On Going Hard

[ 15 ] May 21, AD 2012 |

There is an underlying theme in the word of God that might be considered shocking: Go Hard. All Out. Go Big or Go Home. The greatest offense a man can make against the Lord is not some grave evil, but some grave lukewarmness — a thing neither good nor evil, but full of weakness and evasion. The paradox is troubling, but have it nonetheless: God would prefer you a Nietzsche, Genghis Khan or a Vlad the Impaler than a Unitarian.

This divine disdain for the kinda-good-kinda-bad is apparent in Scripture: “Because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” And I think that part of the reason the fatted calf was never killed for the son-who-stayed-home was not only because he was never lost, but he never risked being lost. But this leaves a question for God. Why?

Why is it better to be evil than half-hearted? Why is it the lukewarm you spit out of your mouth? Is it not those frozen to you that are most offensive? Why would you have us be all-out sinners rather than uncommitted flip-floppers? Because it seems that the lukewarm – at the very least – don’t do as much harm? Unitarians have killed fewer people right?

Here’s what I think, take from it what you will: Being evil acknowledges God. You can’t actively and intentionally go against the will of God unless you know the will of God. To put it another way, the very act of intentional sinning admits that you are a sinner, and this, my friends, is something God wants very much.

Thus saying, “I know it’s wrong but I’m going to do it anyways,” while it may very well lead a man to hell, might just as well lead him to conversion. Avoiding lukewarmness in sin leaves room for God. It admits his majesty while defying it. It sets an ultimatum. It declares war against God — and our God is very good at winning wars.

Compare that sin with the wannabe sinners that we tend to be. When we are faced with the choice to sin we don’t very often say “I know God wants me to do otherwise, but I don’t care, I’m doing this…” or “I know there is objective morality, and don’t give a damn about it…” No, we justify our sins. We become the grand arbiters of our own morality.

This cuts God out of the equation. We don’t set ourselves at opposition with God, we become gods. We say things like “I was forced into this situation…” or “Well if you’d have been there you would have done the same thing…” or my personal favorite “The woman made me do it!” ( I actually use this a lot: 20 miles over the limit, officer? The woman made me do it.)

How can we open to conversion if our very sin, our very rebellion, is a denial of sin and rebellion? In his masterpiece Heretics, Chesterton faults modern day heretics for not believing in their own heresy, for having a snarky sort of “oh-aren’t-I-so-heretical” attitude, not the old-school “I’m-right-and-everyone-else-is-wrong” heresy. The same can be said of sin. Our very sin is very weak.

Do you think St. Paul would have been knocked off his horse if his motto had been, “Well I have my morality and everyone else has their own, and I’m just practicing mine.” Do you think Francis Collins might have converted at the sight of a waterfall if his atheism had been lukewarm? If you didn’t click on my oh-so-tantalizing link to Vlad the Impaler, do. The truth that Frank Weathers lightly touches on is that it is much more likely and sensible that Dracula would accept Christ and convert then that Nancy Pelosi ever will. The difference between them is certainly not their physical appearance, it is that one went hard, while the other stayed lukewarm.

As we speak, our culture is in danger of being spat out of the mouth of God. If we acted like real human beings and not justification-robots, we would say “it’s alright to kill babies for convenience.” How I wish we would be honest like this! How I wish we would go hard in our sin, and kill babies with guns. But we have nothing but weakness in our taste for murder. We wash our hands, call the baby a non-person (that elusive and ever-evolving definition), and feel good about killing said non-person halfway out of the womb, etc. etc. We – by our cowardice – block out the chance for a conversion. If abortions were performed by guillotine there would be hope for revolution, hope for outrage. But abortions are performed by a potent relativism and deadly evasion. So yes, Unitarianism and all it entails has killed many more people than those going hard in their sin.

Now I’m not advocating the practice of all-out evil. I am advocating that, when we are going to sin, we be as honest with ourselves as any other time. I think, I hope and I pray that this practice will make it much more difficult to sin. For us Catholics, there’s something about saying “I’m actively opposing God and inviting his wrath into my life” that makes doing that with that girl/guy seem less appealing.

So there you are. In all things go hard. In all things be strong. God is saying, “Look, I give you these commandments, I give you this Church, I give you these things to live for. Accept them or reject them, but whatever you do, go hard.”


[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Marc-Barnes-e1313151100231.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marc Barnes is 18 years old, and a freshman at Franciscan University. He loves indie rock, black coffee, Southern literature and Catholicism, and blogs regularly at Bad Catholic. He writes with a strong desire to reach a state of financial security, so he can marry a pretty girl he likes.[/author_info] [/author]

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  • http://listeningfortheshepherd.blogspot.com/ Thomas

    Excellent post! He who says “I have sinned and I’m not sorry” at least ackowledges reality. Let’s call a spade a spade.

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  • Edmund Mitchell

    This is great. I heard a rumor that Martin Luther was know for saying “Sin boldly”.

  • http://www.crazystable.squarespace.com Brenda from Flatbush

    Poor Unitarians!!! (wiping eyes after laughing) (because it’s true)

  • Gail Finke

    I just finished Graham Green’s book “Brighton Rock,” which is about this very thing. There are three main characters: a bad Catholic (murderer, gangster, sadist), the good Catholic girl who falls for him, and the woman who investigates a murder by the bad Catholic on her own because she is “for right and wrong.” Part of the point of the book is that both the good and the bad Catholic are better than the lukewarm woman who solves the crime for the fun of it. It’s a shocking idea, really, and Greene does not pull any punches with Pinkie, the 17-year-old gangster who enjoys killing people. But the bad guy is a corruption of the good. The woman — despite solving the crime and saving a life — is “nothing.” It’s not a very nice thing to say, and how can you prefer the awful gangster to her? But she has no soul, and the other two do. It’s very shocking in a very Catholic way.

  • http://michelle-endlessstrength.blogspot.com Michelle

    You rock. That is all. :) Great post.

  • Jay E.

    I saw the title and guessed immediately that you had written this post, and lo and behold… Nice points. :D

  • Mary

    All or Nothing (I remember St. Therese the Little Flower having this theme)….none of this half ass devotion I see all around me…we are great Catholics, even though we skip mass to play sports & sleep in…
    This lukewarmness is what Our Blessed Mother warned of in many of her apparitions. She wants us to be ON FIRE for the love of Christ & our Church!

  • Robert Homan

    Seems like a lot of Flannery O’Connor in this sentiment… Just finished Wise Blood and I think it’s a weird, crazy, profound, radical shot against this sort of “lukewarmness”.

  • http://rujutax.blogspot.in/ RX

    Wonderful posts. Great insights. And the reference to the elder son, was a good explanation too, I now see it in a whole new light.

    Alas! I will now how to abandon my lukewarm ways and my rantings of ‘Well, at least I am not as bad as so and so…’

  • Luke T.

    Good article.
    The classic lukewarm person is in Jesus’ parable of the talents. You know, the one who buries his talent in the ground…takes no risks, doesn’t live life to the fullest.

  • Luke T.

    However, a zealous Unitarian will fare better than a lukewarm Catholic…I think…a lukewarm ANYTHING will fare better than the lukewarm Catholic!

  • JoFro

    When I become evil overlord of Planet Earth, you Mr Barnes shall be designated as “Bastard who pricks my conscience everyday” – expect to die like Sir Thomas More :D

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  • http://www.thecurmudgeonlycatholic.com Ol’ Uncle Lar

    I am in awe of the depth and breadth existing in someone of your tender years. It gives an old curmudgeon like me hope for the coming generation of Catholics. Keep up the great work and keep striving to undo the hairball we children of the 60′s dumped on the Church.