Christianity can and must contribute something of its own unique and irreplaceable insights into the value of man, not only in human nature, but in the his inalienable dignity as a free person.  The course of these insights is, of course, redemptive love.

Thomas Merton, in Love and Living

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Yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend of mine, an accomplished medical doctor and good man – an excellent husband and father.

In our conversation we shared concerns about the rise in anti-Semitism.

My friend said that he was shocked that we did not see one another as humans and treat each other with respect.  I countered that when we become secularized we lose that ability.  He expressed reservations and wondered if religion was the missing element.

My response was simply this: religious narrative is the one constant that we have over time that delivers the message that all humans matter, each is a child of God, and our behavior toward one another must reflect that if we are to be faithful. That, for sure, is the Judeo-Christian narrative – a point of reference that spans centuries.

My friend presents a very significant issue – what I might call a cross-over point where faith (desiring to do good to others) can be transferred to secular existence and, in time, become little more than pursuit of policy at best but not a way of an individual actually living day to day.

The distinction is this: metanoia.

Metanoia is a change in one’s life based on a permanent change of heart and outlook.  Metanoia is a change in one’s spiritual existence, one’s very being – an awakening and maturing of one’s spiritual understanding and one’s being – one’s existence.  

Such change allows us to see better and more deeply, to experience life at greater depth, to become more human.

Secular existence does not do that.

Secular life is largely devoid of sacred consciousness – in it policy and good deeds pass as depth of life.

There is no metanoia in secular existence – no fundamental growth.  “Good politics” is not growth in the spirit, a change of heart and one’s being.  To work the mind is not to change the heart, to grow in the spirit.

Practicing politics is not per se living faith.

It is my view that we have not sustained an appreciation for this distinction and that our clerics and theologians have not made the case successfully to the population at-large and to their flock.  To fail in this is to underachieve, to give ground to the secular and reduce the unique value of the human being by ignoring belief and religious narrative and the fundamental change it invokes in the human heart.