- Annaeus Lucius Seneca, Epistle CVIII
Well, it has been a long time, my friends. So, what has drawn me out of retirement as the faithful Lucilius? I suppose Our Seneca still has some words of wisdom for us. I dropped the blog about two years ago when I got too busy to study Seneca, but now I'm too busy with the meat of ministry NOT to study Seneca. Well, the above passage pretty much says it all.
"Squatters." They like to gather in church on Sunday morning, or at a National Youth Gathering (see above pic from 2007), and PRETEND to be Christians. They are not present to hear the Word preached. They are not sitting around or standing up clapping their hands or wiggling and convulsing to the newest liturgical groove music because they want to amend their sinful lives and be shown the Way. They are not present to have their sins forgiven. They do not sit in the Stoa in order to receive wisdom, except perhaps as a tickling fancy on the eardrum.
Sadly, if our Seneca is right (and I believe he is), they make up the majority of persons gathered in places of "worship" on Sunday morning.
Well, if they're not gathered around the Word to test their character, to be proven wanting, and to receive forgiveness and instruction in the Way of life, why are they there at all?
Well, we may be separated by nearly 2000 years, but Seneca hits the nail on the head. He says that we all of us have within us something that resonates with Truth, and even the most willful sinner will cry and shout approval when he hears his own sins laid bare; however, this is the same as the coward who can feel patriotism stir in his breast as he watches men sacrifice their lives for their nation in the movie theater. It is the same as the adulterer who weeps to see true love exemplified by the actors in a movie about fidelity and suffering for the same.
So why attend the theater? Why turn the Church into such a theater? The answer is simple: Because by doing so we reduce the Christian faith to a momentary assent to what is True, a singular point of time, a finite experience of repentance, a "moment of conversion," but without the conversion. We turn the entire Faith into a pious ejaculation (that's monk-talk, so don't make too much of it).
My friends, it gets worse. What happens when even the Truth has to be cut away from the entertainment, so that there is no discomfort of sins laid bare?
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
- St. Paul's Second Epistle to St. Timothy (4:3)