Two Fridays

On one hand: A day to stay up late, go to a show, party, whatever. It’s the start of the weekend, dude!

On the other: The day of the week on which Jesus was crucified. A day of fasting and penance in remembrance of His sacrifice.

This dichotomy only grows more striking as I get older. Tomorrow is Friday, in fact a Friday during Lent. One tradition tells me I should stay in, skip a meal, and live simply. The other—and the one to which I am succumbing tomorrow—tells me it’s time to have a night on the town, dinner and a show (a musical, in this case—Mamma Mia!).

And herein lies the biggest issue for today’s Christian: Living in the world, but not of it.

I’ve been reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. The main thrust is that the world today is too corrupt for Christians even to try living their faith to its fullest. Instead, we should from Christian enclaves to which we can retreat. We should not seal ourselves off from the world—indeed, we are called to evangelize through word and deed—but we must create a place where it is possible to live truly as a Christian, in community with those who share our values.

I mostly agree with Mr. Dreher. The world is indeed corrupt, and community is more important than ever. It’s incumbent upon us as Christians to form those communities, whether they be in our church, our workplace, or our neighborhood. Stability is essential for fidelity to God, and only a community of believers can provide that stability.

For those of us for whom this is not yet possible, the challenge is that much greater. Competing Fridays is minor compared to what we might be faced with today. Do I watch this immoral TV show, even though it’s critically acclaimed? Can I go out and get drunk with my friends, just for tonight and just for fun? After all, millions of people do these things and more every day. I know some of them, and they seem fine.

But deep down, we know it’s not fine, at least, not if we wish to remain true to God. We understand what is right and what is wrong, but sin is inherent in each of us. Most of us would find a chance to sin alone on a desert island. When everybody’s doing it, avoiding sin—or simply abiding by pious tradition—almost feels impossible.

There is hope. Online communities can fill the void for a while. Churches are still active, and I’d wager many are full of young people yearning for true friendship, even if they aren’t vocal about it. But we have to do something. We’re not going to change the world back, not in our lifetimes, anyway. Secularism rules the age, and just wishing for it to stop is useless. Do pray about it, of course, but God helps those who help themselves.

We must take steps to live intentionally, full of the spirit of love and truth. It’s more important than ever to live as a Christian, to really, really live as one, not just slap a Jesus fish bumper sticker on our car and call it a day. Only by finding or forming faith-filled communities that enable each other to live as we should will we begin the process of conversion, not just of the world, but of ourselves, as well.

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