During the past few days I seem to have spent an unconscionable amount of time dealing with various kinds of negativity. I daresay some of the choices I’ve made have been wrong. Sometimes engaging with someone who is determined to be nasty about the pope, say, or members of a political party, is a sheer waste of time. When we want to be angry we are not usually very interested in being fair, and it shows, my goodness, how it shows! The attitudes we adopt, the language we use, the very look on our faces, give us away. I sometimes think that if we really could see ourselves as others see us, we would tremble.
The Christian Community
Most of the time the Christian community, if I may call it that, is kind, welcoming, respectful of the other, ready to forgive. We take these things so much for granted that we only remark on them when they are absent. As one outraged Muslim acquaintance said to me once, ‘You’re Christians. You are meant to forgive!’ He was right, but it was uncomfortable being reminded of that fact when I was feeling anything but forgiving myself after a particularly hideous attack on people I knew, including some very young children. Even the best of us can give ourselves away without realising it when we become engrossed in a social media discussion. I have been surprised (I hope that is a neutral enough word) at the way in which some Anglican friends have written of Catholics and the Catholic Church on Facebook recently. They are still friends, but I feel a little more wary than I did because I have registered an undercurrent of hostility I didn’t think existed. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. Catholics can be just as unpleasant.I myself try to avoid commenting on matters affecting other Churches as I am aware I’ll probably use the wrong language or get the tone wrong. Not everyone does, or needs to, feel so constrained, which is probably overall a good thing.
G2o Summit and COP26
The G20 summit and COP26 will attract a lot of comment, some of it hostile, at the involvement of the Churches. For a Benedictine, reverence for the environment and concern for the poor are a given. Pope Francis’s concern for the way in which we care for the earth and its peoples is not new and has been articulated through years of Catholic Social teaching. Unfortunately, some of his most bitter critics claim to be Catholic themselves, more orthodox than he is, more certain that God thinks as they do. I am inclined to show myself a very old-fashioned Catholic by saying that sins of intellectual and spiritual pride are as real as they have always been. Ignorance is just as widespread, and the consequences just as dire.
Perhaps we can rescue something from all this that isn’t negative. We have been hearing a lot about the metaverse recently. Facebook has even re-branded its parent company Meta. May I be really old-school and assert that the most important form of ‘meta-ness’ is metanoia, a complete change of heart that may well require a major shift in direction. If we embrace that kind of God-inspired change, we will learn what it really means to give ourselves away, and it will be a positive, not negative, experience, benefitting the whole human race.