Where do we stand…on anything? Where is our “line in the sand”? Do we have one? For anything?
For everyone, at some point, there is a moment of decision and that point will often be dictated to us by a number of factors – family, culture, group, nation. Whatever these are we can recognize them in our limits – our tolerance – for what we find around us. An example from a past situation for me was a time in Zambia while teaching at a mission school. I discovered that the boys would frequently beat the girls if they did not do what they wanted. My reaction was swift and included my personal outrage. I had the offending boys out of the classroom and to the headmaster for punishment. The result was surprise from the girls who hadn’t been championed before and consternation from the headmaster having never had a teacher take offence at this before; and a shock to the boys.
My line in the sand was based on a cultural reference from the society I grew up in where this sort of behaviour was not acceptable. My classroom had become a microcosm of my own life and values. I sailed through other cultures with these values and seem to run against the prevailing culture around me.
In our own western culture we will happily follow along with the prevailing ideas and norms, and even come to accept those that are pushed at us in advertising, even when it should be questioned. We may have to face being labelled for not going along with society. But if our convictions are strong enough we may be able to help others with gentle persuasion and information to help them understand the position taken. If we do not have these limits or positions of one sort or another, then the ever shifting moral code in our society becomes the measuring stick. And this is not a standard a disciple of the Master can have. Situational ethics have seen the post Second World War world happily accept many things promoted by the Nazi party and even to have enshrined it into national legislation today (abortion, euthanasia, eugenics).
I firmly believe what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Many don’t like my saying that, and many still find it too extreme, even among soft Catholics. These are not simply my own beliefs and convictions, but those that have been believed for 2000 years by the Church. In one parish I was recently “thanked” for service but informed that what I followed was a set of firmly held convictions, as if these were my own personal convictions and not those of the Church. And that those who were in the parish were their own proud faith community, somehow different from Apostolic Tradition and Biblical teaching. I refused this same parish permission for the “Women’s InterChurch Council” from having a prayer service at which they would take up collections for their work. I pointed out that this group collects money for groups and organizations who support and fund abortions. In a letter of complaint to the bishop I was accused of being un-ecumenical. However, I will not sacrifice the unborn on the altar of ecumenism!
Where do we stand? or do we stand at all? Each of us has to make these choices and face the consequences. And we need to have these lines in the sand. If not we are like leaves blowing in the wind and not having a solid attachment to anything. St Paul warned of this in his second letter to Timothy. Many will fall away listening to false doctrines and teachers. Ideas will abound and society will seek to please itself and not God, “having itchy ears” (2 Tim 4, 1-8).
We can be tolerant without having to adopt or accept the ideas of others. We are not expected, as Christians to accept false doctrines and the falsehood contained therein. And just because a government makes something legal in many jurisdictions (Sunday shopping, abortion, euthanasia, gay “marriage”) does not make it morally acceptable.
When we stop listening to the admonitions of St Paul in his letters then we will instead listen to the voice of seduction of the world. Be firm in the faith. The morals and values of the World are simply shifting sand. No one who follows Christ can stand there, but rather needs to draw a line there and be firm.