Thursday, May 12, 2011

Personal Heresies

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has a problem. This Saturday he is scheduled to deliver the commencement address to the graduates, faculty, administration, and guests of the Catholic University of America. As a practicing Roman Catholic one would expect that he might receive a cordial and warm reception. If only that were the case, at least from his perspective. On Tuesday, Mr. Boehner received a hand delivered letter (to read the body of the letter go to from a group of professors at the university denouncing the budget he shepherded through the House of Representatives which makes draconian cuts to many social service programs benefitting the most poor and vulnerable in the United States. To their credit this group of professors and students did not ask the university administration to withdraw Mr. Boehner's invitation to speak, nor did they ask him to step aside. They were, as a group, courteous and respectful acknowledging that is appropriate in a university setting to present and debate differing ideologies and opinions. The problem for Mr. Boehner is the professors make the accusation that by submitting the current budget as a practicing Roman Catholic he is failing to follow some of the church's most ancient and deeply held doctrines specifically the preferential option for the poor.

This is not the first time Mr. Boehner's actions in violation of church doctrine have landed him on the front page. His well publicized affairs nearly derailed his political career. However, I take heart in the fact that Church leaders have decided to use his actions against "the least of these" as the basis of their critique on his faithfulness and not sexual misconduct. Jesus spent far more time speaking about issues of wealth and oppression than he did human sexual behavior, and it is high time the Church did as well. Mr. Boehner's support of a budget which places the wholeness and well-being of women and children at greater risk borders on heresy. Not only is he violating well established Church doctrine but he is ignoring the biblical commandment to "feed my sheep."

While Mr. Boehner's actions are lamentable, we who are striving to be faithful disciples should not be smug in our condemnation of them. The vast majority of us have a one time or another committed our own personal acts of heresy failing to live up to the faith that we proclaim. A former professor of mine, Dr. Cindy Rigby, once said to my study group that we all have our personal canon, those books and texts of the Bible that we follow over and against the totality of scripture. We are human and we tend to follow the Word we like. We seek comfort over conviction. We desire blessing and ignore rebuke. We sin on a regular basis and forget that we are in need of repentence.

I hope the letter from the Catholic professors serves as a clarion call for repentence to Mr. Boehner. It is disgraceful that he supports tax cuts for wealthy corporations while placing the burden of correcting a budget deficit on the backs of those who can least afford it. I also hope that the letter serves the greater Church as a call to return to relevence as voice speaking truth to power. As we who are in the PCUSA begin to emerge from decades of internal bickering over human sexuality and ordination standards let us now turn to the issues that matter the most to our Lord and Savior the care and welfare of his children.

To God alone be the glory.

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