The Sign of Contradiction

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed. . ."
LUKE 2:34 NAS

When I turned 35, something very unusual happened to me. I became popular. What made this unusual was that I had been a relatively unpopular person up to that point in my life. Some people liked me who knew me, but the large mass of people I knew were utterly indifferent to me. I was quite fine with this since I always considered it a normal part of human existence. But then, I became very popular for some strange reason that I could not explain. This did concern me because I could not understand why this was happening to me. It is only now that I understand that phenomena and why it was a bad thing.

I tried to explain it by some change in my personality or something, but I haven't changed that much over the years. But what did change in my 35th year of existence was that I developed and went public with my personal belief system that I called "secular individualism." Basically, I was a libertarian atheist, and this worldview was very appealing to a lot of people including those who didn't necessarily agree with it.

Secular individualism is a radical philosophy of personal freedom. There is no God to tell you what is right or wrong. The government is wrong for telling you what is right or wrong. Things like truth and beauty were relative. And you could do whatever you wanted in life as long as you didn't hurt other people in the process. And I practiced this by being extremely tolerant of everything short of theft, assault, and murder. The irony is that people considered me to be a very moral person. I don't see how that could be the case since that worldview strikes me as being very immoral. But people like someone who defends their freedom even if they refuse to extend that same kindness back. This would be the secular progressive who appreciated me being tolerant of gay lifestyles, but it would do nothing to keep them from forcing hate crime laws on churches for not sharing the same viewpoint. So much for tolerance.

The reason I know this worldview of secular individualism was responsible for my popularity is because that popularity has evaporated now that I have abandoned it. In fact, I am now subjected to the most irrational and senseless hatred I have ever known in my life since turning Catholic. Being on both sides of this has opened my eyes to a lot of things. But this is not unusual. This is simply the sign of contradiction. It has a long history in the Catholic Church.

Now, everyone experiences contrary opinions. No one is universally loved. Every person has a critic, and each one considers himself a martyr. But the sign of contradiction is not like that. This isn't a case of simple hatred and a difference of opinion. With Christ, the sign of contradiction results in the destruction of Christ's enemies and the triumph of His people. This is the double movement of the sign of contradiction.

The history of the Church is replete with this sign of contradiction. The Jews opposed Jesus and ended up scattered across the globe. The Roman Empire despised Christ, but they were eventually conquered from within by His followers. The Protestants despise the Vicar of Christ and end up as a mass of factions fighting amongst themselves over the silliest things but united only in hatred of the Roman Catholic Church.

I have had differences of opinion over the years with many people over a wide array of subjects. Most of the time, the differences were civil, but they could also get heated as well. But in the sign of contradiction, the people become like rabid wild animals and act in ways that disgrace them. This would be the atheists on Facebook who perform acts of instantaneous historical revisionism and deny that I was ever an atheist. This is not rational behavior which shows that atheists are not the reasonable people they claim to be.

As everyone around me lose their minds over my conversion, my own feelings on the matter grow more resolute and stronger. I care less and less what people think about me. I don't want to sound elitist or holier than thou or any of that. But I feel an elevation in my thinking while the people around me strike me as debased in some way. It isn't a hatred or dislike for these people so much as realizing that what they think doesn't really matter. I just don't care, and I am someone who thought he really didn't care before. Now, I know I don't care.

The world is stupid. Only God is wise. The wisdom we have is merely borrowed from the Almighty. As such, I find the worldly wisdom to be utterly worthless. If you hate Christ and His church, there isn't anything wrong with God. There is something wrong with you. As this hatred persists and grows, you will either break and convert. Or, you will destroy yourself. And if you believe, the sign of contradiction will only make you stronger and hold faster and tighter to the things you have been taught. At some point, even the threat of torture and death will not make you release your grasp on the things you believe. You will have a rod of iron in your spine, and the disgrace the world tries to heap upon you will be heaped upon them. And you will be glorious as Christ and all the saints and martyrs that came before you.

There are certain things you should not do as relating to this sign of contradiction. The first thing you shouldn't do is be a whiner or a complainer. In my readings on anti-Catholicism, I have often wondered why I didn't hear or know more about these things especially the blatant lies and slander against the Church. But the reason is because the Catholic Church doesn't whine about it. They just take the hits. Similarly, people who follow Christ should take the hits and even rejoice as the apostles did that they should be honored enough to suffer for Christ.

The second thing you should not do is blatantly stir up trouble and controversy. This is like something the Westboro Baptist Church does or what you will hear from people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter. Being a deliberate provocateur is contrary to being a peacemaker. I confess to being a provocateur especially in many of my previous writings here on the C-blog. In blogging, it is better to be hated than ignored. But this is contrary to being a Christian. It is enough to be hated for being right. Being hated for being a jerk is an entirely different matter.

As an atheist, I was hateful, and people loved me for it. Now, as a Catholic, I strive to be loving and kind, and people hate me for it. The reason this happens is because the world is madness. To be a sign of contradiction is to be the sane person in a world full of crazy people. The darkness abhors the light. I hear that in my head everyday. The world hates you because it hates Christ.
The acceptance of the fullness of Truth will have the unfortunate quality of making you hated by the world. Forget for a moment the history of Christianity, and the fact that Christ existed. Suppose there appeared in this world today a man who claimed to be Divine Truth; and who did not say, 'I will teach you Truth,' but 'I am the Truth.' Suppose he gave evidence by his works of the truth of his statement. Knowing ourselves as we do, with our tendency to relativism, to indifference, and to the fusing of right and wrong, how do you suppose we would react to that Divine Truth? With hatred, with obloquy, with defiance; with charges of intolerance, narrow-mindedness, bigotry, and crucifixion. That is what happened to Christ. That is what our Lord said would happen to those who accept His Truth.
FULTON SHEEN

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