Thursday, June 03, 2004

N.T. wright interview

This is a link to an article by N.T. Wright.

He doesn't directly hit on some of these issues, but he is talking about some amazing issues. He's talking from an Anglican perspective to a Catholic audience but when he gets into issues about communiion, eucharist, and ethics I think he's saying awesome things. Here's my favorite part.

Let's turn to the current debate in the American Catholic church about denying communion to public officials who take positions contrary to church teaching. Can scripture help us?
It is difficult, because the main issue in 1 Corinthians 11, or so it seems, is the rich and the poor. People who have enough money and food are going ahead and having a great meal, and Christians who don't are left out, left on the side. Paul is pretty severe about that. If I were simply to pick up 1 Corinthians 11 and ask, "What does this suggest about Eucharistic fellowship?", the biggest issue that shouts straight back at me is that the rich, white, Western world, which keeps the "two-thirds world" in grinding poverty and unpayable debt, stands condemned every time it receives the Eucharist because its brothers and sisters in the two-third world are growing the wrong sort of crops, are paying compound interest they can't afford, and are being left on the side. I really would want to go very hard on that. If you want to start with scripture, that is the moral issue that comes straight out of 1 Corinthians 11. Until one addresses that sort of question, more local questions about "the church teaches x, but this person says y, therefore should they be allowed to receive the Eucharist?" … what's the point of even putting that one on the table until we've started to address the big ones?

I suspect one response would be that abortion is the defining moral issue of our times. If we can't protect unborn life, this argument runs, we can't protect anyone or anything.
This is where I really would get quite angry with that point of view. Though I happen to agree with the stance on abortion, it seems blindingly obvious that it is not the big moral issue of our time. Global debt and the economic systems that were set up in 1944 with the Breton Woods Agreement, to slope the table so the money slides into the pockets of the Western banking system, at the cost of keeping most of the world in unpayable debt, seems to me as big a moral issue as slavery was 200 years ago. I and others intend to bang on about it until we achieve something. I just don't think we can say, "abortion is the issue." Apart from anything else, there are millions of children being born all the time in Africa, in Latin America, on the Indian subcontinent, whose economic circumstances are such that it would almost be better if they hadn't been born. The reason they're in those economic situations are precisely because of decisions taken in the World Bank and the IMF, and they are structural decisions, not just particular decisions. This has been so intensively and extensively studied, people have shown it so often, that I just wonder what kind of blindness it is that prevents people from seeing it. Of course part of the answer is, our churches have endowments. We've got investments in these things, and you can't tell us to go back on that. That's a serious problem, but it's a problem that's got to be addressed. Yes, abortion matters, but all this matters much, much more. Just in terms of sheer quantity, there are millions more people whose lives are totally blighted by it. That's where I would go for starters. To play around with your Democratic presidential candidate, for example, seems to me to play with one particular pawn without noticing what's happening on the chessboard as a whole. When you see the whole, I think you have to say, let's try to address the big issues. If you haven't got the courage to do that, addressing the little issues of one particular person and his views on this or that looks like a displacement activity. It looks like something you do rather frantically in order to avoid having to talk about the elephant in the living room.

The church, however, does not propose particular economic systems with the same clarity with which it denounces the killing of the unborn.
That may be so, but Jesus says that you're good at prophesying weather forecasts, why can't you see the signs of the times? The weather forecasts that he instances are the easiest ones ever in the Middle East. If there's a wind from the south, it's going to be hot. If there's a cloud coming up over the Mediterranean, it's going to rain. It does not take a master's degree in meteorology to figure that one out. If you stand in Jerusalem, that's the way it is. Similarly, it does not take a degree in macroeconomics or a complicated statement from the House of Bishops to say that if two-thirds of the world is in unpayable debt, with compound interest getting higher all the time, and without a bankruptcy system that allows them to draw a line and start over, and if a small minority concentrated in our part of the world is getting richer and richer, being paid indecent sums of money on the basis of shuffling a few financial counters around and playing with these people's lives … I don't think it's a complicated issue at all. I think it's pretty straightforward issue. It only becomes complicated when people wriggle and twist and try to get off the hook.

The cure is more complicated than the diagnosis, yes?

It is and it isn't. The relief of global debt has actually been figured out. There are serious economists and bankers who have worked on this. I'm not an economist or a banker, but I have seen and talked to people in that field. They've got strategies where if you do this now, then you can do that next year, and so on. There would be ways through. Somebody said the sort of broad-brush sums we're talking about would cost, say, America roughly the amount that it spends on going to the movies each year. It would cost roughly that amount to put the whole thing back the right way around. Then we could all proceed together. What really sticks in my throat is that while all this is going on, the American government, along with my own government and several others, talk about bringing freedom and justice to the world, when we are doing the precise opposite. Use of imperial rhetoric to cover up our own consistent greed … if we have any Christian moral courage, this is what we ought to be talking about. Face it, we are in a world where two-thirds of the people are poor and crying for justice. One-third of the people are rich and wanting more sex. I want to say, what is wrong with this picture? This cannot be the way the Creator-God intended the cosmos to work.

So arguing over whether to deny John Kerry communion for his stance on abortion, in your view, is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?
Yes, more or less. I know that there are those for whom abortion is the issue, and for that alone they might vote this way or that. I respect that, I understand that. I feel very strongly, and think very strongly, about abortion too. I believe that abortion is normally an evil and ought not to be done.

By the way, scroll down and read what everyone else is talking about. I'll have more to add later.


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