Saturday, October 24, 2020

When the Instinctual Response of Christian Communities to a Changing World Is, No!

Read the responses of a number of bishops and the homophobic sector of Catholic Twitter to the recently released papal statement about civil unions for same-sex couples, and the word you will hear over and over is, No.

No, the church cannot affirm people living in sin.

No, the church cannot change its traditional theology of marriage (which was inchoate and hardly developed, by the way, for many centuries from the foundational period of Christianity forward).

No, we stand with The Truth — not with Love. Not with mercy and justice. With The Truth.

It's one no after another: no, no, no, no — the best the church has to offer, apparently, to a world rapidly changing, in which the large majority of Christians in the developed sector of the planet have long since decided that accepting same-sex marriage is just and loving.

Even — and this is not surprising, considering the dominance of the heterosexual male voice in that part of the Catholic world — "liberal" Catholic journalists responding to the papal statement hedge everything they say with no.

No changes. No changes possible.

The creation narratives show us God looking at the world God has created and saying, Yes. Yes, this is good.

Not no. But yes.

The gospels have Jesus saying that God loves the world so much that God embraces the world with love to save it.

Not no. Yes.

What does a church which claims to be based in Jesus and the gospels really say about itself when its most persistent word to the world around it is, No? No. No. No.

What does a church say about its grounding in the central message of biblical revelation and tradition — when all it seems able to offer the world is, No. No.

Where is the Spirit in such a response to a world in need of signs of God's love, mercy, and justice? Where is hope? Where is the creativity that should mark the thinking of those living in hope of the eschaton and its final renewal of all of creation?

Clearly, some Christian spokespersons today are resolute in their determination to freeze the tradition and its message at a moment in which heterosexual males ruled the world, and to call this the forever moment of Christian history, "the" tradition, which cannot change=

That determination shows virtually no faith at all in the ability of a living tradition in which love, justice, and mercy are core values to meet the demands of a changing world in a redemptive, gospel-centered way. 

To those who continue shouting that the church will never and cannot ever change, I can only reply that the church can change and has changed its stances on multiple issues.

A church that is led by and responsive to the Spirit is susceptible to change constantly.

As John Henry Newman said, 

Nothing is set in stone for a community living under the eschatological proviso.

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