I don’t like the phrase “whatever you’re comfortable with”. Yes, it may be someone trying to make you feel relaxed, but at other times it can be the setting of a low bar, as if the aim of life is to be ‘comfortable’. Many of the people we admire went way outside their comfort zones to be of service, from human rights activists to the martyrs.
Ben Conroy, in his thoughtful contribution on Mornings With Donal (Spirit Radio, Friday) wasn’t a fan of the comfort route, and made an interesting distinction between the aims and the interests of Christianity. An interests-based approach sought to make things easy for Christians, and he imagined a country where Christians were tolerated but not taken very seriously, a country where Christians were not persecuted, but where rank injustices prevailed. On the other hand, there was the ‘aims’ approach where Christians did the right thing, did the work of the Gospel even if it did get them into difficulties.
In education, Christians could be too focused on claiming rights to educate our children rather than promoting the broader value of Christian education, with its positive approach to developing the whole person. In the workplace being vocal about your Christianity might only rarely see you losing a job, at most it might makes things inconvenient, but you could make it easier for the next person. In politics, if people were in defensive rather than pro-active mode they often sought a strong political leader who would defend them (no names were mentioned, he didn’t play his Trump card).
Meanwhile, on that political landscape there have been curious goings on, thrashed out day after day in the media. The Katherine Zappone controversy rumbled on, with Fianna Fáil spokespersons uneasily defending their Fine Gael partners in Government. There’s even the surreal phenomenon of FF TDs threatened with sanction if they don’t vote confidence in a FG minister. An internal report suggested that FF’s identity wasn’t clear enough, and that pro-life TDs were turning young voters off. So, are they going to discover a distinctive identity just by falling in line with the policies of all other main parties? Have they noticed how well pro-life TDs have done in elections, or how poorly prominent repealers have done? Do they realise how many of their supporters are pro-life? And yet they pursue in vain the voters who think themselves liberal- progressive. I know what would make FF really distinctive.
On Drivetime (RTÉ Radio One, Thursday) the FF conundrum was teased out in a report by Paul Cunningham from the party’s think-in in Co. Cavan, where he found ‘rumblings’. Mary Butler TD didn’t accept that the pro-life stance of some TDs damaged the party in the most recent election. The hundreds of thousands who voted against repeal of the Eighth Amendment had to be represented. She said she was, and still is, a pro-life TD. In Willie O’Dea’s diagnosis FF had stayed too long in the ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement whereby they supported the previous FG Government. Lisa Chambers TD thought that approach was best for the country, whatever about the party. She reminded us that she was “firmly on the yes side” on repeal, and thought that while the picture of the ‘vote no TDs was a problem for party support at the time, it wasn’t now. There had also been a picture of pro-repeal FF TDs, but in a curious turn of phrase she said it didn’t get as much attention because perhaps it wasn’t as ‘salacious’!
Finally, The Meaning of Life (RTÉ One, Sunday) returned for a new season with Joe Duffy interviewing personable actress Jane Seymour, star of Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. She believed in a ‘higher power’, in God, in her own ‘very unique way’. She had a near-death experience, with the white light, out-of-body experience and a sense of ‘amazing peace’ but while she believed in the spirit or soul, as something distinct from the body, she wasn’t so sure about the afterlife. She was strong on the importance of love and forgiveness and didn’t like to see religious doctrines been weaponised for hate. If it came to it she’d ask God at the end of life to ‘please stop people killing one another in your name’, and if deemed worthy for the afterlife she’d say she wouldn’t let God down.
I look forward to the rest of this season’s guests.
Pick of the week
Keys to My Life
RTÉ One Saturday September 18, 1.40 pm
Brendan Courtney meets Fr Brian D’Arcy and coaxes memories from him as they travel back to Co. Fermanagh to where he grew up.
Night of the Prophet
EWTN Sunday Sept 19, 9 pm
Through the eyes of a Roman journalist, a dramatisation of Padre Pio, who is unveiled as a man of purity and Christian charity.
The Meaning of Life
RTÉ One Sunday September 19, 10.35 pm
Journalist and television presenter Eamonn Holmes returns to St Malachy’s College Belfast, to explore his working-class Catholic roots with Joe Duffy.