“The Christian must not be lukewarm. Revelations tells us that this is the greatest danger for a Christian: not that he says no, but a very tepid yes.” Benedict XVI, Opening of Synod of Bishops, 10/8/12
Debates will rage in the media during the coming months regarding the causes for the outcome of the national elections in the United States this week. After all is said and done, only one fact matters, those who call themselves Christians in this country have said a “very tepid yes” to the Christ who we profess to follow. According to the passage of Revelations that the Holy Father is citing, it would be much better for those who have said a tepid yes to have said ‘no’ to Christ’s call because, the Bible tells us, a tepid yes is so sickening to God that he promises to “vomit” the tepid-yesers out of his mouth.
Hard to miss the meaning of that Scripture. And yet, we do. Christians in this country live a convenient faith that inevitably chills to lukewarm. We don’t need statistics or polls to tell us that most people claim to believe in God but simultaneously see the the Ten Commandments as Ten Suggestions. Many “believers” tell me benignly (and condescendingly) that, “Yes, I too used to believe in a God who demanded things of me but now I’ve outgrown that childish belief and I know that God loves me no matter what I do.”
Translation: “I’ve re-made God into a molten calf and chosen to worship at that altar instead of the Commandments he gave me.” The calf that the Isrealites constructed in the desert was made of melted gold. The people led by Aaron, Moses’ brother, decided to create a calf-god because it was so much easier to worship something that was created by their own hands than Someone who had created them. We love the illusion that we can control what we create. We know instinctively that we cannot control what created us.
So we have created our current golden calf in the form of a lazy, somnolent, grandfather-god who lets us sleep with whomever we please, confine or kill whomever is inconvenient to us, spend our Sundays doing anything else but worshipping him, spend our money and our time in whatever manner tickles our latest fancies and object loudly and proudly whenever we are challenged on any of the above. This is not Christianity, this is the idolatry which violates the first and, Jesus said, the greatest Commandment.
Sin always pays its wages in death, Scripture tells us, so now the “chickens are coming home to roost,” to quote my grandmother. We are collectively appalled that suicide rates are increasing, that our government routinely lies to us and that we have become a nation of takers rather than givers. The real appalling truth is that we are unable to connect these facts to the fact that we have made peace long ago with the death of 4,000 children everyday, with the fact that children are not allowed to talk to (or about) God in our schools and that the needy among us should look to the government to help them rather than to us, the tepid-yes followers of Christ.
Pointing fingers at the other political party, at other races, at our religious leaders or other religions and on and on is a huge waste of time, which is something we are running out of quickly. There is plenty of blame for the mess in this country to go around. Anyone who wants to get to New York from Florida and realizes they are headed west, turns around and finds the road heading north. Of course they have the ‘freedom’ to continue going west but they will never end up at their destination.
So, as people who profess to follow Christ, each of us needs to look into our heart and decide what our real destination is. Each of us has already been given eternal life. We will all live forever. It’s just a matter of (short) time before our eternal destinations will be evident. Jesus told us, “From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” That is, what is in our hearts eventually results in our words and actions and laws. Realizing that the Ten Commandments are not Suggestions might be a good way to get on the right road again. It starts in the heart of each one of us.