One of the hardest things in the world is maintaining faith when other Christians, especially Christians you admire or look up to, let you down.
I have friends who have struggled with real despair. I hear from converts wondering if they made a mistake joining the Church. I hear from rape survivors traumatized by Christians making “it’s just a joke” excuses when politicians boast of sexual assault. I hear from Christians of color who wonder if there is a place for them in a Church with members who say insulting things about them “going back where they came from.”
One of them wrote me asking, “How do I go to church after reading posts by fellow members that are so fake. It’s repulsive.”
This was my reply:
We are living in a time of what ancient Christians called “white martyrdom” (as distinct from the messier red martyrdom involving blood). White martyrdom means putting up with the anguish of this kind of crap. It’s real suffering (and something Jesus had to endure as he watched his disciples chicken out, deny him, and fight for the top of the heap of worldly power). Your sufferings are not meaningless. They are a real share in the cross and we can offer them for the healing and redemption of the Church. It will not last forever, and a day will come when he purifies his Bride and she shines again.
As to the scandal of Christians making defenses of indefensible things. Remember that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, not any of us jackasses. It’s not that there are some sinners there. It’s that there are nothing but sinners there. There’s also nothing but sinners everywhere else. So there is no escape from it by bugging out. Instead, we face up to the fact that there really was a reason our redemption required that sacrifice and not simply a slap on the wrist. Will Smith remarked recently that racism isn’t increasing, it’s just getting filmed now. In the same way, sin is not increasing, it’s just getting exposed. It was that disgusting thing Our Lord died and rose to destroy. That’s why he picked a shuffler, a coward, and a snob like Peter upon which to found his Church. We are all like that. Every one of us. So the paradox is, you must not despair. If he can save men who knew who he was and still left him to be flogged and crucified instead of doing the right thing, he can save all those horrible people you are seeing on line and at Church. And he can save you when you do something you can’t forgive yourself for.
Whereto serves mercy but to confront the visage of offense?
Have mercy on them. They know not what they do.