I was raised in a fundamentalist Protestant Christian household. We went to Sunday school every week and to church services Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. My mother taught Sunday school. At the age of eighty-seven, she attends Ladies Bible Class on Tuesday mornings.
At the age of twenty, I entered the Roman Catholic Church while at university. Upon graduating with a degree in religious studies, I entered a monastery and lived for thirty years as a friar, twenty-five of them as a priest. I held positions of responsibility in my community and had the title of Very Reverend. I left on good terms, continued to help with one of their ministries for a time and am still in friendly contact.
Having said all that to show that I have some familiarity with religion, I want to express my sadness that in the present political climate in the United States -- when the forces of discrimination are operating in state legislatures in the name of God and when the presidential primary process has degenerated into puerile name-calling by people who assert their Christian credentials at every opportunity -- in this unhappy atmosphere the voices of recognized Christian leaders are eerily silent.
Where are the authoritative religious voices denouncing discrimination as contrary to the will of a loving creator and merciful savior? Where are the voices decrying efforts to divide the people as a violation of the unity named Holy Spirit? Where are the voices denouncing the cynical misuse of sacred texts to foster notions that violate the most fundamental principles laid down in the scriptures?
The message of hope and forgiveness, of love and mercy, of the fatherhood of One and the brother- and sisterhood of all has been handed over to ridicule because the voices that purport to speak in its name instead speak loudly of hate, of separation, of selfishness, of greed, of power and weapons. They rush to defend school bullies and guns instead of the weak and powerless. They strain at gnats and swallow camels. These are the religious voices we hear, the ones we see in the news.
Where are the responsible faith leaders in this time of need?
I begin each day by reading a few passages for reflection. The first one is from the New Testament, from a letter of Paul to the community of believers in Philippi:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
I am a big fan of silence. But there is a time to speak. Before it is too late ...