Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
October 28, 2007
Zero-Sum Game, Slippery Slope, and Other Clichés
Too many times we look at situations as zero-sum games in which increasing one component must necessarily result in the decrease of another. When conflicts arise, people sometimes refuse to accept that another person might have a piece of the truth, because to do so would be a sign of weakness and a compromise of the “noble cause.” This is a destructive attitude and can be manipulated by others who see the conflict itself as beneficial to their own agendas.
The slippery slope is not everywhere—a step towards common ground does not have to plunge us into an abyss. It really is possible to have [Alert: cliché coming] a “win-win.”
“We have just pounded the drum again and again that, for churches to reach their full redemptive potential, they have to do more than hold services—they have to try to transform their communities. If there is racial injustice in your community, you have to speak to that. If there is educational injustice, you have to do something there. If the poor are being neglected by the government or being oppressed in some way, then you have to stand up for the poor.” from Bill Hybels, an Evangelical Christian, founder of the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, and very possibly the sin-gle-most-influential pastor in America
As Catholics we tend to be very wary of Evangelicals (as they tend to be of us). It is ironic that this quote from Bill Hybels could very easily have come from documents of the U.S. Bishops or a papal encyclical, but would never have come from the pulpit of Holy Spirit, at least in the current days. How is it that the grand tradition of Catholic Social Teaching has been completely abandoned in our Parish and that people who question this abandonment are vilified? “Transform our community?” Too controversial, let’s leave that to the Evangelicals!
One of the Bishop’s recent Monitor commentaries brought back grade school memories. I will make the disclaimer that I agreed with the main idea of the commentary—that we can approach God through science. The more we learn in any field of science can bring us to a greater level of awe and faith. It was the assertion that because of our special knowledge of God, only Christians were capable of making any great scientific discoveries. I hadn’t heard something like that since Catholic elementary school. I should add that most of my classmates didn’t buy it then either. It was especially ironic that this commentary was published during the same time frame as Nobel Prize winners from all over the globe were being recognized for their various accomplishments.
Why is it that our church leaders feel such a great need to package God into a tidy little box that only certain people can touch? Wasn’t that the Pharisee’s greatest fault this weekend, to presume to judge and belittle the man beside him? Isn’t God big enough for us to share? Or may be the question is why aren’t we big enough and secure enough to share God? from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena
Drown It in a Bathtub
Grover Norquist, an influential advisor to conservative politicians, has said that he wants to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” It is this disdain for government itself, or at least a certain view of the role of government, that leads some people to conjecture that when politicians influenced by Norquist (and others of his ilk) actually take control of government they do not take seriously the day-to-day tasks of making the machinery of government work. Amateurism, sloppiness, cronyism, and corruption tend to be tolerated—since government is seen as pretty much worthless anyway, who cares?
Some folks have a very minimalist view of a parish (and the Church)—coarsely put; they see a “store” where they periodically get their supply of sanctifying grace and pious platitudes. In this view, a parish is a purveyor of goods that are owned by the Church and what matters is the transfer of those goods, by the Church, to the parishioners.
With that mentality, it is not important that liturgy (and other parish activities) be done well or that the community be centrally involved in directing the life of the parish. What is important is that parishioners receive the goods—the rest is peripheral, and who cares?
Why Aren’t You Inside?
“Why aren’t you inside? Don’t you believe in the Blessed Sacrament?” spoken by a member of the parish to a group of parishioners gathered outside the church for evening prayer a few weeks ago.
Aside from the person’s rudeness in interrupting prayer, and aside from the fact that the gathered group’s prayer service had been thrown out of the chapel, the logical conclusion that comes from the joining together of the two questions is truly astonishing.
Do you think the person really meant to imply that if you believe in the Blessed Sacrament, then you cannot gather for prayer anywhere except in a chapel, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament? Or to put in another way, did this person mean to say that anyone who gathers for prayer outside of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament does not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharistic celebration?
Whatever do you think the Gospel means when Jesus is quoted as saying, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them?”
Death Penalty Dying?
This week the Supreme Court will hear a case that challenges the constitutionality of lethal injections in carrying out death sentences. Since the ruling from the lower court, this case has created a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in the United States (since lethal injection is by far the most common method used).
In another development, the American Bar Association says in a recent report:
“Serious problems in state death penalty systems compromise fairness and accuracy in capital punishment cases and justify a nationwide freeze on executions. … every state with the death penalty should review its execution procedures before putting anyone else to death. …”
“After carefully studying the way states across the spectrum handle executions, it has become crystal clear that the process is deeply flawed,” said Stephen F. Hanlon, chairman of the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project. “The death penalty system is rife with irregularity.”
These two developments do not guarantee the end of the death penalty, or even a true moratorium, but they do seem to be positive signs that real progress may be on its way. It’s a shame that Holy Spirit Parish can no longer see its way clear to join with the U.S. Bishops and the last several Popes to pray periodically for the end of the death penalty and to help organize efforts to influence public policy on this issue—it must be too controversial.
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org