The Rapprochement Between American Catholicism and Liberal Protestantism: Ripped from the Headlines

Our family reads cover-to-cover The Week. For those who do not know The Week, as it’s name states, it is a weekly news magazine.  The Week is a compendium of hard-news, opinion and view points from articles of major daily and weekly publications and on-line sources in our nation and from around the world, with few ads.

This article caught my eye today followed by a quote from it:

 “TheVatican’s Reprimand of American Nuns”, excerpted from an article by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, in The Week (May 11, 2,012)

 

“Nuns rock,” said Nicholas Kristof. The female clergy of the Catholic Church are “among the bravest, toughest, and most admirable people in the world,” truly embodying the teachings of Christ in their selfless work with the young, the poor, and the sick. Yet the Vatican recently delivered a stinging rebuke to American nuns, chastising them for focusing on poverty and social justice, rather than joining the male hierarchy’s obsession with abortion and gay marriage. “What Bible did that come from?” Jesus commanded his followers to feed the poor and embrace the outcast; he said not a word about homosexuality or abortion. Who is more Christ-like: the pampered pope in his white silk cassock and red Prada slippers, or the nun working the line in a ghetto soup kitchen?

 

In the same issue of The Week another article caught my eye: “Ryan’s Budget:  Would Jesus Vote for it?” “The U.S. Conference of Bishops has denounced Ryan’s budget, saying it “fails to meet” the essential moral mandate of Catholicism:  to help what Jesus called ‘the least of these’-the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the jobless.”

Note that in both reports it is a moral either/or:  concern for the poor, the hungry etc. or moral concern for abortion and marriage.

 First:  Mr. Kristof’s assertion that Jesus said nothing about “homosexuality or abortion” was an argument used in the ELCA for pseudogamy.  The response is our Lord also said nothing about stealing but He was against it after all He knows His Decalogue and, “… that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:  44) and, “…not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 18-19) When Lutherans do not know the Scripture, then the devil has an opening with his argumentation, Did God say?  “Uh, don’t know…if He did, He doesn’t sound nice.”

 Second: Leaving out the loaded nebulous political term “social justice”, care for the poor and the unborn and the sanctity of marriage are all  one concern of His Church.  But note that in all this reportage, and every report on the same, this is the only raison d’etre that is ever cited for the Church because both American Catholicism and Liberal Protestantism state the same agenda of social activism.

 Third:  Therefore, for American Catholicism and Liberal Protestantism, the only public mission is political.  The actual and central mission of the Church, from which flows corporate acts of mercy, giving voice to those cannot even cry as they are in the womb and for the 4th Commandment’s right ordering of sanctity in marriage and family, is repentance and forgiveness preached, taught and administered in all the world, begun in Jerusalem. Why?  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  The goal is faith and the means His Word.  This is what the world truly scorns. Sadly, so does American Catholicism and Liberal Protestantism in its public pronouncements.  Does the world really care what a bunch of bishops declare or a Liberal Protestant denom votes for in a “social statement”?  Of course not.  But say something about Jesus Christ and the howls are heard. Remember that the ancient pagans did not accuse Christians of caring but cannibalism.

 Fourth:  This rapprochement reflects in the utter confusion of the vocation of the Kingdoms. At the end of the article, about Congressman Ryan’s budget, a Mr. Bookman of AJC.com quotes Thomas Aquinas, “Man should not consider his material possession his own, but a common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.”  Mr. Bookman commented on his citation: “Sure doesn’t sound like a Republican to me.” He and many Christians do not get it is that it doesn’t sound Democrat either. In Fr. Johann Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations (Repristination Press), the dear pastor and professor comments thus on “Avarice”:

 “Far too avaricious is that man for whom the Lord Himself suffices not; nor has lie a sure hope of heaven, who so highly values the perishing things of earth. How can he lay down his life for his brother (1 John3: 16), who denies his brother the little temporal gifts he begs of him? What we place in the hands of a poor roan we really lay up as a treasure in heaven, that it perish not on the earth. Wouldst thou offer a pleasing service to Christ thy Saviour? Show kindness to the poor.”

My point: Aquinas and Gerhard stated the same thing albeit in different ways. I will go out on a limb and say that Aquinas and Gerhard said the same thing from the same Bible and Faith.  I will go out on a limb and say:  they were most definitely not speaking about the state or government doing the caring for others for them! For them it was and is  His Church in preaching and teaching and so serving the Gospel to all sorts of men and women of all diverse walks of life even the Pope with his designer slippers and the poor in a soup kitchen. This is neither Republican nor Democrat.   The rapprochement between American Catholicism and Liberal Protestantism is mere political activism and the utter confusion of the vocations of the Kingdoms of God’s right and left hands and blunts the true vocation and mission of the Church.  I think it is a stratagem of the devil, which has worked too well to keep us from preaching and folks from hearing in the Babel of the denoms…including us.

I think Pastor Murray’s reflection on today’s daily lection,  Luke 12: 13-34, from A Year with the Church Fathers (CPH) speaks to the underwhelming mission of the Church in the eyes of the world. I write this because this is the actual Biblical message we need to get out and  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is so close to the same reportage of The Week of this world:

Because God has done all for us in Christ, faith is nothing. It is holding onto something. It is holding onto Christ for dear life. We must rebuke human reason, which attempts to shame us out of our faith: “Come on, do something really worthwhile! Don’t focus on this nothing of faith. How could God accept nothing? At least show God your commitment to Him by the obedience of your life and your holiness. Most people don’t believe that faith alone saves anyway.” Well, yes. But whom are you going to believe: the erring multitudes or a gracious God who saves us so that we will never perish? We should not follow the crowd, but Christ, who is the shepherd of His little flock (Luke12:32).

This is why the Christian Church can never be identified with mass movements. The idea that “bigger is better” is intellectually and theologically bankrupt nonsense. Christ tells us that it is the little flock, hidden under the shadow of the cross, that inherits the kingdom. In almost every case in the New Testament, little is better not because there is merit in size but because the Lord lifts up those whom the world despises. He makes great through faith the little. In fact, the Church sounds risible when she touts her bigness, her power, and her success. She places herself under the mockery of the world that can always counter the Church’s little bigness with the size of Exxon, the Pentagon, the Pistons, andPittsburgh. She sounds like the youngest child in a large family who is always shouting, “Hey, look at me! Hey, don’t forget about me!” No manner of counting will give us the ability to compete with the world. The Church’s only message is the cross, its shame, and the preaching of the nothing of faith. More than that? Perish the thought. We have a little kingdom, which is great because it is Christ’s flock.

 

 

 

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