Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sandusky trial: Marilynne Robinson

After reading the news stories about the atrocious abuse tolerated for years at Penn State (to give just one example of many others that are coming to light), I dug up this quotation from the wise and far-seeing Marilynne Robinson., author of Homecoming and Gilead. The elderly pastor who is the narrator of Gilead is musing about his sermons on the stories of Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham and Isaac:
About the cruelty of these narratives I said that they rendered the fact that children are often victims of rejection or violence, and that in these cases too, which the Bible does not otherwise countenance, the child is within the providential care of God...I have always worried that when I say the insulted or the downtrodden are within the providence of God, it will be taken by some people to mean that it is not a grave thing, an evil thing, to insult or oppress...So I quoted the words of the Lord: “If anyone offends these little ones, it would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he were cast into the sea.” That is strong language, but there it is.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

A powerful Christian witness in the Middle East

Say what you will about the Jesuits, they continue to produce heroic priests who brave death and fates worse than death. After months and years of horrible revelations about child abuse by Roman Catholic priests (never mind football coaches, Protestant schoolteachers, and Hasidic rabbis), it is deeply moving to read this story from The New York Times yesterday.

As we all know, the Christian communities are disappearing from the Middle East. A complicating factor is the distressing tendency of various Eastern Orthodox churches and their leadership to support the likes of Bashir al-Assad in return for protection. ("For what shall it profit a church, if it shall gain the whole world, and lose its own soul?" Mk. 8:36)

Therefore it is particularly inspiring, though distressing, to read of the courage and faith of this lone Jesuit priest. Here is the link -- be sure to read all the way to the last sentence, which is the clincher:

Friday, June 15, 2012

The unwisdom of "interfaith" enterprises

An article in the NYTimes a few months ago got buried in a pile of my other stuff, but now that it has surfaced, its subject seems more pertinent than ever. It's about  an Orthodox Jewish rabbi who has become quite an authority on "the spiritual component of recovery from addiction." He has been received with much enthusiasm and admiration by various charitable and church agencies. The Times reporter tells us that "he writes regularly for The Huffington Post on topics like the death of Amy Winehouse, the pop singer who had struggled with drugs and alcohol. His avid followers include the pastor of an evangelical megachurch in Alabama and the chaplain who runs a skid-row mission in Atlantic City."

Here's what captured my attention. The reporter writes, "This unanticipated journey into the Gentile world has required some very precise ground rules on Rabbi Taub’s part." The rabbi goes on to explain his philosophy of "interfaith" endeavors, which he surely embodies in a certain sense. Not in every sense, however! because, as he says, "I have to be careful with each relationship that I don’t promise what I can’t deliver. It’s not about interfaith. I have zero interest in finding common theological ground. I’m a Jew who’s been able to study my tradition, and I have information, and I can be helpful to the extent I can share the information.” 

It seems to me that we would do well to heed these words. There has been too much sentimental, undifferentiated carrying-on about how we need to find common ground with other faiths, more often than not giving away too much of our own. Rabbi Taub has a very good point to make, and he does it without apology.

Here is the link: