Grace works that way. People come into our lives unexpectedly and show us things we need to see. Those people and those moments become edge pieces for us, if we let them. It’s good to remind ourselves of that now, when we’re so divided and disconnected that we can’t even see the picture we’re meant to form together. We’ve forgotten that each of us is a piece of something bigger than ourselves.
So much in the world needs to change, but the people doing the most to change the world are often zealous. I know I was — and self-righteous, too. Yet perpetual effort to forge a new world did not heal my soul; rather, it deepened my soul’s sense of separation from love. To put it theologically, a friend involved with left-wing Catholic Worker style communities describes a subtle culture of “not enough,” as communal embodiment of what Martin Luther called “works-righteousness.”
Everyone deserves our love, especially those whom the “religious” people deem unworthy — tax collectors, Samaritans, lepers, the homeless, the beggars, the sick, the mentally ill, the despairing.
We live in a world full of extremists. It is not just in American society that the battle between extreme beliefs on either end of the spectrum is happening constantly in our political, social, and religious circles. Violence, hate crimes, and acts of oppression erupt all over the world, and through the news and social media, we are witnesses to the distress calls of the people who are caught in the middle of these battles
I believe that although we enjoy fairytales about love overcoming great obstacles, it’s often different off-screen. We are more interested in creating obstacles to love. In our world, Cinderella doesn’t get to dance with the prince and beauty isn’t allowed to love the beast.
Film critic Alissa Wilkinson writes that “Christian theology is rich and ... full of imagination that's broad enough to take up residence among all kinds of human cultures. It contains within itself the idea that art exists as a good unto itself, not just a utilitarian vehicle for messages.” The Wedding Plan is a prime example of this kind of religious art. It’s a message movie, a window into a culture that makes the specific and personal universally relatable, and still manages to tell a good story.
I arrived at the church and was heartened to see a full parking lot. People scurried inside with umbrellas as shields, determined to comfort Emily and her family. I’m right here for you, they seemed to be saying. Nothing's going to stop us. Where have we heard this before?
As Christian witnesses, we should use the feast of Saint Valentine to care deeply for one another and especially for those who are persecuted by those in power. Flowers and candies and candles are nice — but this year, I’d much rather be smashing patriarchy, overturning the “refugee ban,” creating pathways to citizenship, and supporting high quality education for all children. And my valentine can join me in my ventures.
Of course, God’s values weren’t popular with many people then. Or now. So many people today say that love and compassion and equality should be excluded from most areas of our lives. They advocate far different values: privilege, exclusion, discrimination, wealth, power, violence, domination.
Jesus challenged all of it. And if we’re to follow his way, we must do the same.
Some of the boys involved in carrying out those acts in December we know, and we know their parents. The parents we do know are not frothing-at-the-mouth bigots. We can’t imagine their sons learned racist ideas at home.
But they learned them somewhere.
Racists and bullies aren’t born. They are made.
I don’t think we like it so much when Jesus is demanding. We like to nice him up, keep him holding up his hand in that beatific way. When Jesus gets demanding, when he acts like the Gospel is demanding, it kind of gets on our nerves.
There are fundamental ethical, moral, and even religious choices that will have to be made by all of us now — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; conservatives, liberals, and those who feel politically homeless (like many of us); Christians, Jews, Muslims, those of other faiths and none at all. And those choices are much deeper than partisan politics
His question about God’s love for him caught me by surprise. We never talked about religion. I was, admittedly, the “churchy” one in my group of friends — president of the Junior Usher Board and active in my church youth ministry. Yet even at the age of 17, devoid of theological training, I understood the core inquiry at the root of the question: Could this Christian God that I proclaimed loved us all so much accept Aaron even when so many of this God’s “followers” did not?
A series of letters sent from St. John Paul II to a Polish-American academic shed new light on the pair’s close relationship and intimate discussions. Details of the correspondence between the former pope and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish-born philosopher, were published by the BBC on Feb. 15. The duo’s friendship has been well documented, although newly released letters held at the Polish National Library show the closeness of their relationship.
Speaking slowly at times as he talked about how he is comforted by Scripture and the faith of others, Obama said he has lately focused on a Bible verse from 2 Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
He said now is the best period to have that scriptural assurance.
“What better time in these changing and tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us towards what matters,” he said.
For the longest time, I was convinced that Paul the evangelist totally whiffed on one of his most beautiful passages: the one where he emphasizes that love is what really matters, and then lists some of its defining traits. He starts out by saying that love is … patient.
He goes on to list other traits, such as kindness. He also says what it’s not: rude, selfish, snobbish, brooding, quick to give up on someone. And it’s all really good stuff, written with such grace. But I’ve always had a difficult time with that first word.
Patient. Love is patient.
In church last spring, our children learned the song, “Jesu, Jesu Fill Us with Your Love.” It includes the line, “neighbors are nearby and far away,” which gave our five-year-old son pause.
“Are neighbors far away?” he asked at breakfast recently.
“No,” I said.
We have nurtured an enemy mentality that pits us against the world — even as we justify it by claiming to be a force for protection of the world. And the violence we export abroad is taking its toll on us. It’s been taking its toll on us for a long, long time — eroding our souls with every weapon made, let alone used, to destroy another child of God half a world away or right next door. How could a nation that spends more money than any other in the world on the military not be infected by a culture of violence? How can we spend billions on bombs and guns and drones and missiles while neglecting the necessary funds for education and housing and healthcare, and yet claim to respect life? How can our leaders instruct us to kill abroad and be surprised when we find no other way to handle our problems here at home? How can we demand respect for human dignity while we continually glorify violence that tears human beings apart? How can we respect life while waging death?
We live in a deadly world, and we keep making it deadlier. So we are afraid, and we cling to our guns, and when someone poisoned by the idolatry of violence fires one of those guns, fearful people cling ever more tightly to their guns. When our own government clings to its nuclear arsenal in the name of "deterrence," how can we expect anything less of citizens?
As long as we live in fear and glorify violence, we can’t be surprised that efforts for gun control go nowhere. Of course we need gun control, but we also need to control our addiction to the myth that peace can be waged through violence. I can’t think of any myth that has so thoroughly duped humanity as the satanic lie that peace can be bought from sacrifice — from murder and war. The notion of a war to end all wars, a permanent peace arising from the rubble of destruction and death, is so demonstrably false. The house divided against itself is our own world, and we cannot stand like this. Will we keep hurtling ourselves headfirst toward our own destruction, putting our faith in instruments of death?