By KRISTINE SCHROEDER
“In the end, the only opinion that matters is God’s (Paul J. Kim).
This past spring, our Walking With Purpose group watched a video series on the platform Formed, a Catholic media company, entitled “Fear Less,” which was hosted by Chris Stefanick. During one session, Paul J. Kim, a dynamic Catholic speaker and singer, spoke about the fear of being disconnected, and how that fear keeps us from speaking the truths we know and need to defend.
Fear in itself is not necessarily harmful. In fact, it can actually keep us from harm. Fear of heights may deter us from taking unnecessary risks. Fear of negative consequences makes children behave - and even adults. And the Bible tells us that fear of the Lord leads to wisdom. In life, a healthy dose of fear can have a positive impact.
However, Kim spoke of the fear of being cancelled, particularly on our social-media sites. He said, “Our society is getting steamrolled today because we want to be liked. Social media has changed the game for everyone.” Kim, who travels the country speaking to all ages about many Catholic issues, notes that, “Children today are hypersensitive to societal guidelines and, therefore, are often unwilling to speak up for the truth.” He added that this phenomena is also occurring more often in adults.
Kim further states, “Social media has programmed all of us to depend on likes.” The need to fit in, even among adults, curtails our original thoughts. If that seems too bold of a statement, think of the change in the last 20 years regarding what society considers normal. A large chain store introduced items from a designer that include a pen that says, “Satan likes pronouns.” Most of us are aware of a familiar drink company that had a controversial spokesperson. And, on our own library’s application for a card, there is a line asking, “Which pronoun do you prefer?”
Once again, disagreeing with an idea or lifestyle does not imply disrespect or disregard of an individual. Instead, it is pointing out that certain ideas and lifestyles do not conform to the Gospel. All people should be respected as children of God. That is a given.
Stefanick mentioned, in this same video, that our modern world has rebranded Christians as the ones to fear. If we openly disagree with these modern controversial behaviors and concepts, we are seen as bigots. Stefanick adds that we are being programmed to be compliant and quiet. That stance is not working. It is leading our world down a dangerous rabbit hole. Stefanick states, “If our message doesn’t align with God’s, then what is the point? Our world needs Christian witnesses now more than ever.”
In a recent homily, a priest said that the most difficult place to speak the truth is in “our own tribe - our friends and family.” He is correct! It’s easy to boycott a store that sells offensive merchandise or to not support a particular brand; but as humans, “we are hard-wired to be liked,” as Kim put it. We are most afraid to lose the likes of those we love. Personally, I have found that having a discussion on a controversial topic with some family or friends is more difficult than protesting in front of Planned Parenthood.
I am not suggesting that we bring up difficult issues at a family reunion. However, if such a topic arises, it is important that we speak the truth of our convictions, humbly and lovingly.
Stefanick ended this thought-provoking video by suggesting that we find our courage and direction in 2 Tim 4: 1-5:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead … proclaim the word; be persistent whether it be convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come, when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and be diverted to myth. But you, put up with hardship, perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”
We are all called to be ministers for the truth.