Sunday, September 25, 2016

Miscellaneous Religious Irritations

     No, this doesn’t qualify as a Rumination. Those are generally more hortatory, more inspirational in tone. But then, you got a quick one at midweek. No, this is more of a “clear your brain before the static ruins your Sunday” sort of piece.

     Now and then, one must grit one’s teeth at some of the bilge being proffered as Christian doctrine. “Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s gotta have one.” (Me) And priests, of course, are part of “everybody.” But there are places where opinions, particularly political opinions, are both unwarranted and destructive of faith. The pulpit is one such place.

     Just now, a certain Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, a.k.a. Pope Francis, is doing great harm to the Church by orating on political and economic subjects. If he were to confine the former to freedom of religion and the latter to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he’d be on safe, even sanctified ground. But this, to put it gently, is not the case.

     More locally, If I hear Father Francis X. Pizzarelli call illegal aliens “the undocumented” one more time, I just might change parishes. I intend to let my pastor and the prelate of the Diocese of Rockville Center know that, in flaming letters.

     It also offends me to hear non-Christians speak about Christian doctrine, or about what Christians are obliged or expected to do. How dare they? How would they take it if the shoe were on the other foot – say, if a Christian were to prescribe and proscribe for a Jew? Surely the offense would be equal in magnitude, if opposite in direction.

     Yet that is what David Goldman, a.k.a. “Spengler,” dares to do to Andrew Klavan this morning:

     It isn’t so simple for a Jew to convert to Christianity. We were called to be God’s people at Mount Sinai some 3,400 years ago. You [Goldman is addressing Klavan here] were there, even if you don’t remember it. This is something that Christians also believe, for they read the same Bible as the Jews. We Jews accepted a divine mission, and by “we,” I mean all of our generations, including yours....

     For a Jew to convert to Christianity raises a number of problems that you do not appear to have considered. Are Jewish Christians obligated to perform the mitzvoth, to keep the Sabbath and to keep kosher? The Jewish Christians of the early Church surely did. Wyschogrod answered in the affirmative, in a famous open letter to Cardinal Lustiger. Whether or not you feel called to Christ in the Spirit, you are still chosen in the flesh, and because Jewish flesh is holy—it is the vessel for God’s Indwelling on earth—it must be given the appropriate sanctity, for example kashrut.

     Here is the paradox: You cannot be a Christian unless you also accept your Election as a Jew, but you have never lived as a Jew, and do not know what it is to be a Jew.

     The insult is beyond my ability to characterize. It borders on unforgivable. I’m certain Goldman would have felt greatly offended had Klavan catechized him in such a fashion. And if Goldman were attentive even to the prescriptions of Leviticus, he would have known better.


     Finally for this morning, a few words on freedom of religion.

     If we are free in any area of life, it implies the absence of coercion and constraint over that area by any temporal authority. It does not imply that the laws of Nature ought not to stand in our way. Yet innumerable persons claim to be “unfree” because of a law of Nature – for example, the laws of biology.

     Worse, atheists frequently side with the State over the individual when the subject is freedom of religion. As atheism is itself a species of faith, this is particularly ludicrous. An atheist wouldn’t last five minutes after openly avowing his faith in Iran, for example.

     The most conspicuous example of this in our day is, of course, the prescriptions of ObamaCare concerning the provision of abortion and contraception coverage to the employees of any sufficiently large firm. Thus, Catholic company owners are forced to pay for what their faith – yes, and mine – condemns as heinous mortal sins. This is so manifestly a denial of freedom of religion that even a child aware of the doctrines of the Catholic Church would see it at once. But the arrogant atheist, immovably convinced that his faith is the only true faith, cannot see it.

     As I’ve written before, true freedom of religion is only possible in a sharply limited political order, such as that set down in the Constitution of the United States. That’s why the First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The drafters of the First Amendment did not intend it to apply to state governments. But of course, the arrogant atheist will have no truck with that.

     Many and great will be the lamentations on the Last Day.

     Forgive me, Gentle Reader. I had to get these things off my chest. They obstruct my practice of my religion. Given the Law of General Benevolence that all wholesome creeds share, it’s particularly important to emphasize that I mean no one any harm. I condemn behavior, not persons...though I must admit, some persons do cause me to test the elasticity of that doctrine.

     Have a nice Sunday. Go Giants.


Anonymous said...

Outstanding. As I witness these events I wonder how much worse it can get before there is a great response.

Dystopic said...

Spengler misses an important point. Conversion is about what you are going to, not about what you were. One could be atheist, or agnostic. One could be secular Jewish, or practicing Jewish. One could be Buddhist, or even a Muslim. It doesn't matter.

The important part is what you are converting to, and in Andrew Klavan's case, he became a Christian. What leg does Spengler stand on, that he, a Jew, may dictate the practices of Christianity to Andrew, a Christian?

Spengler's Jewish tradition may hold that Andrew Klavan is still a Jew, because of the peculiarities of Jewish tradition... but Andrew, to himself, is Christian. A follower of Christ. So it doesn't matter what Spengler thinks at all. It matters only what Mr. Klavan thinks.

Spengler can buzz off. It's none of his business.

RichJ said...

Mr. Goldman needs to read the Bible. It is the inspired Word of God. Specifically a Jew would not need a mitzvoth to become a Christian. Take a look at Colossians 3:9-11 for what is required:

"9 Strip off the old personality* with its practices, 10 and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scyth′i·an, slave, or freeman; but Christ is all things and in all."

The new personality is one without the elements described in the previous verse - Acts 3:8.

Peter's and James' speeches in Acts 15 provides some additional color with regard to the issue as it was being dealt with in the early days of the formation of the Christian congregation.

Take a look at Romans 25:25-29 that discusses the meaning of circumcision, especially verse 29.

Anonymous said...

We Confessional Lutherans and the Orthodox Churches face precisely the same problem.