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The LeBron James saga was particularly painful for those of us who live in Ohio and are Cavaliers fans. However a cursory glance at some of the national columnist’s reaction, to the week-long ego charade broadcasted by ESPN, gives me hope that many others have seen through this smoke screen as well. (Check these columns here here and here.) What we witnessed Thursday night and the excuses made for it, along with sucking up by some of the national powers that be, gives us some insight on a world full of instant gratification and the desire to party on in South Beach, rather than roll up their sleeves in places like Cleveland. Talk about a metaphor for the Catholic Church.
For years now many faithful orthodox minded Catholics have painfully watched friends and loved ones leave the Catholic Church for either the local hoopty do mega church (Mother Angelica’s words,) or for no church at all, claiming they needed to feel better. They didn’t like a Church who couldn’t get with the times, had too many sinners in the pulpit, or talked to much about sin and not enough about heaven. Perhaps the LeBron James fiasco has given us the perfect recipe for what we should do; give it right back to them.
I grew in a small town (or city depending upon your classification) full of hard working class folks (and farmers who came into town from the outlying areas) where flowery words were few and far between and one would be easily called out for his actions. Now we all know the Church has had some difficult times in the last few years. However, this is because we wanted to be liked, instead of doing it God’s way, whether that was politically correct or not.
Today we have a new crop of orthodox-minded young seminarians, priests and women religious who are pious, but not above calling people out concerning their phony excuses for not taking their Faith more serious by not practicing it, or leaving it all together. In my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, I outline the increase in vocations, especially in dioceses which are more openly orthodox in their approach. The Father McBrien’s and Kung’s of the world are being replaced by younger versions of Father Corapi and Father Pacwa. Though these two priests have different approaches, they are not above calling out the phony reality show world we often seem to celebrate in our culture and religion.
For months, but especially in the last couple of weeks, the speculation on where LeBron James would play professional basketball next year was endless. Instead of handling it the way every other player does, by weighing prospective offers, James extended his stated time by another week, just enough time to have ESPN broadcast a full hour special at the national Headquarters of the Boys and Girls Club, so as to appear to be quite the humanitarian. I don’t know whose idea it was to have children as props, but they certainly outdid themselves in unseemliness.
LeBron James never notified Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert of his decision, he simply announced it live on the air. Loyal Cleveland fans, who have experienced a lifetime of having the rug pulled out from under them, were left to dangle in the wind, so much for the promises of bringing them a champion. I am not sure what was worse hearing that or the crocodile tears given by pundits who said they felt bad for the poor people of Ohio who just can’t buy a break with their decrepit economy and professional sports franchises. Adding insult to injury was ESPN commentator Stewart Scott, who treated LeBron James like a 12 year old girl would have the Bay City Rollers circa 1976.
I immediately thought of those same folks in the mainstream media who throw the Catholic Church their own false pity by saying, “I feel sorry for Catholics, if only their Church would get with the times and allow people to do what they want, or allow priests to marry, maybe then good things would happen.” It has already been tried and the liberal Protestant Churches, especially the Episcopal Church, are in complete free fall. For more this read my article entitled; If You Want The Political Left To Run Governments, Look At What It has Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters.)
For those who live in growth areas and can’t understand what all the fuss is about with these Cleveland fans; keep this in mind; Cleveland, as has much of northern Ohio, has lost half of their population since 1950. Loyalty is a key ingredient here, which is why the former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar was so popular. Though he played his college football at Miami, he relished the chance to come home. Much of America has no problem with transience. However, 50% of Americans live within 50 miles of where they grew up. Growing up in Ohio during the 1970s and 1980s, along with working for Church via Catholic schools for the last 20 or so years, I could rattle off a barrage of Cliff Clavin style statistics of schools and churches that have closed. However, I won’t bore you with it, suffice it to say, there are fewer churches and schools than their once was. On the flip side, just the opposite is true in places like Florida where they seemingly had trouble for years keeping up with the demand for churches and schools.
What gave me cause for joy, on this sad day for many Cavaliers fans, was the instant reaction of some, especially in the print media to the LeBron charade. They didn’t mince words and called it for what it was, a sad spectacle of egos run amok along with those who continue to coddle LeBron James. The Church, and I mean the clergy (especially the hierarchy) and the laity should take the same blunt approach as some of those sportswriters who called out LeBron James.
All too often Catholics have held back from criticizing those liberal dissidents in the Church who needed it. In addition we often let some of those phonies who left the Church, and made fun of us once they left, off the hook. They wanted to run away to a an entertainment themed mega church devoid of religious images and symbols, where “it’s all good” and everyone is saved and goes to heaven. None of this is found in the Bible and actually, quite the opposite is true (Matthew 7:21-23.) Jesus, the Apostles and Saints, along with the Church Fathers, have given us Sacred Scripture & Sacred Tradition. In addition, Jesus gave us the most personal of gifts, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. If this isn’t good enough for us, heaven help us!
If one thinks I am being a bit harsh or upset, perhaps they should read what St. Ireneaus or St John Chrysostom wrote about those in the Church (bishops included) who wanted the easy way out, wanting to be linked, instead of rolling up their sleeves. Keep in mind their blunt words were often given when being a Christian was good cause for a gruesome death at the hands of the powers that be.
My first approach with those who come after the Church is always the kinder, gentler approach. However, the reality of where I grew up has taught me that the blunt approach taken by Jesus and the Early Church Fathers is far better second or third option, compared to what many of those who are politically correct in the Church recommend today. I do sense that many more in the Church are taking the more direct approach favored by Jesus, the Apostles and Saints along with the Early Church Fathers. Never forget, that the Truth will set us free, whether it is popular or not.