Substance and Appearance

I recently read an article from Ethika Polika that brought both sadness and laughter (a true catholic with my both/and haha).  The article can be found here, but I would like to highlight the two paragraphs that caught my attention, and the starting point for my current reflection:

But today, we Christians have really outdone ourselves.  We’ve somehow managed to become into an argument against the faith even when we’re not succumbing to immorality at all.  For in addition to the ubiquitous scandals of our sin, contemporary Christianity has another problem, perhaps responsible for even more damage to its evangelical efficacy.  Our faith has become, in a word, cheesy.

We live in a land of WWJD bracelets, Jesus-is-my-homeboy t-shirts, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music, and “Tebowing.”  We traverse a “Christian” landscape as garish as a Thomas Kinkade painting, strolling to the beat of that sickly sweet poem about footprints.

Truly, we live in an age where appearance matters more than substance.  As I recently landed in Miami, a few moments before the plane touched down, I was able to appreciate the seeming beauty and peacefulness of Miami.  As the experience of my trip has informed me, nothing is further than the truth.  I’m not here suggesting that Miami is ugly, but what I’m saying is that its reality that I have come to experience is not as beautiful and peaceful as I experienced it from the plane.  I encountered heavy traffic from the airport to the university where I’m staying; I saw people throwing trash everywhere; I am told stories of people getting robbed, killed, kidnapped, and raped.  In other words, the substance of Miami is not as it appeared to me from the plane.

Likewise, there are many of us who wear the “things” of Christianity but are no closer to being Christian than those others who do not claim themselves Christians.  I’ve seen guys wear the rosary and crosses on their chests while talking about women as if they’re cattle.  I’ve seen girls who wear crosses on their necks that lay directly on their open chests in low cut shirts, a kind of immodesty that I suspect would make even Marilyn Monroe blush.  And then there are those who claim themselves as Christians, but whose behaviors completely betray their claims.

Christianity is not built on the foundations of mere appearance, but it is built upon the foundations of truth, of being, of substance.  It demands the transformation of our being–of our living out our faith; it does not demand a simple apparent outward showing.  Somehow, I imagine that genuine Christianity will appear a bit differently than a Christian faith that is for mere appearance.  I leave you with these words from Christ (Mt 6):

“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


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