My 13-year old daughter is mad at me because I won’t let her watch Glee.
I’ve heard of the show but since we don’t have cable or satellite television, I’d never seen it. So I viewed several full-length episodes online and also looked at numerous episode clips. I found Glee appalling.
It’s not that I don’t love my daughter (I do love her and all my children very much) and it’s not even a matter of trusting her. The fact is that, unlike some television shows and movies that may contain PG-13 or R-rated material within the context of plot development, Glee has a very pervasive secular ideology that goes way beyond occasional scenes. I was expecting a show primarily about music but, in fact, the musical aspects are secondary. What I saw was a typical, contemporary primetime television program replete with the usual suspects: an underlying sexual milieu, a systemic individualism, and a deep-seated moral relativism that suffuses the storyline and is woven into the fabric of each episode. This material is very inappropriate for any “tween” who is trying to live their Catholic faith and who, along with their parents, underestimate the lure and attraction of secular culture, and the role it plays in forming young consciences and distorting authentic freedom lived in the light of Christ and His Church.
What, then, does it mean to be truly, authentically free? If you think about it, there are only two answers: personal freedom, i.e., the freedom to do what I want, or God’s freedom, i.e., living, acting, and “being” in a way commensurate with His truth.
Moral Relativism (aka, Secular Orthodoxy)—the magisterium of modern society—posits a “freedom” from objective truth, and professes political correctness and values-neutral education as foundational principles that promote the very ideas which, left unchallenged, will ultimately erode the spiritual foundation upon which our faith is built all in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity,” and at the expense of authentic truth and freedom. Our culture, through shows like Glee, tells us that freedom means “independence”; that I don’t need to subject myself to principles that are true in themselves but that truth can be changed depending upon current trends or my particular situation. Christ, the Good Shepherd, tells us that man’s deepest truth and identity is to be in God—in the heart of the Trinity—to love as God loves.
The truth of God’s ever abundant and merciful love is rooted in freedom—a freedom from and a freedom for: the freedom from sin so that we can be free for God. The Scriptures are clear: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12: 1-2).
At first glance, living according to God’s truth seems burdensome—following commandments and living according to a moral code goes against society’s view and understanding of freedom. The truth is that “the more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1733).
Let me illustrate the two types of freedom. Imagine a violin, representing the Body of Christ, that has four strings, each representing a member of the Body. Now picture one of the strings removed from the violin and laying on a table. Our culture would tell us that the string on the table is free: it is no longer subject to the violin and can now do whatever it wants. It is no longer bound by the restraints (i.e., the moral codes and commandments) of the violin and can now “be itself.”
From the Church’s perspective, the violin string is not truly free because its full potential is not being actualized; by not freely choosing to be part of the whole, by allowing itself to be freed from that which makes it truly unique—from that which is true, good, and beautiful—the string can never fully be what it was created to be. The Church teaches that by freely submitting ourselves to God’s law—to God’s loving care, protection, and divine providence—by making a complete gift of ourselves to the Giver of all gifts, then can we truly and fully be the person who God created us to be. It is only when the string is tethered to the body of the violin, when it is tuned to the unique and proper pitch that it was designed for, when it is played in harmony with the other strings, that the full potential of not only the string but the entire instrument is truly realized and fully appreciated.
This is why adherence to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of conscience and the moral life, bear tremendous fruits for those who are willing to give themselves over in love the God’s law. Whether in the intimate expression of our human sexuality—rooted in the life-long covenant between a husband and a wife—or whether in the intimate expression of celibacy, which anticipates the eternal wedding feast in heaven, God allows His children to participate in His creative, life-giving work. This is the Father’s gift to us: to allow us to love as He loves; to allow us to give ourselves to Him fully, completely, and freely just as Christ poured out his love for us fully, completely, and freely on the Cross.
The freedom to love is not rooted in “choice”, but in the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. The gift of ourselves in complete love to the Father—the gift of our hearts, minds and bodies, our hopes and fears, our desires and dreams—means that we must trust God; that we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable before the God who made us. It means that we must trust God enough to come before Him and not be afraid to reveal and expose the deepest part of who we are so that His love can shine forth in and through the unique and special person that He created me to be. This is the peace that true freedom brings!
This freedom can be found in its fullness in the image of the crucified Christ. Society would tell us that Christ is not free on the Cross, that he is bound by four large spikes imbedded through his flesh and into the tree. This clearly points to the fact our culture has a limited understanding of freedom: a freedom that focuses on the here and now, on the “I” and “me” rather the eternal—on the “Thou” and the “other.”
We must never forget that certain teachings in the areas of faith and morals can never change, regardless of whether or not people accept them or are faithful to them (see Bishop Sam Aquila, You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free, no. 7). We as Christians cannot accept the Jiminy Cricket philosophy of “let your conscience be your guide” which “suggests that we are responsibly following our conscience when we knowingly replace Christ’s teaching with the world’s opinions” (Bishop Aquila, no. 21). If we are to free ourselves from the slavery of this culture of death, we must come before Jesus. This means that we must reject Glee and other similar programs that insidiously attack on our children’s consciences. We must remove ourselves from the darkness and confusion of sin so that the light of God’s life and truth may shine brightly upon us.
Adherence to objective truth, especially in the area of conscience and the moral life, bear tremendous fruits for those who are willing to give themselves over in love the God’s law and boldly profess the truth and beauty of faith in Christ Jesus. As followers of Christ, our choice is clear: do we want to use our God-given freedom to “climb in through another way,” or do we want to enter the doors of salvation “so that we may have life and have it to the full” (John 1:10).
Today, my daughter is mad at me … and she will be mad at me again. One day, she will thank me for standing-up for our Catholic faith.
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers