ashamed of the son of man?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Feb 16, 2007

Hearing today's gospel (Mark 8:34ff), the following hard words of Jesus hit home:

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

For many contemporary Catholics, denying Jesus takes the form not of apostasy under duress but of "being ashamed" of him and his words -- not frequently, perhaps, but on those occasions when they are anxious not to appear uncouth or ignorant or in the grip of unfashionable moral hang-ups. Business luncheons, faculty receptions, museum benefit galas can by more subtle means accomplish what Tyburn and the Coliseum could not. When a Christian finds himself in the company of prosperous scoffers, it's hard, particularly with a manhattan or a glass of chardonnay in hand, to interrupt the flow of elegant blasphemy, and it's all too easy to feign agreement by one's silence. In such circles, mention of the Son of Man -- i.e., positive, non-sarcastic mention -- is as unlovely as a brown tooth. Yet what Christian would have the honesty to admit that he kept quiet in such circumstances because he was ashamed of Jesus? It hurts to think about.

Readers of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters will remember the demon Wormwood's attempt to damn his patient by acquainting him with "just the sort of people we want him to know -- rich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly sceptical about everything in the world." The senior devil Screwtape wants to make capital out of the tactical situation:

Tell me more. Did he commit himself deeply? I don't mean in words. There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs by which a Mortal can imply that he is of the same party as those to whom he is speaking. That is the kind of betrayal you should specially encourage, because the man does not fully realise it himself; and by the time he does you will have made withdrawal difficult.

No doubt he must very soon realise that his own faith is in direct opposition to the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based. I don't think that matters much provided that you can persuade him to postpone any open acknowledgment of the fact, and this, with the aid of shame, pride, modesty and vanity, will be easy to do. As long as the postponement lasts he will be in a false position. He will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he ought to be silent. He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and sceptical attitudes which are not really his. But if you play him well, they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.

The chilling fact is that a believing, ordinarily dutiful Christian can be brought to deny the Son of Man without any of the barbarities of the torture chamber, but simply through the desire to get a laugh or avoid a sneer. I wonder how much of the headway that the counter-Christians have made among Western élites is abetted by these trivial acts of moral cowardice on the part of believers who know better (and know they know better). I confess it's not clear to me what the Son of Man's "being ashamed" will consist in -- i.e., his being ashamed, when he comes in his glory, of those who were ashamed of him. Whatever form it takes, it's pretty horrible to contemplate.

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  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Jun. 01, 2010 3:20 PM ET USA

    The reason why the Passion Play has devolved to its PC form is that its clear Gospel content has been distorted by those who hate the Gospel and find anti-Semitism within its holy pages. The play has been revised and revised after decades of complaints from the pseudo-Magisterium at the AJC, Bnai Brith, etc who continually raise the anti-Semitism cudgel to beat us up with when they aren't raising the Holocause cudgel. Some dialogue partners!

  • Posted by: Ken_H - Jun. 01, 2010 2:29 PM ET USA

    is it still possible for the bubonic plague to spread? Just wonderin'...