Not Letting the Tail Wag the Dog, or Why I Readily Admit to Being a Bad Christian

This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).

8 Responses to “Not Letting the Tail Wag the Dog, or Why I Readily Admit to Being a Bad Christian”

  1. Brother Dan,

    Peace and All Good! Thank you for a very humbling reminder of the imperfections we all carry, despite our efforts to live Gospel lives. I am often reminded of Augustine’s famous lines, “Deliver me from evil, Lord…but not yet”. I fall so short again and again. Thankfully, the Church is the refuge of sinners and we can all sincerely admit during the liturgy, “I am not worthy to receive you.” I must also, however, proceed with caution and not confuse being unworthy with being in a state where I “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin”.

  2. Part of the issue is what constitutes “manifest.” I do not mean this comment as a general knit-picking, but as a question of authenticity and gossip. For instance, I have been told that having an adult house mate (under any circumstance) has the appearance of evil. The particulars of my relationships with my actual house mate go completely unquestioned because “manifestly” I would be in a cohabitation situation. To have a congregation assume that I am sleeping with my house mate is distinctly inappropriate (particularly when a sexual relationship with my house mate is absolutely non-existent).

    To assert that a politician’s vote on a particular piece of legislation is a manifest representation of their commitment to the teachings of the Church is quite challenging. No one will say that a politician who votes to fund the Defence department is going against the teachings of the Church. But if the words “reproductive care” appears anywhere in the legislation, the vote is assumed to be a question about abortion. Additionally, soundbytes taken from public appearances cannot be taken distinctly as a manifestation of being against the Church. So many people take remarks out of context and misinterpret their meaning.

    We must be absolutely discerning before we, as people who merely observe a situation, make assumptions about the quality of a particular Christian’s journey to repentance. We are NOT in the Confessional.

    • “To assert that a politician’s vote on a particular piece of legislation is a manifest representation of their commitment to the teachings of the Church is quite challenging.”

      So…I could be a politician in Germany during the 1940s and vote on particular legislation that advances the Holocaust, but that would not be a manifest representation of my commitment to the teachings of the Church? THAT is quite challenging.

      • A topic sentence taken out of context of the remainder of the paragraph misrepresents the argument.

        If someone votes on a bill in the United States, then they are likely considering several issues in tandem as bills OFTEN (although not always) couple particular issues. For instance, a bill that expands access to services of children under 5 years of age may also include a provision for reproductive health services. In my opinion, a politician can reasonably vote affirmative on the grounds that provision of services to under-5s reduces demand for abortion; similarly, a politician can reasonably vote negative on the grounds that any additional provision of reproductive health care services will expand the number abortions sought. Both politicians consider the affect of abortion on their vote but come to different conclusions because they start with different provisions of the bill. Such lived experience of politicians strikes me as incredibly reasonable.

        Additionally, a bill in Germany that creates a contract with IBM for increased technological development in the country during the 1940s may be voted for affirmatively on the grounds that it brings in valuable industries to create jobs. The fact that such technologies developed by creating programmes that brought efficiencies to the extermination of peoples only came to light recently in history. Someone acting in good faith on that particular piece of legislation may be absolutely appalled at what their affirmative vote succeeded in accomplishing.

        Moreover, looking particularly at the German Holocaust, the official teachings of the Catholic Church regarding appropriate interaction towards the Jewish people were still rather generous towards anti-Semitism.

  3. “…a politician can reasonably vote affirmative on the grounds that provision of services to under-5s reduces demand for abortion; similarly, a politician can reasonably vote negative on the grounds that any additional provision of reproductive health care services will expand the number abortions sought”

    I still find part of this quite challenging. It seems that a bill that advocates murder is okay if some part of it may reduce the overall number of murders. That is a Faustian bargain. To be more direct to the original post that I began with above, I consider it manifest sin for a politician to vote in favor of a bill that allows children to be partially delivered from the womb and then have their brains punctured with a sharp instrument. Senators who vote in favor of partial birth abortion condone this atrocity. That is a very aggressive sin against the most defenseless and innocent of all human life.

    • To be clear about my personal conviction, I am a resolutely pro-life and try to do my very best to live my life at the interface that makes a difference to families and their children (both the born and the unborn).

      Additionally, I find it to be an absolute stretch to go from “reproductive health services” to “partial birth abortion.” Reproductive health services include a wide range of pre-natal care options, most of which are essential to healthy delivery of children. As a pro-life advocate, I WANT women to have access to ultrasounds. I WANT doctors to be able to intervene in utero for spina biffida treatment. I WANT women to have regular pre-natal screenings. I WANT qualified health care personnel specifically trained in attending to the very unique needs of pregnant women, not the least of which include nutritional needs, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

      To say that “reproductive health services” is code for “partial-birth abortions” is to promote a needless polemic in ensuring that women receive adequate care. The women both within the Church and in the broader world deserve better than inflammatory polemics. The unborn children, similarly, deserve a discourse that upholds their quality of life.

      • I am not even sure we are having the same conversation, seeing as we seem to be possibly focused on different topics. We just are not communicating clearly. I can clarify my comments here:

        Me: I am not in a state where I “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin”.
        You: “To assert that a politician’s vote on a particular piece of legislation is a manifest representation of their commitment to the teachings of the Church is quite challenging.”
        Me: A congressperson’s vote on partial birth abortion is is a manifest representation of their commitment to the teachings of the Church.
        You: I am a resolutely pro-life

        Soooo, I think we are on the same page, no?

  4. christian youth movement…

    […]Not Letting the Tail Wag the Dog, or Why I Readily Admit to Being a Bad Christian « Dating God[…]…

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