The Marks of a True (Modern) Christian?

Source: blogos.org

There is this nagging question at the back of my head. What role does my religion, my faith have in my secular life? What does it even mean to be Catholic today?

Well, in figuring out what I wanted to write about for this article, I went and found my Bible – like any good Catholic! I picked it up and noticed that I had once placed a page marker, so I opened it up to the page.

It opened onto St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapters twelve and thirteen. And there, as if God himself had planned this all out, was the header: The Marks of a True Christian (Romans 12:9-21).

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I read the first few verses: ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in sharing honour’. I said to myself, ok we’re finally getting somewhere!

What St Paul outlines there seems to be fairly straightforward, but when you exam things in a contemporary sense, is it that straightforward? I don’t think so.

Or at least, it’s not as easy to discern what is good and what is evil. Normally, we would say that this is pretty straightforward – and let’s keep this in mind: I am a staunchly proud Liberal Canadian[i], so you take this with a grain of salt if you wish!

In 2016, to most sane people the Democratic candidate, Secretary Clinton, was the choice for 45th President of the United States of America and the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, was, well for the purposes of this article, the ‘evil’ choice.

Then, why would 52% of Catholics (60% of white Catholics) have voted for Donald Trump? [1] How can we ‘hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good’ if 52% of Catholics below the 49th Parallel voted for the Republican candidate?

So, it isn’t that clear cut and straightforward to judge what is evil [2]. Of course there are mitigating factors (marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, etc), but as Catholics, we should know better!

Source: goodreads.com

But let me digress onto the more important issue: love. You’re probably sitting there saying to yourself, how is love not straightforward?! And for the most part, you’re correct. Love is pretty straightforward. But there is a caveat. A big asterisk.

And James Martin, SJ tackles this asterisk in his new book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. And it is about time that someone as respected as Fr Martin, SJ tackles this pertinent and important issue. So, do you see now how love can be slightly complicated?

And here is where the question marks of a true (modern) Christian comes in. We have read the first couple of marks, and we understand the words on the page, but do we feel them in our hearts? Unfortunately, I don’t think all of us feel them in our hearts.

James Martin, SJ. Source: youtube.com

I recently learned the phrase sentire cum Ecclesia. That’s great and all, but why don’t we change it to sentire cum corde? Feel with the heart. If we feel with the heart, maybe we can actually let our love be genuine!

So, the marks of a true (modern) Christian can potentially be summed up this manner:

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(1) #loveislove – I am sure that you have seen or heard this before. It was everywhere in June 2015 when the US Supreme Court finally legalised marriage equality across all fifty states.

If we as Christians cannot love everyone regardless of their gender identity, their gender expression, or their sexual orientation, how can we say that our love is genuine? These are God’s children and creation. We are called to love them as equally as those who lead cisgender heteronormative lives.

We should never tolerate someone for the adjectives that make them who they are! No, we must accept and embrace them! That is what it means to let love be genuine and to love each other with mutual affection.

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(2) ‘Love ought to show itself more in deeds than in words’[3] – from the lips of the founder of the Society of Jesus himself.

As modern Christians, we are called to demonstrate our love more than just say it. If it is to be genuine and mutual, this may be working with the poor and marginalised.

Or maybe, to maintain the LGBT theme, it means that you go out of the way to show that you accept and love your relative or friend who is LGBT. Being a part of that community can bring a true understanding of what it feels like to be genuinely accepted, embraced, and loved for who you are, for how God created you.

This is as simple as supporting your local LGBT centre, walking with your friend/relative in the next Pride parade, or at least watching one of those oh so cheesy LGBT movies you can find on Netflix.

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(3) AMDG [4]– this phrase keeps coming back to me again and again and again! This is indirectly related to love, but it is certainly linked to the mark of a true (modern) Christian as they should always be striving to do things for the greater glory of God, such as we see those working toward reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous peoples.

We should be doing this whether it’s in the secular or religious aspects of our lives. This AMDG goal is possible when informed by these marks.

It’s not easy to love genuinely and always know what is evil. We need discernment to know what is what, and in discerning and acting, we should be doing all of this with AMDG in mind.

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[1] ‘How the faithful voted: A Preliminary analysis’, Pew Research Centre, published November 9, 2016, accessed October 1, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/.

[2]   I also should disclose that I made calls for the Democrats into the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh region to get out the vote

A new article from America Media does argue that a plurality, not a majority, of US Catholics did vote for Secretary Clinton. Link to article here: https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/04/06/new-data-suggest-clinton-not-trump-won-catholic-vote

[3] St Ignatius of Loyola, ‘Quotes’, Ignatian Solidarity Network, published December 15, 2014, accessed October 1, 2017, https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2014/12/15/st-ignatius-of-loyola-4/

[4] AMDG = ad majorem Dei gloriam = for the greater glory of God..

Luke Gilmore is a fourth year BA Hon Political Science major at Campion College, the University of Regina. In 2016, as a co-op student, Luke worked at the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France.

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