Sunday, April 24, 2005

The dangers of relativism

The new Pope, who has in the past disparaged the Jewish religion (but in fairness, no more than he disparaged Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions), sought to smooth over a PR situation by inviting the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, to the mass where the former Cardinal Ratzinger was to officially be installed as Benedict XVI and receive the ring and shawl of papal office. But the rabbi could not come because the Pope's installation ceremony was on the first day of Passover.
You'd think, since they can't reasonably ask the Jews to reschedule Passover, the Church could have easily enough scheduled the ceremony on another day, if a meaningful gesture were in fact intended.

Or would that be relativism?

I suspect that the real crime of the Jews, the one that has truly incited all this hatred over the centuries, was not that they killed Jesus, but that they didn't believe him. The Jews have now as far as I know been absolved by the Church of having killed Jesus, but--this is my fear, at least--I see no evidence that they have softened on the matter that truly excited all the animosity. And I see that animosity being extended to others as well.

When I was a boy in Sunday school, I was always puzzled by why we were more bothered, as compassionate people, by the killing of Jesus than, say, a common murder in the street. Especially given that this particular homicide was necessary for the salvation of our immortal souls, according to the most basic doctrine of our church and of every Christian sect I knew anything about. If no one had killed Jesus, we would all still be cut off absolutely from redemption. Even then it seemed a fishy story. Maybe the real story was that the Jews _rejected_ Jesus and the Good News. Or so I thought, callow youth that I was.

Now, when I see Bush and Frist and Dobson and the new Pope all on the same page WRT "relativism", whatever that is, and liberalism, it gives me the willies, because we--the "relativists" and liberals and whatnot--are waving the same red flag that has excited such wrath against Jews for all these centuries.

Perhaps I am an alarmist.

People have remarked on how compromise does not mollify Republican extremists, but rather seems to enrage them all the more. Maybe it's because the existence of unbelief or doubt is, to a certain kind of fanatic, an unbearable reproach.

And if we find the same pathology--and I fear we do--convergent in the White House, the Vatican, the Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, and Osama's cave somewhere in Pakistan, then there is a lot of trouble on the road ahead.

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