If you’re an American you are likely infected, at least partly, with the disease of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a phrase coined by sociologist Christian Smith.  MTD is the belief, perhaps hidden under traditional Christian mores, that God’s job is to make you feel better about yourself and generally take your problems away.  Worry not!  Christianity is here to cure this disease, which is really a superstition, and Good Friday is a particularly good remedy.

It’s a custom in the South to plant a garden on Good Friday, especially potatoes.  Being far from the land, that might sound too “pleasant” a thing to do. It is pleasant in some ways, but there’s more too it.  It’s a fitting activity because there’s meaning in it.  We forget that nature has meaning, or that anything does.  Our surroundings are almost entirely man-made, which makes us think that meaning only comes to a thing when we assign it.  From the temperature in the room to the road we drive on to the sidewalk to the house to the screens and noise and “feeds” of social media – all of it is from man.  In the silence of a garden, with the recently worked and nude soil, God speaks.  Nature is not neutral ground.  It is a place where God speaks of goodness and beauty and death and life.  Putting potatoes in the dark tomb of the soil in hopes of resurrection and life from a cold dirty thing is an apt meditation.  Traditionally, the old timers say to make sure the potato’s “eyes are up” (potato eyes are the bud-like circles that sprout) and the cut side down (potatoes are cut in half and cured for planting to make more plants).  I think its partly because the sprouts will reach the sun first as it grows, but also because we place it in its earthen tomb with eyes toward heaven, like a man in his casket.  The cut side – the image of death – is down.  Laying in the tomb with eyes up is not an act of despair but of hope.

Christianity is not here to make you feel better about yourself.  Its here to make you yourself, meaning a creature in the image and likeness of God, to redeem you of your sin and bring you to the arms of a loving Father.  We often try to grab the tail of our problems but end up just being slung around.  Some of us even try to just be orthodox enough, to be “right,” and fail to be moved and changed in the love of God.  Our “eyes are up” not like a potato, but like the Pharisee who “prays thus to himself.”  Moralistic Therapeutic Deism grabs the tail of the wrong thing, and so does prideful orthodoxy, because our problem is within us.  In this sense, you don’t have problems.  You are the problem.

The entire world is external to us – none of it penetrates us truly.  It affects us, yes, but the inner man remains in turmoil only when he thinks that the world or the devil or the circumstances of life have the final say and define our being.  Our Lord does not teach this.  He says that when we love Him, He and His Father will be infused inside our very being and give us a life and peace that the world doesn’t even know, because its not of this world.  Our desire to grab the tail of our problems and either try to fix ourselves or ask God to make us feel better about ourselves – all of this misses the point.  Today is the day to lay down in the soil, to go to the tomb with Christ – to die – but to raise our eyes to heaven, like a potato, and expect the resurrection.

When you do rise – which you will (in Christ alone) – your problems will still be there.  God promises crosses and persecution, not soothing puppies and good feelings.  But when we rise, we will be reconciled to God, and in that we will have finally grasped the real problem.  That sin divides and separates us from the love and life of God, that is the problem.  Nothing else – not even our “best efforts” – will suffice.  We need the love of God, to dwell in Him and Him in us.

“Yes,” you might say, “but then God tells me to be perfect.  I can’t be perfect.  My problems are too large.”  But, as Jacques Maritain said, while summarizing the teachings of the mystics and St. Thomas, “Perfection is not a mathematical point.”  There’s not a measurable threshold of perfection to cross.  God and His love are both the ends and the means of the perfect life, so to love Him and seek Him – to begin – is to have, in a sense, “reached” perfection.  To do anything else is to be imperfect.  “What is prescribed in the precept [to be perfect] is to tend toward perfection as to an end,” Maritain says, “and when one has begun to make his way towards it he is already accomplishing the precept…”

Laying humble in the soil, like a potato, with your eyes toward heaven has not only put you on a path to meet up with perfection, but has put you within the eyes of Perfection, the gaze of your loving Father.  Today we place Christ in the tomb liturgically, and we can lay down with him in hope.  Let go of trying to fix yourself and place your hope in the one who concurred death on this day of death.

  • Phil Alcoceli

    Excellent! Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is at the very center of Satan’s LDD (Localize, Demoralize and Destroy) Plan for us. It has infected all of the world and all churches, Protestant or Catholic, clergy and laity, all of us, you and me. 1) LOCALIZE: Our greatest inner desire and need is for God’s All-Mighty Fatherhood and Love. Like a person standing atop the very ground that contains enormous treasure, all we have to do is keep that position and dig for that treasure: believe, obey and persevere in God. Satan is the Ultimate Social Activist that told Adam and Eve, and now all of us, that God is cheating us of what we are totally entitled to and that He must “spread the wealth” of Divinity (a Gift that God ALREADY wanted for us through Simple Obedience) according to Satan’s and ours, blind, selfish. impossible demands. We cheated ourselves from Growing Divinization through Stupid Blind Rebellion. They and us shifted from God’s Loving Fatherhood to Satan’s Hateful False Fatherhood.

    DEMORALIZE: God “fails” (by being True To Himself) at being our maid and butler, so Satan impersonates God’s Holy Righteous Wrath by giving us his Pontificating Falsely Authoritative Self-Sanctifying Hatred (just look at God’s most public enemies and their overwhelming, hateful, fake authority- they reflect all of us, you and me) so we rebel and “punish” God for not doing his butler job by living increasingly DEHUMANIZING, irrational, destructive and degenerate lives, and we become false, miserable gods, calling our misery: love, compassion, inclusiveness, freedom and progress.

    DESTROY: Success in human lives is by Humility and Obedience before God, in joy and in suffering. Nature and the Universe are not neutral, they are Moral and Humble, and respond only to God’s Laws and Commands (have you noticed the incredible humility in a kitten’s eyes and in all babies?). With Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (Satan’s “Catholic” Church) we crash head-on into Reality, stalling into a death spiral that drags society down into Hell’s Next-Time-The-New-And-Improved-Human-Solutions-Will-Work, the Merry-Go-Round of Death. Jesus came to save us from ourselves, the real, deluded, corrupt, pushy bullies, you and me. Let’s repent before Jesus’ Cross, as He took our very deserved punishment upon Himself. He came to save us from ourselves. Let’s totally Love Him and totally Surrender to Him. He wanted to divinize us from the Very Beginning and His Will hasn’t changed today, and that’s where Satan’s Bottomless Hatred against us comes from. We cheated ourselves (and still do) BUT God is Always Faithful!! ALL Glory And Honor Be To JESUS CHRIST!!!