Lesson 52- Cultural War and Love
At the end of my last program, after playing Kenny Rogers song, Love Lifted Me, I said that although everybody agrees about the value of love, many dont agree about what love is. The most popular definition involves a warm, fuzzy, feeling that makes you feel good about yourself and about others. In other words, it makes you feel nice. I have already spent one program explaining what I thought about nice. Its a word that in Christian circles is replacing righteousness and it plays to the subjective, artistic, right lobe of our brain. Today, if you cloak any behavior in niceness our automatic, knee-jerk response is that it must be good if it is nice. Thats because feeling rather than truth has become our criteria for evaluating moral behavior and, as a result, one by one, traditional values that have been passed down from generation to generation are slowly being surrendered to the social pressures being created by the media and militant groups pushing their own agenda. We just dont know how to handle sin when it comes packaged in a nice container especially when that container is someone with whom we have a positive emotional connection or when it is mixed in with positive qualities with which we agree. That is why Jesus had to say, Unless you are willing to reject your mother, father, sisters, and brother, you are not worthy to follow Me. He knew our human nature better than we do and He knew that we had trouble following the truth when our emotions were moving in the opposite direction. In fact, many of us would give away the whole store under the sway of a strong emotional pull. But truth, which Jesus said He was, is truth no matter how we feel about it.
A case in point in an article that I just read concerning an openly gay, female Methodist minister, who recently married her partner in Portland, Oregon where officials have been allowing gay marriages. The headline reads: Church Jury Acquits Gay Methodist Pastor Who Will Be Allowed to Continue Her Ministry She had been charged with violating the Methodist Book of Discipline which says that was involved in practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible to Christian teachings. The article goes on to say:
A lesbian Methodist pastor was acquitted Saturday in a church trial over her sexual orientation, and will be allowed to continue her ministry. After about 10 hours of deliberation, a jury of 13 pastors ruled in favor of the Rev. Karen Dammann, who disclosed three years ago that she was in a homosexual relationship. Eleven pastors found her not guilty and two were undecided.
Meredith Savage, Dammanns partner of nine years, said she called their 5-year-old son after the verdict and shouted, Mamma won!
Even the pastor who served as the prosecutor in her case and the bishop who filed the initial complaint against her said they were pleased with the verdict.
Church law prohibits the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals and the churchs Book of Discipline declares homosexuality to be incompatible to Christian teachings. But the churchs social principles support gay rights and liberties.
The jury issued a statement saying the church did not present sufficient clear and convincing evidence to sustain the charge. The church is not of one mind, (Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle) said, I expect this issue to continue to be raised until society comes to term with it.
Dammann said her immediate plans are to continue caring for her son, who has a respiratory illness In closing arguments Friday, her church counsel, the Rev. Robert C. Ward, asked jurors to adhere to church principles on inclusiveness and justice, not to the letter of church rulesThen the Rev. Finkbeiner, (the prosecutor) added, Im glad I lost, on a personal basis. (Bishop Galvan who brought the charges against her said that the trial was painful for him because he respects and admires Dammann. I think the jury was looking for a way to be faithful to the Book of Discipline and I think they did that, Bishop Galvan said.
And there you have an example of what happens when nice and sin get mixed together. The jurors, made up of Methodist ministers, ignored the obvious condemnation of homosexuality in the Scriptures; They ignored a 2000 year old tradition in the Christian churches of opposing homosexuality; they ignored the prohibition against the ordination of practicing homosexuals in the churchs Book of Discipline. And, instead, based their decision on a weak reference to the churchs social principles supporting gay rights and liberties. And, then the Bishop says that the issue will continue to be raised until society comes to term with it. If I were a Methodist, I would be yearning for a Pope at this moment.
Since when has society become the basis for determining Christian principles and morality? I thought that the Scriptures say that we should not conform ourselves to the world.
Obviously, from the quotes presented in the article, both the prosecutor and the bishop liked the accused and I have no doubt that she is probably a nice person with many fine qualities. However, that is not the issue.
Every situation is a mixed-bag of things that are acceptable and things that are unacceptable. The left hemisphere of the brain, being logical, handles these situations through a process called analysis, which means to breakdown a complex whole into its parts. And, once this done, each part is tested and evaluated separately. This, of course, is what a mechanic or a doctor does when they are trying to diagnose a problem. In fact, it is what we all should do when diagnosing a problem.
For example, in this situation there is no problem that these care for each other. We all have member of the same sex for whom we care; there is no problem that they live in the same house. Nuns do the same thing. There is no problem that they might be sharing in the rearing of a child. Two heterosexual women could do the same thing. There is no problem that they might be sharing the expenses of the household. I could go on dissecting this relationship and evaluating each part separately. However, I think that you get my point. There is no problem until the relationship becomes sexual because that is when they start to miss the target. Since sex has an objective purpose, which Christians believe was created by God, then it is obvious that sex between members of the same sex is missing the target. In other words, it is a sin.
Does this mean that God doesnt love them? No, because He loves all of us even though we are sinners. Does that mean that He accepts and approves of our sins? No, because He calls upon all of us to repent and reform. Does this mean that God doesnt care whether we practice heterosexual or homosexual sex? No, because His Will was for sex to be used for the reproduction of life, not exclusively for personal satisfaction and pleasure. Does this mean that their sin cant be forgiven? Yes! The sin of homosexuality can, like all other sins, be forgiven all the time. However, no sin can be forgiven if it refuses to admit that it is missing the mark and tries to justify and normalize itself. It isnt because God isnt willing to forgive it. Rather, its because the sinners, having convinced themselves that they arent sinning, will not repent or reform. Does this mean that they will go to hell? I dont know. That question is not ours to answer. That between them and God because only He knows all the circumstances and what is in their hearts. However, the Bible says Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.
The problem in this case arises for us because there are so many positive aspects about this situation that we have trouble separating the positive from the problem. We are not good at separating the sin from the sinner. But that is exactly what we are called to do. How else could we explain how it is possible to hate the sin but to love the sinner.
Well, what do we think Jesus would do in this type of situation? We already know. When the crowd wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, He said that anyone who had no sin should cast the first stone. Then He said that He would not condemn her. And then He added, but go and sin no more. He didnt say that she didnt sin. He didnt say that she should continue to do it. He said that she should stop doing it. He was offering her forgiveness not approval.
Compare the attitude of the Methodist Church to that of the Catholic Church as it is expressed in their catechism. Section 2357 reads:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of great depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from genuine affective and sexual complimentarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved (However, homosexuals) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtue of self-mastery that teaches them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
When you cut through all the rhetoric, this is simply saying that one should hate the sin but love the sinner. The Methodist Church, on the other hand, decided that because they loved the sinner then that had to accept the sin.
Jesus, in one of His parables, told of two men: one who built his house on a rock and the other who built his on sand. When the winds came and the rains poured, the one built on sand was washed away while the one built upon a rock remained firm.
The winds of social change and the rains of shifting values are swirling around us now and only that which is based upon a rock will stand. We are already beginning to see those structures built upon sand beginning to shift and collapse under the onslaught. The Methodist bishop is waiting to see which way the winds blow society so that he can make a decision.
The Christian churches are involved in a Cultural War of which many of them seem to be unaware. Its bad enough that the congregations are confused, bewildered, or indifferent. But what hope is there, if the shepherds who are suppose to lead them are in the same state of affairs. As Christians we know that Gods Wisdom has to win in the end because stupidity is it own worst enemy. Sooner or later, the consequences alone are enough to convince people that they have taken the wrong path and ought to turn around. However, if the churches dont wake up soon to the reality of this war, then Christ and His Church is in for a long, hard road back.
The most disturbing thing about our ineffective response to the challenges in this Cultural War is that we, unlike our ancestors, do not have to face death at the hands of torturers or wild beasts. That is, not yet. We have at our disposal all that we need to fight this war as Gentle Revolutionaries and all it requires is that we live our faith daily by basing our decisions on our Christian values.
Never before in history have we the people had so much power to influence the direction of society and yet have demonstrated the inability to use it. We live in a democratic society where we have the power and right to elect those people to public office who reflect our values and opinions. Yet, in election after election, the finding are either that many Catholics and Christian either fail to exercise their vote or they vote for candidates and parties that are opposed to their stated values. How, for example, do Barney Frank, an outspoken homosexual and supporter of gay marriage, and Ted Kennedy, a nominal Catholic if there ever was one, get elected time after time in Massachusetts, a state known for its large Catholic population? How does a city like Philadelphia which has an overwhelming Catholic population vote for candidates from a party whose national platform contains a plank which supports abortion? The political tools are there but either they are not being used to support our Christian values, or, what is even worse to consider, most of us are nominal Christians who dont have Christian values.
Or maybe some of us, like some of the Catholic politicians, have bought into the idea that we are not supposed to let our religious value enter into our political decisions. If that is the case, then we accepted a premise that has neutralized any effect that we might have on the direction of our society. And yet, others, who have been instrumental in convincing us that we should be silent, go happily along pushing their own philosophical agendas.
Recently, I was asked by one of my Jewish teaching friends whether I was going to vote for a candidate who was running against the incumbent president. I informed him that, although I was not totally happy with all of the actions of the incumbent president, and even agreed with some of the proposals of the challenger, I would never vote for a candidate who either supported abortion or represented a party whose national platform contained a plank favoring abortion.
He seemed shocked by my answer and told me that although he didnt like abortion, he was more concerned with the issues involving Social Security and the economy. I replied that everybody had some over-riding issue which trumped all others. For example, for the members of Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of Woman, abortion and womans issues trumped all others. For Gay Rights Activists, gay issues trumped all others. For the Black Community, black issues trumped all others. And, he, as a member of the Jewish community, might consider our countrys foreign policy towards Israel to be an issue which over-rides all other issues. Every person and group has some issue that is more important than all the others and is the final determiner of how they would vote.
For me to vote for the challenger in the upcoming election, because he might have a better position on Social Security or the economy, would have been comparable to a Jewish person voting for Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party because they promised to improve the economy and build the Autobonn.
If the Catholic and Christian community continue to vote for candidates that are pro-abortion and pro other issues which undermine our Judeo/Christian values, then it must be because these issues are being trumped by other values which they hold more dear. They, like Tip ONeill, another former Irish Catholic congressman from Massachusetts, are Democrats first, Irish second, and Catholic third. He, at least, had the honesty to admit it.
If we as Christians do not put Christ first, then how sincere is our Christianity? If the killing of over 42 million innocent children does not trump all other issues, then what does? Instead of dealing with issues that are concrete and real, we go chasing after promises made by political candidates which are pie in the sky. First, presidential candidates make contradictory promises to different groups. Second, they promise things that, as President, dont have the power to fulfill because we have a government built on the separation of power and any promise made that requires a law is dependent first on the will of the Congress, which often is at odds with the President. Third, the President often gets the credit or blame for things with which he has very little to do. I once heard former President Clintons economic advisor say that presidents get the credit or blame for things that happen in the economy over which they have little control. And fourth, the most important and long lasting power that a president has is his ability to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and lower federal courts. These appointments are in for life and, given the fact that these judges are often political activists, their philosophies will affect the direction of our laws for years to come. Finally, add to this the fact that most Presidents are pragmatic and will shift their stated policies once they are in office to accommodate the situation. In other words, we rarely get what we voted for.
Thus, the concrete issue of abortion, which is real, is trumped by empty, pie-in-the-sky promises over which the candidate has little or no control.
What really matters is the politicians perception of the philosophical values of the electorate and their willingness to vote those values at election time. Many politicians, at best, are chameleons who change their colors to reflect the existing background, or, at worst, prostitutes who will sleep with whoever offers the highest price. Recently, for example, Congressman Richard Gephart, a long-time opponent of abortion, decided, in the face of the overwhelming evidence being presented by the science of fetology testifying to the humanity of the child, that he was now pro-abortion. That is absolutely amazing. When the evidence for the childs humanity was merely philosophical and logical, he was against abortion. Now that the philosophical and logical argument have been backed up with scientific proof, he decides that he is for abortion. Amazing! Here is a man whose opinion changes in direct opposition to the facts. Unfortunately, he may be a reflection of our society at large.
Why did he change? Because he had presidential hopes and he was seeking the liberal votes that dominated his party.
All it would take in this Cultural War in which we are involved is, if for just one election, Catholic and all other Christians sent a resounding message that they are trumping all other issues with the issues that offend their moral consciences, knowing that those chameleon and political harlots in Washington D.C. will immediately change or sell out any issue that threatens their reelection. We have the power. Why dont we use it? Others do and that is why their agendas move forward. However, our political power is insignificant to our economic power.
We have a free, Capitalistic economy that is the largest and most responsive democratic institution in the world. Anybody who has a dollar gets to vote regardless of age, sex, or race and the business community pays strict attention to our desires as reflected by those votes because their survival depends on their responsiveness. They dont have the luxury, as our politicians do, of waiting two or four years before their constituency can get at them. People can forget over time. But the business community must deal immediately with the response of the consuming public and they dare not ignore them under penalty of extinction. When no one else will listen to you, they will and they will reflect your choice and values back to you as accurately as a mirror reflects your image. So if we want to see what the soul of the people of the United States looks like, take a look at what they support with their consumer dollars.
Thus, the most effective weapon that any group has in affecting the direction of this country is the way they spend their money. It is more powerful than political power because it can be exercised everyday and the response to it is almost immediate. And all it requires is that we allow our economics decision reflect our moral values. Once the business community senses that the products that we buy is influence by the values they support, we will see an immediate redirection in the spending of their advertising dollars. This is not to suggest that we shouldnt also use our political power by the way that we inform our politicians through our votes.
My point is that we already possess enough weapons to win this war but we lack the strategy or the will to use them. But the problem even goes beyond that. T he real problem is that we, as Catholics and/or Christians, lack a vision. And, as the Bible, says, without a vision the people perish. In other words, we were not set on this earth simply to tread water for seventy or eighty years and then die. Remember the parable of the talents, where God praised those that had used and multiplied the talents he gave them and chastised the one who buried it. What that says is that we better not return to the Lord with empty hands.
Everyone has something to contribute whether it be a skill, a task, or just a commitment to live out his Christian life. So why dont we all start today to examine what it is that we can contribute to the coming of Gods Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. But to do so, you have to envision what that Kingdom must look like.
To be sure, it is based on love. But it is not the sentimental, sugary thing that most people imagine. It has both a tender and a tough side. When you need encouragement and a pat on the back, it will give it to you. However, when you need a kick in the pants to wake you up and start you off in the right direction, it is equally accommodating. In a previous program, I described the relationship between Helen Keller and her teacher, Ann Sullivan. Anyone who saw the Miracle Worker, a play and movie based on Helen Kellers life, knows that Ann was anything but yielding when it came to the issue of whether Helen would learn to understand language. She fought Helen every inch of the way because she was determined to do what was best for Helen and not what was comfortable for her. Helens mother on the other hand was willing to accept a mute child on whom she could shower affection. In other words, it made her feel nice to have Helen as a support to her own ego needs. There are times when love has to be tough on the other person for their own good. In fact, it is at these times that real love has the greatest challenge because the feed back from the other person is going to be negative. It easy to show love when the other person is reflecting back mutual love and appreciation. Its another story when you have to accept insults and abuse while you are doing your best to benefit the object of your love. Perhaps that is another dimension to Jesus Passion and Death. In His own mind, He was sacrificing Himself for the benefit of Mankind, including those who were persecuting Him. At the same, they were taunting, insulting, and belittling him. Yet, His response was Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. So we have to be careful how we and others use this concept of love.
In my last program, I made the point that we are saved by love, which is just another name for Gods grace. And since love is a universally accepted quality, anything that can cloak itself in its banner is spontaneously accepted by us. That is why it is so very difficult for us today to see the assaults on our basic values because they are often presented to us disguised as love.
For example, sex is not sex, it is love-making and during the 1960s, hippies and college students used to chant make love; not war by which they meant promiscuous sex. How, in the name of logic, promiscuous sex was going to stop war completely eludes me.
For years, students were promoted to the next level before they had mastered the skills of their present level because humanistic forces didnt want them to face the stigma of having failed. Of course, the end result was that they passed the grade but failed in life.
The War on Poverty, which began in the 1960s to help those who were on the bottom rung of society, started with good intentions but ended up in creating a whole sub-class of people who from generation to generation became dependent on the state for their survival. Having taught in Philadelphias inner city schools for over forty years, I can assure you that even those children who have benefited from these programs will admit that the overall effect was to weaken self-reliance.
Abortion on demand was created out of love. It is out of love, according to the supporters of abortion, that handicapped children should be aborted because, how would you feel going through life with a problem like that. Unwanted children were aborted for the same reason. In fact, if you really love someone, you should destroy them whenever the quality of their life diminishes to some predetermined level. Its the loving thing to do. It is also a very dangerous premise.
The problem facing us in our war with Secular Humanistic forces is that they often appear to be more loving and understanding that we are because they seem to always be concerned with the welfare of others. In fact, welfare is one of their favorite terms and the welfare state is one of their favorite dreams.
They have a program to solve everybodys problems and if the standards are too high, they are always ready to lower them to the level of our weaknesses. Like permissive parent, who wins the childs favor in the short term, they weaken us in the long term, because they dont possess the fortitude to demand that we face the challenges of life. In other words, they dont like the Christian term crosses and are always ready to eliminate them through some program in which the state takes responsibility for something that should be ours.
As I said in my last program, the Passion of Christ has a cosmic dimension to it because it is showing us the way to the fullness of life which, as any student of life will tell you, always involves a struggle to overcome difficulties. As the weight lifter are fond of saying, No pain; no gain. It a hard message but it is also a loving one. That is, so long as you remember that love is not a feeling. It is an appreciation for the object loved which desires to see it develop to the fullness of its life. To repeat what St. Ireaneas said, The glory of God is man fully alive!
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom!