20 April 2006

Persons v. Behavior.

Fr. Thomas Williams on those obnoxious UCC ads:
"I suspect the UCC ad had a more specific criticism in mind. I am unaware of any church in America that turns away blacks, or that has a policy against Arabs or handicapped persons. There are, however, a number of Christian churches that consider homosexual behavior to be sinful. By sneaking the gay couple in between the African-American woman and the Arab-American, the UCC disingenuously equates racial discrimination with moral principle.
There is a difference between a church saying “We welcome all persons” and “We welcome all behavior.” After all, two things distinguish Christian belief: a body of doctrine and a moral code. Following Jesus entails both. Jesus welcomed prostitutes, but he never welcomed prostitution. He was soft on adulterers, but unyielding on adultery. After forgiving the adulterous woman, in fact, he adds: “Go and sin no more.” And the tax collector Zacchaeus, on encountering Jesus, promises to pay back all those he has cheated — fourfold. Jesus never welcomed cheating, but he did welcome reformed cheaters. This is not just a matter of semantic hair-splitting. Jesus came to call sinners but to condemn sin, much as a doctor heals sick people but eradicates sickness.
There is a problem with identifying people with their choices. Thieves are welcome in the church not as thieves, but as human persons. When Jesus tells the chief priests and elders that “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31), he is not winking at thievery and prostitution. He is responding, rather, to their willingness to acknowledge their errors and to change.
The Church is absolutely inclusive toward persons (all are invited to enter) but not toward ideas or behavior. If our “inclusiveness” means that we are no longer able or willing to distinguish between good and bad behavior and to make universal moral judgments like “wife beating is bad,” then we have effectively abandoned morality."
Here's the whole thing.


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