In Bill O’Reilly’s appearance on Don Imus’s radio show yesterday morning, O’Reilly bemoaned having to say that “Muslim extremists attacked us on 9/11″ instead of just Muslims. When Imus stood up for the principle of being “clear and concise” with the words we use, O’Reilly pushed back.
O’REILLY: It isn’t extremists–that marginalizes the problem. This is a Muslim problem.
To his credit, Imus strongly disagreed with O’Reilly and pushed back on his accusations. Imus brought up his friendship with a Muslim family at his son’s school, pointing out that O’Reilly’s logic would unfairly implicate and slur them as somehow responsible for violence.
O’Reilly’s admission is a brazen display of bigotry. Most of the time when pundits complain about “politically correctness,” I assume they’re upset at being misinterpreted as biased because they dispense with hypersensitive euphemisms and “speak the plain truth.”
But here, O’Reilly states clearly that he’s not complaining about being inaccurately accused of bigotry–he’s offended that his actual, sincere bigotry isn’t accepted by everyone else.
Bill, when even a Fox News “shock jock” with a lengthy record of courting controversy is encouraging you to temper your rhetoric, maybe it’s time to reconsider.
When comedian Stephen Colbert announced his “March to Keep Fear Alive,” Faithful America decided that matching the tone and launching a faux-protest would be a great way to draw some more attention to the campaign.
Right now they are launching a petition to put Colbert “on notice,” sending him a “Driven by Faith” bumper sticker for every 100 signatures.
They’ll also be at the rally on Saturday with “People of Faith for Sanity” signs, so keep a look out for them if you’re going.
Our friends at the Beatitudes Society, who work to train and support progressive Christian seminarians and clergy, put out a “Weekly Circuit Reader” that provides educational and spiritual resources as well as action items around a specific issue.
This week’s issue is focused on Christian responses to bullying and I think it’s a great complement to the “Faith Gets Better” project we’ve been highlighting on our blog.
As part of our “Faith Gets Better” project, collecting messages from people of faith to LGBTQ youth, we featured a video from Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal bishop in a committed relationship.
Robinson directs his message at those who “are feeling in that dark place because religion and religious people are telling you that you are an abomination before God,” and specifically mentions the Catholic, Mormon or Southern Baptist churches.
Greg Kandra, a thoughtful Catholic blogger at Beliefnet’s Deacon’s Bench, objects. He writes
[Robinson] goes after Southern Baptists, Mormons and the Catholic Church — and more or less decides that not only are they all “flat out wrong,” but that he alone “as a religious person” knows the mind of God…As a friend pointed out: “Remember the stink when Benedict began the Anglican ordinariate, how he was ‘trolling’ for members? THIS is what trolling looks like.”
As a Catholic myself, I too am sensitive to overly general criticisms of the Church that reduce complex moral theology into news-ready sound bites. But Kandra’s characterization of Robinson’s video as a way of asserting his own religion’s superiority in a “troll” for converts doesn’t ring true for me. Robinson’s primary goal here seems to be exactly what he says: sending a message of hope and affirmation to young people in difficult situations. He doesn’t seem too concerned with where they go to church, or even if they’re religious at all.
Nor do I think Robinson intends to presume that “he alone knows the mind of God.” Robinson speaks from his faith tradition in the same way I imagine any other prelate would. It’s a fact that Christian denominations approach issues differently. Generally the resulting implication that other faiths are wrong is left politely unsaid, but in this case it’s essential to the affirming message Robinson wants to send.
And the painful truth is that for all of our nuanced theology, we Catholics have not done a good job defining our public image on this issue. This point is borne out in a recent survey by Public Religion Research Institute that finds among all religious groups, “Catholics were most likely to give their churches negative marks [on the handling of homosexuality], with nearly one-third giving their churches a “D” (15%) or an “F” (16%).”
But often the Catholic message to gay and lesbian Catholics starts off with the “Thou shall nots” instead of the “Thou Shalls.” We invariably start off with “Thou Shall Not Have Sex” instead of “Thou Are a Beloved Creation of God,” or “Thou Art a Full Member of the Community,” or “Thou Have Much to Bring to the Church.” To what other group is the “Thou Shall Not” our opening line? For example, have you ever been to a gathering of Catholic married couples where the opening line was “Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery”? Or a gathering of Catholic business leaders where the opening line was, “Thou Shall Not Steal”? We are all “loved sinners,” as Jesuits like to say, but people–especially young people, especially people on the margins, and especially young people on the margins–should be reminded of the “loved” part before the “sinner” part.
Bishop Robinson is attempting to do just that, and it would behoove us Catholics to spend more time doing the same instead of worrying about perceived ecumenical slights.