Remember Remember the 5th of November….
For those needing a history lesson, today is Guy Fawkes day over in ye olde England. It’s the anniversary of the “Gunpowder Plot”, when persecuted British Catholics decided to take matters into their own hands and blow up Parliament and King James I.
I’ve always thought it a bit odd that this was the plot. Persecution and lack of religious freedom is no easy matter, of course, but my faith tells me that there is true value in suffering, especially the kind that involves persecution. In fact, the gospel reading this past Sunday included this verse:
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.
I don’t know if these guys just had enough and were willing to ignore Jesus, or maybe they had never really paid attention to the Beatitudes. But it’s pretty clear to me that when things are going terrible and you’re being persecuted and perhaps even martyred, it’s worth it. We’re not in it just for the rewards in heaven, of course, but it’s a nice consolation when things are terrible.
But really, today, I was thinking about how the general reaction to anything on the internet is basically “Gunpowder Catholicism”. We read about the synod on the bishops and don’t like the report… blow it up. Get rid of all the terrible bishops and start over. We read the perspective of someone who has a hard time with a church teaching, go right and blow them UP. School them in what the Church REALLY teaches. We get in a debate with someone over politics, and darn it we will blow up those evil Democrats/Republicans! DOWN WITH ALL OF THEM.
Is this really what we are called to do though? Is this really the way to soften hearts towards the truth? What was the result of the original Gunpowder Plot? Did King James say “Whoa, these guys were willing to blow up the whole government, so yeah, let’s get some more religious freedom for Catholics!!”. Heck no he didn’t. The traitors were put to death and greater restrictions on Catholics were passed. In the same way, when we react with trying to blow up the internet with our ultimate truthy truthiness, we aren’t going to get the reaction we so desperately want.
There’s a time for a good punch in the nose for a heretic, as we all know from the life of St Nicholas. And sometimes throwing tables and whipping the sellers in the temple is a viable option. But one angry instance in the life of Jesus compared with hundreds or thousands of kind instances illustrates the sort of ratio we need to look to as an example. As Proverbs tells us:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.