Friday, January 23, 2015

Abortion: The Worst Kind of Poverty

Since we are privileged enough to live in a country as wealthy and prosperous as the United States, it's easy for us to believe that we are truly rich, and that we have eradicated poverty for the most part in our society. Blessed Mother Teresa, who spent the majority of her life serving the poor, marginalized, diseased, and dying people of Calcutta in India, firmly disagreed with these preconceptions. In 1975, when an English interviewer expressed pity for the people she served, her response shocked him:
The spiritual poverty of the Western World is much greater than the physical poverty of our people...You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness. They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don't know what it is. What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.
Having spent the majority of her life living among and serving people who experienced some of the worst physical suffering and deprivation possible, Mother Teresa was an authority on human suffering. Years after this interview, she would hear about the epidemic of abortion in the West, and famously comment:
It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.
Abortion is NOT a Religious Issue

The vast majority of people who oppose abortion are religious, especially in the United States. Unfortunately, this fact leads many supporters of legalized abortion to assume that the only reason people oppose abortion is because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. While sincere religious belief, and belief in Christianity in particular, will certainly motivate a person to work more diligently in the cause of putting an end to abortion, it does not follow that the Pro-Life movement is a religious movement, or even that the best arguments for the Pro-Life view depend on a belief in God or the Bible. On the contrary, it can be shown that abortion is a severe violation of basic human rights on the basis of ethical principals and medical science alone, apart from the revelation or teachings of any religious tradition. Therefore, the Pro-Life movement is a civil rights movement, not a religious movement, which is why there are secular and even atheist people who support it.

Every argument that I've ever heard or read in defense of legalized abortion either makes an irrelevant distinction between unborn and born children or else could also be used to justify infanticide. The following argument summarizes why abortion is immoral and should therefore not be lawful in any country that claims to respect human rights:

1. All human beings have the right to life.
2. Unborn children, regardless of their stage in development, are human beings.
3. Therefore, unborn children have the right to life.

"It's My Body!"

From the instant that the female's egg cell is fertilized by the male's sperm cell, a new, separate, and unique organism exists. Despite how much supporters of legalized abortion like to present themselves as being up-to-date scientifically speaking, many of them still either fail to recognize, or worse, refuse to accept this undisputed fact of biology. Ambiguous, inaccurate, or even blatantly false terms and phrases are often used in an attempt to redefine the newly formed human being as something else, such as: clump of tissue, collection of cells, pregnancy, potential human being, and parasite (yes, seriously). An organism is an individual living member of a species. A clump of cells, whether they make up a tumor or part of a human organ, will never grow into an adult member of the human species, like an embryo will under normal conditions. In short, everything science tells us about human embryos and their development supports the idea that the life created at conception, while completely dependent on its mother for survival, is a unique and separate human organism, which, given time, nutrition, and the proper environment, will grow into a fully developed human being like you or I.

"Fetuses Aren't Human Beings"

Usually, when people try to argue that embryos or fetuses aren't human beings, they will point to some factor or set some criteria which they claim disqualifies the unborn life in the womb from being considered a human being. Such factors include: having the shape/form of a human being, having all of it's own functioning organs, viability (the ability to survive outside of the womb), and a nervous system capable of experiencing pain. The problem with all of these factors is that, when defining what is essential to being human, they are all irrelevant. Given how gradual the process of human development is, there is no concrete moment that you can point to as the moment at which the life form/organism becomes human. If the unborn are not human because of their level of development, then newborn children who are barely more developed should not be considered human beings either. Also, if consistently applied, this reasoning would imply that no one is fully human until they are in their twenties and a physically mature adult, which is clearly absurd. The viability factor also doesn't work as a criteria for determining whether or not something (someone) is a human being or not, because it is very common for premature infants to require incubators and other life support for survival, and it would rightly be considered seriously wrong to kill one of them. Often people will say, "Yeah, but they're born already." So, being human depends on your location? If a baby is halfway out of the womb, is it only half human? I suspect the sad truth is that people think this way because when a fetus is dismembered inside of its mother's womb during an abortion, the process is more private and hidden from sight. Lastly, the distinction based on the ability to experience pain is yet another insufficient way of determining whether or not the unborn life is human or not. There are two basic reasons for thinking this: 1) We are not only human beings during the moments when we are experiencing pain, and 2) There are millions of non-human animals that do feel pain but are not given the right-to-life reserved to human beings.

The Role of Language

I once found myself reading through the (dreaded) comment section of an online article about abortion. In the comments, a woman had tried to defend the idea that fetuses are human beings, but she was ganged up on by a few people in favor of legalized abortion. The comments of one man in particular struck me as astonishingly illogical. He wrote to her, "No, it is not a human being. It is a fetus. Understand? Words have meaning. Learn your words." Apart from being extremely condescending, his comment was completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not fetuses are human beings. What is a human being? It's an individual, living member of the human species. What is a fetus? It's an individual, living member of the human species in an early stage of its development. The fact that we use different terms for human beings depending on their age or stage in development does not in any way undermine the fact that they are a human being. Imagine someone arguing, "No, it is not a human being. It is a teenager. Understand? Words have meaning. Learn your words." Ridiculous!

"I Think Abortion is Wrong, But..."

How many times has someone told you that they are personally opposed to abortion, but they don't want to "impose their views" on someone else? I hear it all the time. The question that always immediately comes to my mind  is, "Why doesn't anyone ever use that logic with other moral issues?" In other words, what is it about abortion that makes people believe it to be seriously wrong and yet still think it should be legal? There seems to be only one plausible reason for this distinction regarding abortion. Unlike other moral actions in question, abortion is based entirely on sex, more specifically, on the modern idea that all people have the right to have as much sex as they want without commitment or consequences. Contraceptives are the most common means of trying to achieve a responsibility-free sex life, and abortion is simply back-up contraception. If personal pleasure and being in control of your life are your idols, your only absolutes in life, then eventually your conscience can become so decayed that you're willing to sacrifice anything in order to possess those idols, even the life of an innocent human being. When you consider how frail and broken the heart of a person must be in order to accept abortion as a morally acceptable action, it becomes easier to understand how Mother Teresa could say, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." If love is the most valuable thing that we can ever give or receive in life, then being deprived of love to such an extent that you would choose or support abortion is literally the worst kind of poverty possible.

A Most Disturbing Trend

When you read about the worst crimes committed against human beings throughout history, and especially the large scale crimes of the 20th century like the Holocaust, you will see a trend in the way the people responsible for those crimes understood their victims. Every case involved the redefining of human beings as non-human or sub-human. Last year, on the day before the March for Life in Washington D.C., I had the privilege of visiting the National Holocaust Museum. While I had already read a significant amount about the Holocaust, seeing the displays, videos, and pictures showing the horrors which took place less than 80 years ago was a chilling but much needed reminder for me of just how much evil and destruction we humans are capable of bringing about. There was one video in particular that deeply disturbed me. In it, members of the British military were liberating a concentration camp, and while there were a few surviving prisoners to rescue, the soldiers spent literally days burying all the bodies and remains of bodies. In fact, there were so many bodies that they had to dig mass graves and push the bodies in with a bulldozer. When I saw the heaping pile of hundreds of starved and disfigured human corpses, I immediately recalled images that I had seen of dumpsters full of aborted human fetuses and their remains. The two images are similar in that both reveal the fruits of what Pope Saint John Paul II called the "culture of death." We all recognize madness when we see it.

The Tide is Turning

While we cannot forget the atrocity of abortion, with all of the death and suffering it has caused over the last four decades, it is important to remember that the Pro-Life cause is steadily overpowering it's opposition, the so-called "Pro-Choice" movement. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 58% of adults in America believe that abortion should be illegal in "all" or "nearly all" circumstances, while just 39% believe it should be legal in all circumstances. Also, while the Pro-Choice movement claims to defend the rights and dignity of women, only 40% of women in America identify as Pro-Choice, and 57% consider themselves to be Pro-Life. Millenials (aged 18-34) are the group most likely to think that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Also, in the past two decades, the number of abortion clinics in the US has gone from 2,176 in 1991 to 582 by the end of 2013. In other words, the Pro-Life movement is winning now, and winning the future as well. With the wisdom and witness of the Catholic Church as our guide and spearhead, we WILL abolish abortion in this country and in the world. Let us pray for the conversion of all those who support abortion, for the healing of all mothers who have ever had an abortion, all the fathers who encouraged or forced women to have one, all the doctors and nurses who work at abortion clinics, and above all, for the innocent and helpless victims of abortion, the unborn children themselves, who have been robbed of their most fundamental right, their right to life, as well as their chance to be loved in this life.

"Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved, 
each of us is necessary." 

- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Under the Mercy,
Chris Trummer

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Homily of Beauty: Mass at the Sea of Galilee

The following is a reflection that I wrote during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land over Christmas break. It was written on December 16, 2014.

"Every experience of beauty points to infinity" - Hans Urs von Balthasar

Yesterday I experienced more beauty than I have on any other day in my memory.  I wasn’t planning on even attempting to recount the day in words, but after further reflection, I felt an obligation to communicate at least something of my experience. Yesterday morning we had an outdoor Mass about 100 meters from the shore of the Sea of Galilee, outside of the Church of the Primacy of Peter in a miniature amphitheater. During Mass, the background was the same place where Jesus walked on water, where he appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection, and where he gave Peter the special responsibility of being the shepherd of his flock on earth. It was so surreal, powerful, mystical, amazing – I don’t know what other words to say! Even Deacon Adam, who proclaimed the Gospel and preached, admitted that he was at a loss for words to give a substantial homily, which was probably for the best, because the overwhelming beauty and power of the moment would have drowned out any analytic or practical interpretation. When faced with such beauty, truth and goodness seem to be directly infused into the human soul, in a way that makes ordinary language and deliberate, logical thinking more of an obstacle than a help. In other words, the beauty of the place and the moment was a homily in itself. After Deacon Adam concluded his short homily and sat down, there was about thirty seconds of perfect silence. I say “perfect” silence and not “complete” silence because I think there is a significant difference between the two. 
This silence was not artificial, such as the silence achieved by jamming ear plugs into one’s ears, or like the lifeless and haunting vacuum that I imagine outer space must provide. This silence was full, beautiful, and complete. I can clearly remember sitting there thinking, “I could sit here like this forever.” There were distant chirps of small birds and quiet rustlings in the trees from the wildlife. The breeze kissed my face in such a perfect way – it was as if each individual air molecule was a separate and intentional consolation given by God. The smell of the Sea of Galilee was noticeable, but it was a fresh and inviting smell, not like the smell of the murky rivers and lakes in Illinois that I’m used to. The surface of the Sea provided a shimmering backdrop for the liturgy taking place in front of us. What touched me the most was that, in spite of all of this unfamiliar and jaw-dropping beauty around us, the moment when the beauty seemed to reach its climax was still during the elevation of the Host. When Father Bob lifted it, the light reflecting off the water shined through the leaves of the tree behind him and illumined the Host completely. It was as though everything was in its proper place: God’s Creation proclaiming his glory, God’s people worshipping Him, and God nourishing His people in the most intimate and powerful way possible. The natural beauty around me was not a distraction from the Divine Beauty in front of me, but was like a lovely picture frame. When you see the frame by itself, you think, “Wow, that frame looks gorgeous!” but when you’re viewing a masterpiece painting housed inside the same frame, your focus is entirely on the painting. Natural beauty, having the Divine Artist as its source, does not reduce our appreciation for Divine Beauty, but enhances it, just as the words of a love poem enhance our appreciation for, not only language and poetry, but for the lover who wrote it.

One of my favorite elements of our Catholic Faith is that it is simply beautiful. Truth, goodness, and beauty are the three transcendentals that all of us human beings desire, and desire infinitely. Everything that I’m experiencing on this pilgrimage is revitalizing my appreciation of beauty, both natural and man-made. Whether it’s mathematical, scientific, moral, or religious truth, we can recognize it most easily by its beauty and simplicity. Thanks be to God for giving all of us here the opportunity to deepen our faith by immersing ourselves in the beauty of the holy places where His Son Jesus Christ once walked. May we continue to experience the beauty, truth, and goodness of our Faith in the remaining days of this blessed adventure.

† Under the Mercy,
Chris Trummer

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Confession: The Line I Enjoy Waiting In

Saint John Vianney in the confessional, where he spent up to 16 hours a day for many years.

Why the Empty Boxes?

No, I'm not talking about the line at the DMV, or the lunch line at school (the worst!). I'm talking about the line at the confessional in Church. Unfortunately, the Sacrament of Penance, which today is more commonly referred to as the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation, has become greatly under-appreciated and under-used by Catholics, and so it's rare that I get the opportunity to wait in this line. According to a national survey conducted at Georgetown University, three out of four Catholics report going to confession less than yearly or not at all. Also, just 2 percent report going at least once a month. Years ago (50+), the lines at the confessionals were long in virtually every Church anytime the Sacrament was offered, which was then (and still is today) typically on Saturdays in most parishes, and on additional days in a few parishes. There are several possible explanations or causes for this relatively rapid and recent decline in the number of Catholics who make use of the Sacrament of Confession. Here I list them in order from what I consider to be the least likely and apparent causes to those most probable and apparent.

1) A decrease in the commission of serious sins by Catholics in recent years
2) A change in the Catholic Church's teaching about the necessity or importance of the Sacrament of Penance
3) A cultural shift in how people understand sin, guilt, and personal accountability
4) Confusion and misunderstanding about the nature and purpose of the Sacrament, resulting from poor or even non-existent catechesis on the matter

Sin is Still "In"

If you were hoping that I would consider the first possibility as a valid explanation for the decline in Catholic practice of Confession, please turn on the news for ten minutes, walk outside your front door, or make a brief examination of your own conscience! Sin has not become any less popular during the last fifty years. In fact, it has been "in fashion" since Satan first sold the idea to Adam and Eve. Many people, especially those who do not make use of the Sacrament of Confession, would probably cite the second reason I listed as a likely explanation for the empty confessional boxes. This view is tempting, because if true, it would seem to let Catholics "off the hook" ("If the Church doesn't think confession is important, why should I?"). The problem with this view is that, like other problems in the Church which people try to blame on the Church herself, it is simply not accurate at all. "But Chris," someone might ask, "what about Vatican II, didn't it do away with all of the superstition, scrupulosity, and harsh judgmental attitudes that made people feel guilty enough need to go to Confession every week?" As a general rule, anytime a person tries to justify their view with a vague appeal to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, it's usually wrong. In fact, this general rule applies not only to the teachings of the Vatican II, but to all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. If we want to know what the Church teaches about something, we should always first look to the Church herself and what she has officially taught (e.g., by consulting her Catechism), rather than allowing ourselves to be misled by potentially misinformed people or climates of opinion. In the case of a person referencing Vatican II, the only response that is usually necessary is to ask them, "Have you ever actually read the documents of Vatican II?" Nine times out of ten, the answer is, "Well, no..." (Sounds fair, right?). That being said, what did the Council teach about the Sacrament of Penance anyway? Here is a small sampling:
Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion (Lumen Gentium).
Pastors should [be] mindful of how much the sacrament of Penance contributes to developing the Christian life and, therefore, should always make themselves available to hear the confessions of the faithful (Christus Dominus).
In the spirit of Christ the Shepherd, [pastors] must prompt their people to confess their sins with a contrite heart in the sacrament of Penance, so that, mindful of his words "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mt 4:17), they are drawn closer to the Lord more and more each day (Presbyterorum Ordinis).
What is Sin?

Seeing that the Second Vatican Council certainly did not "do away" with Confession in any sense, nor seek to downplay it's importance, we are left to conclude that the decline in the practice of confession among Catholics today must be the result of one or both of the last two possible causes. The prevalence of pop-psychology in our culture, of "I'm okay, you're okay" thinking and best-seller lists full of "self-help" books, is evidence that the third explanation is true, almost without question. Also, there is a widespread attitude of moral relativism in our society, which has sadly become the default view taught in the majority of our children's schools, TV shows, and in all forms of the media, from news to entertainment. My father always says, "The only sins that people believe in today are 'hurting someone's feelings' and 'judging people.'" Our current president articulated this relativistic attitude quite well when, in a 2008 interview for the Chicago Sun Times, he was asked what his definition of "sin" was and answered, "Being out of alignment with my values." In other words, when he sins, Barack Obama is offending himself and his own subjective standards of morality, not the God who created him and the objective moral values and duties that we all encounter every day of our lives. Unfortunately, it seems as though many Americans, if not most, would agree with Obama's definition of sin.
What is Confession?

The most manifest cause for confession-box-absenteeism is the fourth one that I listed – confusion and misunderstanding about the nature and purpose of the sacrament. There are numerous questions raised by people who don't properly understand what the Church teaches about the Sacrament of Confession, including:

  • What is Confession exactly? 
  • Where is it taught in the Bible?
  • Why does the Church require it?
  • How can it possibly help me?
  • Why can't I just confess my sins directly to God instead of telling them to a priest?

The Sacrament of Confession, like all of the seven Sacraments that the Catholic Church offers, is an "...efficacious [sign] of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" (CCC 1131). So, if Confession was instituted by Christ, when did he institute it and where is that institution in the Bible? It is most clear in the Gospel of John, when Jesus first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:19-23).
"As the Father has sent me..." How did God the Father send Jesus? With "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Mt 28:18). "All authority" includes the authority to forgive sins. Remember the story about Jesus forgiving the paralytic?
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”––he then said to the paralytic––“Rise, take up your bed and go home" (Mt 9:1-7).
"If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." How would the apostles know which sins to forgive and which to retain unless people first confessed them? We never read about Jesus giving the apostles the power to read minds!

Sin Can Be Personal, But Never Private

The question still remains, why did Jesus institute this Sacrament in the first place? Why not let people just keep their sins between them and God? Saint Paul provides the insight needed to answer these questions:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor 12:12-13, 26).
"If one members suffers, all suffer together..." Is there any greater suffering than sin? No, which is why when we sin, we seriously damage not only our own soul and relationship with God, but the entire Body of Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, the priest is participating in the ministry of his bishop, who has inherited the authority given by Christ to the apostles to "forgive and retain" sins. When the priest grants a person absolution, he is not performing some action by his own power. Rather, he is serving as God's instrument to reconcile the person with Jesus Christ and his Body, the Church. The theology of this is clear when we read (or hear) the prayer of absolution:
God the Father of Mercies, through the Death and Resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Even though the priest says, "I absolve you of your sins," he does not do so by his own power or authority, which is why he also says, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The words, "In the name of" are equivalent to, "By the power/authority of." A modern example of this would be when a police officer yells at a fleeing criminal, "Stop in the name of the law!"

Just Following Orders Here!

Once we understand what sin is, how it affects us, and how it affects the entire Body of Christ, it is much easier to understand why Christ would leave us with the great gift that the Sacrament of Confession is, and why the Church in her wisdom would require all of her children to participate in that Sacrament at least once per year. The role of the Church is to nourish, teach, guide, and protect all of her members. To ignore the reality of sin, to downplay the power it has to damage individual souls and the overall health of the Body of Christ, would be a tragic form of neglect on the part of the Church. In offering the Sacrament of Confession to people, the Church is not undermining the role of Christ as Redeemer and Forgiver––she is obeying the command of Christ, who told his apostles to make disciples of all nations, "...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:20). Is Confession comfortable? No, but if surgery of the body isn't comfortable, why should surgery of the soul be any different? I suspect that, more than anything else, the primary cause of the decline in practice of confession is the modern and typically American ideal, which falsely believes that "I am completely independent and self-sufficient, and I don't need other people judging me or telling me how to live my life." However, as the saying goes, "No man is an island," and if we cannot forgive others when they offend us, how can we expect to God to forgive us when we offend Him? The prayer that Jesus gave us, the Our Father, contradicts this, asking God to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." In other words, we are God's standard for our own forgiveness.

Do You Come Here Often?

The reason why the line to confession is the one line that I enjoy waiting in is that, far from judging or thinking less of the other people in line with me, I greatly admire them! Nothing is more encouraging to me then to see my brothers and sisters in Christ striving in their faith, and being humble enough to admit your own sinfulness and brokenness is the first step to becoming a saint. Future saints make the best company! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. I'll leave you with this quote from a homily of one of my favorite priests, Father Mike Schmitz:
When we go to Confession, we're not telling God something He doesn't already know, or showing Him something He doesn't already see. We're giving Him something He doesn't already have––our broken heart.
Whether it's been a day, a month, two years, or twenty years since your last Confession, I hope this post has helped you to better understand what the Catholic Church teaches about this Sacrament, and if you have felt up to this point that Confession wasn't for you for any reason, I invite you to prayerfully reconsider. May God Bless you!

† Under the Mercy,
Chris Trummer


Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994. Print.

Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000. Print.

Catholic Church. “Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church: Christus Dominus.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Schmitz, Michael, Rev. "UMD Newman Catholic Campus Ministry." 2014. Podcast.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Your god is Too Boring

The above drawing depicts the scene at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, in which Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan Catholic priest, voluntarily took the place of a man sentenced to die in a starvation chamber. Why did he do it? Was he just a mindless, religious fanatic who had a silly belief that an "invisible man in the sky" would reward him for his sacrifice? Not hardly. Kolbe was an brilliant and well-educated man who had doctorate degrees in both philosophy and theology, and was fluent in several languages. He was also a master at utilizing the latest mass media tools of his time for the evangelization of the Catholic Faith. Like all of the Christian martyrs throughout history, Maximilian Kolbe had tapped into something real, something about which he had no doubts whatsoever. His faith underwent the ultimate test. C.S. Lewis summarized this test of faith in a brilliant way:
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief (A Grief Observed).
The Epidemic

One of the great tragedies of our time is a widespread epidemic of boredom. We moderns have filled virtually every second of our day with some form of entertainment or stimuli, and yet, when you look around at peoples' faces, what do you see? Bored, stressed, anxious, and dissatisfied looks. Why? Because the average person in our society has enough money and resources to make life safe, planned, and predictable, and therefore boring. As Peter Kreeft wrote:
The most total opposite of pleasure is not pain but boredom, for we are willing to risk pain to make a boring life interesting (Jesus Shock).
The title of this post, "Your God is Too Boring," comes from my observations about the hobbies, interests, and religious attitudes of many people I meet, especially my peers. The typical teenager or young adult in our society has the primary interests of following sports, watching TV shows, listening to music (not the music of Bach or Mozart), drinking/partying, and "hooking up" with members of the opposite sex. In contrast to the gospel invitation of Jesus Christ, all of these are sad and boring alternatives (I know from experience). Instead of encouraging people to get outside of themselves, inviting them take the exciting risk of giving their entire life to something bigger than themselves (which they deeply long for), all of these alternatives turn the person inward, trapping them in a prison of egotism, self-centeredness, and comparison. I say "Your God is too boring" to these people (not literally) because any amount of time spent outside of their mindset reveals it to be painfully dull. Take following professional sports for example (I understand that many people reading this are probably huge sports fans, but please hear me out). Following a sports team to such an extent that your happiness and mood on a given day is tied up with the success or failure of "your" team seems very foolish to me. Why should I ground my happiness in something that is completely outside of my control? How does a bad call made by some referee actually impact my life in any way whatsoever? It doesn't! How many people waste their lives away watching other people play sports instead of enjoying the sports themselves? The most fun that some people have is watching other people have fun.

Everybody Worships

Now, in what sense are these hobbies or interests "gods?" They are for the following reasons. Human beings are naturally inclined to worship something. Like thirsting for water, being hungry for food, or craving sleep, we all have an innate desire to worship, praise, and thank something or someone greater than ourselves. Anytime we don't choose God as the object of this desire, we immediately replace Him with some lesser object (By object I mean 'source of fulfillment,' not merely a 'thing'). As Kreeft wrote, “The opposite of theism is not atheism, but the worship of a false god!” Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Sin is building your identity and life on anything other than God." Saint Paul perhaps said it best of all in his letter to the Romans, referring to the pagans:
...although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! (Rm 1:21-22,25).
In light of this wisdom, we can see clearly that, especially in our modern society of rampant consumerism, there is not so much widespread secularism as there is widespread paganism. Instead of saints, we venerate actors, actresses, musicians, and athletes; instead of holiness and virtue, we aspire to success and material wealth; instead of cathedrals, we build stadiums; instead of cherishing the joy of the Christmas season, we cherish the deals of the Christmas season, instead of attending the Mass, we attend "the game." 

What Has Your god Done?

What can be said on behalf of these false gods? Your god sold the most albums in 2014, my God has sold the most book copies in the history of the world; your god created a Super Bowl winning team out of unlikely players, my God created a two-thousand-year-old Church out of a dozen uneducated fishermen; your god broke the record for home runs in a season, my God breaks the hardened hearts of all who seek Him; your god is your favorite food, my God gives Himself as food for me; your god wrote a New York Times best-seller, my God wrote the Laws of Nature; your god is responsible for the death of millions of innocent people, my God is responsible for the redemption of every person who ever lived and ever will live; your god denies the humanity of an unborn child, my God took on the humanity of an unborn child; your god founded the most profitable organization on the planet, my God founded the most charitable organization on the planet.

What Do You Seek?

If you're bored with God, then it's not God you're dealing with but caricature of your own creation or choosing. If you don't recognize Jesus Christ as the answer, then it's because you still haven't found the question. When Jesus met two of the disciples of John the Baptist, he asked them, "What do you seek?" (Jn 1:38). When they responded by asking him, "Teacher, where are you staying?" he answered, "Come and see" (1:38-39). Will you come and see the God who puts hymns on the lips of martyrs? Or will you be content to sacrifice all of your time and energy to the false gods of this world on the altar of your own comfort zone? Let us all resolve to make the one true God the center of our lives, and to "not be conformed this world but be transformed by the renewal of [our] minds" (Rom 12:2). Thank you for reading, and may God bless you!

Under the Mercy,
Chris Trummer


Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994. Print.