Carrying this scandal biblically also means that we must resist the temptation to personally distance ourselves from it by taking the attitude: "Don't look at me! I'm innocent! Don't paint me with that brush!"
We're family and this has happened inside our family. A biblical faith and Christ-like compassion does not link itself to the family's graced moments, its saints, martyrs and proud achievements and then distance itself from its dark history, its compromises, its betrayals and its sin. Jesus didn't do that. His love for us and his solidarity with the family made for a very painful conscription. He was crucified between two thieves and was judged, at the moment of his humiliation and death, by association to be as tainted as those who died around him.
People present at the Crucifixion were not making distinctions as to who was guilty and who was innocent. Jesus was seen as tainted, pure and simple. Perhaps that was the most painful aspect of all for him as he underwent his crucifixion. This, too, is what's asked of us. The sex scandals re-make present the original scene at Calvary - Christ dying between two thieves. We are, each of us, all three of those characters.
At Dallas, every sexual theme that touched on religion – and which could possibly include the term “abuse” – was represented in the scores of placards being waved in the sweltering heat outside the Fairmont Hotel. The Queer Liberation Front called for the Church to STOP SPIRITUAL TERRORISM, and the mothers’ group had a simple demand: JAIL PAEDOPHILES. Catholic feminists were jumping on the bandwagon, staging a counter-summit in Dallas to insist that “the issues are the same” whether a priest’s sexual partner is “male or female, 8 or 18 or 38”. A group called Celibacy Is The Issue publicised lists of married popes, and conservatives declared that Vatican II had “gayed” the Church and chartered pederasty. One bottle-blond man shook a sign that read RECOVERING CATHOLIC SURVIVOR. Why, exactly, were Doctors Against Circumcision present, urging INFANTILE CIRCUMCISION IS GENETICALLY MANIPULATIVE SEXUAL ABUSE? One gentleman had journeyed all the way from the North Carolina mountains to urge: ABOLISH THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS (HEBREWS 10:12). But then, this is America, which heaves with so much reckless religious energy that there is a touch of the freak show even at a meeting as solemn as Dallas.
HAUERWAS: This week's National Catholic Reporter has a cover story on Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas. In the wake of September 11th, Hauerwas has become something of a lightning rod because of his uncompromising commitment to Christian pacifism. For Hauerwas, Christian nonviolence -- even in the face of terrorism -- “is not a strategy to rid the world of war, but rather, as faithful followers of Jesus, we cannot imagine being anything other than nonviolent in a world of war.” In addition to the cover story, there are articles on Hauerwas's critics and some excerpts from his writings.
HOLD THE FIRE AND BRIMSTONE: Today's L.A. Times has an article about how preachers are no longer mentioning hell in their sermons. "It's just too negative," said Bruce Shelley, a senior professor of church history at the Denver Theological Seminary. "Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding."
FROM TODAY'S GOSPEL:Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Mt 5:43-45)
Is He serious? Or is He just trying to make a point? Does He really expect us to pray for our enemies? Does He really expect me to pray for Osama Bin Laden? I'm not sure I can do that. At least not yet.
For a different perspective on today's readings, read Sean Gallagher's musings at Nota Bene.
FROM TODAY'S GOSPEL:Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. (Mt 5:38-39)
Do we really live this counsel? Or do we try to parse the statement, to surround it with caveats and exceptions? What would happen if all Christians tried to live their lives in this way? Think about it.