A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
Be Proud of Your Faith: You Never Know Who it Will Save
September 18, 2019
On a cloudy January day in 2007 a young man was walking along the Hudson River in New York.
“Is this what life is?” he kept asking himself.
The city he had moved to, that magical place where he thought he might “find himself,” could be so draining. The young man was single. Most of the fellowship he kept fell well short of wholesome company. He worked at a marketing company, under a boss who lied pathologically: lied to clients, lied to the man he called his “husband,” lied to those who worked above and beneath him, lied so routinely that he may well have lost his grip of reality. But the young man remained with the company. He was convinced that leaving, and risking a season of unemployment, would doom his future. So the young man did his boss’ bidding, and tolerated all the tantrums and abuse. He looked the other way whenever his boss engaged in unethical practices. The young man had learned just how spineless he could really be, and he hated himself for it. And no matter how much he drank at a bar on a given night, he still lacked character when he woke up in the morning with a hangover.
The young man had been raised as a Muslim. He had vowed to quit calling himself a Muslim back in March of 2006, and had far too many cringing memories to mull a return to Islam. He was drifting through the waters of life without a spiritual rudder. He was depressed, floating towards the whirlpool of despair. Being only 24 years old, the rest of his life seemed like an unbearably long time. Hurling himself into the Hudson River seemed like a pretty decent idea. And them a thought suddenly occurred to him: “born again.”
Born again? Who the hell had planted an idea like that into his head?
Though he still believed in a distant God, he operated with the assumption that practicing Christians, and all religious persons for that matter, were dimwits. The images drawn up in his mind of practicing Christians were of street preachers and fellow enthusiasts who oversimplified the world by categorizing all people into those “saved” by believing the same things as themselves, and the “unsaved” rest who were unwittingly marching toward hell. Practicing Christians made the young man think of nincompoops who bought cheesy Rapture novels and pseudo-religious self-help books like they were candy. Between having grown up in a southern state, and having gone to college in a midwestern state, the young man had occasionally come across enthusiasts. But even though he relished looking down (though he wasn’t very tall) on people he deemed “unsophisticated” with his smug smile, the idea of a fresh start had much appeal. Something most unexpected happened on that dreary winter day: the young man agreed to lend the Christian thing an open ear.
The young man went on to be baptized in a non-denominational church, and leave the marketing company on very hostile terms, later on that year. He later went on, with many influences including the works of G.K. Chesterton, to be confirmed in the Catholic Church in 2012.
That young man still lives today, in the temporal sense. And, in a far more profound sense which God alone can fully fathom, that young man died back in 2007, and his remnants have been slowly scattering into the wind in the years since. That young man was me…
“If the missionary says, in fact, that he is exceptional in being a Christian, and that the rest of the races and religions can be collectively classified as heathen, he is perfectly right. He may say it in quite the wrong spirit, in which case he is spiritually wrong. But in the cold light of philosophy and history, he is intellectually right. He may not be right minded, but he is right. He may not even have the right to be right, but he is right.” – from the Everlasting Man
I picked up a healthy distaste for political correctness while I was in college, at the University of Michigan of all places. Part of it had to do with having a somewhat contrarian streak. I have a tendency to disagree and figure out my “why” after. Part of it had to do with having really observed very intelligent young men and women being as docile as anyone else, hesitant to consider that an intelligentsia doesn’t always get it right. But much of it had to do with college being the years when I discovered my love for South Park. Don’t get me wrong: open-mindedness, consideration, and inclusivity are all wonderful things. But they cease to be wonderful when they are given such priority as to become stumbling blocks to speaking honestly. And these wonderful things can turn into dragons when they are calcified into an ideology, as Professor Jordan Peterson so often warns us of today.
In the years since my own conversion, my own distaste for PC has developed into nausea. My own journey from Islam to Christ and to His Church soundly rejects the notion that we absolutely must call all religions equals (unless, of course, we would prefer to call Christianity inferior) simply for the fact that they are all religions, and somebody somewhere will feign offense if we would say otherwise. There are qualitative differences between the faiths. No matter how nice a given person with a “coexist” bumper sticker may be, it remains the Christian faith alone which insists that the events most crucial for a person to fully understand the meaning of his or her life, namely Our Lord’s Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, were actual events. It remains the Christian faith that insists that we cannot save ourselves, that we need Our Redeemer.
Our Lord was crucified and rose from the dead. This is a true fact, just as the September 11 attacks are a true fact, regardless of whether the whole world or only a handful of people believes it to be true. It remains a true fact even while relativism has become fashionable, and appears to keep gaining ground.
One reason I especially hate political correctness is that it conditions men to be weak. It teaches Christian men that it is somehow “wrong” to be proud of who they are. Cowardice is not a virtue. Weaklings never have, and never will, have the power to push the world forward. It may well be that belligerence and aggression are almost always uncalled for. But belligerence is not the same as firmness. Aggression is not the same as assertion. I worry how all too many Catholics, and all too many fellow Christians, have allowed the world to push them into believing that their jobs and their livelihood, that their being accepted and loveable, are contingent on their docility in the face of a fashionable ideology. I worry that all too many Christians are being coerced into keeping their mouths shut as they rightfully hold reservations concerning abortion, the (non)definition of gender, same-sex “marriage,” and other causes that so-called “progressives” champion. I worry that all too many have agreed to live by the world’s insistence that faith has no proper place outside of the very strict privacy of the home. And in our day, as reports of dwindling numbers at the pews keep pouring in, I worry that all too many have silently gone along. All too many Catholic, and fellow Christian, men have agreed to be demasculinized.
The jobs we work vary. Our levels of education vary. Some of us are called to get married, and others are not. The art and entertainment and music that we enjoy varies. But the call to know Christ, to let Christ work through each of us, to even become a little Christ, is one of the only constants shared by the entire human family. The capacity to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon may be very rare, but everyone still has the capacity to do the most important things in this life. And all of the lesser things, that we often assign such great value to, only make sense in the greater context of Christ. Those of us who know this have the duty to share the Gospel with the way we live our lives, and, when the occasion arises, to share it with our words.
Imagine that there are a dozen spacecraft prepared to leave the earth. One has been built, and shall soon be hurled into space, with the assumption among its engineers that the energy equation is E=MC^2. The rest of the ships have been designed and built with the assumption that the energy equation is E=CM^5, or E=M^10, or E=M^3C^10…etc. If you must be hurled into space in one of these ships, which would you rather ride in? And if several of your friends, all of whom may be very nice people, have tickets to board other ships, is it truly loving to tell your friends that their ships are just as good in order to spare their hurt feelings? There is indeed a ship which guides men and women to eternity far better than all the others. Why should we allow the gravity of the world to make us too bashful to say so?
By the Grace of God, someone as arrogant and reluctant as myself came around to know this much. And even if shariah law’s prescribed punishment for apostates is death, even if I could potentially deal with risks if I ever were to gain a reputation for speaking the truth to Muslims, it still remains true, and it still remains my duty, just as it remains anyone else’s duty, to firmly speak the truth. The lives of so many saints are testimony that we begin to truly live when we find the truth worth dying for.
The young man who accepted his ticket to board the Christian ship, and later took the Catholic upgrade, already had a plethora of nominal Christian, including nominal Catholic, friends well before becoming a Christian himself. If any of these friends was religious, at least religious enough to allow Church teaching to influence them, they kept it to themselves. Perhaps they were being kind to their Muslim buddy. Down the line, when that young man was experiencing a dark night (actually it happened mostly during daytime) of the soul, it was the annoying words of anonymous enthusiasts, of people he had labeled as “nerds” back in high school and college, that did far more to remind that young man of Christ than all of the nothings from all of his buddies.
Many of those enthusiasts may have spoken in the wrong spirit, or in the wrong mind. But at least they were willing to speak. They were even willing to risk upsetting someone for speaking their convictions. They may have represented the Christian faith poorly by oversimplifying it. But at least they were willing to represent it. They did the most important work that anyone can do, to the best of their abilities, with a youthful disregard for the messages that so many in academia and Hollywood try to cram down people’s throats. They carried on amidst the discouragement that inevitably comes from so much rejection. I’m confident that at least some of them believed the false assumption, unfortunately common in some Evangelical communities, that Catholics are not Christians. But I would not have gone on to become a Catholic had they not encouraged me to become a Christian first. They boldly shared their faith, without ever having the satisfaction of watching me there and then drop to my knees, shouting “Hallelujah!” and I shall never have an opportunity to thank them for it unless we meet again in Heaven’s Halls. They were proud of their faith, and for that much I shall always admire them. I am living proof that transformations do indeed happen when Christians are proud of their faith.
Every Christian has every reason to be proud of Christ. And every Catholic has reason to be especially proud, though so many take the Church for granted. There are, of course, ten thousand reasons to start being proud of our Church. Our Church has remained a guiding light for 2,000 years. She has been the inspiration for so much of the greatest art and architecture, and many of the most profound thoughts, that the world has ever known (including, of course, the Exorcist). She has guarded the Gospel from countless heresies, and shall continue to do so until the end of time. She is led by the office handed to St. Peter by Christ Himself. Her teachings reveal to us countless saints to emulate, and who pray for us daily. She hallows our lives through the Sacraments. She teaches us to adore the Mother of God!
With so much to be proud of, does it make any sense to keep your faith to yourself to avoid being sneered at by the type of guy I was? Trust me, his smug opinion isn’t worth a dime!
I have, in the years since I took my first RCIA class, had the privilege of meeting many proud Catholics: missionaries, each in their own way. Some are priests. Most are lay Catholics. I’ve yet to meet one who has found the use for megaphones and placards as some of his or her Evangelical counterparts, but they have encouraged my own faith in their gentle manner. It is to my understanding that proud Catholics tend to gravitate toward such sites as the Catholic Gentleman. I hope that my own words, poor as they may be, can be of some encouragement to be proud of your Church. To keep living your faith, to remain steady as the world falls into snares of its own making, is the most important thing you can do with your life. By being bold enough to embrace your faith, willing to speak up for your faith even if a few family members or friends or co-workers might sneer at you for it, you may have already helped a stranger gain his or her soul, even if you’ll never know about it on this side of life. Troubles fall on us all: a person who rolls his eyes at you today may very well find well himself ready to give the Gospel an open ear tomorrow, or even some decades from now, and you, yes you, may have made the difference for him. You’ll just have to wait until you stand before God in Heaven’s Halls to know the full impact that your life has had. I know this because I was once a prodigal who would have rolled his eyes at you. All the gold in the world will never match the value of a single precious soul, and all of Heaven rejoices when a single soul returns to God. That is how important you really are.
Zubair Simonson, O.F.S., is a convert, and proud Catholic, who currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order. His written works include The Rose: A Meditation, a narrative guide through the rosary now available on Kindle. The story of his conversion, and admiration for G.K. Chesterton, can be read in the book My Name is Lazarus, published by the American Chesterton Society.
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