Christ would not be Redeemer

Today is the feast of Oscar Romero so as I think about his work today and pray for all those who are cruelly treated, those who do not have a voice of their own and those who long for God to make the world new, I am posting some of his thoughts for others to read.

Christ would not be Redeemer
if he had not concerned himself with giving food
to the crowds that were hungry,
if he had not given light to the eyes of the blind,
if he had not felt sorrow for the forsaken crowds
that had no one to love them, no one to help them.
Christianity cares about human development,
about the political and social aspects of life.
Redemption would not be complete
if it did not consider these aspects
of the Christ who chose in fact to be an example
of one oppressed under a powerful empire
and under a ruling class of his people
that savaged his reputation and honor
and left him on a cross.

Oscar Romero // MARCH 26, 1978

Oscar Romero on The Protagonists of History

I’ve been reading through excerpts of Oscar Romero’s prayers and writings and many  strike me but this one really stood out to me this morning as one we need to hear today:

The true protagonists of history are those who are most united with God, because with God’s viewpoint they can best attend to the signs of the times, the ways of Providence, the build of history. Oh, if we only had persons of prayer among those who oversee the fate of the nation and the fate of the economy! If, instead of relying on human devices, people would rely on God and on his devices, we would have a world like the one the church dreams of, a world without injustices, a world with respect for rights, a world with generous participation by all, a world without repression, a world without torture.

Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love, July 17, 1977

Death Penalty Dead in New Mexico

My Friend posted this today, and it seemed worthy to share here as well. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has signed a bill repealing the death penalty. His statement is worth reading, here are a few highlights:

I have decided to sign legislation that repeals the death penalty in the state of New Mexico.

Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime. If the State is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong.

But the reality is the system is not perfect – far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proven that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country.

Even with advances in DNA and other forensic evidence technologies, we can’t be 100-percent sure that only the truly guilty are convicted of capital crimes. Evidence, including DNA evidence, can be manipulated. Prosecutors can still abuse their powers. We cannot ensure competent defense counsel for all defendants. The sad truth is the wrong person can still be convicted in this day and age, and in cases where that conviction carries with it the ultimate sanction, we must have ultimate confidence – I would say certitude – that the system is without flaw or prejudice. Unfortunately, this is demonstrably not the case.

And it bothers me greatly that minorities are overrepresented in the prison population and on death row.

And,

From an international human rights perspective, there is no reason the United States should be behind the rest of the world on this issue. Many of the countries that continue to support and use the death penalty are also the most repressive nations in the world. That’s not something to be proud of.

In a society which values individual life and liberty above all else, where justice and not vengeance is the singular guiding principle of our system of criminal law, the potential for wrongful conviction and, God forbid, execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings. That is why I’m signing this bill into law.

via ABQNews: BREAKING: Death Penalty Dead.

Plan B: The Church (John Caputo)

In preparing for a sermon the other day I came across one of my favorite quotes from John Caputo’s book, “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?” (see also here):

“The name of ‘Jesus’ is too often a mirror in which we behold our own image, and it has always been easy to spot the sliver in the eye of the other and miss the two-by-four in our own. The question presupposes the inescapable reality of history and of historical distance, and it asks how that distance can be crossed. Or better, conceding that this distance cannot be crossed, the question resorts to the subjunctive and asks how that irreducible distance could be made creative. How does our distance from Jesus illuminate what he said and did in a different time and place and under different historical circumstances? And how does Jesus’ distance from us illuminate what we must say and do in the importantly different situation in which we find ourselves today? The task of the church is to submit itself to this question, rather than using it like a club to punish others. The church, the archive of Jesus, in a very real sense is this question. It has no other duty and no other privilege than to bear this memory of Jesus and ask itself this question. The church is not the answer. The church is the question, this question, the gathering of people who are called together by the memory of Jesus and who ask this question, who are called together and are put into question by this question, who stand accused under the call, interrogated and unable to rescue themselves from this question, and who come to understand that there are no easy, ready-made, prepackaged answers.”

(John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct? 2007, 34)

More Yoder on Faithfulness and Tradition

I’ve been working through a number of John Howard Yoder’s texts in the last week, reading what he had to say about ecumenicism and tradition within the “Radical Free-Church.” Here are a few quotes that really stood out to me from his essay in The Priestly Kingdom called, “The Authority of Tradition.” One thing I really liked about this essay is his refusal to accept that all tradition is always good, or that every rendering and interpretation of our common texts and the “founding event” is correct. He suggests that tradition is important, and that if it’s going to have any use in our contemporary pluralistic atmosphere, there needs to be a discussion about infidelity to our common tradition, and denounce innovations that are unfaithful even as we express what fidelity to the founding event will look like. 

“Far from being an ongoing growth like a tree (or a family tree), the wholesome growth of a tradition is like a vine: a story of constant interruption of organic growth in favor of pruning and a new chance for roots. This renewed appeal to origins is not primitivism, nor an effort to recapture some pristine purity. It is rather a “looping back,??? a glance over the shoulder to enable a midcourse correction, a rediscovery of something from the past whose pertinence was not seen before, because only a new question or challenge enables us to see it speaking to us…??? page 69

 

Continue reading More Yoder on Faithfulness and Tradition

Two (Possible) Roles of Religion In A Global World

I’m currently writing a methods paper, laying out how I will conduct my field research among Quaker congregations. In the section where I’m dealing with culture and the role of the church I found Slavoj Žižek’s quote below to be insightful and to the point.

The social order in which religion is no longer fully integrated into and identified with a particular cultural life-form, but acquires autonomy, so that it can survive as the same religion in different cultures. This extraction enables religion to globalize itself (there are Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists everywhere today); on the other hand, the price to be paid is that religion is reduced to a secondary epiphenomenon with regard to the secular functioning of the social totality. In this new global order, religion has two possible roles: therapeutic or critical. It either helps individuals to function better in the existing order [Yoder’s Constantinianism], or it tries to asset itself as a critical agency articulating what is wrong with this order as such, a space for the voices of discontent [Sectarian Withdrawal?] – in this second case, religion as such tends toward assuming the role of a heresy.

Slavoj Žižek, The Puppet and the Dwarf, 3

Augustine's Prayer for Students

Hear my prayer, O Lord; let not my soul fail under Thy discipline, nor let me fail in uttering to Thee Thy mercies: by them Thou has drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that I should find more delight in Thee than in all the temptations I once ran after, and should love Thee more intensely, and lay hold upon Thy and with all my heart’s strength, and be delivered from every temptation unto the end.

O Lord, my King and my God: may whatever of value I learnt as a boy be used for Thy service, and what I now do in speaking and writing and reading and figuring. When I was learning vain things, Though didst discipline me: and the sin of the delight I had in those vain things, Thou has forginven me. Among those studies, I learned many a useful word, but these might have been learnt equall well in studies not vain: and that surely is the safe way for the young to tread.

(Augustine, Confessions, translated by F.J. Sheed, 1993: 15)

I’ve been reading through the Confessions again at the persistent prodding of my buddy Kyle and this was a little treasure I came across this morning.