Why Is There Such Strong Hatred for the Church?

In the final week of Easter, there were frequent references in the readings to the fact that the world would hate true Christians. For example,

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:18-20).

The word “world” here obviously does not refer to the planet Earth itself, but to the collective attitudes, philosophies, economies, priorities, political powers, and cultural stances that are arrayed against God and His teachings. It is an accumulation of demonic influences and sinful human connivances, tendencies, and preferences. Because this “world” involves people, human and demonic, it is capable of hate.

The world hates us to the degree that we are true Christians.

Sadly, many Christians work hard to ensure that the world does not hate them. We do this most often by compromising the faith and hiding whatever practice of the faith we do have. It is also due to a love and preference for the world. While this is often done out of weakness, it is a deeply sinful drive. Scripture warns,

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

These are strong words to be sure, but deep sinful drives require strong medicine.

If we are on a path to becoming truer Christians, we will encounter increasing resistance from the world and from worldly people who sense that we are not quite on board with the current culturally-blessed belief system. Somehow, they sense an independence and freedom in us that they rightly assess will erode their power.

Let’s consider a few related though distinct versions of the world’s hatred of true Christians.

1.  The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited by agreeing to part with our money.

Scripture says this of the fear of death:

Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, Christ too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Most marketing schemes exploit the fear of diminishment, which is a version of the fear of death. Find out what a person fears and you can control him. Most people are desperately afraid of rejection, of being diminished in the sight of their fellow human beings.

Many are ensnared by this and are easy targets for exploitation. This fear of diminishment is brought out by delivering the message that you are not measuring up in some way. Here are some examples:

  • You’re not attractive enough.
  • You’re not slim enough.
  • You don’t have the right style or color of hair.
  • You don’t drive the right sort of car.
  • You don’t have a modern enough cell phone,
  • You don’t live in the right kind of house in the right kind of neighborhood.
  • You’re not smart enough.
  • You’re not cool.
  • Your neighbors are laughing at you behind your back because they are richer, more glamorous, and happier than you are.
  • You’re missing out on life because of all your shortcomings.

“Never fear,” the message goes, “$19.95 (plus shipping and handling) will get you our product and make you less pathetic, more esteemed, and less diminished in the eyes of your neighbors.”

When a person is less obsessed with human approval and more focused on divine approval, when he has the “fear of the Lord” rather than the fear of men, the worldly realize that he is less easily exploited. A true Christian is more satisfied with God’s love and therefore less concerned with the world’s esteem and approval. The world senses this and develops a kind of disdain and hatred for the true Christian and for Christianity itself because it cannot so easily exploit the fear of diminishment.

2.  The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited for worldly power or political gain.

There is power in ideas. Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. Thoughts and ideas are powerful things. This insight is at the heart of the proclamation of the Gospel. No longer be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). The Church and the world are engaged in a battle of ideas and the battle for the mind.

One of the tactics of the world is to market ideas so as to gain power and influence. This is a worldly sense that if certain ideas and ideologies can be implanted in people, they can then become a base for marketing, politics, and worldly power.

Identity politics, tribalism, race, and highly specific grievances increasingly form a basis for political and worldly power; ideas become ideology.

Reason and shared human values are less the basis for the appeal; fear and competition through organized power become more common. In an increasingly crowded marketplace of divergent ideas, loyalty and an “us vs. them” mentality are insisted upon. Intimidation, both subtle and obvious, is the daily fare.

The world rightly assesses that a true Christian is less easily intimidated. As our faith grows, our ideas become more rooted in perennial truths rather than in the ephemeral views of today. We see things by the light of the Gospel and more quickly understand the errors of much of modern thinking. As we grow in our faith we trust God more and come to delight in the truth He proclaims, experiencing greater liberation. Rooted in this way in clear and lasting truth, we are less easily deceived, controlled, or intimidated. The world and the prince of this world are instinctively aware of this and thus hate us and the faith in which we strive to grow.

3.  The world hates us because our call to moderation threatens their wild excesses.

This is basically the summation of the first two points. The Christian faith calls us to moderation and sobriety. We are taught that happiness is not rooted in the multiplicity of things or pleasures, but in the moderate enjoyment of lawful pleasures. This limits the ability of marketers to sell us more and more. It also limits the inroads of political and worldly philosophies that often traffic in inciting dissatisfaction that others have more that we do. The world rightly perceives that a true Christian is less easily provoked to excessive consumption and less easily enlisted in causes rooted merely in possessions or power.

We are an “ugly” reminder to the world that it has lost its way.

In the Book of Wisdom this form of hatred is described in this way:

Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end…. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them. And they did not know the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense for holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward (Wisdom 2:12-24).

Deep down, the worldly know that what the Church teaches is right. She touches something deep in the consciences of even the most jaded of modern thinkers. Rationalizing away, resisting, and ignoring the still, small voice of God echoing in their hearts is hard work. Even a small poke from the Church through Scripture or her teaching incites loud cries of pain and anger because they know the Church is right.

Perhaps, too, there is vague awareness that the Church is still going to be here preaching the gospel long after this current experiment of a godless and truth-less “culture” has run its course. Indeed, in the age of the Church empires have come and gone, nations have risen and fallen, heresies have been presented and resisted. Yet here we are still, preaching the gospel.

There is something mysterious about the particular hatred that the world reserves for Jesus and His Church.

In the Western world most religions are tolerated, even if largely ignored. Buddhism, Hinduism, and other eastern religions receive a nod from the cultural elites. New Age “spiritual but not religious,” “god-within” movements are often thought trendy and touted as substitutes for biblical religions. Strangely, despite numerous terrorist attacks and an ideology almost diametrically opposed to Western liberalism, the Muslim faith gets a pass.

Don’t even mention Christianity, let alone Catholicism, to most of them. The reaction is often “over-the-top.” It is not enough for them to dismiss us as irrelevant; they actively oppose us with legal efforts to keep our voice out of the public square. Prayer must go. Christmas must be called “the Holidays.” Mangers are forbidden. Even the colors green and red have been banished from some schools during this time. Easter break is “spring break” and Good Friday is just another teacher in-service day. Ramadan and Rosh Hashana are still mentioned by name. One can express almost any motivation for a view—except a religious one (especially a Christian or Catholic one). One can be a proud supporter of abortion and Planned Parenthood and a proud supporter of same-sex “marriage” and other LGBTQ causes, but one cannot oppose these for sincerely held religious reasons without being labeled a dangerous zealot trying to impose your views on others.

The depth of the fear, anger, and hatred is mysterious. If we are so “irrelevant,” why is it necessary to oppose us so fiercely? Do we really have an ability to impose our views? Why are we said to be “imposing” our views when we voice them while others are free to hold and express their views without backlash?

The anger, fear, and hatred is both obsessive and excessive. It is far beyond rational opposition.

Ultimately the mystery is not so deep that it defies explanation. There is evidence in the behavior of cultural elites and worldly leaders that Jesus and Christianity (especially the Catholic part of it) are public enemy number one.

Satan certainly has a raging fear of Jesus. As the “prince of this world,” he spreads his fear to the world. Thus, despite our many compromises with modernity, Catholicism remains the staunchest opponent to the views of most cultural elites. Our doctrines are stubborn things, even for some inside the Church who would like to change them. The Rock of Peter, whatever the human limitations of the individual popes in history, has a great deal of inertia by the Lord’s own design and grace. By God’s own promise, the gates of Hell (an image of power) slam against the Rock but cannot prevail.

The hatred of the Catholic Church is not really mysterious after all. It is a hatred far more cosmic and sweeping than merely that of those who live today. The special hatred for Christ and His Church are the great evidence that He is true Savior and Lord. Satan cannot keep a “poker face” in the presence of Christ and His Bride, the Church. He nervously rages, and all his worldly structures, philosophies, and those he inspires rage with him.

Be sober and yet at the same time amazed at the evidence of the true Church and Faith.

And the dragon was enraged at the woman and went to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. (Revelation 12:17)

17 Replies to “Why Is There Such Strong Hatred for the Church?”

  1. You’re not attractive enough.
    You’re not slim enough.
    You don’t have the right style or color of hair.
    You don’t drive the right sort of car.
    You don’t have a modern enough cell phone,
    You don’t live in the right kind of house in the right kind of neighborhood.
    You’re not smart enough.
    You’re not cool.
    Your neighbors are laughing at you behind your back because they are richer, more glamorous, and happier than you are.
    You’re missing out on life because of all your shortcomings.

    I am always upset that everyone my age (16+) seems to have their act together or they’re better prepared for life than I am. It seems that I’m the only one with some fault and no one else ever has this problem.

    1. Catherine, they only seem to be better prepared for life than you, and only appear to have their act together. Nobody is truly at that point a any age, it’s just a front to look good to the world.

      Putting on a front is dangerous. After a while, people begin to believe the front/untruths about themselves that they project to others, and become complacent. But something deep inside them knows that this is not right, and at some level it disturbs their inner peace.

      You are still quite young, but it sounds like you are actually way ahead of them. You realize you are not perfect (none of us are), and realizing and identifying these areas of your life is the first step in working toward changing them for the better.

      Christ called us to follow him; He didn’t say it was easy. It’s not. Every one of us has faults. I certainly have my fair share. 🙂 By recognizing this and not covering it up, I think you’re ahead of the others.

      Anyway, that’s my two cents’ worth. Don’t get discouraged, just pray for help, keep your eyes on the Lord, and don’t quit. The final reward is worth it.

  2. Hi Catherine, chin up and God bless! Don’t be deceived. What you are witnessing in highschool (the cliques, exclusivity and cattiness) will prepare you for the years ahead. I am some twenty years out of Catholic schooling and I have learned this: those same kids who have it ‘all’ at school are nothing but an act and people continue this smoke and mirrors act right into adulthood (do you realise that despite appearances, a LOT of people live beyond their means and are therefore privately stressed out?) As a woman, I can also tell you that: There is no such thing as having it all (you make one decision and that excludes others etc) and appearances are no substitute for real character which in turn can only come from experiences like the one you are going through now. Let this time be a preparation to separate yourself from the goats. You can go with the flow or you can follow your faith which certainly isn’t easy but the truth of living close to God and of a clean conscience, well, no money can buy that. Your generation lives in a more superficial online world than mine did. The times change but human nature never does. Be yourself. Better yet, be who God created you to be.

  3. Catherine: You are made in the image and likeness of God, so precious to Him and He Loves you so much and Loves your hair and your outer beauty no matter what anyone else thinks but He Loves you as a person, who you are, He LOVES YOU! Know God Loves you and wants Good things for you in this life and that He KNOWS YOU so well that He can help you through your entire life to make Good decisions according to HIS TRUTH and KNOWLEDGE and not according to the world that can cause you to make unwise decisions for yourself and others. He IS Truth the ONE Who Loves you now and forever, follow Jesus Christ for He will never abandon you and He will ALWAYS lead you to REAL Joy and REAL confidence in yourself. God Bless and keep you always.

  4. I remember in the late 60’s when my mother had her 7th child and she came home from a neighbor’s house in tears. The neighbor lady (a protestant) seemed to have given her the lecture on ‘all those kids!’ My mother felt pretty low… of course my mother has just celebrated her 8th great grandchild. No tears now.

  5. Just yesterday, on the website where I play chess, in the political chat channel, someone suggested that the Catholic Church be labeled a terrorist organization, on the same level as ISIS, in Australia.

    I suggested to him that he thinks that Catholics should be punished 70 times 7 times for their sins.

  6. Thank you Monsignor, I am going to print this, I need to refer to it often.

  7. Excellent article. A most welcome reminder that fidelity to Christ has its own rewards, and the approval of the world will not be among them.

  8. “The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited for worldly power or political gain.”

    An interesting point. It seems like in the early 21st Century United States, anyway, Christians are the MOST easily exploited for worldly power and political gain.

  9. Have to admit, writing from here in Ireland not feeling a great deal of love for the church at the moment. While individual priests and members of the laity did sterling pro life campaigning the church establishment basically looked the other way. Their desire not to rock the boat jettisoned the cause.

  10. So many other things for which our church is singled out, including something in the (recent but dealt with) child molesting by priests, other religious groups, school teachers, little league coaches, scout and girl guide leaders. So much focus on male perpetrator and so very little on women abusing young boys into traumatic experience. So very many people focus on (and co-erce others to focus on) the part of the Catholic clergy, to the point of looking away from the others or, regarding those actions as collections of individual incidents.
    When confronted by this I would remind them that there were many cases other than in the Catholic Church. Then, I came up with a ready add on to my replay that; by focusing on any one group and risks the supporting of enablement of these other perpetrators. By then I had gained enough of a reputation of telling people about that so it seemed that the opportunity was never to me.
    A few weeks ago, along with the homily, the parish priest made a few comments on people who still waved the banner on the past incidents and how they ignored the vastly greater numbers Catholic clergy who were honourable in their dealings with young people.
    I then had an sudden insight that gave me a sudden shift in perception. I don’t know the source for certain but am not willing to ignore God’s wonderful guidance. It would also seem that I needed that timely jog (which I got from the parish priest).
    This was; that the perpetrators, of these terrible mis-deeds, would inevitably inflitrate any organization which would provide them with access to, and authourity over, vulnerable children so that all bodies, scholastic, secular, educational, social would inevitably be victims of this infiltration.
    I don’t know if this (new and different) perspective is as good a shifted viewpoint as I like to think but, I think that I should pass it on.
    I’ve come and gone from here, taking care of other tasks but, I am so grateful to you Monsignor Pope for keeping this ‘blog available for when I need it. God bless you.

  11. Something we need to be careful about when reading this article is to examine our conscience carefully about our actions and how we approach the faith. There are times when we act “triumphant” or “overly pious” or lack proper “charity” in our teaching or displays, etc. that easily evoke the anger of others. And some even seem to enjoy poking the eye of others to evoke such responses. We need to be careful to ensure we are indeed victims rather than blinded by the splinters in our own eye.

  12. AMEN! What an enlightening article. Sometimes I wondered why American society is so hostile towards Catholics & the Church. They are afraid of us because we are the last thing blocking them from succeeding.
    Everyone should read this to understand just what we are up against. I pray that The Virgin Mary, our patroness, will protect & guide us in our struggle. God Bless America, our President, our Church & Pope Francis.
    Gira Freiberg

  13. Thanks for this article, Msgr. When my son was 7 he asked me “Why does everyone hate us?” Referring to “us” as Catholics. I always thought a book could be written to answer this question.

    As I read the article, I couldn´t help but think that not only does a catholic live this hatred in the world but, in our case, inside our own family. So we get a lot of practice on how to dodge the constant mockery, and when unable we consider Our Lord`s passion. Definitely, it is a hardship for them to look at us.

    Beauty of it all … constant consolation and ever growing faith.

  14. This is excellent. My son suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder. He kept working to overcome the difficulties of his illness. He died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism on Christmas day last year while doing voluntary work in Cambodia with the Marist Brothers. He was acutely aware of his inability to fit in with Society’s expectations. He was a weekly Mass attender and I pray that God will have mercy on him and forgive him some poor life choices my son made.

  15. Rather than an honest understanding of whatever existing conflicts may exist due to our Catholicism, this seems like a rather self-congratulatory, smug pat on the back. Nothing like inflaming passions with a straw man argument and an ‘us against the world” attitude, rather than look at an issue in depth, with input from those with whom you may disagree.

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