Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Romans 2 -- those who should know better

An issue that bedevils American Christians is -- the "unchurched." These are the people who have no formal relationship with a religious tradition, who do not attend worship services, who do not "belong." We tend to take statistics seriously in this country, and a number of surveys have studied the question of who the unchurched are, and how they got to be that way.

A disturbingly high percentage of those alienated people used to be ours.

The most common reason given for walking away from Omelas[1] is a discrepancy between the actions of professing Christians, and what their faith claims lead us to expect. Quite often, a person of authority once abused the trust of the dropout. Pedophiles among the Catholic clergy, for example, have done great harm to the reputation of that communion.[2]

This is not a new problem. The Christian community in Rome included people from Jewish and pagan families. The Jews took pride in their "chosen" status before God, but did not always live up to their superior claims:
Rom 2:17 Ya sen? Kendine Yahudi diyor, Kutsal Yasa'ya dayanıp Tanrı'yla övünüyorsun.
Rom 2:18 Tanrı'nın isteğini biliyorsun. En üstün değerleri ayırt etmeyi Yasa'dan öğrenmişsin.
Rom 2:19, 20 Kutsal Yasa'da bilginin ve gerçeğin özüne kavuşmuş olarak körlerin kılavuzu, karanlıkta kalanların ışığı, akılsızların eğiticisi, çocukların öğretmeni olduğuna inanmışsın.
Rom 2:21 Öyleyse başkasına öğretirken, kendine de öğretmez misin? Çalmamayı öğütlerken, çalar mısın?
Rom 2:22 "Zina etmeyin" derken, zina eder misin? Putlardan tiksinirken, tapınakları yağmalar mısın?
Rom 2:23 Kutsal Yasa'yla övünürken, Yasa'ya karşı gelerek Tanrı'yı aşağılar mısın?
Rom 2:24 Nitekim şöyle yazılmıştır: "Sizin yüzünüzden uluslar arasında Tanrı'nın adına küfrediliyor."
Let's look at the first and last sentences in this extract:

Ya sen? Kendine Yahudi diyor, Kutsal Yasa'ya dayanıp, Tanrı'yla övünüyorsun.
And you? Yourself a Jew you call, Holy Law you rely upon, in God you boast.

Nitekim şöyle yazılmıştır: "Sizin yüzünüzden uluslar arasında Tanrı'nın adına küfrediliyor."
Nonetheless thus it is written: "You because of the nations surrounding God's name revile."

That's an interesting construction, BTW. Sizin = your and yüzünüzden = from your face. yüz (face) + ünüz (2nd person plural possessive) + den (the "from" ending. In this case, indicates the source of the topic of discussion)

It's the behavior of those who should know better that disgraces the truth they claim to revere. May God grant us the grace to claim less for ourselves, and to live more consistently with what we do know.

[1] Those Who Walk Away from Omelas is a disturbing, unforgettable short story by fantasy novelist Ursula K. LeGuin, a native of Salem, Oregon (spell Salem O. backwards ...). The theme is an idyllic, Utopian, community -- and those who reject it, and why.

[2] The first Australian to be formally recognized by the Catholic church as a "saint" was, as Al Jazeera reports, Mary MacKillop, a 19th-century nun, whose religious order exposed a paedophile priest. The "old boys club" protected its own, and this courageous woman of faith was excommunicated for a while. When the local bishop was on his deathbed, and ready to face the Judge of all, he reversed that decree.

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