The first reading from the second book of Maccabees tells the wonderful story of Eleazar. He was up in years and well liked by everyone, even those who were putting his faith to the test. Even though they offered him a way out of dying, he would not compromise any aspects of his beliefs. He died in fidelity to God and His laws.
I read the book by George Barna entitled “The Seven Faith Tribes”. Through thousands of questioners and interviews, he and his organization have gathered tons of data on the world views of the American people, specifically in the area of their belief in God or lack thereof. They have come up with a cluster of seven tribes, different groups that are organized and defined by their specific world view.
Among the Christians he speaks of two tribes: the Captives and the Casuals. The Captives get their name from St. Paul’s notion of being a slave of Christ. Their entire lives are defined and centered on their relationship to Christ. They believe what the Bible says and refuse to compromise in the area of doctrine or moral living. Going to Church is the joy of their life. They love their families. They are not heavy into the whole media world. They live in the presence of the spiritual realm and do not find great comfort in material things. They are the lowest in debt and highest in the levels of generosity. Among all the tribes they are least likely to view pornography, get drunk, gamble, use profanity in public, gossip, use tobacco products or commit adultery. They are the tribe most like to serve the poor, help the homeless and have a willingness to discuss moral issues with others. This gives you a flavor of the Captives.
The Casuals, many of whom probably began as children in the Captive mode, have casualized their faith. One of the big goals of their lives is personal comfort, to live in peace. They try to keep peace with everyone: God, family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. To minimize their anxieties in life, the generally sidestep conversations about controversial matter, including religion and politics. Their tendency is to offer encouraging words to those who are down and to look for the upside in every situation. They feel that sharing their sunny outlook on life is one of the best gifts they can offer to others. It is estimated that 185 million Americans fit into the Casual tribe. They set the average for everything in the USA: The way they use the internet corresponds to the national norm. How often they watch moves, view porn, visit psychics, etc. etc.
They love their families, distrust religions, and politics. They have a vaneer of Christian symbols they like but they do not believe in absolute moral standards. They are relativists. They can tolerate almost anything in order to keep their peace. They do not live in a world defined by God’s law.
We can learn a lot from Eleazar. He was a Captive through and through. Where have all the Captives gone? I want to do a good review of my life, using these notions. It should be an interesting and challenging reflection.
Blaise Czaja is a Passionist preacher and is stationed in Citrus Heights, California.