To think critically or to be critical of an organization or person can be seen in two ways. Either it is given or received in a negative way such as a threat or making one feel their views or way of life is threatened. Or, it can be said in love, wanting the group or person to be their best, and received with love knowing that the words invite a change or review that will bring about a better way of being. In my lifetime I have seen both ways practiced yet today I find the first way of receiving criticism as a negative, to be more common at the moment.
There are people in many types of groups who demand a loyalty of others that can bring about perceived pressure to not say or do anything that would be critical of the group thinking or way of being. If one were to be critical it could be met with anger and threats that make people not free to question the thought of the group or organization. In other words, think like we do or you are not on our side. And yes even our Church has a history of such practices. Why? Well, I suppose we are human beings and there are things in our lives that we look for certainty and we could be free from growing or meeting challenges in being part of humanity. It is easier to think we can make everyone be on the same page by simply demanding this from others.
I propose that Christianity at its best is when its people think critically of what our faith believes and does. To live the life of Christ by simply raising our hands and saying, ‘This is the way it has always been, why change it?’ If we take our faith seriously we know that all we do needs to be based on love of God and of neighbor. So if we speak with love in calling forth the best in others/ groups, then the hope is our better selves will shine forth.
You know where I see this working the best? In parents, yes parents. I love seeing parents who have to constantly correct, teach, be patient, pay attention, explain, endure, be disappointed, be proud of growth and help develop skills in their children that need improvement over time. They offer words that can be seen as critical yet done with great love. Most parents really practice these things well or as best they can. No wonder all you parents look tired at Mass! Yet, we know there are other parents who really struggle in setting strong expectations that help their children grow, from being for example, selfish, not caring for others, not being responsible or dependable and blaming others for things not going well. Parents voices that can be critical or received as critical, when done out of real love for their family, can really bring out the best in their families.
I love my Church, I really do. In fact, I have given my life to serve God’s people, the Church. Yet, I do not hesitate to also see and call out our shadow side. At the core of any critical statement of the Church or this flock that I shepherd, is one of deep love. I do not want God’s people to settle for mediocre faith living. I want God’s people to be at their best. Just a parent’s words are either received well or seen as bad, so a Pastor’s words are received in the same way. As for me, I love God’s people, and when I see his people grow and not remain the same then I experience great joy in my ministry.
Be critical of what is not right, and make sure love is at the core of what we say.
Peace in Christ,