Monday, September 18, 2006

How To React

The question is not should we oppose the violence in faith. But how should we oppose it. Oscar Romero said:

We have never preached violence,
except the violence of love,
which left Christ nailed to a cross,
the violence that we each must do to ourselves
to overcome our selfishness
and such cruel inequalities among us.

The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword,
the violence of hatred.

It is the violence of love,
of brotherhood,
the violence that wills to beat weapons
into sickles for work.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, November 27, 1977

We can not forget that the points from last week are not new to the Pope:

In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel's faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:4-5).

Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant.

Deus Caritas Est

Now, it is because of love that the violence brought by fundamentalists angers and hurts us so much. It is because of love that voices are raised in opposition. But what should not be done is the advocating of violence, even implicity, as an immediate resort. Also, it should not be advocated as a personal action. This is what defines us.

Doing so has the danger of removing the understanding that there are muslims who are not radicals, and although we disagree with the theology of even the non-violent muslims, we should not group them together.

Historically, as Catholics (and Christians in general) we have been grouped, by others; not with the great examples of our faith, but with the exceptions. Many of us have been forced to defend the behavior of public, historical and everyday Catholics and explain what the Church really teaches.

And in those cases we often come away saying, "Why couldn't that person have been less confrontational and not assumed that I represented what they were angry about. We could have come to a better solution or dialogue."

At times we (all of us, despite our best intentions) run the danger of letting that happen.

We do not agree with muslim theology (even the non-radicals) and try to show the Christian way, but truth can be said harshly without charity or it can be phrased with charity. I believe that the truth can be stated boldly, forcefully and in the full spirit of truth with charity.

Radicals are calling for the death of the Pope. It makes us angry. Angry like Peter when the struck off the ear of the guard in the garden. But that is not what Christ (or the Pope) is asking of us.

We want to defend our Pope and all Christians, but we need to do it in the way he and Christ lay out as our example.

So maybe the question should be: How should we each in our personal lives (in our relations with muslims and others) react to this situation?

With truth. I have spent days explaining to people what the Pope said. I have talked endlessly in personal conversations about the differences between Christianity and Islam and Islam and radical Islam.

We have non-violent means of reaction available to us. We have effetive means of non-violent actionif we invest the time to use them. We have congress. We have charities. We have our personal interactions with others. We do not have to back down from stating the ugly truth about radical Islam. We do not have to back down from disagreeing with the theology of Islam in general. But we must not answer cries of violence with violence.

It is the nearness of God incarnated in Christ that defines a Christian. It is that nearness that calls us to react with reason over violence. That is the heart of the Pope's message.


CMinor said...

Excellent posts all three. It pains me that we have come to such a pass that we cannot bring up a religious argument without worrying about who is going to get hurt.

Just so the record's straight, there was a variance in the original English translation in the Holy Father's speech that may have changed the sense of things a bit--on reading the corrected translation I concluded that the Pope went out of his way to avoid giving offense without cutting the meat out of his argument. I have posted the Wikipedia link on the last post at my blog. I think the title on Wikipedia is "Benedict XVI Address Controversy."

CMinor said...

Sorry, that's "Benedict XVI Islam Controversy," on Wikipedia. For some reason my post that I was referring to is avoiding loading.