Saturday, November 13, 2010

(In)tolerance among clergy in the 21st Century

It is nearly the end of the 2010 – and we’re safely into the 21st Century!

Consider these words: 

“Intolerance has been too prevalent as of late, and many clergy of different denominations are [responsible] with its growth.  The whole spirit and office of religion is to make [humans] merciful and humble and just.  If such teaching was preached by the pastors to their own congregations and the [responsibility] of others left to their own clergy, God would be better served and human society governed more in accordance to His holy commandments.”

The quote is from a respected Jewish woman in Philadelphia, written in 1844!  (I edited the words for clarity, “chargable” to “responsible” – “man” to “humans” – and “charge” to “responsible.”)

I am not certain that this quote applies equally in our time in all places in the U.S. – but I am certain it has continued applicability in all too many places in the U.S. today. 

It seems to me the spirit and ethic of the prophets of Hebrew Scripture and Jesus of Christian Scripture intends to create believers (Jews or Christian) who shape humans as individuals – and within society – to be “merciful and humble and just.”  Or, as the prophet Micah in chapter 6 writes the same words, in different order, “What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8) 

I had opportunity today to explore these themes with Mary Christine Athans, B.V.M. -  based on her article just published in the U.S. Catholic Historian, Vol. 28, Spring 2010.  What a delight to be in the conversation with Christine – but how unfortunate that a disparaging note about U.S. clergy and denominations from the 19th Century remains all too true as we proceed into the 21st Century. And, even greater tragedy - that we may still not be able to discern the message of the prophets from two thousand seven hundred years ago! Or from Jesus two thousand years ago. 

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