I saw a preview the other day for the show Glee.  Even if it’s not any good, the network desperately wants it to be, because we’ve already seen a lot of hype in that direction and it doesn’t air until the Fall.  But watching the preview of that show made me think back to my own time in high school choir.  It seems that the experience of the director in Glee was the same as our director– once the popular kids got involved, the choir would take off.  It mattered whether or not choir was seen as something “popular” for it to be successful.  That was definitely the case in my high school.  When the popular kids got involved and it wasn’t seen as a nerdy activity, choir really took off and we became very good–partly because the director was able to tap a lot of talent from a lot of different groups that would have otherwise remained isolated: the jocks, the academics, the quiet kids, the musicians that would have been in choir anyway.   All those groups came together to form a very good choir, simply because choir became something you could do without worrying about being ostracized.  Like so many other programs for the arts at that time, we saw a lot of persecution from the powers that be, and like so many other stories we’ve heard, the arts were denied funding, etc.  For some odd reason it seemed as though the school wanted the basketball team to succeed far more than the choir– so eventually our choir director was let go (for a number of reasons) and the choir is now back to being its mediocre self with ten members. 

But I was reflecting on why we were so good besides the popularity aspect, and one thing I can say about our choir director is that he had passion for music.  A Vietnam vet who was very disillusiioned with what he saw in Vietnam, even more disillusioned with how he was treated when he returned from Vietnam, our choir director didn’t seem to be passionate about many things.  But one thing he was passionate about was music (and the other thing he was passionate about was our country–the country that he had served).

And we responded to this, whether we knew it or not.  We responded to his passion and his love for music with a recipriocated love for music.  In thinking about all this, another teacher was brought to mind — a teacher who recently retired after many years of service to the school.  He retired shortly after his 88th birthday.  He gave so much to that school, even beyond his few class periods, and he was held as a role model by many of the students.  I was thinking back to this teacher and how many lives he had touched in the classroom and out, and I realized again that it was his passion that made him so appealing and such a role model.  It wasn’t his teaching style, quite frankly, that made him a great teacher.   Sometimes he merely sat at his desk and lectured.   But we responded to him — very well — because he was so passionate about what he was teaching.  Whether he was teaching us the roots of every day words or vocabulary or Scripture, we responded to him because we knew he loved what he was doing and he taught with a passion.

I think one of the great errors of our day is that Christians are not passionate.  Sometimes the passions are falsely seen as bad things.  Perhaps we confuse our passions with sins — with lust or intemperance– rather than seeing that the passions are God-given.  The passions are good when ordered toward our final end.

So while the sin of anger certainly exists, there’s also righteous anger that should rise up in us when we see something contrary to nature, when we see something contrary to our final end.  I think a lot of times Christians think that they need to squelch their passions such that they become this boring individual with very little life in them.  For Pete’s sake, when you see someone like this, with no expression– who wants to emulate that?  Who wants to be like that?

But when you see someone full of life, full of happiness, full of joy, and in the right circumstances, angry at an injustice– sure, you want to be like them.  G.K.Chesterton said the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting- it has been found difficult and left untried.   It’s hard for us today to regulate our passions and to use them for the good. Surrounded by our sex-ed up culture, it’s hard to see that lust is a sin and that we can’t act on every desire that rises up in our hearts.  But this doesn’t negate the value of passions.

We should be angry at what is happening in our culture.  We should be angry at the abuse of the great gift of sex.  We should be angry at the murder of innocent children in the womb.  We should be angry that our tax dollars are being used for research on embryos and for population control.   And yet we let our President get away with a radical agenda because “he’s a nice guy.”  We don’t speak the truth because we don’t want to make waves in the workplace.

If Christians were more passionate people, not only would more get done around here– we would be people that someone looked at and thought, “I want to be like them.”

Mother Teresa is a perfect example of someone full of passion.  If you ever saw or heard Mother Teresa get angry over abortion, you knew she was a passionate woman.  And people loved her — people saw something in her that they wanted.  Christ was a passionate person.  He got angry.  He got cried.  He laughed.  (It never says in Scripture that He laughed, but it’s hard to believe He never did.  How could you not laugh, surrounded by those twelve men!)

I think we need to return to that passion.  Pope Paul VI said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”   This is crucial for us.  We need to be witnesses to the truth.  The two teachers mentioned above were witnesses  to what they held dear, to what they valued, and we responded to it.  

So if anyone ever thinks that the young generation is unresponsive or hard to get through …  it’s because the teachers are not living the life they’re preaching, they’re not living a life that reflects what they hold dear.

“Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor 16:13-14)

Notice Paul doesn’t say “be a spineless pansy.”