One of my more regretted decisions was watching the 2013 film This is the End with James Franco and Seth Rogan. 0/10, I would not recommend. For the finale, as the universe crumbles into chaos around them, the “heroes” escape the clutches of Channing Tatum and Satan (don’t ask) and the one “hero” who sacrifices himself to save the other two is raptured into paradise. The other two spend five minutes trying to out-nice each other until they find the magic altruistic action and are both raptured into heaven as well. Then the Backstreet Boys play a concert in heaven and the credits roll.
Up until that point, they had been doing whatever on earth they pleased: drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll, the whole nine yards. Yet in their little universe, all it took was one final good deed to earn eternal happiness in heaven.
As horrible and downright stupid as the movie was, it perfectly grasped the philosophy of our culture. Our culture isn’t really atheist. It isn’t even agnostic. It’s just really apathetic and has a horrible case of FOMO. “Let’s live it up now, try everything, have all the fun, and then after we’ve had all the fun, then think about our eternal salvation. Maybe.”
Last week, I heard the song “Pray” by Sam Smith for the first time. It describes the same phenomenon.
And I’m gonna pray, maybe I’ll pray
Pray for a glimmer of hope
Maybe I’ll pray, maybe I’ll pray
I’ve never believed in you, no, but I’m gonna
Won’t you call me?
Can we have a one-to-one, please?
Let’s talk about freedom
Everyone prays in the end
(Pray – Sam Smith)
No matter how we’ve been living, our hearts turn to God in desperate hours. Sometimes God will use those desperate hours to bring us back to Himself, but not everyone is given that grace.
There’s a way to reach the FOMO Millenials (and others) before they land themselves in that proverbial foxhole. The way to do that is through joy.
The fear is that when we turn to God, all the good and fun things we used to do will be taken away. We’ll be sour-faced saints, sitting in Church for hours at a time being bored out of our brains, turning down every party invitation, and never having a raucous Friday night again. For some, that might be what Christianity looks like, but not for us!
Fr. Mike Schmitz did a video last week talking about Catholics and alcohol. He did clearly mention the fact that drunkenness is a matter of grave sin, but he also encouraged his 21+ viewers to enjoy wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. Not in a “watch me shotgun this PBR” sort of way, but a “wow, what a good beer/Zinfandel/bourbon/whatever” sort of way.
Alcohol, dancing, sex, music, money, fame, these are all good things– gifts that God has given us. Used in the right way, they bring us joy and help us in our journey to heaven. When they are abused, which is much more often, they bring dissatisfaction and destruction. The suicide epidemic is proof of just how much the hedonistic and overindulgent culture continues to fail society.
Our job as followers of Christ is to show the world that life in Christ isn’t repressive but fulfills our deepest desires. “No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalms 84:11). Life in Christ should bring us joy, even in suffering.
In fact, this one of the main ways Christianity spread in the early years A.D. Here were the Early Roman Martyrs, being burned, eaten by lions, crucified, and suffering all manner of horrible tortures and death, yet so many of them were joyful in the middle of it all. Many of the pagans, seeing their joy, became curious and ultimately converted because of their example.
We’re facing a post-Christian and fairly pagan world today. We can witness in the same way! God does not intend to keep us from suffering, as any Christian will tell you. Our joy doesn’t come from the absence of suffering, but from faith in God’s promises, and hope in reaching our final goal.
There are countless “reversion” stories floating around. People who left the Church to experience “what they were missing” only to realize every good thing was already here in the Catholic Church all along. You probably know people like this yourself. Maybe you are one of the super awesome re-verts and you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Fellow Catholics: it’s time to show the culture that they are the ones missing out. Show them that life in Christ isn’t a backup plan after the hedonistic culture fails, but a joyful and fulfilling way to live right now. Be joyful!!
Non-Catholics: come hang out with us! Because right now, you’re missing out on so much!