Flannery O’Connor was a southern Catholic writer who has bequeathed to us wonderful short stories and two novels. She has some good advice for Christians in this secular age. “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
“Push back” may be a harsh metaphor when we Christians are striving for civil speech in a contentious, combative society. But, let us not forget the primary point that O’Connor is making. We are to speak up on behalf of Christ–His redemptive sacrifice and wise teachings. When we are conversing with a friend, talking in a group that has gathered for dinner or some such activity, or participating in a formal setting of discussion or debate, we are called on to defend the faith, no matter what the risk. To follow Jesus is to carry a cross.
Having to make an apology, or defense, for many of us may be a frequent opportunity in our secular setting. We must balance civil speech with a firm stand. To be gentle and respectful does not mean to accede to falsehood. We may be objects of ridicule and scorn. No matter, we are to stand for the truth even unto persecution.
Our challenge in any dialogue may not only have to do with civility but also knowledge. Do we have enough knowledge to feel adequate to the task? We must also commit ourselves to study, especially of the Bible.
Next time we will discuss how Saint Paul comported himself before people in power. To do this we will turn to the Acts of the Apostles.