Saturday, April 19, 2008

If the shoe fits...

Without planning to do so, I happened to catch Pope Benedict's address (on a "tape delay" of about three hours) last night at an ecumenical prayer service in New York City. It was incisive and compelling. Realizing that I suffer as much as anyone does from the endemic Episcopalian disease of thinking "this Church" more important than it actually is in the larger scheme of things, I could not escape the feeling that he was talking directly to us with these words:

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called "prophetic actions" that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of "local options". Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia - communion with the Church in every age - is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

And, a few moments later, with these:

My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism. Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is "objective", relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling. Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean, however, that the "knowable" is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of "personal experience".

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

5 comments:

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Dan: Did you really mean to link the words "fundamental Christan" with the Amazon.com listing of the book "The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America"? That is what I got when I moved my cursor over the words.

The question is: What are "fundamental Christian beliefs and practices"? I would contend that the sexuality debate is not about such beliefs and practices and, in fact, actually obscures a large debate on core issues such as the Incarnation, the Resurrection, etc...

Dan Martins said...

Eech! No, I did not mean to link to that. I apparently imported the link from where I lifted the text, but it disappeared when I posted it in Blogger, so I thought it was gone. Thanks for pointing this out.

Obviously, Benedict believes that the currently controverted moral issues rise to the level of fundamental belief and practice. Or maybe just practice, at any rate. I tend to agree with him. Others do too. Therein lies a big part of our problem. (Which is to say, the Righter Court got it wrong.)

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

My only difficulty with that assertion is that I have partnered gay friends who are extremely orthodox regarding the Incarnation, Resurrection, Trinity, etc... They see nothing incompatible between their lives and those beliefs. I'm kind of wondering what others see.

P.S. The link is still there.

Anonymous said...

RE: "I'm kind of wondering what others see."

Well -- at first I thought that poor Tom Sramek must have just entered blogland and had not read anything from the reasserting side, which would explain why he's still -- four years later -- "wondering what others see".

Then I thought maybe it was just wishful thinking since I see that he's been in blogland since 2004, basically saying that we should all stop talking about the issues of sexuality since they don't matter and aren't really important enough.

Then I realized what I should have known from the beginning. Whenever clergy talk that way, it means that their side won, and now they'd like everybody to sit down, be quiet, and send in that pledge! ; > )

Or . . . if they won't stop talking about it . . . [drum roll] to please leave.

So as usual -- all of that pretended innocence and confusion . . . the usual faux act, as this comment by Tom Sramek from 2007 handily illustrates.

"I disagree with you here, Christopher, and it appears Matthew does, too. I don't think that the Gospel is the tension, I think it causes tension because it mandates both prophetic witness and continuous engagement. We cannot simply tell our conservative brothers and sisters to go away, since Jesus would never have done so. We can, however, speak the truth of the love of Christ for the marginalized and, if folks don't like what we are saying, they can leave, just as Christ allowed folks to leave that didn't like what he had to say."



Sarah

Scott K said...

To be fair, I thought Tom was just wondering if other readers saw the same bad Amazon link that he does.