I've been thinking a lot about martyrdom.
A number of Catholic authors have been writing about this. It is being said that historically there are 5 stages of persecution. We are currently at stage 4. The current relations between the Church and our State and our popular culture are near the breaking point. I was recently informed that a stable, healthy women's religious community is daily praying for the grace to endure martyrdom. I know these women. They're not crazy. Their foundress isn't an odd character. These women are reading the signs of the times. The signs all say WARNING!
There are two types of martyrdom – red and white. Red is, of course, being killed out of a hatred of the faith. White is the long process of the death to self. It is essentially what we would recognize as the traditional way to holiness. But I think that secularism has bred a new sort of martyrdom. One that has only become tangible in this post-Christian era.
I don't know exactly what to call it. I'm thinking it's color is beige. Why beige? Beige is boring, bland, and forgettable. This is the only sort of Christianity that is acceptable to contemporary secular culture and the secular state – Beige Christianity.
Similar to white martyrdom it has a self-inflicted dimension. By trying to encounter the world we have accommodated ourselves to the world. We have abandoned the radical counter-cultural impetus of our holy religion. We have set it aside of our own accord. Our internal solidarity has been abandoned. Our liminal identification has been abandoned. Our non-identity with any particular time or culture has been abandoned. This is the insight of the traditionalists. They sense that our identity as Catholic's has been compromised. Unfortunately, their response has often been an irascible and poorly reasoned impetus toward traditional expressions of the faith. Their insight is not a bad thing, but it doesn't really address the heart of the problem. It only treats the symptom.
The other part of this martyrdom is imposed from the outside. This is secular society actually imposing its ideology on the Church. This imposition has a double movement. There is the enticing aspect that draws individual Christians away from an authentic practice of the faith by presenting things that appear to be desirable rewards for becoming secular. I have in mind both the popular media and popular culture. Through these very powerful forces we are attacked both in body and in mind. The other aspect is a coercive movement. Here, the force of law is used to compel the Church to comply with secular ideology. The HHS Contraception Mandate is one clear example. However, there are a lot more examples. Everything from zoning regulations to tax code laws can be used to the disadvantage of the faith.
You could call this a bureaucratic persecution. It has the effect of sapping the energy and resolve of the faithful. It's the spiritual equivalent of standing in line at the Motor Vehicle Department. It's a progressive process of taming those aspects of Christianity that would challenge the sentiments, morals, and assumptions of the secular world. It makes us lazy Catholics with flabby souls. It itself isn't beige, this persecution makes us beige.
We can only resolve the problem if we first realize that we are being subtly persecuted. We are like the proverbial frog in boiling water. But, now that we're aware we must re-evangelize others, pulling and pushing them out of their lethargy. We must regain a sense of our destiny as Christians. We must boldly reject what the secular world has done to tame the faith. We must reject an anthropomorphic God. We must restore a sense of the sacred. We must restore our public devotional life. We must stand-up to the powers of this world who would try and bend our consciences to their will. We must cease accommodating ourselves to the world and we must cease accommodating ourselves to the worldly.
Either we'll convert our culture and we'll be free to seek white martyrdom, or the red martyrdom will begin. Either way, Christ is triumphant.