on a deep-seated, ego-driven need to feel superior to others in the sight of God.
In that Catholic News Service article on evangelizing the nones, Bishop Barron offered this interesting nugget: “Remember the ecstatic expression of St. Paul: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. When you’ve been seized by the power of Jesus Christ, your little ego-drama becomes pretty unimportant.”
When Nazis are marching in the streets, and theological anti-Semitism is still spilling forth from church lecterns, the little ego-dramas of Christians, lay and cleric alike, who need to feel spiritually superior are foolish indeed.   But they are much too dangerous to ignore.
Holy nones, pray for us.
Timothy Villareal, a Miami-based writer, is a privately-vowed Christian monk. His website is http://timothyvillareal.wordpress.com.