I've been a baaaaaaad boy...
I have had a very painful revelation recently. Most of them are, when we discover something about ourselves we've been criticizing in others.
Cue wavy fade out to grey, as we draw our fingers down the canvas of memory... dodododo dodododo dodododo dodododo...
I was in high school or so when I first started to become politically conscious. I mean, I think I always knew that I was a Republican, but I didn't really care until about High School. That's when I started listening to talk radio.
Now, I don't agree with everything said on talk radio, but I do agree with a fair amount of it, and I liked it that someone else was talking about moves the government is making that didn't make me entirely comfortable.
One thing in particular I approved of was the distinct distaste for sheeple. Sheeple? you ask? Yes, Sheeple, those hair-brained woolies who only listen to what the media/news/hollywood tell them, who don't think for themselves. If only people thought for themselves, and really took a look at those people they keep voting in, maybe we could do something with this country!
Little did I know, I wasn't really thinking about the issue of sheeple. I was being a sheeple in hating sheeple...
Now, I don't deny that our country is easily swayed in its opinion by pretty folks in front of a camera spouting off the most recent politically correct and accepted theory about life/morality/the environment/etc. That being said, I realized that the term sheeple is and is only used as condescension. It is a dehumanization of our ideological opponents, and has no business in the vocabulary of politics.
How can I truly criticize someone for dehumanizing the growing person in the womb by calling them a "fetus" or a "blob of tissue," when I am dehumanizing them by calling them a sheeple? Even if I never use the term to their face, it colors my opinions of and my interactions with these people I disagree with.
It does more harm than good.
As I was thinking about this, I realized another truth that had been staring me in the face since the day I was born. You know what most people think of us Orthodox Catholics as? Sheeple.
If you have ever discussed faith with a bible-protestant, especially one who knows you are Catholic, you can tell there is among at least some a certain lack of respect for the faith of someone who hasn't worked to memorize the bible. They accuse us of blindly following Rome (to hell, some would add), of not reading and understanding the scriptures for ourselves.
Of course, our defense is strong in the Catholic faith. We have the authority of the scriptures establishing Peter as head of the church against which even the gates of hell would not prevail. We have a church that has been thinking long and hard about truth, and is there with an explanation whenever we ask.
But why is this necessary? Why is it OK to trust someone other than ourselves to tell us the truth about life, even the truth about ourselves?
Because we are human.
The human person is finite, and while it is good to not over-specialize, even the specialist cannot know everything these is to know in their field. It is simply not possible for us to know everything, which is why we rely on teachers, and experts. That is the Catholic's defense: it is the repository of the fullness of truth on earth so that we have recourse to it, so that we don't have to go it alone, and know everything ourselves.
But then, isn't it the same with politics? Don't I trust that whatever candidate has a high approval rating from Planned Parenthood and a poor one from the National Right to Life Committee has a pro-choice voting record and does not represent my morality? Don't I trust that the candidate approved of by the Tea Party is more likely to try and cut government spending?
While I do believe that we have a duty to inspect politicians as best we are able before voting for them, there are simply too many candidates in too many elections, too many thoughts, and not enough truth, and it is impossible for us to sort it all out.
And then it dawned on me fully. Matthew 9:36:
And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd.
Of course they're sheeple! We are all sheeple! It is in our very nature to seek out a leader, to seek out someone to teach us what is right and what is wrong. The problem is, we've been following false shepherds, and the wolves have come in sheep's clothing to live among us, and to tell us that the Shepherd is actually a vindictive and vengeful man who beats the sheep.
He has a shepherd's crook, it's true, but it's for the wolves that he aims.
We are scared to listen to anything, to believe in anything, most of all the one thing it matters most to believe in. We have become self-reliant and isolationist, which is a distinctly un-human condition.
We are the sheep of the flock of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. It is not that we should not think, that we should not strive for the truth, but rather that we should always bring our thoughts and our desires, our ideas and our beliefs, and weigh them against the voice of our Good Shepherd, on the lips of the helpers He has sent us through the gate of ordination.
My fellow sheeple, ewe and I should be careful to follow the True Shepherd.