I live in the zone of overlapping radio waves for K-Love Christian radio station and a National Public Radio station that both broadcast at 91.1 FM. Because of my geographical location, these two stations from polar opposite ends of the cultural spectrum fade in and out of one another, with paradoxically hilarious results as I drive around my town.
Yesterday, for example, I was tuned into K-Love and singing along to Michael Card’s upbeat worship song, “You are the Light of the World.” Without warning, a monotone NPR reporter with a clipped British accent interrupted my singing by introducing a new author for teenagers who he said “has become a symbol of rebellion because she does not hold back on the violence in her books and does not apologize for it. ‘Violence is a part of the cauldron of their lives,’” said the reporter quoting the supposedly rebellious author. Before I could get the author’s name in order to avoid her work, Card’s worship song was back. It was like there was this airwave battle between hope and despair going on right inside my car radio.
Now, I wouldn’t say this if I weren’t guilty of the charge myself sometimes, but when it comes to being a hopeful, evangelistic voice of authentic faith in the real world of NPR-style monologues trying to mollify our standards, we Catholics can be such wimps and wallflowers. We’re too polite. In fact, it would seem that we’re more concerned about temporarily offending people than we are about their eternal salvation. Who among us hasn’t shrunk away from that really verbal Christian at the company party or skirted around the one passing out flyers on the street corner?
Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to drop God’s name into every sentence possible, nor that each of us needs to get a soapbox and pick a street corner, however, fulfilling the Great Commission means that the name of Jesus should pass over our lips more often than it probably does. In the same way that around my house K-Love and NPR share the same radio frequency, we Catholics living in the United States share with non-Catholics the same constitutional right to freedom of speech. The question is, do we love Jesus enough to exercise that right prudently, frequently, and out of love for those who have not understood Jesus message of salvation?
More importantly as Catholic parents, do we realize that our children are listening to our silence and learning how not important our faith is when we, oh, so politely allow everyone else to broadcast neutral or anti-Catholic opinions 24/7 without interruption? It is time to speak up for and about our faith in public, not just for the sake of others, but also as a matter of good Catholic parenting. As we learn to speak up, the Gospels give us three helpful images of what we are to be in our world. These images are salt, light, and leaven. Remembering these can help us determine positive ways to be authentic voices for God.
Salt. Salt is from the earth. Salt enhances flavor. We can be salt by empathizing with the earthy, bland, or yucky parts of life, at the same time that we also emphasize that despite our human condition here, God truly loves us and the Holy Spirit’s presence here on earth really does enhance our lives and give them “flavor”.
Light. Light illuminates. We are light when we shine a verbal spotlight on the positive aspects of something instead of joining in a pity party, and when we highlight love and truth instead of violence and lies. We can let more verbal light in by eliminating the darkness of foul language and crass or racist humor.
Leaven. Leaven elevates everything around itself. We are leaven when we greet others with uplifting terms of endearment and encouraging words, and when we offer to pray with and for them. Good, clean humor lightens any conversation.
When it comes to becoming more vocal about God’s love, it doesn’t matter if we get interrupted or are only heard in snippets. It’s only natural because we share the same world with non-believers just like K-Love and NPR share the same radio frequency near my house. If, however, we will be salt, light, and leaven in our shared world, I believe non-believers and our own children alike will fiddle with their moral dials, looking more and more often to tune into our frequency, which is in fact God’s frequency broadcasting his love for them 24/7.