There are two things that are running through my head this morning. One is a comment by an American Cardinal that has gone viral. The other is something that is happening in my home town. Let’s start with the Cardinal, because that flows into the text.
The present political campaign has brought to the surface of our public life the anti-religious sentiment, much of it explicitly anti-Catholic, that has been growing in this country for several decades. The secularizing of our culture is a much larger issue than political causes or the outcome of the current electoral campaign, important though that is.
Speaking a few years ago to a group of priests, entirely outside of the current political debate, I was trying to express in overly dramatic fashion what the complete secularization of our society could bring. I was responding to a question and I never wrote down what I said, but the words were captured on somebody’s smart phone and have now gone viral on Wikipedia and elsewhere in the electronic communications world. I am (correctly) quoted as saying that I expected to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. What is omitted from the reports is a final phrase I added about the bishop who follows a possibly martyred bishop: “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” What I said is not “prophetic” but a way to force people to think outside of the usual categories that limit and sometimes poison both private and public discourse.
My thesis over the last weeks has been summed up in this statement. This is not a sectarian statement. The church will survive. It has survived worse. The corruption in the church (and let us not delude ourselves that this is a Catholic issue — the pedophile’s tactic of getting positions of power extends throughout society. Consider, for a second, the scandal in the BBC). We will forget about the postmodern relativism, and the marketing ideas that so infest the Protestant church, and turn instead to the gospel;
27When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.
Francis George is correct, because he sees that the issue of obeying God rather than man is going to force us to act differently from those who are around us. We have to stand up publicly and talk about this. ON this, the serious Protestants and Catholics are speaking as one.
Again, the question hints at an attractive ideal. “Let’s call a truce on this culture war stuff. The world will define marriage one way and we will define marriage according to the Bible. The state has to be neutral, right? People just want Christians to be tolerant of other views and other ideas on marriage. Where’s the danger in that?” The problem is that all the cultural arguments for “tolerating” gay marriage are not-so-thinly veiled arguments against the supposed bigotry of those who hold to a traditional understanding of marriage. What do you think the equal signs all over Facebook mean? They make a moral argument: those who oppose gay marriage are uncivil, unsocial, undemocratic, un-American, and probably inhumane.
If you believe homosexual behavior is wrong and gay marriage is a contradiction in terms, you are fast becoming, in the public eye, not simply benighted but positively reprehensible, like the last slave owner who refuses to get on the right side of history. I understand that Christians tire of the culture war, but it’s not a battle we started, and if (when?) we lose the debate on homosexuality we will lose much more than the gurus of tolerance let on. David S. Crawford is right:
The tolerance that really is proffered is provisional and contingent, tailored to accommodate what is conceived as a significant but shrinking segment of society that holds a publicly unacceptable private bigotry. Where over time it emerges that this bigotry has not in fact disappeared, more aggressive measures will be needed, which will include explicit legal and educational components, as well as simple ostracism. [Humanum, Fall 2012, p. 8]
Many Christians are about to find out there is nothing in the modern world quite so intolerant as tolerance.
We are being pressured into compromising our teaching. We have tolerated too much sexual sin among heterosexuals: here we have to reform by calling men into account (which is being done) and women into submission and faithfulness to their man. The Tradosphere, which is made up of men and women, married and single and divorce, who are all saying the way our society tells us to live does not work is the beginning of this reaction. However, there are risks. I’m openly identified with this blog: however I live in a small university town and work with, pray with and for, and help people living in de facto marriages, people who live with their lover of the same sex and with a whole bunch of people who follow the established socialist religion of the town. You do good when you can. But you do not compromise teaching or standards.
YOu see, our standards should flow from the Gospel and nothing else. We need to continually return to the basics of the faith, and we need to continually reform.
2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation — 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has
become the very head of the corner,”
“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
There are signs of hope, and one of them is coming from my home town. I grew up in Papatoetoe, and went through Hunter’s Corner when I cycled or walked to High School After I graduated, I left Auckland for some years, and when my (then) wife and I returned to Auckland we moved to a more central, multiethnic suburb (which has now gentrified and become monoculturally Hindu). All the friends I knew growing up no longer live in Papatoetoe: it has sunk. ANd the locals are now disgusted with the sex trade going on in their shopping area.
The world’s first transsexual mayor, former street prostitute Georgina Beyer, admitted yesterday she was naive when the trade was legalised.
At a passionate public forum in Papatoetoe yesterday, South Auckland residents berated MPs for not addressing the notorious street prostitution problems around Hunters Corner.
MPs from National, Labour and New Zealand First spoke. Beyer, a former Carterton mayor and Labour MP who championed the push to decriminalise sex work a decade ago, said lawmakers glossed over the issue. “We thought, naively, that with the liberalisation of prostitution, that it would not be desirable necessarily to be a street worker.”
Beyer said she recently told Justice Minister Judith Collins the Government should amend the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act to address street prostitution.
As a group. our politicians are fools. They have rejected the way of life, and moved far from the simple truth of the gospel. As many have said, sin makes you stupid and naive: the motivation of the reform (which was a combination of minimizing shame and harm to the sex workers, who were seen as victims by the right, and the encouragement of the trade as empowering by the feminist sex workers guild on the left) did not consider that there is evil in this world.
We must obey God, not men. For all of us are in various states of error, and my only hope is that we will change what we are doing, and look much more towards the word of God as a rule for our laws, secular or not.