Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Tyranny of Relativism: Where does it stop?

The First Reading assigned for January 2 (post Christmas Octave and pre Epiphany) got me thinking about principled Catholic living in a world allergic to good old fashioned absolutes, a world sadly hell bent on absolutely rejecting both the first and the last things. This year today's passage from 1 John is the only reading of the OF lectionary we will share in common throughout the world, because of the divergence of Epiphany dates (Sunday versus 6 January) depending on where you live in the world:
"The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ – he is the liar, he is Antichrist;
and he is denying the Father as well as the Son,
because no one who has the Father can deny the Son,
and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.
Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning:
as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you,
you will live in the Son and in the Father; 
and what is promised to you by his own promise is eternal life.
This is all that I am writing to you about the people who are trying to lead you astray.
But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you, and you do not need anyone to teach you; the anointing he gave teaches you everything; you are anointed with truth, not with a lie, and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.
Live in Christ, then, my children, so that if he appears, we may have full confidence,
and not turn from him in shame at his coming." (1 John 2:22-28)

As much as any of us might disdain the very notion of relativism, undermining truth and virtue as it does, all too often we are intimidated by its tyranny in public life. We are cowed, many of us, by its scorn for our most precious values. In many circles, relativism turns our world upside down transforming tolerance into a virtue, which it is not. 

From Merriam-Webster:
Simple Definition of tolerance
: willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own
: the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant
medical: your body's ability to become adjusted to something (such as a drug) so that its effects are experienced less strongly

 Full Definition of tolerance
1:  capacity to endure pain or hardship (endurance, fortitude, stamina)
2 a :  sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own
b:  the act of allowing something (toleration)
3:  the allowable deviation from a standard; especially:  the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
4 a (1) :  the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure <developed a tolerance to painkillers>; also:  the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2) :  relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor
b:  the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food

At the core of tolerance is a type of endurance which must not and usually does not have either heart or brain. The very concept is rather biological, as much chemical or animal as it could be applicable to humans. Tolerant, we are without God; we are all alone in the world: denying Christ His rightful primacy in our personal lives and relationships with fellow human beings, and therefore surrendered to the grasp of the Evil One! 

My hope and prayer would be that 2016 would find us reflecting more on what we confess and profess. Believing is a commitment in the light of the Absolute. Embracing the Gospel without compromise as notion would be somewhat of a tautology; we cannot do otherwise.  Our valueless or relativized world provokes the scorn of those who have not yet lived long enough to know compassion for sheep without a shepherd.


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