Boycott New Year’s Resolutions, Inc.

New Year's Resolutions, Inc.-surging in a bull market as I write these words-may appear benign but it propagates a Doctrine which should offend and scandalize every Christian. I should know. I was once a loyal foot soldier, disseminating its pamphlets. I used to be a card-carrying member of the Doctrine and its Party.

The Doctrine is never to be spoken of or committed to print, but I can no longer keep silent.

The Doctrine dates back thousands of years and has been handed down through an underground network of pagans, stoics, dualists, materialists, Donatists, and Pelagians, but in recent centuries it has gone mainstream. Now viral, it spawns apologists and bestsellers by the thousands in broad daylight.

In fact, I will share what was common knowledge for us who worked for the Doctrine: the Doctrine thrives in pockets of pragmatism. America is a nation of doers, and many of its people are world-renowned propagandists for the Doctrine.

Take the average American man: He rarely questions the Doctrine; he is often pliant and submissive, an obliging host. If he is a "man of faith", he is usually quick to accommodate the Doctrine. We called all of these men to self-reliance, independence, strength, and new horizons of accomplishment, freedom and renown. The longer their lists, the better. We held the bar high-and they responded: by relying more on themselves and working harder.

The holidays were always an exhilarating time for us as apologists. Ever sophisticated, the Party's Politburo would slip the economy into overdrive after Thanksgiving, culminating at Christmas. By December 28th or 29th, four weeks after the "holiday rush" began, the typical American man was predictably exhausted, spent, anxious and irritable. Meanwhile, the Party's holy day of January 1st was fast approaching.

The average man is caught flat-footed as, under cover of dark, the Party launches the blitzkrieg with chilling ferocity. By New Year's morning, the Party is churning out New Year's Resolution "lists" every millisecond: 5-steps to [insert: better career, fitness, finance, romance, power…], 63 Ways to Achieve a New You in 2016, Eliminate Your Debt with One Easy Click. Wherever the American man looks, he finds a listicle or billboard or gym coaxing him to a better self, to comparison, and to self-loathing. By night, the Party resorts to the dark arts to further weaken its target.

I worked as an apologist for the Doctrine for many years. As students of the Doctrine, we were taught never to speak of three things: the crucifixion of the Messiah, human dependence on the Triune God, and the mysterium iniquitatis (the mystery of original sin and its effects). Each of these was repulsive, anathema, abhorrent.

We never studied in groups. Friendships were forbidden, as was the Bible. Any occasion for depending on another or calling for help was ground for severe punishment.

It's a long story for another day, but I left the Doctrine in two phases. First, as a new Christian, I sought to integrate the Doctrine with my newfound faith. I saw this as a benign coexistence, a mutually enriching "synergy".

I will never forget the moment that my truce collapsed from within and ushered in the second and final phase. It was the night before I was to speak at a conference for Christian men. I had decided I would call them to spiritual self-reliance. I prepared a list of steps for them to achieve spiritual strength, a new raft of resolutions for eliminating weakness. By way of research, I opened the once-forbidden Book.

"'My grace is sufficient for you,'" I read the words of the Messiah to Paul, "'for power is made perfect in weakness.'" Paul continued, "I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The Doctrine and New Year's Resolutions, Inc., imploded almost immediately. I saw for the first how the cross was a place of dependence, weakness, and humiliation. I desired it. Soon after, I left the Doctrine and turned in my membership card.

Learn from my mistakes: Resolve now to expel the Doctrine from your life. Test every resolution. With Paul, may we fly into this New Year boasting gladly of our weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with us.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015