In light of the recent horrific terrorist attacks in France, how are we to understand why young people of sound mind are “radicalized” to become such extremists, to the point of committing murder in the name of Allah? More importantly, how do we as Christians impart to our children a “radical” fervor for Christ without crossing the line to religious extremism? May I suggest that we set aside our religious principles (yes, the Christian ones), too often compromised by socio-political nuances, and to focus on a personal relationship with the One who provides the answers to our social, political and inter-personal chaos. The secularists among us claim religion in general is the problem, that Islamist jihadists are no different than Christian extremists. I agree to the extent that Father Alexander Schmemann describes the difference between faith and feelings in his book The Eucharist: “Faith is always and above all a meeting with the Other, conversion to the Other, the reception of Him as ‘the way, the truth and life.’ Meanwhile, ‘religious feeling,’ which in our day dominate in religion, is so distinct from faith because it lives and is nourished by itself… is subordinated to personal tastes and emotional experiences, subjective and individual ‘spiritual needs.’”
So how to move beyond feelings that derive from our perceived spiritual needs to a concrete expression of what we proclaim as revealed truth? Again, it gets back to a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship we must nurture from the day of our baptism to our final breath. And is there a “radical” expression of this relationship? Certainly! Look at the lives of thesaints and martyrs. Look at the monastics in our midst who have renounced worldly pursuits to constantly pray for us. And finally, focus on the radical ethical teachings of our Lord Himself (see Matthew 5) and one must conclude that Christians, though no better than anyone else, are definitely called to be different. So…
Do you want the kingdom of heaven? Be poor in spirit.
Do you want to inherit (conquer) the earth? Be meek (humble).
Do you want to be filled? Be thirsty for righteousness.
Do you desire mercy? Be merciful.
Do you want to see God? Be pure in heart.
Do you want to be a child of God? Be a peacemaker.
With love in Christ,
Fr. James Retelas