A reader writes:
I can relate to much of what you write in regards to the Church, conservatism, America - to feeling conflicted and discouraged. The funny thing, though, is that despite all of it I've had a very different reaction. Despite the monstrosities unearthed in regards to the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, I have been drawn closer to my roots in Catholicism.
Perhaps this is because I feel that the only way to truly do any good, to truly be able to speak clearly and forcefully and to enact any change at all is from within. Perhaps it is because I see my faith more clearly when the world seems more shrouded in doubt.
Likewise, I've grown more conservative over the years, despite the obvious flaws of "conservatism" in America and despite the train wreck of the Bush presidency. I think this is because I've realized that what passes for conservatism today is not really conservative at all. Burke is rolling in his grave. We have not been living up to our potential, to our purpose - as conservatives or Americans. The last few years have been a true test of what exactly that purpose is, and between torture and senseless war and a broken economy, we surely don't deserve a passing grade. And yet, running away from this does us no good. Better to muddle through than to abandon hope; better to be conflicted than to charge down the wrong path, blinded by the warm comfort of certitude. False certainty is no substitute for faith, because whereas faith embraces the existence of doubt, false certainty relies upon constant denial.
Better to stay and help pick up the pieces than to run and hide. America is more than its Presidents. We are better than the last eight years. Perhaps - ironically - we will someday be humble enough as a nation to admit that.
Likewise, the Church is more than its priests and popes. When the Church betrays us we must realize that it is not the Church, but rather very human, very flawed people who are the heart of these scandals. For every cover up and every wicked deed done in the name of Christ there are countless good deeds sifting through unnoticed. For every despicable priest who abused children there are countless who did not and who condemned and denounced such horrors. And for every foolish, arrogant President who leads us to war, there are literally tens of thousands of brave men and women who are selfless enough to actually do the hard work of fighting it.
Such is faith and such is the appeal of bad news. Bad news sells and bad news wounds us, tests our faith in ourselves and each other. But we can't forget our responsibility to history, or our ability to change the world for the better. When things get worse, faith allows us to push forward. When we are drowned in doubt, faith helps us find a way back to the surface. Just as day exists only in a world of night, faith can only truly exist in a world of doubt. That is the beauty and the tragedy of this world; we are human and imperfect and overwhelmed with doubt and despair, and yet we find courage and hope in spite of all of it.
So have faith. Laugh more. Change will come. It always does.