When I share my testimony I don’t get far before I find myself saying the phrase “two-faced.” And man I was two faced. Now we all have potential to be two-faced, but over the next series of posts I want to explore the faces of humanity as we might see them presented to us. Every post will close with THE Face of Humanity.
In the Didache (an early church document that would be comparable to the first catechism) a reader will find a very clear sentence, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two there is a great difference.”
You can bet I’ve tried to walk both those paths simultaneously. I’ve tried to keep a foot in both the way of life and the way of death, only to discover that such an endeavor is impossible. We can do it for a little while, and this is what I mean by being two-faced, but we can’t do it for long before we’re doing splits or an obstacle appears in-between the two paths forcing our choice.
Even if we know that one path is life and the other is death, we can feel drawn to leave the way of life. We have a selfishness and attraction to sin that can pull us from the path the Lord would have a us walk. The theology of this attraction differs from one Christian Community to another, but as a Catholic I would call it concupiscence. But, whatever it is called, it is neither an excuse to sin nor an excuse to be two-faced!
With that established, I want to explore some faces that the world has shown us, examine what they tell us about us, and finally come Face-to-Face with the only one who can tell us who we are. This journey will be a series and so we’ll start this journey with a man whose name bears such closeness to my own two-facedness.
“We thought we could be decent men, in an indecent time.” – Two-Face
A comedian named Mitch Hedberg once said, “That would be cool if you could eat a good food with a bad food and the good food would cover for the bad food when it got to your stomach. Like you could eat a carrot with an onion ring and they would travel down to your stomach, then they would get there, and the carrot would say, ‘It’s cool, he’s with me.’” His desired reality captures the world that Harvey Dent presents us: “Good and bad will all equal out in the end. If I have strong virtue, then bring on the vice, because I’m covered.”
I know, I know, Two-Face is a villain so this seems like a really poor example, but in all reality he is not. The mantra of my time in college was “study hard, party harder.” Sure, a lack of sleep and the affects of alcohol on the brain could totally undermine my studying, or drinking underage could have gotten me kicked out of my college, but nonetheless, we wore our dual identity on our sleeves. Or I’ll hear someone defending Planned Parenthood by saying, “Yeah they provide abortions, but they also do some good things for women.”
I bring these up because Mitch Hedberg’s fantasy of food canceling itself out is similar to the morality that is sold to our culture. Even in our churches we hear consequentialist reasoning for things that the Church teaches us are morally wrong, such as the dropping of the nuclear bombs, embryonic stem cell research, neglect for the poor, euthanasia, etc. We become Two-Face when fairness trumps justice and morality is a scale we’re trying to balance. The Christian Life is not based on the balancing good and evil; or even good just barely beating evil. Rather, Christianity is rooted in the victory, and even more so the victor, of Good over Evil / Life over Death / Light over Dark / Virtue over Sin / Love over Fear.
One Face, Two Audiences
There are more forms of being two-faced, and we’ll cover those soon. I want to close this post with the One face that matters most.
We can talk about Jesus in terms of His humanity and divinity so often that we can think of Him as having two different faces, but He doesn’t. He simply has two audiences. Jesus is the face of God to humanity and the face of humanity to God. He became the son of man so that we might become Sons and Daughters of God. He is the decent man in an indecent time. And in the face of trial, He won the victory over evil that allows us to see God face to face. Not because of a great balancing act, but because He allowed all of the evil, depravity, and sin in the world to be spent on Him and swallowed up by His infinite love.
Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death: “He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is true God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity.’
The Church thus confesses … ‘What he was, he remained and what he was not he assumed … you who deigned for our salvation to become incarnate … you who without change became man and were crucified, O Christ our God, you who by your death have crushed death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us!’ (CCC 468-469)