Not Going Native

On the whole, I like being an American: which is just as well, since being a good citizen is part of being a Catholic. (July 24, 2016)

So — as long as I follow my culture’s laws and customs, I’m okay; right?

It’s not that simple.

For starter’s there’s that ‘in the world but not of the world’ thing. The idea shows up in John 15:1819 and 17:1416, and Romans 12:2.

Joining a cloistered outfit like the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists) is an option: they’re part of the Benedictine family, contemplative monks and nuns.

Their website,, gives a pretty good look at who they are and what they do. The FAQ page is a pretty good place to start; no pressure, of course.

But it didn’t take months of prayerful discernment for me to know that signing up as a monk isn’t my vocation. I realized that getting married and raising a family was what I wanted long before I became a Catholic.

When Catholics who speak my version of English something like “please pray for vocations,” they mean “please pray that young adults will decide try out for monastic life or the clergy.” Clergy and holy orders are vocations: but so is being married, or single. Everybody’s got a vocation.

VOCATION: The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness (1, 358, 1700). Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness (825). The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will (898). Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 873; 931).”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

I’m in the laity, so part of my job is “…engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will….” (Catechism, 898)

Love, Not the Status Quo

That doesn’t mean trying to drag America back to the ‘good old days’ before 1954, or 1848, or some other bygone day.

I can’t accept the status quo, either. I’ll get back to that.

The Catholic Church is catholic: καθολικός, universal, not tied to one era or one culture.

We’ve been passing along the same message for two millennia: God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (Ephesians 1:35; John 3:17; Catechism, 52, 1825)

That’s why Jesus, the Son of God, became one of us, died on Golgotha, and then stopped being dead. (Catechism, 430655, 2669)

There’s more to my faith, of course.

I should love God, love my neighbor, see everybody as my neighbor, and treat others as I’d like to be treated. (Matthew 5:4344, 7:12, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

Acting as if God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and what Our Lord taught — matter is what applying God’s will to temporal affairs is about. (July 27, 2014)

The Nicene Creed is a pretty good summary of our faith. “…We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” — but this isn’t a “pie in the sky by and bye” faith.

Crime and/or Evil

As one of ‘those crazy kids,’ I enjoyed the campy humor of Chickenman’s radio adventures.

The fantastic fowl’s comedic battle against “crime and/or evil” contained a (tiny) element of truth.

Sometimes what’s legal is not right.

If I thought the perfect society existed in 1st century Rome, or American suburbia in the 1950s, I’d be doing what I can to restore that way of life.

But like I keep saying, we haven’t had a golden age.

We don’t have a truly just society today, either, so accepting the status quo isn’t an option.

I’m supposed to be a good citizen here in America: contributing “…to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom….” (Catechism, 2239)

But as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “…our citizenship is in heaven….” (Philippians 3:20)

As a Catholic, I must submit to the authority of whoever runs the territory I’m in: unless doing what they say would violate the ‘love God, love your neighbor, everyone’s your neighbor’ principle. (Catechism, 2239, 2242)

That’s what got Thomas More and John Fisher killed. Their king wanted a male heir, understandably.

He wasn’t having any luck with his wife, so he told Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage. The Pope wouldn’t, so Henry VIII of England set up a state church, with Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Thomas More and John Fisher wouldn’t play along, so they were convicted of treason and killed. Quite a few wives, executions, and pillaged monasteries, later — Henry died. To his credit, by that time he had a legitimate son.

That got messy about six years later: and yes, this is a huge oversimplification.

Legal, but Not Right

Where was I? Trappist monks, Chickenman, Henry VIII. Right.

I’d have to refuse an order to commit genocide, for example, even if the full authority of the United States Congress and Supreme Court was behind it. (Catechism, 2313)

Even the most strident anti-immigrant American politicos have stopped short of campaigning for genocide, though: happily.

On the other hand, back in in 1927 the U.S. Supreme Court okayed a state’s right to remove “defectives” from the gene pool. Eugenics was quite popular — among ‘superior’ folks, at any rate.

I’m no fan of genocide or eugenics, partly because many of my ancestors are of an ‘inferior race,’ I’m rather close to being Lebensunwertes Leben, and that’s several more topics.

Seeing what state-sponsored eugenic programs did dampened enthusiasm after World War II, but forced sterilizations for “therapeutic” reasons, or as a punishment, still happen in my country.

Since the 1960s and 1980s, killing innocent people has been decriminalized in quite a few states: as long as it’s done when they’re under an arbitrary age; or are sick enough.

I think this is wrong. More to the point, the Church says it’s not right — because human life is sacred and murder is wrong, even if it’s legal. (Catechism, 2258, 22702279)

“Two Coats of Paint,” Truth, and Money

‘Going native,’1 adopting the lifestyle of the locals, is easy: but it’s not necessarily a good idea.

Pope Francis talked about that sort of thing:

“…In essence, Francis explained, they are ‘worldly Christians, Christians in name, with two or three Christian attributes, but nothing more’. They are ‘pagan Christians’. The have ‘a Christian name, but a pagan life’ or, to put it another way, ‘pagans painted with two coats of Christianity: thus they appear as Christians, but they are pagans’….”
(Two coats of Paint,” Pope Francis, Morning Meditation in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae (November 7, 2014) via L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly edition in English, n. 46, (November 14, 2014))

It’s not ‘those people over there.’ Anybody can slide away from Truth. The trick is paying attention to what’s important:

“…The signs to understand what we are moving toward, the Pope said, ‘are in your heart: if you love and are attached to money, to vanity and pride, you are on that bad path; if you seek to love God, to serve others, if you are gentle, if you are humble, if you serve others, you are on the good path’. And thus, ‘your identity card is good: it’s from Heaven’. The other, however, is ‘a citizenship that will bring you harm’….”
(Two coats of Paint,” Pope Francis, Morning Meditation in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae (November 7, 2014)…)

One more thing — money is okay. It’s love of money that gets us in trouble. (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5; Catechism, 2544)

Humility isn’t delusion, it’s accepting reality; and I’m drifting off-topic again.

Taking Love Seriously

Going with the flow, even if it’s wrong, isn’t an option. Neither is desperately clinging to the way things were: or the way I’d like things to have been.

Both are a ‘two coats of paint’ superficial Christianity: different colors, but the same lack of depth.

My “identity card” is, or should be, from Heaven. But I’m not there yet; and if I take loving my neighbors, all my neighbors, seriously — social justice is a priority.

That doesn’t mean forcing everyone into one cultural mold, or insisting one ‘correct’ form of government. We’re not supposed to be all alike. (Catechism, 1901, 18971917, 19281942)

I’m just one man living in central Minnesota: so I don’t expect to end world hunger, broker a lasting peace in the Middle East, and cure the common cold.

I can, however, act as if God matters and work at conforming my will to God’s.

I can also suggest that we all work with what we have, doing what we can to correct what is unjust and support what is right. (Catechism, 19361938, 24012449)

I think we can build a better world. I am sure that we must try.

It won’t be easy. As someone2 said, “humans are allergic to change.” And that’s yet another topic.


Somewhat-related posts:

1 I haven’t run into the term “going native” for quite a while:

go native (of a settler) to adopt the lifestyle of the local population, esp when it appears less civilized”
(the Free Online Dictionary)

Go native is an expression meaning ‘to adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants’.”

“to go native (third-person singular simple present goes native, present participle going native, simple past went native, past participle gone native)

  1. (idiomatic) To adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants, especially when dwelling in a colonial region; to become less refined under the influence of a less cultured, more primitive, or simpler social environment.
  2. (idiomatic) Of a contractor or consultant, to begin working directly as an employee for a company and cease to work through a contracting firm or agency.”


2 “Allergic to change:”

“Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”
(Grace Hopper, developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language, U.S. Naval officer)

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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10 Responses to Not Going Native

  1. Naomi Gill says:

    Missing… something? “When Catholics who speak my version of English something like “pray for vocations,” they mean”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

  2. Thanks for the inspiring site you’ve created. Your enthusiasm is definitely contagious. Thanks again!

  3. Naomi Gill, right! I think I fixed that.

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