TBM Topic 26: Instruct the Ignorant
"I Am That I Am" by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day
We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!
During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy every week.
Ignorant is not a word I particularly care for, yet most people are culpable. It comes from the Latin words in (not) and gnarus (knowing).
New Advent defines ignorance as "lack of knowledge about a thing in a being capable of knowing. Fundamentally speaking and with regard to a given object ignorance is the outcome of the limitations of our intellect or of the obscurity of the matter itself."
Today, we Catholics (and fellow orthodox Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters) face bigotry based on ignorance of our faith, religion and history. The greater good would be served, society is led to believe, if God was kept in the pews and within the walls of our homes. God is good as long as God is contained.
But our God is an awesome God - awesome in the "awe-inspiring" way. God is not our bro. God is not our homeboy. God is the Almighty one - the Alpha (first) and the Omega (last) - the one who is, the one who was, the one who will be (Revelation 1:8).
And he will not be contained. We cannot limit his power, his mercy, his goodness or his Kingdom Come. Our reasons are not his reasons, and this is the first step to instructing ignorance: discernment of our own vocation.
Flannery O'Connor wrote that "Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an ax, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed."
For many, the best reason to be a Christian is the joy and fellowship of other Christians. For others, Christians are the best reason not to be a Christian - their small-mindedness, their inability to compromise, their, well, ignorance.
And so, who has the high ground here? The miserable Christians who pray, "I believe - help my disbelief!" Or the one who discuss God's take on a few things, would certainly invite him over for a drink, and then be done with the old chap. He's not really our kind of man, if you know what we mean.
We certainly do. Which is ignorance on their part. I truly this many people intentionally stay ignorant of God - learn things about him, sure, and learn about things that surround him. But not him. After all, it is hard to look at God on the cross and really know that he knows our hearts. He can touch and change our lives, if we only get to know him. Our God is the God of all; our path towards God will never be repeated for another.
While discussing a struggle with my sister last night, she told me I had to believe the consequences would be bad if I continued. She did not mean in the short term, or even in human terms: she meant, if I really wanted a change of heart, I'd have to care more about offending God. The kind of caring that shows considerations for another feelings. In short, I need to know God on a much more personal level, the kind that changes my actions and words in the long-term as well as the short.
We Catholics have a prayer for that: the Act of Contrition. We say it after the sacrament of Reconciliation. It goes, O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
This prayer is not said or meant lightly. Humanity is like a heat-seeking missile: it seeks Truth. It is not pretentious to claim to know Truth, as the Catholic Church does, for example. 2,000 years of bad press and still the truths found in the dogmas and sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, resonate across every color and creed.
No one has it easy. No one knows (or can know) "everything." Ignorance infects the best and most brilliant among us. It is the humility to ask God, to knock on his door, to seek his guidance, that really begins the journey. Some times, people need other people to help them get there, be it in books, blog posts, or conversations.
Perhaps more importantly though, a person needs to be self-aware where they are ignorant. One can always instruct where they know and understand, but they must also be willing to learn. That way, knowledge leads to wisdom, and not a higher level of ignorance.