Friday, March 27, 2009

Bishop Tobin - 'You need a conscience transplant'

Responding to critics of his previous column, 'My interview with President Obama,' Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin backs down not one bit. His response, titled, 'Jesus wasn't always nice,' questions the weight of his critics' concern, excerpt (emphases mine):
I do find it intriguing, though, that the critics of the Obama column were more offended by my writing than the fact that the President is using their tax dollars to destroy unborn children. (And now to engage in the destruction of human embryos in stem cell research.) But it still seems to me that if the President’s anti-life actions don’t stir up moral outrage in you, nothing will; if they don’t offend your conscience, you need a conscience transplant, my friend.

The other premise of my critics seems to be that because we are Christians we should never be angry or challenge others. We should always be charitable, tolerant, kind and nice, they suggest. After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Well, in fact, no. The Gospels are very clear that in confronting moral evil Jesus wasn’t at all nice or kind. We usually think of Jesus as a prophet of peace, and indeed He was. But His preaching also created bitter controversy and division. “I have come to set the earth on fire . . . Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk 12: 49, 51)

Think of Jesus cleansing the Temple, an incident recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus entered the Temple angrily, confronted the merchants and money-changers, made a whip out of cords, drove them away and upset their tables and booths. Doesn’t sound too charitable to me!

Jesus railed against the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum for their lack of faith, and predicted a terrible judgment day for those towns. “You will go down the netherworld,” He warned. (Mt 11: 23) Doesn’t sound too charitable to me!

And of course there’s Jesus’ withering condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees. He repeatedly called them hypocrites. He described them as “blind guides . . . whitewashed tombs . . . serpents . . . brood of vipers . . . and murderers.” (Cf. Mt, Chapter 23) Doesn’t sound too charitable to me!

There are other examples, but you get the point. In confronting moral evil, Jesus wasn’t nice, kind, gentle and sweet. He lived in a rough and tumble world and He took His message to the streets. He was a fearless prophet who spoke the truth sometimes with harsh and angry language. Jesus’ condemnations infuriated public officials and religious leaders, so much so that they were determined to kill Him. And indeed they did.

Read on.