Monday, April 17, 2006

The Holy Spirit Rocks

Tim Russert of "Meet the Press" had the most impressive panel of religious leaders on Easter Sunday; the pity was the shortness of time; only a few minutes to delve into the issues of faith, spirituality and religion.

Jon Meacham was great; as was Rabbi Rabbi Michael Lerner, Professor Sayyed Hossein Nasr, Sister Joan Chittister and Pastor Joel Osteen.

This is probably the first time folks had a chance to hear a televangelist from a mega-church speak less about damnation and more about grace, as they should!

And it was truly too bad Osteen didn't have a chance to 'show his stuff.'

But ask Osteen about "repentance, acknowledgement of wrongdoing and sinful behavior," in other words, 'fire and brimstone' mindset, and he'll respond by talking about "the goodness of God that leads people to repentance."

In the Washington Metropolitan area Osteen comes on Fox right after their batwing gabfest; and he is a whole lot more inspiring than Chris Matthews over at NBC during the same time slot.

I wish Osteen could have had a chance to chime in the conversation between Reverent Richard John Neuhaus and Sister Joan.

No praise for Rev. Neuhaus.

When confronted with the hypocrisy of some Catholics, including himself, for failing to voice the same outrage against capital punishment as against abortions, Neuhaus came back with the tired canard about "the moral imperative of protecting innocent, unborn human life.”

Yep, this is the wild joker in the argument of many televangelists, evangelicals and Christian right; especially since the New Testament makes no distinction between killing of innocents or killing the guilty; and in the Old Testament, every creature on earth is equally guilty according to the law.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthews 5:38-39)

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthews 5:43-45)

Rev. Neuhaus pooh-poohed the idea about any religious dogma when it came to capital punishment with some crap about "the integrity of the life of the church" and how the ultimate punishment and abortion were not "at the same level of teaching weight."

Oh really?!? From quoting Aristotle to carping about the "integrity of the life of the church." Well, never mind about the church, let's hear what Jesus had to say on the subject of forgiveness.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthews 18:21-22)

In other words, always!

And Sister Chittister had it right. "[E]ither life is of value or it’s not of value."

One pesky bit of history Professor Nasr brilliantly pointed out to viewers is the tragic past of Muslims at the hands, sword, guns and bombs of the West, beginning with the Crusades in the Middle Ages to more modern history when the West colonized Muslim lands in North Africa and the Middle East.

For a bit of context and as a follow up, I point to an article by the National Catholic Reporter. Carl W. Ernst, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of "Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World" was profiled about his book and thoughts on Islam and the West.

[I]t was the Christian West that forcibly colonized Muslim lands and killed millions upon millions in the two world wars that began in 20th-century Europe.

Not to mention that nasty business during the Middle Ages; and how disparate tribes were forced to forge nations as conjured by the economic imagination of the colonizers--not the people living in the lands; and how Britain annointed kings as their weak subordinates until ruthless tyrants overthrew them and took over.

But...if they were friendly to the interests of the West, hey, no crime, no foul.

As to why in God's little green acre Russert kept asking Osteen about any criteria for joining his church, my initial reaction was to think Russert was just reflecting what a blubbering idiot he is; but as I thought about it, I realized Russert may have wanted to make a point; televangelists who are blessed to have their churches filled with Holy Ghost power welcome people from all walks of life and all political proclivities. Maybe Russert wanted to shatter old stereotypes; and although I knew the questions he posed were silly, for some, Osteen's answers probably surprised.

[W]e’ve got Republicans, Democrats and all kinds of different, different people from different political backgrounds. So, you know what? We encourage them to vote, to search their own hearts, to feel their own convictions, but no, there’s not any certain criteria that they have to meet.

Folks, believe it or not, that's how the Baptist Church started out; and in fact, one of their early tenets was to be led by the Spirit and not by any church canon.

Finally, as Sister Chittister asked viewers, "Do we want the religion of the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch burnings and segregation and slavery and the oppression of women and Puritanism that led to Prohibition, that didn’t last because it was somebody’s creed imposed on everybody else’s creed? Or do we want the religion of the peace movement that Jesus talked about, and the, the labor movement and the civil rights movement. "

Your national budget is theology walking. If we’re really a pro-life country and not a pro-birth country, we, we won’t be taking from all the life bodies in order to feed a war body.

Father Neuhaus certainly appeared to be lacking in compassion when he spouted about the teachings of the Catholic Church. Technically he is right about the church teachings. Abortion is considered an absolute evil. The church does not recognize any reason that would justify an abortion other than an ectopic pregnacy. Capital punishment does have a qualification. It can be justified if it is necessary to protect society. What Father Neuhaus failed to mention was that Pope John Paul called into question this rationale in the modern world where almost all countries have an effective prison system. He also did not take into consideration the idea of the seamless garment with regard to life issues. This concepts states that all life issues are interrelated and interdependent. It argues that we are battling a culture that does not respect life in all its forms. In order to protect the most innocent we must also protect those that are less so. It can be argued that without a consistent life ethic that includes ministering to the poor, protecting the helpless and the marginalized, and opposing war and violence in all its forms including the death penalty, we will be unsuccessful in ending the practice of abortion.
By the way, I have links to the transcript and the video posted on my blog
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