Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Say Either Yea or Nay - The Nauseating of Christ

“I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit [1] you out of my mouth.” Rev.3:21

It is a contemporary truism to say that we live in a litigious society which is ever searching for any possible chance to sue. Attorneys nearly salivating at the wide range of prospects, look for the quick and easy “Buck.” In such a threatening legal climate, restrained and super cautious expression of one’s values and ideas is understandable, especially if one espouses an unpopular cause. Augmented by a near hysterical need to avoid trampling on almost [2] anyone’s sensitivities, modern discourse is heavily characterized by ambiguity, circumlocution and overuse of the word “alleged.”

The high level magazine NEW OXFORD REVIEW published an item concerning a Catholic Bishop in Colorado who stated that from henceforth he will make no comment on the behavior of homosexuals lest he might offend some one’s sensibilities. The editors of NOR rightly confronted the Bishop wondering whether such a constricted verbal prison might not logically inhibit him from commenting on any kind of sinful behavior. They asked whether such timidity would not factually reduce him to the level of a weak and ineffectual spiritual leader.

However, speaking “plainly” without ambiguity and with courage does exact a price. Another Catholic Bishop in Canada who writes a regular newspaper essay, often simply stating (without festooning) the basic Catholic teaching on sexuality, was threatened with jail time by the previous Prime Minister. His offense was to be categorized a “hate crime.” If the PM’s viewpoint were universal every Government would need many more jails since this crime is regularly committed by every loyal Catholic teacher of the Faith throughout the world. Fortunately for everyone, the threatening PM was not re elected and his successor adopted a more adult view of Freedom of Speech and expression. In some societies, however, telling the Truth puts one at great risk. Following Christ’s injunction, quoted above, might exact a great price from many Christians.

A particularly debasing motivation for shading the truth is the insatiable desire in some human beings to be liked by everyone. This is obviously an illusion more suited to the dreamy fantasies of adolescents than adults. Some such emotionally retarded adults are devastated if some one dislikes them. Their criterion for living becomes, not truth, but the quicksand of “ being liked.” It was said of a popular politician that he agreed with the last person he spoke to. He was exceedingly “ well liked” because he said what he thought the other wished to hear. He had little integrity but plenteous admiration.

While the modern fear of some kind of retribution is more intense, there has always been some kind of “watching your tongue” in human history. I remember the well known custom in Ireland of never answering a direct question. Better, we were told, to answer with a question, lest your answer be used some how against you. So, when I was seeking a relative in Ireland, I stopped an old gent in Cork asking him if he knew where my cousin lived. He narrowed his eyes, took out his pipe and said “ Now what would you be wantin’ to see her for, I wonder?” The “I wonder” was said with the famous Cork corkscrew tonality as it phonetically spiraled up and up. Such caution was apparently a carry over from the old penal days when the Irish were terribly persecuted by an occupying foreign power. It was a question of always being on your guard! Don’t ever let them know what you really think. Sometimes, paranoia is understandable.

It is somewhat similar in the accepted custom of illegals lying after they have crossed one of our borders, the Southern one, for example. Better to lie because they might use it against you and deport you if you tell the whole story. Is it not common knowledge that the American Indian became highly suspicious and untrusting of white men because of the double speak used against him? ‘White man speak with forked tongue’ was a well used expression in our Western states.

In contemporary society, it is rampant. Recently, in a pubic televised debate between various candidates for nomination to the Presidency, the question was asked of all of them: “What is your view of Roe v. Wade relative to overturning it?” One of the leading candidates, a self confessed Catholic, replied: “If it is overturned, it is O.K. If it is not overturned, it is O.K.” Nowhere did he indicate to the country what he actually thought about Roe v. Wade. The Catholic Faith specifically teaches that abortion is intrinsically evil and that Catholics must do what they can to protect innocent life, for example, the unborn child. This Pol would not take a position and preferred to take the “middle road”, i.e. the Lukewarm one mentioned by the Lord. It was reminiscent of the noted Television commentator who, when asked about the outcome of a troublesome situation, replied: “Well, it might be right and it might be wrong…” He cashed big checks for such intellectual bravery.

Such nauseating evasion obviously covers not only the religious but also the political landscape. Some years ago, a Catholic woman was running for a very high political office but, for election purposes, wiggled a position on abortion whereby she tried to have her feet on both sides. Worse than the evader mentioned above, this woman misrepresented the Church’s teaching and attributed her liberal position to some priest “advisors” who assured her, she said, that her position was truly Catholic. She dismissed the religious leadership of the local Cardinal Archbishop who insisted on publication of true Catholic teaching. She lost the election possibly because of her shocking religious bifurcation.

Such refusal to take a clear Catholic position on the part of “Catholics” is unbelievable and discouraging to the millions of devout believers. To learn that Catholic Senators and Congressmen vote in favor of partial birth abortion utterly confuses moral people. The weaseling practice to append “so-called” to the term partial birth is further confounding. It is eminently clear that this barbarous practice is the dismemberment of a living child. Is it that these people cannot face the fact of this murder themselves? Are they trying to cover it over in their own consciences? One thing we do know. This usage of “so called” falls under the nausea described by Christ! It is a refusal to call something for what it is! Our people have a right to know what God asks. Ambiguity is not helpful. Clarity is.

The recently deceased Federal Court Judge Richard Casey closely questioned an abortionist in an investigation of the legality of partial birth abortion. He asked the man who had performed many of these procedures whether or not the baby felt any pain during the dismemberment. As the limbs are being pulled from the torso of the child, is there any suffering inflicted on the child? The Professional Killer replied that he never thought of it. It never entered his mind. Really? After hundreds of these “procedures”? Or is it that he unconsciously knows what he is doing and even censures himself? Ducking the meaning of one’s actions and their consequences falls under the thundering condemnation of the Lord. Penumbras and emanations are proper material for discussions in the Supreme Court. They do not belong where the sunlit leadership of Jesus illuminates.

The choice demanded by the Lord clearly involves suffering. One cannot take both sides of a fundamental moral issue where there is only one side. To attempt the lukewarm describes the repulsive practice of engaging in the oxymoronic [3] which is implied in the Scripture. Lukewarm means trying to put opposites together so that everyone is content with the result. One of the worst and most dishonest, I have ever seen is the oxymoronic title of “Catholics for a Free choice”, the “organization” with no members, run for years by the now retired Frances Kissling. The use of the word “Catholic” linked with abortion (choice as euphemism) is an intellectual confliction. It was as if one could be a practicing Catholic and simultaneously/acceptably engage in abortion and the like.

I had the privilege of meeting the Lead Bishop of all the Protestant churches of the Church of Ireland when I was Chairing a Graduate Division at Iona college. He was charming and pleasant, extremely nice to be around. He spoke easily, met all of us with grace, gentleness and ease while wearing a huge red Vest-like front for his Clerical collar. No wonder we all liked him so much. But he had a powerful tool to effect this popularity. He never gave a real opinion about anything. No matter what was being discussed or opined, he would reply “I know, I know..” It was done with charm and an engaging smile but no one knew where he stood on difficult matters. Is that the road to political or ecclesiastical success? Don’t ruffle feathers. Be very agreeable. Don’t ever disagree. Smile……. Don’t take strong positions. Go for the gray area in every thing.

It is easy to understand the accurate and careful reporting of many people who hesitate to make statement because they do not have data at hand. But the one who fears to state his views lest he be punished by social isolation or job loss or physical punishment is something else. It is easy to understand the refusal of someone to answer a specious question which is posed, like the Pharisees, to embarrass another. Yet part of the Christian life is to be Courageous and truthful. It is truly difficult so to live yet we believe that the Lord gives the strength to be open and trusting knowing that He is with us always. When we live as He requests, the inner feeling is clean and relaxed. I have nothing to fear. My Lord My God is with me. My God stands by me, I place all my trust in Him. May it come to pass in the modern Catholic. It is desperately needed.

[1] Some interpretations use the more colorful “I will begin to vomit thee out of My mouth.”
[2] Except Catholicism. See Philip Jenkins on his: “The Last Acceptable Prejudice" (Anti-Catholicism)
[3] oxymoronic: the attempt to reconcile contradictory concepts within the same word or phrase

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