The Importance of Being Honest
By MARIANNE WOOD
Oscar Wilde satirized Victorian behavior in his comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest. The chief character, Ernest, who is only Ernest in the city and known as Jack in the country, is obviously neither earnest nor serious. Ditto for the play. Though it is a delight.
Reading J.D. Vance’s article, “How I joined the Resistance” in The Lamp magazine, I thought of this play and think that Christians need to take an earnest look at honesty.
I generally agree with Vance that our society in a post-Christian culture despises “a faith centered around a Christ who demands perfection of us even as He loves unconditionally and forgives easily.” 1 In the New Testament, Paul asks the Corinthian church to “aim for perfection.” And in Hebrews (another missive possibly by Paul) we know that we are not the author nor the perfecter of our faith; Jesus is.3 So while we strive for honesty and a host of other virtues, we cannot accomplish it on our own.
Vance goes on to admit that he “needed to pray more, to participate in the sacramental life of the Church, to confess and repent publicly, no matter how awkward that might be. And I needed grace,” he said. This…on his way to becoming Catholic.
I am not Catholic, though the Lord knows I have been heavily influenced by neighbors and friends who do practice this form of Christianity. I admire their commitment to practices and discipline and their sometimes raucous enjoyment of parties whether they are birthdays or funerals. Joyful people, most of the ones I know like to dance!
I get where J.D. comes from because I’ve read his best-selling book, a biography, Hillbilly Elegy. Some of you have read it and seen the movie, too. But mostly, I get where he’s gotten. He’s gotten the importance of being honest about his sin, and he’s earnestly in need of redemptive grace.
As contemporary society gives us alternatives to a vibrant, childlike faith, even a cynical “numbness toward life,” through a myriad of options easily available even in COVID-19 quarantine, we have the opportunity to choose to be honest.2
I pray that we, the Church, will commit to becoming more honest with God, with ourselves, and those closest so that we might daily repent and renew our hearts and minds, embracing forgiveness of sin and restoration. Christmastime provides a good season for starting.
1 J.D. Vance in The Lamp magazine, “How I Joined the Resistance,” 2020.
2. A Praying Life, chapter 9
3. I Corinthians 13:11 and Hebrews 12:2
Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright