candid thoughts on the issues of the day.

In the fallout of Fr. Michael Pfleger’s recent "sermon" at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Senator Barack Obama resigned his membership there. This was the culmination of several months of political trauma for the Obama campaign, beginning with revelations in the national media that Obama's pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, has made many politically contentious statements. My intention here is not to judge Senator Obama, Father Pfleger, or Jeremiah Wright, but I do want to assess the choice made by Senator Obama to leave his church of 20 years at the moment when it became a political liability to his campaign.

First, let me point out that I am a Roman Catholic. Thus, I am a member of the same universal Church in which Father Pfleger is an ordained priest. I am a proud Catholic, despite the fact that the Church has had some embarrassing and disgraceful moments in recent history, namely the sexual abuse scandals in the United States. Sadly, many people left the Church in the fallout of these scandals.

The question at hand is the following: Should someone leave their church because of the statements or abuses of some of their church's ministers?

Before I state my opinion, let me first say that every human should feel free to choose their place of worship for whatever reason they desire. This freedom, however, does not mean that others cannot criticize another person's choice of place of worship, or question their motivations for choosing one place of worship over another, particularly when the person in question is running for President of the United States.

In my opinion, the most important factor in choosing a church should be the tenets of faith that the church embraces. For the Catholic Church, these tenets are summarized in the Nicene Creed (“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen…”). Certainly, the qualities of the pastor or the faith community that you worship with might be secondary factors in one’s choice, but if one believes their church is ordained and protected by God, then the church should transcend the individuals who make up its membership or even its leadership.

I am reminded here of a story about St. Francis of Assisi, who lived in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. In this story, it is said that one of St. Francis’s brothers asked him what he would do if he knew that a priest celebrating Mass had three concubines on the side. St. Francis’s response was, “When it came time for Holy Communion, I would go to receive the sacred Body of my Lord from the priest's anointed hands.” The point is that ministers are ordained and “endorsed” by God, not by humans.

If I were a member of Father Pfleger’s St. Sabina parish in the south side of Church, I would take example from St. Francis and faithfully receive Holy Communion from Father Pfleger’s anointed hands. I would not leave his parish. If he was preaching heretical or inappropriate teachings, I might consider reporting this to the Bishop, but I wouldn’t publicly criticize Father Pfleger because to me he is a man of God and to criticize him would be unfaithful to Church teachings.

Senator Obama has instead completely abandoned his church for seemingly political reasons. He has not even said that he will remain a member of the United Church of Christ and simply seek another UCC congregation in which to worship. He just renounced his church at the moment that his church became a liability to his presidential aims.

Let me end by saying I respect Senator Obama’s right to leave his church for whatever reason he wants. And honestly, I hope he joins the Roman Catholic Church because I think it’s the greatest church in the universe. But the fact that he was so quick to leave his church when it was under a political firestorm, to me speaks volumes about whether he exemplifies some of the qualities I would like to see in the President of the United States: Loyalty, commitment, worthy ambition, and a strong, resilient faith.


Comments (Page 1)
on Jun 01, 2008
For alot of people, myself included, belonging to a church is a very minor and periphery aspect to Christianity. I have a feeling Obama might be of a similar mindset. The reality was his church was continuing to be a liability and embarassement. The press just wouldn't shut up about it. He probably didn't have many strong feelings about the specific church one way or another, so he had no problem renouncing his pastor or leaving his church. Concerning priests, pastors, and whether it is right to denounce them; Jesus, or paul, said nothing of these people supposedly ordained by God. You have your faith, which tells you that to denounce your priest and leave your church would be inappropiate and unfaithful, and he has is (which is not any less valid).

But remember, above all, where/when/how/if a politician goes to church is entirely his own business. I don't think it's a good idea to read into it too much.
on Jun 01, 2008

For alot of people, myself included, belonging to a church is a very minor and periphery aspect to Christianity.

If that is the case, then a lot of people have kinda missed the whole point of Christianity. Worshipping in community was very central to Jesus' teachings.

on Jun 01, 2008

The most important thing to me is my faith.  But not a faith in any human institution but my faith in God according to scripture. 

Obama did the right thing.  If a pastor or priest is preaching heresy it's not God's church.  God is not going to bless this.  Just because these men are preaching from a church pulpit doesn't make them one of God's ambassadors.  Many use the platform for their own agendas completely bypassing God's agenda which is to preach his word not their own. 

In order to know if something is heretical or not is to be familiar with the real thing.  If we know the truth well enough we'll be able to spot the lie in an instance and should either try to correct the error by speaking against it or flee from it if they will not listen to sound reasoning. 

 

 

on Jun 01, 2008

The most important thing to me is my faith. But not a faith in any human institution but my faith in God according to scripture.

According to scripture, God (Jesus) did establish the church:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

on Jun 01, 2008
If that is the case, then a lot of people have kinda missed the whole point of Christianity. Worshipping in community was very central to Jesus' teachings.


Really? Where? Besides that one verse about peter being the rock. In Luke 11:27-28 you see Jesus directing worship away from himself, he often said that prayer was best done in private, and he made no mention of singing. In fact, Jesus also said some things that would directly imply that there shouldn't be a church (e.g. Luke 12:49-53). The central teachings of Jesus was actually ethical, or if you like, existential. Redemption was placed entirely on our existence within the world (e.g. Luke 7:47, Matthew 6:14, Matthew 25:31-46).

Besides, the church groups established by Paul are quite different to the churches of today. They were always small (30-50 people), was held in houses, did not have a strictly heirarchical structure, the Lord's supper was a full meal, and everyone participated in edification.

on Jun 01, 2008
Which is More Important to You, Faith or Politics?


My Catholic faith is the most important.  

I respect Senator Obama’s right to leave his church for whatever reason he wants.


Me too.

I hope he joins the Roman Catholic Church because I think it’s the greatest church in the universe.


Ditto!

But the fact that he was so quick to leave his church when it was under a political firestorm,


The reality was his church was continuing to be a liability and embarassement.


Exactly, if he hadn't left, it would have dogged him (and still may) all through the election process until November, that is, unless Hillary Clinton somehow pulls a miracle out of the political hat box.

It was politically expedient for Obama to leave and it has been said that it was politically expedient that he chose that particular church when he was running for Illinois state legislature.

to me speaks volumes about whether he exemplifies some of the qualities I would like to see in the President of the United States: Loyalty, commitment, worthy ambition, and a strong, resilient faith.


Strong, resilient faith....Obama? Nah, Obama's a hypocrite for he calls himself a Christian and Our Lord said, "If you love Me you will keep My Commandments", yet by his 100% pro-abortion voting record, he disobeys the Fifth Commandment of Almighty God, thou shalt not kill. For that alone, I've measured his character and found him woefully wanting for if he can't get that part of politics right by voting to save the innocent life in the womb, then he's going to come up short on all the rest of it.

Father Pfleger..... If he was preaching heretical or inappropriate teachings, I might consider reporting this to the Bishop,


I've seen both the video of his "preaching" and read his remarks...there is no "if" about it..it was heretical that he was preaching in this church to begin for all Catholics are forbidden to participate in any other forms of worship other than those prescribed by the Catholic religion. What he said is not only inappropriate, but wrong.

Evidently, Cardinal George has already been informed and has forbidden Fr.Pfleger from speaking again. Only time will tell if Fr. Pfleger keeps his word not to do so.


but I wouldn’t publicly criticize Father Pfleger because to me he is a man of God and to criticize him would be unfaithful to Church teachings.


I wouldn't publicly criticize him either, but in fraternal charity I would privately admonish and correct him. This is called a spiritual work of mercy one of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost we received at our Confirmation.




on Jun 01, 2008
KFC POSTS:
If we know the truth well enough we'll be able to spot the lie in an instance and should either try to correct the error by speaking against it or flee from it if they will not listen to sound reasoning.


I agree.

God said, "If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he shall die from his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death." Ezek. 33:8.

on Jun 01, 2008
If that is the case, then a lot of people have kinda missed the whole point of Christianity. Worshipping in community was very central to Jesus' teachings.


Really? Where?


You'll find the early Christians worshipping together in the Book of Acts of the Apostles which for the most part describes the building up of the early Church. What's so neat about Acts is that it's considered a true history of events. Acts 2 describes how they "broke bread" (the Holy Eucharist to Catholics) in their homes praising God and reading the Psalms. You are correct at the very beginning they met in houses for prayer and worship. They didn't have a building especially reserved for liturgical functions for financial as well as for the fact, they were still being persecuted which would last until the 3rd century.

Scripture describes Church communities in Jerusalem, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Phillippi, Antioch and Judea, to name a few.

In fact, Jesus also said some things that would directly imply that there shouldn't be a church (e.g. Luke 12:49-53).


I disagree. For example, take Eph. 5:25-29, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Chruch to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. ...For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church."

This is the Church, the one founded by our Lord as prophesied by Isias 2:2. "In the last days the mountain of the house of the LOrd shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it."

St.Matt. said of Christ's Chruch, "You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid." The New Testament writers point to this visible Church in 110 references. In St.Matt. the Church is also spoken of as "the kingdom of God"; "the kingdom of Heaven", or simply as "the kingdom" 36 times. So the visible Church with the good fish, bad fish, and cockle in the wheat is the Kingdom of God.



on Jun 01, 2008

Thanks lulapilgrim for responding to responding to timothy's question. References to worshipping in community are found throughout the New Testament, beginning with Jesus' assembling of twelve apostles and continuing with the Great Comission, where Jesus sent the disciples out to establish faith communities throughout the world. Lastly, Jesus said "where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20)

on Jun 01, 2008

Redemption was placed entirely on our existence within the world (e.g. Luke 7:47, Matthew 6:14, Matthew 25:31-46).

Can you explain what you mean by that? I read all three of those passages, and I still don't understand what you mean. Jesus promised that we would be rewarded in heaven, not in this world. He said His Kingdom not of this world, but in heaven. He said in the Gospel of John:

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." (John 12:25)

Paul said in 1 John:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

Besides, the church groups established by Paul are quite different to the churches of today. They were always small (30-50 people), was held in houses, did not have a strictly heirarchical structure, the Lord's supper was a full meal, and everyone participated in edification.

There were very good reasons that the early Christians met in each other houses (namely fear of persecution). And I don't know from where you base your statements that the early church communities were small and that they didn't have a hierarchy. It is very clear in history that in the first few centuries after Christ, Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire. Secondly, the hierarchy was there from the very beginning, and is evident in Paul's letters and in Acts. The supremacy of the seat of Peter (i.e. the Bishop of Rome) was firmly established by the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

It is true that the early Christian ceremonies were held after full meals in each other's homes, but this only further affirms the importance of community and fellowship among early Christians, just as it was central to Jesus's works on Earth, when he commanded his disciples to establish these very communities.

on Jun 01, 2008
The central teachings of Jesus was actually ethical, or if you like, existential.


Christ taught absolutes (objective truth) concerning right and wrong. Doing wrong is a sin, an offense against the love of God and neighbor.

Luke 7:47, Matthew 6:14, Matthew 25:31-46).
These passages speak of sin and through Christ's Redemption, the forgiveness of sin, the last St. Matt. 25 describes the Last Judgment where we will be judged on how we lived our life (existence?)

What you mean by existential for existentialism is at variance with Christ's teachings?




on Jun 01, 2008
Can you explain what you mean by that? I read all three of those passages, and I still don't understand what you mean.


Sorry I didn't really state it well. What I mean is that Jesus said that God's forgiveness for sins depends entirely on your actions within the world, if you read the verses Jesus says that if you love much you'll be forgiven much, if you forgive others God WILL forgive you, and the parable of the sheep/goats where you are judged by God depending on how you treated the poor among you. What I'm trying to get at here is that church is not a necessary part of Christianity. I'm not saying it's wrong, or that it can't be beneficial, just that you shouldn't judge a Christian (like Obama) based on whether he goes to church or not.

And I don't know from where you base your statements that the early church communities were small and that they didn't have a hierarchy.


A moderately prosperous household back then would be able to hold about 30 people, 50 if they were wealthy and the people were squashed in, but historians really don't see it as any larger than that. In Acts Paul does indeed appoint elders in the church, however the greek word used here, 'episkopos', was never really used to refer to a specific function or a significant one. Hence, these elders would not have held positions of power that you see in churches today.

In Paul's letters, he never uses the word for priest, hiereis. Instead, he addresses all of his letters, with advice/criticism/suggestions to all of the church. People in the church were encouraged to participate in the church whereever their spiritual gift was (greek word charisma), and this did indeed include talents of administration and organisation. I believe it is likely to conclude, though, that these people did not have any overriding power or leadership over the others in the church. This fits very well with Jesus saying to call no man rabbi or father.

The supremacy of the seat of Peter (i.e. the Bishop of Rome) was firmly established by the First Council of Nicaea in 325.


I understand that you believe this adds credibility to your argument, but I don't think anything post-Jesus has much authority in what Christianity should be, if you get what I mean.

It is true that the early Christian ceremonies were held after full meals in each other's homes, but this only further affirms the importance of community and fellowship among early Christians, just as it was central to Jesus's works on Earth, when he commanded his disciples to establish these very communities.


I sympathise with you here, as I also believe that Jesus Christ wanted communities of Christians to be established. To me, this is what he meant by the coming kingdom of God and the ethics of these communities of people were spelled out in the sermon on the mount. However, no such community exists today. I have no faith in any of the institutionalised church systems, and so it is very easy for me to not place much emphasis on church attendance.
on Jun 01, 2008
St.Matt. said of Christ's Chruch, "You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid." The New Testament writers point to this visible Church in 110 references. In St.Matt. the Church is also spoken of as "the kingdom of God"; "the kingdom of Heaven", or simply as "the kingdom" 36 times. So the visible Church with the good fish, bad fish, and cockle in the wheat is the Kingdom of God.


All of these references in the Gospel point to Jesus either describing his followers (this is different from a church, as his followers back then were a collection of individuals) or describing his idealised communities that will shape the kingdom of God. And maybe Paul did bring these communities into realisation, but the church that evolved from that process is too dissimilar to the early church to claim that Jesus is necessarily talking about the churches that exist today.

What you mean by existential for existentialism is at variance with Christ's teachings?


In fact, the first existentialists were Christians. Look at Soren Kierkegaard (a brilliant writer and philosopher), Paul Tillich, Gabriel Marcel, among others. The word "existential" here essentially means relating to existence within the world. I can't do justice of Christian existentialism (or existential Christianity, which can mean different things) here, so if you still think it's absurd maybe check it out.
on Jun 02, 2008
Faith and Politics are like Bread and water. Both necessary (given today's society), but hardly interchangeable.

That being said, I would leave Pfleggler's building. The Church is the people, not the building. And I would no more feel a part of his "church" than I would Wrights. The Rite of Holy Orders is conducted by man with all his fallibilities.

He is no more a vessle of God than you or I. Which is to say he is as much a vessel as you and I as well. I can give you the Eucharist. Our belief just says we cannot consecrate it, that must be done by someone ordained.

He is just a man with human weaknesses - ones he has shown all to glaringly recently. I do not have to honor the man if the man is wrong. And ordained or not, he is wrong. But not for the reasons the press is making out either.
on Jun 02, 2008
he disobeys the Fifth Commandment of Almighty God, thou shalt not kill.


The fifth commandment, according to the real (read: not idolatry-approving) Ten Commandments, is to honor your father and mother. The sixth commandment is to not murder.

I know Catholics are always eager to get rid of the second because of their desire to bow down before graven images in express disagreement with the Ten Commandments, but whatever.
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