As one blogger recently remarked, the days of “casual Christianity” are over. Today, a Christian who actively evangelizes, opposes abortion in defence of the unborn, advocates for traditional marriage in defence of the family, and adopts such countercultural practices as natural family planning, will face consequences. In our modern culture, this “kind” of Christian—that is, an orthodox Christian—is quite probably going to face “social martyrdom(s)” in some form. Indeed, it seems on most days that “these are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own”, as G.K. Chesterton observed.
Why then would anyone bother with religion?
There are many good answers to the important question of whether religion is “worth it”; and it is an important question. Let not our minds be numbed by the rampant religious indifferentism of our time.
As C.S. Lewis rightly points out: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” The Christian religion, after all, promises eternal happiness, the fulfillment of all our desires. No greater claim, religious or not, exists.
Christianity claims it has the everlasting cure to all sickness—including sadness. No claim is more relevant; for as Aristotle states in his Nicomachean Ethics, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Anything that promises eternal happiness, therefore, should be tested.
The funny thing about Catholicism is that when it is tested for truth—it passes; and this religion which calls for infinite reverence can only be called “funny” because it is paradoxical and unlikely according to human wisdom: God became man and founded a Church with bread become God at its center, that sinners might become saints. Catholicism consists of paradox upon paradox, as Chesterton concludes in Orthodoxy. But a paradox is not a contradiction; it’s merely a surprise, an unexpected reality.
Why might one claim the mysterious, martyrdom-rich religion of Catholicism as their own? Here are two reasons:
1. It is life-giving. Father Thomas Dubay has pointed out that “boredom comes not from reality but from people who are only half alive” (Prayer Primer, p.77). Chesterton understood that fighting for the true and the good abolishes boredom. He wrote:
“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” (A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant)
No one who is “fighting the good fight” is bored with life. Soldiers fighting for their country, husbands fighting for their family, mothers fighting for their child and Christians fighting for their God, are not bored. They are fully alive; and that Life burns as a fire within, fueled by love. Chesterton came to see that belonging to a religion—a Church—which fought relentlessly against the cultural stream for the sake of truth and goodness, was the best way to live. So he became Catholic. He writes:
“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” (The Everlasting Man)
This is why the blood of Christians are the seed of the Church. Witnesses see not death in the eyes of suffering martyrs, but life—and they WANT IT.
2. It is sane. In Knowing God, the great author and apologist Frank Sheed wrote:
“Sanity means seeing what’s there and planning life accordingly.”
A man who believes he is a dog is not sane because he does not see what really is. Moreover, he does not see what he really is—the worst kind of insanity.
However, the truth is (and Sheed would agree) that we all lack a bit of sanity. But we desire it with a whole heart; that is, we desire a full vision of truth, and a life centred on it. No person wants to live a life built upon lies. Thus, a man may not like religion; he might call it stupid and old-fashioned and boring. But his attitude says nothing about what really is. It only reveals what he would prefer. Often what we would prefer to be and what really is are two completely different things.
The thing about Catholic Christianity is that its tenets stand firm in the face of scrutiny. Science and philosophy give us strong reasons to believe God exists. Historical studies reveal convincing grounds to believe Jesus was the divine person He claimed to be. Biblical studies give us good reasons to believe He founded an authoritative, hierarchical Church; and coupled with historical research—especially of the writings of the early Church Fathers—biblical studies provide good reasons to believe that the Catholic Church of today is that one, indestructible Church He spoke of in St. Matthew’s Gospel.
To be Catholic is not to be naive, uneducated or unreasonable. It is to be alive, sane and in communion with not just what is true—but who is Truth.