I must confess to being very confused about the message, words and example coming from many Christian leaders today. Am I missing something?
We Christians worship Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who encountered hostility and rejection on earth because he came, not to court popularity, but to speak the truth in love. His suffering was not unique. For all who had come before him to prepare the way, the prophets of old, had also been rejected and despised on account of God’s word. Nevertheless they stood firm to the revealed faith and willingly embraced suffering for the sake of the world.
After Jesus came the saints and martyrs. They too tell a story of incredibly bravery in the face of worldly rejection. Time and again they were mistreated, misunderstood and unwanted but, nevertheless, they stayed true to Christ and were prepared to suffer for the salvation of souls. Indeed the first 33 popes laid down their lives for the love of the church.
A prime example of one who suffered for the faith, shedding his blood that it may be handed on without blemish, is John the Baptist. Like us he lived during a decadent era in which morality was in crisis. A time when the world was not remotely interested in what God had revealed about marriage and family life. But the Baptist would not be swayed by cultural change or supposed societal enlightenment. He bravely spoke out against Herod at the cost of his life.
A central truth then is that those who stand for God’s word have ever been rejected and called to take up the cross in defence of the faith. What unites the great Saints and martyrs in all past ages was that they never felt compromise with the world was acceptable. They never believed being nice was more important than speaking truth. They never acted as if the main purpose of Christian faith is to gently fit in with the world to court popularity and praise.
And so to my confusion.
Why do so many modern Christian leaders today – across all denominations- act as though we can dispense with that cross? As if the church is called to court popularity not speak the truth in love? Why do they sound like obsequious politicians not saints of God? Why do so many remain silent in the face of grave moral evil and even champion worldly thinking at the cost of the Gospel?
Where are the men of faith like the Saints of old? Where are those who will stand up for Jesus? I feel so terribly let down by this generation of church leaders for too often where we need strength and clarity we find weakness and fuzziness. We have a crisis of Christian leadership and it is costing us heavily. Too many hirelings and not enough shepherds. But what can be done?
How risible has been the defence of marriage and family life as the oxymoron fad of so called “gay marriage” sweeps the globe. In the UK, in Ireland and in America the response of bishops has been timid and feeble. So to my question.
When did standing up for faith like the Saints of old become unimportant? When did God reveal the cross is no longer integral to the Christian life? When did being inoffensive become the prime virtue of Christian faith? Can anybody tell me? Or is it high time we held our leaders to account and demand they start acting like apostles and not politicians?
Perhaps the answer must come from the grass roots. That is certainly what Archbishop Fulton Sheen thought. I end with a quote from him:
Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.–Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1972