A loose transcript:
Growing up, I was obsessed with the idea of being cool. I liked the idea of standing out and being set apart. I’ve always sympathized with rebelliousness and sticking it to the man. At a certain point, I realised that the most rebellious thing a millennial like me could be, is a Catholic. So in that sense, maybe it is cool to be Catholic. To know if Catholic Christianity is cool, I think we have to properly define what it means to be cool and from what I can tell, there are a couple possible definitions.On the one hand, being cool means fitting in. Wearing the clothes, listening to the music, using the right app, using the right slang, and whatever else is approved by the herd.On the other hand, being cool could mean rebelling against the trends and the approval of the herd. You embrace an attitude that says, you don’t care what other people think… and in so doing, everyone is impressed by you.
As opposed as these two definitions might be, they share one thing in common. They both depend on an awareness of the fashions and trends of the day. If you want to fit in, you have to know what’s trendy in order to embrace it. If you want to rebel against the trends, you have to know what they are so that you don’t accidentally adopt them.Both pursuits subjugate a person to fashions and trends and here’s the really sad part. Fashions and trends are arbitrarily defined by media personalities and advertising executives for one reason: to sell you crap that you don’t need. The last iPhone would serve everyone perfectly well, but if you want to be cool, you should be using the latest one, even though the improvements are impossible to detect for your average user. But to keep profits up, they release it every two years with gimmicks like new colors designed to make your old one obsolete based on the subjective standard of cool. “Cool” is an arbitrary standard that turns a person into a means for someone else’s end; an end designed to make them rich and to transform you into an easy consumer. Catholic Christianity rejects the idea that you are a means to an end. It says that you are an end in and of yourself. You are the object of God’s love. So, if my definitions of cool are accurate, then I would say that Catholicism is an enemy of cool. Chesterton said that it’s the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. I remember a conversation I had with someone about faith and Christianity and by the end, he found himself agreeing with a lot of what I was saying so I invited him to take it a step further and consider trying it out. Start spending time in prayer and even going to Church and discover for himself if it’s the real thing. At that invitation, he dramatically retreated with a last line of defence by saying that he couldn’t possibly become a Christian because he had openly ridiculed it in the past and he was afraid of what people would think of him if he became one. It made me wonder how many people steer a wide path around Christianity for fear that if they adopted it, they would no longer be cool. And they’d be right.
A slogan of our generation is to “not care what other people think of you.” Christianity is one of the few things that really puts that to the test because you will be ridiculed for adopting it. Nobody knew that fact better than the first Christians living in the Roman Empire. One of the earliest known depictions of Jesus comes from graffiti that was found carved into a wall mocking a Christian for worshipping a man that was crucified. Crucifixion wasn’t just designed to torture you to death. It had the simultaneous effect of publicly humiliating a person and was used to great effect by the Roman Empire to subjugate anyone that would oppose them. So for Christians to honor and worship Jesus, a man that was crucified, they experienced a lot of derision for it. But instead of hiding in shame, they owned it and adopted it as their symbol as a lasting refusal to fit in. That symbol would eventually, triumphantly, come to rest upon the greatest peaks in the city of Rome. The crucifix, in that sense, is the most audacious symbol for not caring what other people think and if doing that is important to you, then maybe you should take a more serious look at the faith that has held it high for 2000 years.