Bites of conversation suggested Millennials see religion as a form of brainwashing, a nod to the collective efforts to create individuals who can think freely and honestly and create a world of mutual respect that elevates democracy, enables innovation and expands possibilities for improving the world. The truth of that is present in the ways that religion and its tenets are scrutinized, how its history is examined and its cruelties exposed; students have questioned, investigated, evaluated and decided.
Forgotten was the distinction between faith and institution, the possibility that ethics and choices can be guided by something greater than what is simply legal. The idea that a collective culture of belief can exist and be shared without inequity, cruelty or purposeful subjugation or deprivation has been lost. And most of all, the sense of empowerment of the individual has dominated an understanding of the whole. The irony of all is that, for those who cling to faith, Christ is present in all.
“…Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11
Faith is that persistent sense that there is something more, something greater than self and something that somehow connects each of us to the others, something that transcends differences and invites each of us to be better than we were before. Faith is not dismissive of culture or tradition; it is not self-righteous or unjust. Faith opens human understanding to the dynamics of humanity itself and the overwhelming demands of human interaction. Most importantly, faith admits human frailty and failure, discards the concept of perfection. Perfection can be ascribed to that Other, to that Portal that carries the richness of human hope and ideals throughout the life journey.
Catholicism has a long history of housing all the elements of humanity: there was corruption, fraud, battles for power and abuse of power. There was also, woven together like wheat among weeds, goodness, leadership, kindness and joy. For all the ignorance and cruelty, there were heros and ordinary men and women who knew the strength of goodness and the grace of becoming. That is the element of fidelity to faith and clinging to the reality of Christ all and in all. It defies the ugliness of religious practice, its extortions of humanity. It celebrates the best of who humans are and can be while knowing the dangers and hurts caused by human failures or rigidity in interpretations of religion.
The pervasive presence of Christ does not diminish other persons or traditions. Instead, that presence offers the comfort and calm that is beyond anxieties and fears. It does not supersede scientific insight or the rhythm of hope that pulsates through humanity. It definitely challenges behaviors and choices that are diminishing to others or that are motivated by greed, selfishness or malicious intent. Most importantly, the presence of Christ intimates that support is there in the moments of trial that life inevitably presents.
There is a hearbreaking truth that each human being lives in his or her time. That enables us to label the errors of the past, tp re-align the chances for the future. Our time has called for more honesty and strength and consistency from all religious insitutions and from the practice of religion. The rejection of relgious institutions, though, does not necessarily mean that faith cannot be. The flames of faith may be embers at this moment, but options and choices are what can fan that into fire for a new generation.