There is a priest I know (and he's a type we all do) that talks nothing but of the culture war. His writings and sermons are chalk full of teaching on abortion, homosexuality, transgender issues, etc. If a political figure has stepped in it (particularly if he is Catholic and democrat), he's going to highlight it.

I find nothing particularly wrong about his doctrinal approach. He teaches what the Church teaches, and as a pastor that's his duty. Of course, it'd be silly to argue that he shouldn't emphasize some teachings more than others. Our time is not only confused about the cultural issues, so much as it is obstinate and recalcitrant. He is who he is because of the times.

Robbed of Joy

His preaching and ministry seem to have no joy. Because he presents a God largely concerned about moral issues, he wants his people to walk the straight, narrow, and somber path because there is no other path.

God delights in us. It's a strange concept really. There are billions of people in the world, and yet, for each one of us, Christ cares for us. In our modern world of convenience i'ts easy to think of this perspective as God has scaled up: like McDonald's that has billions and billions served, God has found a way to give just a little to each of us. How does He do it?

I don't know. I suppose my priest friend here would say he does it by carefully laying out a moral framework, revealing a Gospel, and expecting us to follow along. Despite being presented as a tradition centuries old, that structure has a modern feel to it. Fit into the plan. Do as you are programmed. God's provided but only so long as you get into a line.

God is a person. Three in fact. As three persons, He can only love as a person loves: particularly and specifically. This means when we speak of Providence we don't mean that God laid it all out so He could passively sit back and watch us act. That's the great "Watch Maker" of the Enlightenment. No, we mean God put us in a particular time, place, and location because He delights in us and He wants to know us and see us grow closer to Him, in only the way He has made us.

Following the Truth

Of course, this means that as we come to know Him, we come to live joyfully (or struggle immensily) with the world He has made for us. Like little children unsure of their abilities and skills, we will struggle, each in our own way. But there is a comfort that even if teachings are hard, life brings crosses, or we are constantly disappointed, God has made things for us in a certain, particular way because His love is specific. 

That approach doesn't necessarily provide answers of great doctrinal certainty. There is moral certainty, but only if we follow along the path, even if it is not comfortable. It also means that the many gifts we experience in life, while objectively rooted in God's love, may in fact subjectively be both pleasant and unpleasant to us. Following God means that peace is not the only path to discerning His will; often it is turmoil and discomfort that tells us "God is near" because we are being asked to pay attention and to change. 

Maybe this priest agrees with me on substance, but we disagree on tactics. People are strange that way.  When God is alive in us, we delight in the blessings He brings, and do not limit the form those blessings might take. I might even delight in what this priest brings to my life because of the contrast he presents. I'm sure he was meant for more than this. But for now I delight that Christ loves me and for each of us, He loves us according to what we need so that we may be with Him for all eternity. That seems to be His end goal, strangely enough, because He is God and needs nothing. 

But He wants me. 

Mattias A. Caro is the Executive Editor of Ethika Politika.