Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bishop Sklba's New Old Testament-Lite

Our own Bp. Sklba has interesting reflections:

The poets of Israel, for example, often attempted to describe the supreme power of their God by resorting to their extreme human experiences of power, namely vast gory military battles and final crushing victory.

...The Psalms are filled with references to the power of God, smashing the enemies of Israel (and also of God because they were presumably on the same side against “the nations”). The Book of Revelation describes the final battle between good and evil (God and the Beast).

...It is brutal and lethal; but God wins and for all the imagery of the book, that’s the fundamental point of its message. Still, we ought to be more cautious about invoking those symbols.

Our ultimate purpose in all areas of human disagreement and conflict, however, is civil conversation and conversion, not confrontation or conflict. That is why it may be time for our Catholic religious imagination to seek new ways to picture divine power and majesty. Any act of mercy, for example, is an expression of power too. Religious education has a big challenge on this score. we should exculpt Jericho (like ICEL exculpts the homosexuals from Sodom)? Get rid of that silly Red Sea-parting stuff because it wasn't really a Civil Conversation? Forget the Ammonites? The Babylonians?

It's fair to say that the US did not start the war with Islamic terrorists--nor the Second World War, nor the First World War (in both, we stayed as far away as possible until forced to join.)

Even Bp. Sklba admits as much:

There may well be times in this very imperfect world when physical force is needed to protect the innocent and when moral strength is required to confront and contain injustice. One of the deepest and (I believe) God-given instincts in creation is to protect new life and offspring, which is why abortion is such a deep moral issue.

But the good Bishop narrowly constructs both the occasions for appropriate uses of violence AND "innocent life" were he to have his way with the above paragraph.

It's not just abortion--and unborn babies are hardly the ONLY "innocent lives" we deal with. The Bishop may wish to consider the force used by cops when detaining suspects, or the (sometimes lethal) force required to prevent violence to innocent adults under ordinary civil law. Would the Bishop suggest that the Church re-write its rules on self-defense? Or defense of one's family (which includes one's adult wife or husband)?

The Bishop can easily consult the Martyrology, or any of the Gospel Passion accounts (we know he won't view Gibson's version.) There he can find excellent examples of Christian "re-visioning" of Divine power and majesty. In fact, they are prototypical examples.

I'm sure that those examples are what the Bishop meant.

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