This week is about as full as a week can get here at my parish in DC. We celebrate Martin Luther King, as well as the presidential inauguration; the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place; and we will host Cardinal Sean O’Malley in our Mass for Life before the March for Life on Friday. I have found the intersection of these particular events is striking. This week, we pray for Christian unity. We pray that the Holy Spirit would lead Christians into full communion with each other, that they may be one, during a week when Christian disunity will be on full display.
Does doctrine divide Christians? I tend to doubt it. At least, it’s not the main cause of division today. Sure, Christians can point to aspects of other traditions with which they disagree, but much of that has more to do with cultural differences and misunderstandings. Here in the U.S., at least today, the churches are too weak to form people who could have a serious quibble with, say, Catholic teaching on the real presence. What has tended to divide Christians has not been doctrine but culture and politics, or, to be more specific, loyalty to powers other than the Church. And so I was struck when it occurred to me that we Christians are to pray for unity during a week when key constituencies of both major political parties will be gathering en masse on the Mall here in Washington.
I love my pastor. After Fr. Moises baptized my boy, Elijah, he made jokes about Mount Tabor . At a fundraising gala, he was the first on the dance floor, Capuchin habit and all. But what I really love is that he is, like the other Capuchins that serve our parish, truly catholic. To him, MLK, the inauguration of this nation’s first black president, and the March for Life were all causes for celebration. That’s not to say that we just celebrate everything, as if we’re soft on truth. I’ve heard denunciations of consumerism, encroachments on religious liberty, militarism, and abortion all from the same pulpit. In other words, this pastor shows that it is possible to be a Christian in “the time called America” without playing court theologian to one of the powers in contemporary U.S. political life.