I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a “good Catholic” or a “good Christian,” and the more I think about it the more I realize that I’m not either. And I’m not that worried about it. It often seems that being a “good Christian” means toeing the party line and being overly busy with all the right sorts of activities. For example, recalling my days as an Evangelical, it seemed that being a “good Evangelical” meant, primarily, having the Evangelical attitude on issues and being involved in evangelism — or at least going to a lot of Bible studies.[snip]
In some circles, a “good Christian” can speak or pray well in public (maybe in tongues), and is involved in a lot of activity — going to this, that and the other church-related event and being on lots of committees. A really good Christian is a man who’s so involved in “Christian activities” that he hardly has time to play catch with his kids.[snip]
When I first became Catholic it seemed that being a “good Catholic” was largely an intellectual exercise. It was a matter of submitting to the right doctrines and, for heaven’s sake, avoiding the “Catholic cafeteria” mentality. But it also meant (to others, never to me) adopting certain “cultural Catholic” attitudes and devotions — esp. about the rosary.
When I look at all this I’m left with very little. I’m not holy enough to see how unholy I really am, and I don’t believe half as well as I should. So to that inner voice of pride that wants to be able to say “I’m a good Catholic,” I can only reply, “No, I’m just a sinner.” And the good news is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, so I qualify for the team.I can't tell you how much this resonated with me. Too often (and certainly, in the blogosphere!), we reduce being a "good Christian" to certain things that we do. And then, make these things into litmust tests by which to judge not ourselves, no (we hate judging ourselves!), but others. To feel better about others. "Thank God I'm not like that tax collector over there."
We all do this. Conservatives ("Oh thank goodness! I'm not a darn feminist, or a pacifist, or homosexual activist, or what have you."). Liberals ("Oh thank goodness! I'm not a heartless bigot, a fundamentalist, a homophobe."). And it's not just about positions on these or other issues.
Now, of course, some of this is natural. Whether it be a certain amount of pre-judgment, stereotyping, criticism of other's positions, or behvaiours, or attitudes, or what have you. And, of course, recognizing our own sinfulness doesn't mean suspending judgment about good or bad.
The important thing, I guess, is to realize that no one is good, but God alone. And that, whatever our piety, it shouldn't be a source of spiritual pride. For that is the work of the Devil.
So, yes. We end up with the tax collector. "Lord have mercy on me, a poor sinner."