"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen.1:27)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday Thoughts...

Of all days throughout the year, today -- Good Friday -- is a day especially sacred to those who claim the name of "Christian." It is not only sacred, but somber; a day that calls modern-day followers of Jesus, the Christ, away from the busy-ness of life and into a silence of prayerful reflection, spending at least some time this day meditating on the core mysteries of Christian faith.

As I was waking up this morning, listening to the quiet of the pre-dawn night and conscious of what day it was I was awaking to, I thought how the popular use and understanding of that appellation -- Christian -- has come so far from its fundamental meaning.

Christianity is a credal faith; the question, "what do Christians believe?" is easy to answer. We have a text that we can point to; a text we can recite and say "this is what we believe." The ancient Nicene Creed beautifully and poetically identifies those "sine qua non" beliefs of Christianity.

In our own day, "Christian" is all-too often used in a partisan political context, as an adjective to describe large sections of the political Right, or as part of the name of coalitions or political action committees.

An old hymn proclaims, "they will know we are Christians by our love." Today, of all days, Christians everywhere should ask ourselves if this is true. Is love the defining character or quality of Christianity today? Is love, especially the self-emptying love of Christ on the Cross, what others think of first when they hear "Christian" today? Is the agapaic love of Jesus the preeminent quality of our own lives, the way those with whom we live and work would characterize us?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Right to Intolerance?

Some so-called Christians claim it is their right to be intolerant of homosexuals, believing (mistakenly) that condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality are essential elements of Christian belief; it is not. These fundamentalists should take these sacred days of the Christian Holy Week and become re-acquainted with their Bibles, especially the Gospels. There they will find someone named Jesus preaching values of justice, forgiveness, inclusion, and charity.

"Think how marginalized racists are," said [Christian activist Gregory S.] Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."

I may be off base, but I don't think fighting for the right not to be marginalized is what should be of concern to racists; their racism should be.

Similarly, the intolerants should be concerned not about being marginalized for their views, but should re-think whether their intolerance of others is truly an example of What Jesus Would Do!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Immigration Reform: Fix the Cause

Yesterday, D.C. joined other cities around the country in playing host to marches and rallies in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

I agree with those who say the U.S. needs to have a better plan to deal justly and fairly with those millions of people, mostly from Mexico, who are here (pick your term)... "illegally," "undocumented," "without papers." There are plenty of good ideas (and a few very bad ones) about how to address these issues that affect so many facets of American society.

Addressing the problem here, however, does precious little to address the problem there ... and by there, I mean Mexico. Conservatively, 40% of Mexicans live in poverty; is it any wonder they want to flee? Debate and discussion about guest worker programs and paths to citizenship and border control ... these are all good and healthy discussions that Americans and elected leaders should be having. But these issues are only secondary to the primary problem of Mexico's long-standing economic and social ills.

I don't know enough about Mexico even to guess at what the answers might be. But I do know enough about logic that dealing with an effect without addressing its cause does precious little to bring about lasting change.

Where's the Evidence?

In his weekly National Catholic Reporter column, theologian Fr. Richard McBrien addreses the fact that "Gay adoption raises larger questions." The issue at hand is whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. Many social service agencies under Catholic auspices are struggling with this issue, especially in view of the Vatican's stance that such adoptions would be "immoral" for doing "violence" to such adopted children.

That position was expressed in a 2003 Vatican statement ("Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons"), which made the following claim: "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral."

Although he treads lightly, McBrien raises a question which I have made here before. Namely, where's the evidence for such a statement? In McBrien's words: "Is there evidence that 'violence' is, in fact, done to children placed in adoptive households of same-sex couples, as the congregation asserted?"

It's a question that needs to be asked again and again and again!