You are Weird; God is Odd
There’s no hiding the fact that my family members are a bunch of nutcases, and I’m certainly the nut with the biggest cracks. This is probably apparent to everybody. But aside from our garden variety eccentricities, there is a certain aspect to our weirdness that encourages us, but to others it may only compound our apparent strangeness: our Catholicism. I mean, it really doesn’t get any weirder than being a Catholic.
There’s a certain perception of Catholics which is excusable merely by having an outsider’s view. You don’t have to be raised on Jack Chick to tell that there is something a little bit odd about Catholicism, at least superficially. For example, it isn’t too hard to form the opinion that Catholics pray to statues. We all kneel in front of them with regularity, gazing and sometimes muttering. And if you take us at our word, we eat the flesh of Christ. This is more bizarre than curious.
And there’s more: Gregorian chant, incense, fasting, transubstantiation, spiritual intercession, sexual ethics, the notion that “death with dignity” can include a prolonged and apparently meaningless suffering, etc. And if you believe in the Pope, then in your heart you can’t really be in favor of democracy.
To say that God works in mysterious ways is another way of saying that God is inscrutable. And if you want to make a rhyme out of it, you can say that God is odd. Catholicism is odd too. And if you try to be godly and practice your faith fully, the world is going to regard you as odd.
The truth of the matter is that God is knowable (though His ways may seem odd) and the Catholic Faith is only superficially bizarre when in fact the epitome of truth, goodness and beauty. It is the world that is weird and distorted—a distorted reflection of the truth, and a fractured one at that. We live in an upside-down world, but if you align your self contrary to the world, then the world sees you as out of place. Ironically, for centuries “progressive” thinkers have accused orthodox Catholics of burying their heads in the sand; it is in fact the opposite. It is much easier to bury your head in the sand if you are already standing on your head.
And yet the perception remains: we orthodox Catholics are anachronistic, bizarre, strange, odd creatures. In short, we are weird. If the world stops regarding us and our children as such, then either we’ve converted the world or it is time for a reevaluation of our tactics.
I was aware at a young age that I had a mindset, due to my Catholic upbringing, that put me at odds with society and made me somewhat of a target to my peers. I can remember days when, at the age of 12, I was making a decent attempt at trying to explain life issues, saints, and the Eucharist to kids in my neighborhood. They, in turn, laughed at my ignorance of all matters relating to human relationships (i.e., sex) and modern culture (i.e., Van Halen) and therefore tried to expose me to as much sex and Van Halen as possible.
So there was a certain cultural exchange here. But due to the round-the-clock efforts of my parents to make sure my fallen nature didn’t get the better of me, I survived with my oddness intact.
When Catholics get married, and they pledge to raise their children to value the laws of the Church, they are basically pledging to raise their children to be as weird as humanly possible. I know this sounds silly, but it is true. If, in the eyes of the world, there isn’t something wrong with your children, then you simply haven’t done an adequate job. This is the essence of Catholic, counter-cultural parenting. If your children are like Christ, they will in some ways be emblematic of the stone that the builders rejected.
There are still too many Catholic parents, otherwise excellent, who just don’t get it. They downplay the negatives of societal influence in an attempt to protect their children from being outcasts from their peer groups, or to make sure that they are provided with the advantages of a “better education” (or simply one that is more career-focused or includes better sports opportunities). They risk sacrificing the long-term, and perhaps eternal, happiness of their children in exchange for the helping hand that the world is so willing to offer. No matter that the hand is attached to a sleeve-clad wrist, and the sleeve contains an asp.
Other parents have fought the fight as well as humanly possible and can do no more than sit back and pray for the result. Have you released your children into the wild with a big enough store of weirdness to protect them? Hopefully, with a loving attitude front and center, your children will reveal something to others that makes them look inside their weirdness to the inner beauty of their personhood, Christ, and the Church. There will be something in their oddness that draws people to ask questions, even if the first question is “How did you get this way?”—and it isn’t meant to be complimentary.
In my family, and in my circle of close Catholic friends, there is a certain badge of honor that is conveyed in that title, “weird”. We’re loud, we’re proud, and we are definitely weird. It is a shared weirdness that we can all relate to, help each other understand and grow confident in. We all agree: life is crazy, God is odd, and we are weird. It’s just another way of saying: life is beautiful, God is love, and we are brothers and sisters of Christ.
So, every day, in every way that matters, the best that we can do is try to make ourselves a little “weirder”—and then hope that we get to convey, in some meaningful way, that counter-cultural, Faith driven attitude to another person.
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