A recent quote from a Bruderhof’s Daily Dig got me to thinking about indifference:
I think the greatest source of danger in this world is indifference. I have always believed that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. The opposite of life is not death, but indifference. The opposite of peace is not war, but indifference to peace and indifference to war. The opposite of culture, the opposite of beauty, the opposite of generosity is indifference. Indifference is the enemy. — Elie Wiesel
I agree with Mr. Wiesel. Indifference is an enemy of love and is a great source of danger in this world, but I disagree on the point that it is the opposite of love. Love and hate are diametrically opposed to each other on the same continuum, where love is on one end and hate is on the other, with lots of shades of gray in between them. Love and hate line up analogously with the opposites of light and dark, with hospitality and hostility, with acceptance and denial, with liberation and slavery. (Think about that one for a moment: love is liberation.)
Indifference is the fence that divides the two extremes of the love/hate continuum. Indifference to love or hate is sitting on the fence between the two, refusing to engage either one of them. Indifference, if it had its own way, would prefer to step away from the whole struggle between love and hate, to walk away from the only real game in the world and wallow in its own mediocrity.
The amount of indifference, in America at least, was highlighted during a radio show I heard Friday evening. The speaker quoted some statistics from a Newsweek article titled “God in America”, written by Kenneth Woodward (no relation):
30% — Secular - Lack of belief in God.
29% — Nominally religious - Believe in God but do not attend religious services on a regular basis.
22% — Modestly religious - Believe in God, attend religious services regularly, but their belief has not influenced their lifestyle or values of morality.
19% — Committed religious - Believe in God, attend religious services regularly, and their belief has heavily influenced their lifestyle and values of morality.
The quote on indifference and these statistics reminded me of Revelation 3:15-17:
I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,” and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Maybe lukewarm is a reference to those poor agnostics—too chicken to deny God, but too caught up in doubt and skepticism to find the courage to take action. Or maybe lukewarm refers to the 51% of those adults from the survey claiming belief in God but have not changed their lifestyle. I do not know. In some of my darker moments, I would say yes to it all. I even worry about myself, one who considers himself within the 19% of the committed religious. I know I fail way too often. (Isn’t presumption of ones salvation a sin?)
There are many people who have an “experience” of God, an experience that allows them to say, “Yes, I believe.” I think the popular expression in America is to say, “I’ve been saved.” But then some never change their lifestyle. They are indifferent because they do not repent and turn toward God. They keep on living the same old way, the way of the world. And we know who rules this fallen world. Are they the seeds that fell on rocky places?
I guess I fear for these people. Do they not realize that one must re-commit to their baptism on a daily basis? Isn’t there a passage in the Gospels where Jesus says many will call out His name, and He will reply to some that he does not know them? Then He will say to those He does not know, “Be gone from Me.” That would be a horrible thing to hear at the end of your life, especially if you had thought this whole time you were “saved”.
I do not know. I have a magnet on my file cabinet in my classroom that says, “God loves me just the way I am, but He loves me too much to leave me that way.” I firmly believe that. God wants to transform each of us into adopted sons and daughters so that we may live in heaven with Him. Indifference denies this.
In a follow-up to The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote a short story called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”. In this piece, the devil Screwtape boasts to his fellow devils about the record number of souls that they have been receiving into hell, but then complains about their lack of quality. The new souls are bland and tasteless. (The economy of hell is based on devouring others. Human souls, in effect, are food for the devils. This is essentially the same as subjugating and dominating immortal souls under the slavery of the devils’ own self-centered wills.) Screwtape blames this “tastelessness” on the lack of any strong sins within the world, like hate. Screwtape goes on to explain that the lack of hate is attributed to the exponential rise in indifference. Their numbers are up, but at the expense of flavor. Either way, through hate or indifference, there is no famine in hell.
A dear friend of mine has recently introduced me to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Divine Mercy Novena. A novena is a type of Catholic devotion dating from the earliest days of Christianity in Rome that consists of a set of prayers that are said for nine consecutive days. (Why nine days? Some say it is because Jesus died during the ninth hour. Some say that it comes from the nine days that the Apostles and Mary waited and prayed between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.) On day nine of the Divine Mercy Novena, the prayer is for those lukewarm souls:
“Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.