Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jesus's Sword

Andrew Sullivan runs down the Catholic church's rightward lurch in recent years, citing its unhinged institutional enthusiasms for blastocysts and child-rape and against homosexuals and women, and expects more of the same:

[D]esperate for short-term political highs, all the while undermining their long-term coherence. I suspect that what we will see in the future is a church basing itself in the developing world, and adopting more African [sic] views on the subjugation of women, criminalization of homosexuality, and the evils of Western liberal capitalism. Europe will remain the enemy, Islam a useful ally and America's Republican Party Christianists a source of money and power as the Western flock shrinks to the rump that Benedict devoutly wishes for.

If I had been asked to predict the church's future ten years ago, I would have deemed this far too pessimistic a view. But Benedict's papacy has made all the difference. I no longer believe in any revival of a vibrant and truth-seeking Christianity under the Catholic hierarchy in my lifetime.
Sullivan expects to die long before this grim picture improves, but as dour as all that may be, this being Andrew Sullivan and his precious, precious church, the next word is but:
But I can still hope. Because the truth of the Gospels is so much stronger than the politics of the papacy at any given moment in history.
True enough, but not in the way that Sullivan intends. There is plenty of warrant in the tradition and the Gospels themselves for Rome's embrace of divisiveness, authoritarianism, and repression, such as Jesus's own words in Matthew 10:34-38:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
Sullivan is mislabeling the rule as an exception. Having the wrong sexual inclinations, he has been and remains on the sharp end of the sword Jesus introduced to the world, and so it is and has been for most people for various reasons, e.g., advocating equality between the sexes, putting the needs of family above Jesus, interrogating the legitimacy of given institutions, expecting answers to the wrong questions, etc.

It is for Sullivan to rationalize clinging to an institution that would have, for much of its history, gleefully burned him alive for his thought crimes, even as he clings to those thought crimes. Meanwhile, clear-thinking people who value justice and truth will eschew the sword altogether.

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