While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. (1 Cor 3:3-5)
It appears that the people of Corinth caused St. Paul many problems. Besides their abuse of the Eucharist, incest, and issues over idols, one of the things that St. Paul had to address was the growing factions within the Church. Forgetting that the person that they were baptized into was far more important than the one performed the baptism, they fought and divided themselves into smaller churches, over and against each other.
At the heart of it all, that is what I want to address in today’s video. Too often in our Church (and in our world) we let secondary identities define us. More than just preferences in politics, style of worship, and social life, we begin to label ourselves (and others), identifying with a group over and against the whole.
“I’m a progressive Catholic.”
“I’m a trad.”
Two thousand years later, we find ourselves back in Corinth, unnecessarily dividing our Church into factions, grouping people together, and claiming our superiority over others.
This cannot be the way with us. If the world wants to group all “those” people together, wants to diminish the diversity of opinions within a given school and dismiss everyone at once, then that’s what the world will do. But we are called to something more. We are called to break through the overgeneralized labels that keep people apart, that make us focus on issues that do not matter while ignoring the ones that do, that make us believe we have more enemies that we actually do.
In reading the early comments on the video, I couldn’t help but be disheartened by some of the responses. One person wrote, “This is what the liberals do. They infiltrate our Church to bring it down.” Another said that anyone who voted for the president was a terrible person and couldn’t be a real Catholic. I was attacked by one commenter for this “liberal propaganda” I was sharing. One person even asked whether I was liberal or conservative myself (completely missing the point of the video) and got angry when I told him that I don’t use those words because they fail to encapsulate who I actually am.
It seems that our factions run deep. It seems that there might be some truth to the idea that we are trapped in our ideologies, that we want to be able to put people into nice and neat boxes, that our conservatism, liberalism, traditionalism, vegetarianism, or any other -ism has the ability to cloud our Christianity. Rather than remain open to seeing the other person as a person, open to the idea that they are a complex human being with a diversity of opinions and experiences, many resort immediately to labels, assumptions, and judgments.
It has to stop. There is no place for this in our Church. There is no place for this in Christ.