Friday, March 21, 2014

"Living inside-out"

In Living Inside-Out" Wesley J. Smith describes an ancient approach to living in society the re-discovery of which has allowed him to live more contentedly:
I am growing weary of the continual complaints from traditionalist Christians about current trends in Western culture. ....

...[H]asn’t the time come for us to suck it up? Consider the much worse cultural milieu in which the early Church existed. The Roman Empire’s values were entirely antithetical to Christian ethics and belief. The official state religion was polytheistic. Meat served at feasts was dedicated to idols. As to the sanctity of human life: Slaves were tortured and crucified at the will of owners. Under the law of paterfamilias, unwanted children could be exposed or sold into slavery. Gladiators at public “games” butchered each other to satisfy the bloodlust of the crowd.

But did the early Christians whine about it? No—they witnessed against it by the way they lived. Indeed, St. Paul instructed—in words increasingly relevant to our age—that Christians should not judge those outside the Church while continuing to interact with general society even though most live by fundamentally different moral values. Otherwise, he wrote, believers “would need to go out of the world.”

We must live “in, but not of, the world”....

Rather than permit ourselves to be defined by difficult times—what (talk show host and comedian, Dennis Miller) calls “living from the outside-in”—he continually urges listeners to instead, “live from the inside-out.”

What does he mean? Don’t sweat the general culture’s disapproval. Don’t look “outside” ourselves for personal validation. In short, don’t allow our personal joie de vivre to depend on the outcome of elections, court rulings, media fairness, or what others think, believe, or do. ....

This isn’t surrender. Nor is it political or cultural disengagement. We owe Caesar what is his. In our free society, that means participating in the public square, making our views known, voting—and too often of late, gritting our teeth and bearing it when things slide in the wrong direction. .... [more]