• Rob Friedl

Be, don't Say

My sister and me. Pretending like we're somebody.

There's something maniacally delicious about jolting the sensibilities of the self-esteemed.

But only if the favor is accomplished by using the tool of objective reality. For instance, my granddad was reputed to have had a certain saying.

"If I wish in one hand, and shit in the other, which one's gonna fill up faster?"

As unsavory the imagery of this question might be, it accomplishes its mission, in that it challenges the efficacy of a person's statement to rival even the realized potential of something as mundane as a pile of poop. When unable to meet this short standard, people who are inclined to take themselves seriously, as the self-esteemed are want to do, of course take great offense at their words being compared to poop, and are prone to hiding their dismissal of Truth behind a disdain for impolite language.

But for the muddy souls whose shoulders joyfully bear the yoke of objective reality, the humor is not lost, and after a quick laugh, they carry on.

Thus is the divide between the orthodox and the "reformed." While the former struggles to subdue the Self, the latter grants it divine authority.

By (Words) Alone

It is no small matter that the lived example of so many "reformed" Catholics has rendered equivocal, the terms of "faith," and "words." For "faith," properly known, is an act of the will, guided in its performance by the intellect. It can be manifested by movement and stillness alike, but manifest it must be- else it evaporates into apathy. Unfortunately, to disavow the effect of action, is as catastrophic to the essential nature of faith, as denying wetness would be to the essential nature of water. And ultimately, just as ridiculous a claim.

Words on the other hand, are simply an expression of ideas, as malleable in their substance as the air inside a balloon. While they are not altogether useless, words are limited in significance by the relation they share to objective reality. "Don't move or I'll shoot" will not matter to an assailant, if the weapon you're brandishing is a banana.

In much the same way, any statement of faith is only as true as the reality that it reflects. Just as a single photo does not convey summation of experiences over an entire lifetime, neither does a single statement of faith reflect a lifelong conformance to the will of God. This is important, because a true statement of faith is indistinguishable from a genuine pursuit of God's will- and there is a big difference between acknowledging God's will and conforming oneself to it. The first is a statement, the latter, an action. Air vs. actuality.

It is an interesting contradiction then, that as much as the Protestant would disdain the capacity of a priest to participate with God in effecting a sacrament of divine consequence, such as confession, that the same Protestant would declare his personal acceptance of salvation to be a supernaturally binding event. Thus, by words, a man's salvation is secured beyond the bounds of interference by his free will- the one afforded to him by God, for the sole purpose of practicing the very faith to which God calls him. Once a man declares Jesus as his lord and savior, God is apparently obliged to uphold that event for eternity, even in the face of life lived in contradiction to it.

Of course, at such a point, the Protestant would argue the efficacy of the original statement-of-faith in question, but when the authority of interpretation is limited to the individual, by what objective goalposts can authenticity be determined? To ascribe this process to the Holy Spirit, fails to account for the innumerable variety of standards by which "saved" is exemplified across the Protestant persuasion. Where Catholicism recognizes the need for its member to reconcile themselves with the Truth of Christ after every moral failure, a "Once-saved-always-saved," philosophy of operation necessarily relieves the need for reconciliation. This same pass/fail status of faith is both subjective to the individual's "movement" with the Holy Spirit so as to be indiscernible from feeling, as well removed from any standard of conformance to Truth. Holiness, as the saints can attest, is no walk in the park. But if one cannot lose salvation, what motivation does one have to make the effort?

If "faith," manifested by words alone, is sufficient to save the soul, then it would seem that salvation is obtained by man's decree. For if it is not, then one must concede that faith is more than simply words, and accept the necessity for the only other thing by which a man can actualize the reality of his person- actions. And of course, by "action," we mean "works." But this, the Protestant cannot abide, and so we are left with the apparent contradiction that man is both so burdened with the vile nature of his humanity as to be incapable of participating in grace, but also sufficiently holy to declare himself inseparable from eternal communion with God.


As with all philosophies, the collateral effects of these beliefs are far-reaching. While the immediate product of a "once-saved-always-saved" subscription to "faith" is the abolition of fear from damnation, the peripheral ramifications of such an unfounded proposition promote a philosophy that would render our souls inert by breaking down the responsibility we carry for our own salvation. It might surprise the Protestant that his Catholic counterpart shares more in common than he might think. The Catholic no more believes himself capable of "earning" his salvation than the Protestant. The difference is, the Catholic recognizes that with the free will which God has granted, he may choose to serve himself over God, and by so doing, be granted the desires of his heart to be separated from God, and condemn himself to hell. So while salvation cannot be earned, damnation very much can be.

In short, the Catholic is convinced that his actions carry consequence.

Such an idea might seem drastic and distasteful, but should death not be? How many men have stared into a pit of snakes and thought to themselves, "I'd like to be devoured by those things."? So much the worse for an eternity under the thumb of demons.

But to acknowledge the traps is not an ignorance of the good. Being able to see the edge of a cliff does nothing to impede one's ability to navigate around it and towards his goal. And since the goal is eternal communion with The Essential Being from whom all love originates, there is everything to celebrate in chasing after Him and spending every effort to conform ourselves to God's will. Just like the parable about the guests invited to the wedding feast, it is our choice whether we join the party or remain outside. Certainly, we will be challenged. And absolutely, we will be tempted. But by our responses to what our lives encounter, we can make it clear whether we hold God as supreme, or ourselves as gods.

So when it comes to what you believe, use action to express your love for Christ. Because if you tell me that you are "saved," because you've accepted Jesus as your personal lord and savior, I'm going to give you the line my granddad used on us.

"If I wish in one hand and shit in the other, which one's going to fill up faster?"

Therefore, let your "yes" mean yes, and your "no" mean no.

God bless you, and don't get dead. Unless it's to become a martyr.

-Rob Friedl

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