Have you ever, as a working class stiff, gone to a fancy store looking for a gift for you wife or girlfriend or mother or sister and come across a thing called “hard-milled” or “French hard-milled” soap that cost three of five or more times the cost of the Ivory or Zest that you use to wash your mug in the morning before work, and again after work, and wondered why this soap costs so much more than what you use? And because you want your mom/wife/girlfriend/sister to feel really special you put down your hard-earned money to buy a couple of bars of the things. Then, after a week you notice that while your bar of Ivory is disappearing awfully fast the bar of hard-milled soap is looking pretty much the same way that it looked when you bought it despite the fact that it has been used as much as your bar of Ivory.
Religion, specifically, Christianity, is, in a sense, much like soap. What seems to be hard lasts while what is soft doesn’t last.
Recently Pope Francis bemoaned the fact that the Catholic Church, to use his own word, is “hemorrhaging” priests and nuns and he wonders why.
This writer is not a Catholic. He is not even a Protestant. He is a Baptist of the old sort. But he will deign to tell the Pope why the Catholic Church is hemorrhaging priests and nuns. The reason is because the Catholic Church has gotten soft in belief and practice. This writer is not anti-Catholic and respects the Catholic Church as a Christian church, but the fact of the matter is that under Pope Francis the Catholic Church has become more a social improvement society than a religious institution.
When the Pope spends his time talking about how Islam as a true religion and a true path to God as is the Roman Catholic Church, let alone Christianity you know that the soft soap has taken the place of the hard-milled variety.
Poll after poll shown that those Christian denominations that are of the stricter sort maintain their memberships, and even thrive, while the liberal denominations lose members at more rapidly increasing rates. The Amish and the Calvary Chapel movements are not losing members while the Methodists and Catholics are.
And what is the reason?
It is simply because one group holds to the Truth while the other group is all to willing to throw off the Truth in exchange for the praise of popular culture.
To be a Christian is to be unpopular in the world. It is to be called a bigot because one believes that salvation comes through Christ alone and that there is no other path. To be a Christian is to be exclusive (love for Christ and His teachings and offer of salvation) and not to be inclusive (I’m okay and you’re okay). To be a Christian in the West is an easy road, but in the East it’s a hard road full of danger and denigration.
The Pope, by his pronouncements seems to think that the world is the West where a person can claim to be a Christian and live as a pagan, while not realizing that being a Christian is the most anti-authoritarian thing that a person can be. And it is that anti-authoritarian aspect of the faith that is one of the things that makes it hard and tough and attractive. It is like being a Marine. One hardens to the world and aspired to the greater while caring for the world. One gets tough while also being tender when tenderness is called for. But one never forgets one’s oath of allegiance to one’s Master.
The Pope, and his minions of late, have forgotten or ignored the basic precepts of his own faith in exchange for the winds of popular culture and popularity. He has made the Catholic Church, in the minds of the faithful, a soft soap that will wear away after a few washings. And what young man or woman wants to pledge alliance to an institution that will change by the time they take their final vows?