Identity – the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.
Integrity – moral uprightness.
Credibility – the quality of being convincing or believable. Trustworthy.
“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” – Acts 9:26
The conversion from Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus was received with great skepticism. One would find it near impossible to argue against that, for Saul was the most feared persecutor of the fledgling Christian Church, causing the death and imprisonment of many among its members. This one time persecutor now is the advocate for the target of that persecution? This drastic change was difficult to accept at the outset.
Jesus proclaims of Paul: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
“For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name?” – Acts 9: 21
By fulfilling Jesus’ role for him, Paul once the persecutor is now the protector of the Church. Paul now risks his own life in proclaiming Jesus, the Son of God, rather than, as Saul, making saints of those martyred who did the same. He has won the confidence of those who were once skeptics as he bravely carries out his divinely mandated assignment. This new identity brings with it integrity. A life of vice is now one of virtue. He has earned credibility in the eyes of all who doubted. But it must be remembered; what is impossible for man, is not impossible for God.
So, too, is it with society. Tradition is the essence of a long existing society. Its culture is its identity. If that tradition reflects democracy, which supports by law the supremacy of the people, then we identify that society by that tradition. But when a tradition is no longer embraced because of challenging conflicted opinion and ideology, then opened is the opportunity for cultural changes and along with it its identity. Through the loss of identity, that for which a society was once known is know no more. And along with society’s loss of identity, so also is its integrity. No longer is credibility evident.
The United States was not conceived in socialism but in democracy. A society by which the common man and woman is empowered with a freedom of conscience along with other distinctive freedoms which its Constitution (creed) protects. This tradition of freedom is how America is known. Not only by those around the world, but by its citizens as well. When we no longer recognize ourselves by this criteria then we have lost our identity. And, as well, the integrity of our mission as a nation. Failing to hold our tradition as sacred promotes an environment by which foreign notions can infiltrate. And all that has been sacrificed by men and women over the generations, which has never been sacrificed except for the likes of freedom, will have been in vain. Again, no longer is credibility evident.
Credibility likewise is escaping the Catholic Church. When we no longer feel the lash of persecution from the world, of which we were so warned by our founder, Christ Jesus, the Son of the living God, then we are no better nor different from the world. Truth is WHAT IS. If infiltrating relative truth is allowed to distort WHAT IS, then the custodians entrusted with sustaining Church tradition as conduits of Christ are in great part responsible for the lost identity and integrity of the Church. And, again, no longer is the institutional Church credible.
In any case, if an identity is recognized as an advocate of the common good, then its integrity must be maintained by the adherence to its tradition. The common good of mankind is achieved for men and women when they possess freedom of thought, conscience and decision. This can only be so in a society or religion that fosters a culture which allows one to make or break oneself ordered in an objective free, moral and just culture with no other blessing than that which comes from God. No man or woman can attain that kind of authority to righteously accomplish such. When stripped of their temporary power they are no better than those whom they lord-over. Only the authority of absolute perpetual objective power has that right. And that right only resides with God. A society or religion that turns its back on tradition and doctrine so alters its culture, and is ripe for a fitting end by its own doing; absent of identity, integrity and credibility.
The truly reliable evidence of identity, integrity and credibility is found in the person of Christ. For He went to the cross as He was so commissioned by God the Father. Never deterred from that mission was He by the flesh, the world or the devil. Any nation, religion or person who so chooses to join their will to His will be so identified.