American politics is beset by bitter partisanship. The Catholic Church in the United States has not escaped its corrosive effects. The defense of unborn life and the pursuit of social justice are often juxtaposed, seen as distinct alternatives, and many align in two rival ideological camps, shredding the unity of a church that exists to foster communion. Bumper sticker slogans serve as substitutes for real thought and dialogue. Catholic social teaching is twisted, stretched, and distorted to fit ideological agendas that are infected by a radical individualism that cannot be reconciled with the personalism and communitarianism at the heart of Church teaching.
Millennial exists to showcase the voices of those who do not fit into these cookie-cutter boxes. It exists to elevate the voices of a younger generation that is sick and tired of the bickering and self-righteous arrogance of those who are certain they are more Christian than Christ or Catholic than the Pope.
Through Millennial, we hope to promote dialogue that is thoughtful and civil. It is a meeting place for all those who put the common good above partisan victory and look to examine the true complexities of politics, religion, and culture in our society. It is premised on the belief that through honest dialogue, we might better develop wisdom.
For Christians, the way we treat others matters. Love should resemble love. A common refrain is that we are obliged to “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” yet acting like a sanctimonius jerk tends to blur this distinction. If the Church is to regain its vigor, observers must again be struck by the transparency of our love and moved to say “look at how these Christians love one another.”
Beyond this, let them say, “look how they love the weak, vulnerable, poor, and sick.” Instead of supporting plutocracy or ignoring the voiceless, we must stand united in defense of human life, dignity, worth, and equality. Love must permeate our understanding of justice and the common good.
Civility should not descend into a refusal to state one’s understanding of the truth clearly and passionately. Milquetoast moderates, constantly drawing false equivalencies and looking to position themselves equidistance between both parties, have little to offer the Church and the world. They risk becoming salt that has lost its taste.
Nor should civility obscure the fundamental radicalism of Christianity. Jesus Christ was not a Birkenstock-wearing philosopher walking around flashing the peace sign, telling everyone to chill. Nor was he a priggish traditionalist hatefully snubbing all those who failed to adhere to the norms of a nonexistent golden era.
Christ’s standard, the law of love, is unimaginably demanding. It cannot be reconciled with moral relativism. Yet it has never been fully implemented. Catholics cannot create their own morality nor can they accept all of society’s traditions and customs. Instead, Catholics are called to apply enduring principles to contemporary conditions in order to promote human flourishing and establish the global common good. This is a countercultural mission that requires courage.
In his last interview, Cardinal Carlo Martini warned us, “Prosperity weighs us down. We find ourselves like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to become his disciple.” He asked, ““What can you do for the Church?” Millennial is our humble attempt to do something—to shake up the status quo and to show another face of the Church.
Cardinal Martini added, “Fr. Karl Rahner liked to use the image of embers hidden under ashes. I see in the Church today so many ashes above the embers that I’m often assailed by a sense of powerlessness. How can the embers be freed from the ashes in order to rekindle the flame of love?” With the generous support of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and others, I have started Millennial to gather together some of these embers so that they will be less hidden and more able to follow the advice of St. Ignatius: to go forth and set the world on fire.