When Communion Is Political (Hint: It's Always Political)

Up here in the barren northland, there’s been a dust-up in the ongoing struggle of the church in America to accept GLBT persons.  This time it’s the Catholic church, the St. Paul & Minneapolis Archdiocese of which recently mailed tens of thousands of copies of a DVD opposing gay marriage to its communicants.  Of course, the DVD is timed to arrive as we approach mid-term elections.  From where I sit, social issues are playing a negligible role in these elections.  I don’t even hear Crazy Michelle Bachmann talking about them.

But that’s what the Catholic church wants its people talking about and voting on.  Oh, would that they sent out a DVD about developing a just economy or about extricating ourselves from foreign wars.  But, no, their primary interest this fall is making sure that GLBT persons are not afforded the right to marry.

In an odd radio interview, the local archbishop, John Nienstadt, claimed that he had no idea who gave the money for the production and distribution of the DVDs nor did he know how much the campaign cost.  That denial very much strained the bounds of believability for me.

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Didache Blog Tour – Day Five, Chapter Six

Over at Subversive Influence, Brother Maynard has written a thorough and wonderful reflection on The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community, the sixth chapter of which is, “Living Together in Community.”

The Didache has a lot to say about how a Christian community should get along.  In fact, it can be argued that the entire document is really a manual for church harmony.  Bro Maynard does a great job of walking us through the chapter, finding notes of agreement and even some of slight disagreement.

But what I found most interesting is his conclusion, in which he revisits his conversation with Frank Viola over the controversial book, Pagan Christianity,

Tony Jones calls the Didache “the most important book you’ve never heard of.” While I’m familiar with it myself, I concur with his assessment that most Christians today are not, and that it is an important work with which we should be grappling. In fact, the omission of any mention of the Didache was one of my major criticisms with Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity, and my discussion of it actually centers on the very passages discussed in this chapter of Tony’s book. I gave Frank the opportunity to respond in an interview, and he did. You may note there the implied ascription of a second-century date for the Didache, but an early date makes it that much more important for Frank to have dealt with in his work, and this is in my mind what makes Pagan Christianity more of a popular than a scholarly work. (Note that Ben Witherington also goes to the Didache in his critique of Pagan Christianity.)

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The Limits of Religion

Two stories caught my eye/ear in the last 24 hours.  The first came on MPR last night.  It seems that a group of Somalian Muslims had boycotted the first few days of school in the small town of Winona, Minnesota because their children were not being allowed to pray when they wanted.  Six years ago, the school superintendant reported, a group of parents and administrators had agreed on when the children could pray, even though the prayer times shift slightly every day in relation to sunrise and sunset.  But the current parents don’t feel they should have to abide by an agreement made six years ago by other people.

But, of the entire report, I found a quote by an Islamic rights expert to be the most interesting.  He said that afternoon prayer can take place anytime between 1:30pm and 4:00pm — it’s just that some Muslims only want to pray at the very beginning of that time and not wait until, as the superintendent called it, “Non-instructional time” (a.k.a., passing time, recess, lunch, etc.).

The other story has been around for a while, but it’s just been written up poignantly by its protagonist and posted on Steve Waldman’s blog.  Doug Kmiec is a scholar and author with conservative, Republican bona fides out the wazoo.  But he endorsed BO because of BO’s commitment to the full range of life issues.  In a much ballyhooed incident, Kmiec, a devout Catholic, was denied the Eucharist by a priest, and even shouted at during the mass for “cooperating with evil” and “killing babies.”

It seems to me that both of these are stories of religion beyond the limits of religion (how’s that for a Rollinsesque turn-of-phrase?).  These are examples of when religion slips past theology and into the realm of unthinking ideology.  And, methinks, this is the very thing that Jesus so often spoke and acted out against.  When we turn thoughtful, reflective theology into reactionary, unthinking behavior, we’ve left Christianity (or Islam, for that matter) and ventured into a space that is no longer bounded by a humilty before God.