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The time has finally come. Br. Tito and I are talking about Stranger Things on the podcast.

In general, we’re revisiting a topic I wrote about two years ago (when I first watched the show) about the power of nostalgia to evoke memory but also to distort our understanding of the past. Why do we love nostalgia so much, but how might it be a bit dangerous?

 

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Longtime followers of Breaking in the Habit will know that the relationship between science and religion is an important topic for me. While I have never considered myself a “scientist,” I have always had a great interest in the knowledge that it shares. If everything is created by God and God gave us the ability to reason, then studying the word empirically (with our senses) cannot contradict or undermine anything that we believe by faith, it can only make our faith stronger.

Unfortunately, scientific literacy is not very high among Christians. Time and again I hear faithful and well-meaning people share an understanding of a scientific concept that is completely incorrect, exhibit apprehension towards scientific inquiry, or outright reject it as a field worth studying. Even among some of our Church leaders, those with graduate degrees in Theology, given great authority over others, I am often disappointed in the misunderstandings of science that influence their decisions.

While Catholicism in Focus is a show focused on theology, its scope must at times include historical, literary, and yes, even scientific topics. Not being a science teacher myself (or particularly all that trained in the field!) I cannot speak intelligently on many issues or with great depth, but it is my hope to help raise the bar a bit with some basic overviews (and to provide links to scientific explanations far better than mine.)

In the past, I’ve talked about the common myth we all accept of Galileo as well as the Big Bang Theory, and today, I present a video on the topic of evolution.

Today, I have more than 21000 subscribers on YouTube. When I make a video, it instantly gets hits, comments, hate mail, and praise. I can count on at least 1000 views in the first day, with some popular videos getting to five digits by the end of the week. It’s encouraging, honestly, to know that the amount of work I’m doing is paying off.

And so I had this idea: let’s start a new channel with a different focus. Rather than evangelizing and catechizing, let’s talk about how we do this effectively. I’ll give my advice on video-making, show how to do certain things, interact with new creators, and help spread the wealth. It’ll be great. Sure, it will take a little while to get going, but it’s not like me starting out five years ago. I already have a base, higher skill set. This will be great.

Right.

As of typing this post, the above video has been live for 24 hours. It has 57 views. That… is underwhelming. It’s not anything close to what I’ve come to expect, and for the past five weeks, it’s been a bit frustrating. Given the amount of working I’m doing, I should be more successful.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe I deserve that. But there’s also the possibility that I’m being unfair, impatient, and most importantly, focusing on the wrong things. Success does not just happen, and more importantly, there are many ways to gauge success. What I’m doing here is not the most popular of endeavors. It doesn’t apply to all people. In fact, I bet that the vast majority of you reading this have no interest whatsoever in learning how to make interesting Christian content, hearing me give advice about “sticking to what you know,” or being advised that “your camera doesn’t matter” because you might not even own a camera. To look solely at numbers, especially at the very beginning, is neither healthy nor helpful, and all it does for creators is inflate egos or stifle their work.

There is more to success than numbers.

The reason I share this is because I think it’s great advice for anything we do. There is quantitative success and there is qualitative success. When I look at the Breaking In The Habit channel and it’s much greater volume, it can be tempting to equate numbers with success; it can be tempting to think that popularity is the same thing as effectiveness. As ministers and evangelizers, as those who have left everything behind to follow Jesus, numbers are only ever part of the story, and not necessarily the most important part. It doesn’t matter if it’s the number of people who show up to our events, the amount we receive in the collection, or hits on a video, quantity can never be our sole measure of success; in this “business,” we’re about changing lives and promoting conversions of heart.

So, I tell myself and I share with you, don’t get down if things don’t seem to work out immediately. Don’t let the fact that only six people showed up on the first night discourage you from trying again. You have no idea how those six people were changed because of it. There are always ways to learn and there are definitely things that can be done to improve the numbers, but in themselves, numbers do much more to get us down than to offer true feedback. Keep on keeping on, and the numbers will come.

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 conservative.”

“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.

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After many long and perilous struggles, the prince rides in on his horse, saves the princess from her plight, and they ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. The end.

Sound familiar? For many a Disney fan, this is what is to be expected at the end of a movie. The “happily ever after” trope. Admittedly, it’s a great one. Who doesn’t like a happy ending? There is something inside of us that wants justice, wants love to win, wants there to be order to the world. When the prince and princess ride off into the sunset, it gives us hope that the end of our story will be happy as well.

On the other hand… it’s also a load of ____. That’s not the way the world works, is it? Any married couple who has ever lived will tell you that life does not get magically easy after the wedding. Anyone who has ever been baptized will tell you that temptation and sin still exist on the other side of the font. In this life, there is no such thing as “happily ever after.”

And as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad their isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that this trope is wonderful in that it provides hope for the future and even gives us a glimpse of what heaven might look like, a world in which there is nothing but joy and love for the Lord. But in our regular, this-world relationships, I know that it is an unfair expectation, and that conflict, believe it or not, can actually make people grow stronger in love. The honeymoon might be the most “magical” time for a couple, but it is also the most superficial time. With time, struggle, and “real life,” love can be actualized in new ways.

That is this week’s topic of discussion on Everyday Liminality. Brother Tito and I, two celibate men, discuss the idea of living happily ever after, talk about our favorite romantic comedies, and even give some marriage advice. What could go wrong?