And Curry misses the shot – part 3 of 3

Bishop Michael Curry from the U.S. poses for a portrait at St George's Chapel in Windsor castle ahead of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windso

I’m ending this series on Reverend Curry with the most bashing (it might not sound good but it’s what it’s gonna look like) post. The past two posts we saw that he does not consider marriage core doctrine and that for him, a declaration produced by the Anglican Church it’s core doctrine, equalizing it to the Sacred Scriptures.

But now, we’re gonna focus on the most sensible spot: his endorsement of LGBT activism. Now, some might argue that this is an ad hominem attack, that Curry has the right to choose to act and support which causes he dims fit to. True. He has that right, as a person, as an individual he can choose between good and bad, true and false, left or right.

So what makes Curry the wrong guy for the job (besides denying core doctrines and lowering the Bible to the level of a fallible organizational declaration)? What leads an activist who preached so eloquently about love to mess up and not to conform with the Gospel? This:

For so many who are committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love, this decision will bring real pain,” he added. “For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain. For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain.

Curry openly admits his endorsement of the LGBT community and that can be fine to him. But it cannot be fine to a Reverend, much less standing behind a pulpit, preaching a sermon and hammering on words like love and fire, forgetting the Gospel along the way. Up ’till this point, things seemed fine:

Love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it.

It is true, Love is the only way. God’s love is the only way humans can get their lives fulfilled. For there is a hole inside ourselves that money, fame, success, possessions, lovers, anything you can name won’t fill in or fit in. And even love cannot fill in that spot. Especially if it is the wrong kind of love. The love that distorts what God created and turns into unlove but pride and lust (Romans 1:24,25). Quoting Blaise Pascal:

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.

S. Augustine of Hippo had realized the same thing many centuries before when he wrote in his “Confessions”:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

It is in the love of God that we find rest, peace, acceptance and loving care. Like stated in the other posts, being made in the image and resemblance of God make us carry His mark, but we must admit that sin endangers our lives (1st John 1:8,9), come to repent and go on through the path of a life which pleases God (Acts 2:38). And to please Him is to truly love Him, those around us, according to His commandments (Matthew 22:36-40), just like Jesus did (1st John 2:6).

The issue with Reverend Curry advocacy for LGBT rights is a fight that we, as a Church, must not enter, for it is a civil fight. It concerns Caesar, not Jesus Christ. It is a court fight, something concerning the civil rights and those, fall shortly before God when they impede the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 5:29). And as a preacher, Reverend Curry should know better than politics and Gospel do not combine, for society is demanding changes to fit its own pleasures in stupid ways, turning its back on God and highlighting Man. The same arrogance that led to the fall of Satan is installed and will lead to the fall of many if repentance is not done (Jude 1:22).

As a Church, we must embrace those who come from the LGBT communities, love them, teach them the Gospel and make room for the Holy Spirit to operate in their hearts and minds. Come has you are, but do not stay the same, to paraphrase Pastor Jonh Burke’s Gateway Church motto. This acceptance of love has to come hand to hand with the “go and sin no more” of Jesus to the adulterous woman (John 8:11). Because to meet with Christ truly, it operates a transformation in our lives. The Sun of Righteousness arises and shines over us (Malachi 4:2), inviting us to come to Him and live (Amos 5:4), healing our wounds (Isaiah 53:5) and leading us into everlasting life (John 3:16).

Reverend Curry continues to speak about love, but diminishing the Creator and exalting the creation:

Ultimately the source of love is god himself. The source of all of our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says, where true love is found, god himself is there.

God is the origin of love. Not ultimately, but primarily. Not all things we love come from God. Not everything that says it’s true love is in the presence of God or makes God being present. God is love, but love is not God. The cause explains the effect, but not necessarily the other way around… If we love addictions, violence, porn, money, war, blood, lies, etc, then we are not loving God. We are building a golden calf and idolatry has kicked in like adrenaline in our heart so hard, that we bow to it and beg for another dose. Those things come from the devil, whose role is to destroy (John 10:10). Nothing more. The devil craves for our souls, he rounds us, sheep, like a lion roaring with a mighty roar in search of who he can devour (1st Peter 5:8). He is not here to satisfy us or amuse us by likeness. He is here to do it so, so he can grab our souls and drag them to misery, poverty, shame, inhumanity and away from God’s path.

Sometimes, while arguing we have to go back to the basics before evolving in a speech that sounds nice to anyone. And this should be done. I’ve seen Christians applauding this sermon, not caring for the man, using the excuse of Balaam (who tried to curse God’s people but wasn’t allowed by Him) and saying that what’s vital is to get the Gospel out in the open so people can hear it. And I woe… And then question, where are you’re minds? What Bible have you been reading (if you have been reading it at all)? Who put this kind of snare on your front so you can step in and be ensnared by such a lie? Because they are being fooled by a nice speech, coming from an activist, not a minister who shows commitment with God, and are led in the foolishness of new fables that post-modernism creates (1st Timothy 1:3-5). By doing so, one is limping on two crutches, making himself like a cloud dancing in the wind.

Thomas Cranmer wrote:
The commandments of God lay our faults before our eyes, which putteth us in fear and dread, and maketh us see the wrath of God against our sins, as St. Paul saith(…)

So to the account of that, immorality rises up each day stronger because Christians are not praying enough. We are not being disciples enough to fight the good fight. We’re succumbing to the power of distraction, while the will of God is being put aside (1st Thessalonians 4:3). This must end. The Scripture must be our center of faith and morals. Christ is our risen Lord. If one wants to grow deeper in knowing Him, then search the Church Fathers, the Scholastic theologians, the Reformers, but stay away from liberal and post-modern thinkers who desire a second Renaissance.

I’ll be ending with a quote, so that we can all avail truly what a Reverend, from a rite that is being shunted by going against God’s words and denying Jesus teachings, should do (as we should too):

“I beg and beseech you, Lord: grant to all who have gone astray a true knowledge of you, so that each and every one may come to know your glory.”
St. Isaac the Syrian

And Curry misses the shot – part 2 of 3

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Yesterday I wrote how about Revered Curry misses the goal towards marriage. For him, marriage is not part of the core doctrine of Christianity. Instead of abiding by God’s Scriptures, Curry resonates a different concept of what doctrine is, contradicting himself along the way. That’s another of the problems with Curry sermon at the Royal Wedding. Because, and quoting the dearest Reverend:

The Holy Scriptures and the Old and New Testament are core doctrine.  Other sections of the Chicago–Lambeth Quadrilateral are core doctrine.

So Curry is saying that the Holy Scriptures are core doctrine. Right! If they are core doctrine, then what they teach should be core doctrine. Giving space for discussion, one might argue that not all which is written in the Bible should be considered core doctrine: Samson’s death, the Flood, the captivity of both Northern and Southern kingdoms, etc. But once again, even if these “minor” things are not core doctrine, they are at least godly truths and events, that are present to teach us. Paul lays it out in a simple manner to Timothy:

All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage];” (2nd Timothy 3:16, AMP)

As much as we would like to separate and shred pieces of context, there’s no opposing proof that Curry contradicts himself. Scripture is food for Christians. It is given by divine inspiration, not to please those who read it, but to confront them with their state: the absolute need of God’s love and salvation. So, quoting or paraphrasing passages from the Bible, assuming the Bible itself is core doctrine, but then denying God’s commandment and word on matters like marriage open the Pandora Box. For Curry, what are the Bibles instructions to follow and what are those who are to put aside? Is rebuking to put aside? Is the true religion that James describes (James 1:27) to follow? Where and who dares to draw the line?

See, the problem with Christianity is that we, who are Christians, must accept God’s commands and live according to it. They are not evil and masochist. They seek not to limit our freedom and our free will. But they do provide us with the moral, sanctified directions given by Him so we can live towards Him and not the other way round.

When someone says that a document that defines in four points what is the Anglican identity is core doctrine, but denies sound core doctrine declared by the Lord himself, then we have another problem. Relativism comes to become the subject, the personal interpretation of doctrine is led by human will and not by the Holy Spirit… And then, it moves to put something that is not declared as divinely inspired to the same level or above of what is. That gives us the grounds to add up to the Bible, to err on our own will and deliberately. Creeds, catechisms and confessions of faith are important. They help us grow, they give us historical backgrounds, the help to cement out belief in the Rock. But they are not the Rock, they do not assume the same value of Jesus words when the Lord says:

“So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24,25; AMP)

In a way to try to explain what his words meant, Reverend Curry speaks:

Rabbi Friedman and others taught us that when we are in conflict, don’t try to find quick solutions. You must find the points of clarity and stay in a relationship with each other. I think Rabbi Friedman called that maturity. That is a sign of potential maturity – capacity to disagree profoundly and deeply, and yet to stay on a relationship in Christ.

It is true that quick solving conflicts sometimes don’t work (Proverbs 15:18). Because people just want to put aside the argument and don’t want to have to deal with the work of reconciliation, which takes time, energy and humility. And to find common ground and be able to maintain a relationship is part of our free will and a showing of maturity. But maturity also comes in accepting we are wrong (Proverbs 1:7), that we must fallback from our mistakes (Proverbs 1:23, Proverbs 8:5), that the declarations and positions we take as servants of God, with the grievant of being a Reverend (who should lead its congregation and flock with God’s wisdom and teachings) must not be taken lightly and they cannot undermine the Lord’s mandate to us (Deuteronomy 27:18). We are to speak the full truth. Not half, not a quarter, not a tenth. The full (Psalm 37:30).

When quoting Rabbi Manis Friedman, Curry is quoting someone who does not engage in a proper sight of marriage also. Which could be comprehensible since a Rabbi does not take the New Testament for granted, but which is odd since the Old Testament gives the base for Jesus teaching on the matter. Rabbi Friedman gives an interpretation of marital love and marriage that is based in something rather the Old Testament:

The love between a husband and wife isn’t like that. Their love wasn’t always there; they didn’t always know each other; they weren’t always related. No matter how well they get to know one another, they aren’t alike. They are different from each other physically, emotionally, and mentally. They love each other in spite of the differences and because of them, but there isn’t enough of a commonality between them to create a casual, calm love. The differences remain even after they are married, and the love between them will have to overcome these differences.

Genesis 2:24 is simply laid aside. He forgets the junction that God performs. It is a mystery, how a man and a woman, different in sex, emotions, in their beings can become one. But they do. And they do it spiritually, with the blessing of God’s grace. Because it is God that operates, with a synergy of the human will, but God can create a calm and steady love between two who become one. There is no schizophrenia in God. Nor in His actions. And the answer that pops up, starts by: “Have you never read(…)”?

 

 

And Curry misses the shot – part 1 of 3

 

©UK Pool/Sky News via AP

 

Can’t quite stop to think about the Presiding Bishop, Reverend Michael Bruce Curry of the Episcopal Church, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church sermon this weekend. In fact, it was a beautiful sermon, where love, redemption, and fire were the keywords. A sermon that caught attention from all the globe, that provoked hearts to think in love as a weapon of redemption in this war of attrition and disputes we live today.

But it raises me a couple of questions, and I don’t know how deepened that Theological sermon got into peoples hearts, but even worse, how well understood could it be by those who are not Christians.

My problem with Revered Curry starts with him actually. A Reverend is someone committed to preaching the Gospel and to maintain himself faithful to the faithfulness of God and the Scriptures. One cannot preach whatever it makes the congregation goes cheerful and deny to preach what God demands to do so.  And that failed to happen… The Revered positions about marriage are contrary to the Scripture. Proving that, there’s only one way to proceed: repent and restart. Curry starts by stating that:

Many believed that marriage is part of core doctrine. No individual church can change core doctrine. Many felt that the expansion of who may be married on our part was a change in church doctrine. Therefore it was in part on that basis that many felt that we had overstepped our authority as a province. I didn’t agree with that but I respect that that was the understanding of many. For me, marriage is not part of core doctrine.

One of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity is about marriage. Paul talks about that in Ephesians 5:22-33, when he matches the union of husband and wife to that of Christ and the church. That union has a name. It’s marriage, a direct ordinance from God to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27,28), repeated by Jesus (Mark 10:1-12) and Paul (1st Corinthians 7:2-4). So, if something is defined by God, repeated again by Him and then through one of His Apostles, it’s definitely a core doctrine. It is not a cherry picking thing. Curry failure to acknowledge that is harmful, even more, if he is preaching in a marriage.

In the words of St. John Chrysostom (Homily 20, Homilies on Ephesians):
The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down.

This force can only be obtained in and through marriage with the grace of God. Because it is Him that solidifies the union, that takes two different persons into one, without making them lose their traits and personalities, rather shaping them and helping them shape themselves in love for each other.

But unfortunately, Reverend Curry continues by saying:
Marriage is a sacramental right, it is a solemn and sacred matter of faith and practice. But it is not core doctrine.

Quoting Lea Baugh :
Sacraments are not practices the church made up or that evolved over time. The sacraments are specific practices Christ himself gives to Christians for their sake. Thus, these things are vitally important for the church and Christians to practice and should always be done with the Word of God and in the way the Word of God commands them to be done.

If it is given by Christ, it’s a commandment, not an option. Of course one might opt not to follow it, but then one will be deliberately not following the Lord’s commandment to receive His grace and to take part has a body in full union with Him. Regarding Church, unity is a very serious issue. The Church is the body of Christ, it’s head (Colossians 1:18), or so to say, it is His visible expression in the world. One body separated from its head dies. In a manner of seconds, minutes, days, years… It dies and does not grow back to live. It becomes like “autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted and lifeless” (Jude 1:12, AMP).

It is because of these kinds of teachings, like the ones subscribe to, that heresy comes to appear and wolfs attack the flock from the inside of the barn. In a note from 2016, current Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany in the United States, Reverend William H. Love declared: “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.

Concluding this first part, we can see that Revered Curry fails to comply with the sound doctrine of God, relegating marriage to a position where it should not be, perhaps explaining why some many marriages end in divorce. Because of the lack of pastoral care, the absence of doctrinal teaching and the example set by themselves as leaders.

 

 

Fire fall from Heavens

Today we celebrate the Pentecost, the day when the disciples gathered in Jerusalem, after Jesus ascendance to Heaven, were together in prayer and were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Now, we could go all deeply Theological and mention that that day was the reparation of God’s dispersion in the Babel Tower event, that that day truly marked the beginning of the Church… But my intention today is to focus on the work that came to happen: all those baptized preached the Gospel to everyone they could find in languages they didn’t know how to speak.

The message of liberation from whatever that could be holding those foreign people back, that gave them hope, showed them a different life perspective. That day, two thousand years ago, fire fell from Heaven to give life everlasting to those who were in Jerusalem. And that fire came to stay, to make us taste in a small manner what will be the delight of eternity in God’s presence. It is a never-ending fire that doesn’t consume us but feeds us. It fuels us to speak of life-changing, of a deeper meaning in life than materialism. That fire leads us to become more proactive agents of change. That shows us that there is nothing impossible, even to speak in dialects and idioms we don’t domain or talk. It is something that changed peoples lives. Under an imperial regime, they were given a message of hope and rescue from someone who always loved them without having to pay anything. The fire from the Holy Spirit does not kill, nor hurt us. But change who we are. Jesus cleansed our sins, now letting this supernatural fire burn in us is a matter of going against the systems that minimize God’s most perfect work of art: humankind.

To millions of people, who never heard about Jesus Christ, this is like a vitamin. Something that will strengthen them after being cured of the illness of living astray from God.  To put our trust in ourselves and in political, philosophical, economic or another kind of systems is to fool ourselves. There is no more oppression from the State, no Government to bind us. When fire fell from Heaven, what Jesus did gains a deeper significance. Systems fail, Christ doesn’t. And that is to be announced to each and everyone in the world. That oppressive tyranny was dismantled and destroyed on the cross in which Jesus died. To quote N.T. Wright:

If you are to shape your world in following Christ, you are called, prayerfully, to discern where in your discipline the human project is showing signs of exile and humbly and boldly to act symbolically in ways that declare that the powers have been defeated, that the kingdom has come in Jesus the Jewish Messiah, that the new way of being human has been unveiled, and to be prepared to tell the story that explains what these symbols are all about. And in all this, you are to declare, in symbol and practice, in story and articulate answers to questions, that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not; that Jesus is Lord and Marx, Freud and Caesar is not; that Jesus is Lord and neither modernity nor postmodernity is. When Paul spoke of the gospel, he was not talking primarily about a system of salvation but about the announcement, in symbol and word, that Jesus is the true Lord of the world, the true light of the world.

 

…and Hell called our names – part 3

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Photo credit: ssoosay on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Not that much to say. Santa Fe (or Holy Faith in a rough English translation) just experienced one of the most dreadful events anyone can… the loss of a son or a daughter. It is deeply urgent that this kind of events be fought. Fought with the power of prayer, the deepest love of Christ, the consolation of the Holy Spirit and the Church’s compassion.

We keep forgetting this basic rule of life. Death is certain, life’s not. And Hell calls our names each and every moment it can. Only the grace of God, sending Christ to die in our place, rescue us and make us listen to other calling. A higher calling, a calling that says we’re no more in debt (Romans 6:10), we’re no more on the death list, but we’re in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). The gun permit issue as to be addressed and dealt with, not ignored or taken lightly. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Or to quote Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.

Do not tread on this lightly. All life is precious, even the lives that cause death. Because it might come to be that that kind of life is, after all, a living Hell. Only God knows how hardened or battered beyond recognition some hearts are. And those damaged hearts and minds come to collect a toll. They’re sick. They need a medicine. St. Theophan the Recluse said that “We are sick, and most useful for the sick are bitter medi­cines“. The bitter medicine was Jesus agony from the Gethsemane to the Golgotha. That was bitter to Him but comes as sweetness to us. It offers us grace and the chance of a life free from demons that cling their claws on our minds, souls, and hearts.

Our cry, our prayers, our love are with those who mourn and experience the tragedy of losing someone who was still too young to die.

We can’t lack compassion

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Photo credit: pxlline on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Gaza. More than 50 dead people and many wounded. Meanwhile, in Asia, a family attacks churches resulting in destruction and death. But this is just the tip of the veil… Homeless people that we pass by, pretending not to know them, ignoring their suffering. Friends in needs, that by any chance are more reserved, that keep all the anguish to themselves without any interest shown by us.

There’s an expression for all this: it’s lacking compassion. The act of caring for others, of loving and reaching out no matter what or who. And as a general society, but us as Christians, in particular, should be ashamed if compassion is lacking in our midst. Former Christian and now Atheist Joel Justiss claims:

To be fair, some Christians make amazing sacrifices to relieve the suffering of others. However, I’ve observed a “body of Christ” that provides no convincing evidence that God has any interest in whether or not people have food, health, or freedom from exploitation.

And he keeps:

I was troubled by the prevailing attitude among evangelical Christians that serving people’s needs was secondary to “saving them” through the Gospel.

This can’t be right. This cannot be happening. This is what we are not supposed to do. The body must function as a whole. Paul explains that very well to the church in Corinth. But we still face our issues and compassion is a trait of God we ought to be showing much more.

Therefore the Lord waits [expectantly] and longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed (happy, fortunate) are all those who long for Him [since He will never fail them].” (Isaiah 30:18, AMP)

““But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They stiffened their necks and would not heed Your commandments.
“They refused to listen and obey,
And did not remember Your wondrous acts which You had performed among them;
So they stiffened their necks and [in their rebellion] appointed a leader in order to return them to slavery in Egypt.
But You are a God of forgiveness,
Gracious and merciful and compassionate,
[a]Slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness;
And You did not abandon them.” (Nehemiah 9:16-17, AMP)

This is our God. The Everlasting Compassion. The Never Ending Loving One. The Lord who heals and nourishes. Our Redeemer.

U.S. Army Captain G. M. Gilbert, the psychologist assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trials affirmed:

In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949), I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.

James tells us that:

Pure and unblemished religion [as it is expressed in outward acts] in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit and look after the fatherless and the widows in their distress, and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the [secular] world.” (James 1:27, AMP)

This is what a secular society should be doing. Much more us, Church. Not doing so, is despising those in need, not showing the love that we ought to show as followers of Christ.

On the last note,  I’m sharing a Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thought that implies us in acting with compassion and caring for others:

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

Let us be bold and compassionate. Full of empathy towards those who are in suffering and are weak. We must not seek power as a target but as a mean to help. Let us pray for those with no incomes, no family, for those who are addicted to something that ruins them… Lut us bend our knees and claim for compassion in our hearts, so being loved we can love and show how to love.

Somber

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Photo credit: WedlockPictures on Visual hunt / CC BY

Today relationships are coming and going away. Intimacy became trivial when you can switch the person with whom you have a relation. With numbers from 2016, Portugal has a total amount of 69 divorces per 100 marriages. Crushing numbers that show that more than half of the marriages end in rupture. Sometimes deadly, sometimes damaging enough to feel deeply sad and ruined. That’s how ex-Creed vocalist puts it:

Can you see what lies beneath
Everything we are and used to be is buried and gone
Silent screams I cant ignore
Violent scenes are getting old
Refraction only breaks our own
Deception tears me to the core
Somber why stay in denial
I’m somber so somber
Goodbye on no sympathy
Oh we both took everything left inside
I’m somber
Goodbye with no sympathy
We both took everything left inside
© Scott Stapp – “Somber”

Nowadays, we’re taught that having various partners before finding one to marry is good. It allows us to sum up experience, to get to know what we like the most or not in someone. Basically, it makes us selfish. The seek of our own pleasure and wishes come to be more intense. They are set for the instant or short term, not to the long run. The short-term gives us the thrill, makes our hormones jump around, electrifies us. The long run takes too much time, doesn’t guarantee thrill and might come ugly and tedious. Still, a penny a day doubled for 30 days is worth more than 1 million dollars up ahead. But the focus on the moment and the immediate takes that perspective out of sight. We don’t want to wait.

If what you’re doing is looking for a partner in a culture that expects you to have sex before expressing romantic feelings, this sex becomes part of the game you’re playing. So, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the sex to be that great, because you’re just kind of trying people out,” Lisa Wade, a professor of sociology at Occidental College describes.

That’s not love. Love encompasses waiting, it deals with expectation, it is not a merry go round, where we try each seat in the hope to find the one who is most comfortable for us. Wonder why? Because love is not about receiving, is about giving in the first place.

For God so loved the world, that he gave(…)” (John 3:16 KJV)

God loved and still loves us madly, deeply, with burning love. That’s why He sent Jesus to die for us, those who didn’t love Him, on the cross.

As Lailah Gifty Akita, a Ghanaian author and founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation wrote:

Giving is an act of generosity.
Giving is sowing a seed.
The seed will produce a great harvest of fruits.

It is in the act of giving that love is shown. But giving ourselves to someone else is far deeper than just a mere physical or platonic relationship. Giving ourselves is enduring the good and the bad outcomes. Is not a simplistic view, it’s a simple truth. When one goes through Hell and back, the connection tightens up or breaks loose. When we focus on the same goal when we cherish each other when we care for each other with compassion, like Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D. and associate professor at Albright College sets, we get stronger. G. Michael Hopf’s quote helps us understand this cycle:

Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.

Now, I’m not advocating for enduring hard times all the time, but going through rough proofs, times of testing, they sharpen us up and in the good moments we can’t let our guard down. So to give ourselves as support for our spouse, boyfriend or partner in hard times, makes us stronger. And will make them stronger too. But be warned… Greg Laurie is known to say that: “there are only two kinds of persons: those who are passing through a storm and those who will”.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 10:12 (AMP):

Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being overconfident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation].

The thing about divorce is that no good comes out of it. Or at least, rarely some good comes out of it. Because it’s a break of a bond. An intimate bond, which was commanded by God to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27), to Noah (Genesis 9:1), even Jeremiah (while in the exile) prophetized that (Jeremiah 29:6), Jesus himself repeated the notion that a man and a woman are to be bound as one (Matthew 19:5,6; Mark 10:7) and later repeated by Paul as an analogy to Christ’s union with the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

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Divorce, severs a deep connection that is formed beyond body as matter. It is a spiritual junction that no is to break, nor to divide, except for sexual immorality. Thus one might argue other motifs like violence over children and so on. But those, are things which must be dealt with the Lord and the Law, not the one of Moses, but the State kind. But still, a very deep bond, that being damaged is hard to cure… and as Church, we must be prepared to deal with this kind of situations, that might become more and more recurrent.

“Before students leave this seminary,” says David Seamands of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, “I tell them they must have their theology of marriage, divorce, and remarriage worked out. If they don’t, they’ll find out within the first few months in the parish why it’s so important. (…) Fortunately, the pastoral counselor is not alone. The body of Christ can help people cope with the many transitions of divorce. For some divorcees, the crisis may be as prosaic as a lawnmower that won’t start when the lawn is a foot high and growing by the hour. Single parenthood, job re-entry, household maintenance, cooking, loneliness — the newly single have a rough time handling such experiences.” quoting from CTI.

The Law of Love – An Essay on the Principle of Tolerance

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What I think of tolerance among different Christian denominations, I must tell you in all sincerity that I regard tolerance as the main characteristic of the true Church.[1] This is how John Locke, the father of liberalism and the primary defender of religious freedom, begins his Letter on Tolerance. Although such a phrase was written in the seventeenth century, it remains as current today as on the day it came out of the mind of this philosopher for the role. There is, in fact, nothing more important in a Democratic State such as tolerance and, it should be noted, when we speak of tolerance, we do not refer to the typical shrug of the shoulders in the face of dissimilarity, or to ignore the existence of those who think differently. No. It has to do with the acceptance and respect that deserves who thinks and acts in a different way from what we take for normal.

If the principle of tolerance is an essential criterion for the peaceful coexistence, in the same legal order, of individuals who think unequally about the political color, the football club, the music, the city and the countryside, the more essential it will be the religion. Accept it or not, understand it or not, religion is something that moves the world. Man, as the fruit of creation, from the beginning of times, has always manifested great interest in the invisible. And another thing would not be expected since he early realized that there is a whole world around him that goes beyond the limit of his knowledge.[2]

All that we see and do not see as human beings is the work of an invisible hand that seems to dwell among us, who perseveres in relating to us. It is undeniable that there is a Good Being (Summum Bonum) who, according to the Judeo-Christian understanding, created the world, endowed it with resources that allowed its self-sufficiency and placed man there to inhabit and keep it, together with the family that God gave him, as we observe in the Holy Scriptures (Genesis 1: 1 to 2:24). This was the main task of man: to administer the earth, to take care of his family and to relate to God, his creator.[3]

Thousands of years have passed since Genesis, and the conjuncture [almost] has not changed: man continues to work, so that he can support himself (and family, if necessary) and relate to the Divine. At this point, however, the situation has undergone some changes. Let us see:

They reveal the Bible and other documents of proven historical value that man has never failed to relate to God, or at least to question about Him. Observing the history of Israel, from Egypt to the birth of Jesus Christ, we can affirm with all the property that the people always sought for their God. Although there were times when he went away from God, through sin and lack of faith, he never completely departed, there is always a faithful remnant who continued to worship God. With the birth of Jesus Christ, the setting changed: while one party accepted Him as the Messiah of the Old Testament prophecies, others refused to acknowledge Him as such. But once again we conclude that the people did not turn away from God. Although they followed parallel paths in the worship of God, as the History of the Church and Christianity reveal to us, they continued to serve the Creator.

Centuries have passed over this scenario but have not been strong enough to change it. Let us look, for example, at Portugal, a country that is mostly Christian, with deep roots in Roman Catholicism. If, on the one hand, the Census proves that the representation of Catholics in Portugal has fluctuated in the last decades, proving, according to the data of 2011, that the number has fallen, compared to the data of 2001, on the other hand, the minorities (Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others) have presented significantly higher numbers for each demographic census.[4] Such values lead us to a conclusion: people did not abandon religion, the search for the Divine; only moved among the various denominations in our order.

And the atheists, where will we fit this group in this context? Well, it is true that in recent decades we have witnessed an equally considerable increase in agnostic and atheistic theories throughout the world, and Portugal is not an exception. However, the assertion of theories challenging a creator God, from His existence to His way of relating to man, is not a new reality. On the contrary, the Bible also mentions them in several moments, through several Epistles of the Apostles.[5]

To close this question, it seems certain to assert that in one way or another, at a certain point in time, every man is confronted with the idea and reality of God. There seems to be, in mankind, an innate knowledge about God, a supernatural idea that is explained by the fact that it was created in His image and likeness.[6]

However, how you will react to this encounter is not analogous to all men. There are some who recognize Him and put their faith in Him through a series of practices that unite man to God in an attitude of reverence; there are others who do not recognize His existence, living, on the one hand, outside the domain of God, but, on the other hand, dedicating much of their lives to the proof that this Absolute Being is imaginary or devoid of any power.[7] Others still know God in a traditional way (merely ritual, it may be added), and at a certain moment they discover the supernatural, the true essence of the God whom they thought they knew, just as happened to Job, the Patriarch.[8]

In one way or another, it is clear that the idea of God (or as many insist on affirming, religion), its existence or illusion, does not remain in the shadow throughout life, so we understand that the right to freedom of conscience, religion and worship is a common right of all Portuguese, whether believers or atheists. Socrates presents us with a classic question – in the discussion that opposes the right to morality – because it is something that already enters the field of moral philosophy, which escapes our objective with this work, it is important to leave a brief explanation using a Socratic thought: “Is a behaviour correct because the gods order it or the gods order it because it is correct?” Undoubtedly this question of the book Euthyphro raises the question of whether morality can actually exist without relying on religion. Socrates understands that ethical principles are correct in themselves, not depending on the existence of a God/gods, since there are certain moral rules common to various religions (namely, you will not kill, you will not lie, you will fulfil your word, others), which are typified in the law not because they come from a divine entity, but because they are good rules of social coexistence. This is so true that it proves that atheists and agnostics are not immoral because they do not recognize the existence of God. However, although God did not exist, an appreciation among the citizens must subsist, since everything is not allowed. Even if God did not exist, this would not justify a violation of religious freedom from the list of fundamental rights in our Constitution of the Portuguese Republic. Even if God did not exist, this did not serve as a basis for oppressing those who believe in His existence.

From the above, it is imperative to devote some time to the study of religious freedom and tolerance in Portugal, and it is our scope to do so in the light of biblical principles. It is our aim to provide a final conclusion: the influence of the moral of God, the love of God in the resolution of religious conflicts.

 

THE LOVE IN THE BIBLE

The word “love” derives from the Hebrew ahead, a word of broad connotation. In the Old Testament were used other words, with different senses, associated with love, with the idea of desire, something that referred to two people who loved each other (lovers). Already in the New Testament, two new words appear agape (agapao), very usual in the Septuagint (Hebrew Bible translated in Greek koine), and phileo, also this synonymous of agape. There is yet another word, without biblical support, that determines another kind of love: eros. It is often used to indicate a passionate love, always with sexual connotations.

Counting, love agape appears in the Bible 142 times in its verbal form and 116 times in its subjective composition, while phileo love only appears 25 times.  Agape is, therefore, a love with a far greater reach than our love word – in Portuguese – can express: it is the love of God, a deep love. It is a higher and more divine love as if it were meant to reveal, through a single word, the greatness and suis generis form of God’s love for man. It is often used to express a “feast of love” as a meal in communion/brotherhood among people united by friendship. It is associated with the traditional religious practices of the Catholic Church, at the time of the Last Supper in the Eucharist (sharing of bread and wine between Jesus Christ and the disciples, supper that precedes betrayal), and Protestant churches, which also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, a symbolic act representing the sacrifice of love performed on the cross for the atonement of man’s sins.

            Phileo love, however, is a love of personal affection, a declaration of respect and friendship for others, not being, in our view, a love of inferior quality in relation to agape. On the contrary, it is the ultimate expression of love among men, only surpassed by the agape love that God feels for man, made in his image and likeness.

Realizing the idea of love that the Holy Scriptures refer to, it is important to realize how it should be applied in daily life since it is of no importance to man being invited to act in harmony with the Word of God without actually acting. Love is not, then, a mere sentiment; it is a decision.

Let us look with zeal at the words of the Apostle Paul in the first Epistle to the Corinthians:

Though I speak tongues, those of men and of angels, if I had not charity, it would be as a brass that sounds, or as a tinkling cymbal. Even if he had the gift of prophecy, the knowledge of all mysteries and of all science, even if he had all faith, to the point of transporting mountains, if he did not have charity, would be nothing. Even if I distributed all my possessions to the hungry, even if I gave my body to the flames, if I did not have the charity, that would do me no good. Charity is patient, charity is helpful, it is not envious, it does not boast, it does not swell with pride. Nothing is inconvenient, it does not seek its own interest, it does not hold a grudge. He does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. Everything excuses, believes all, hopes all, supports all. Charity will never pass. (…) Now there remain faith, hope, charity, these three things. The greatest of these, however, is charity.[9]

Interpreting the words of the Apostle, more relevant than having knowledge of God, of His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, is more important than the certainty that all that exists, which we know and yet do not know, is God’s creation, more important than that good social works, is love. We can practice good works, help in the distribution of food and clothing to the needy, we can have faith and attend the Church daily: if we do not do it with love, it will do no good.

Paul thus demonstrates that everything that man does in his daily life, in the context of work, of affective relations, of social work, of the Church, must do with love. How? Putting yourself in the background. From the moment that man ceases to be the center of his world, denying his most selfish feelings, he realizes that he lives in society and that he has to know how to manage his experience in the social context in which he is inserted. To act with love is to put into practice the principle of tolerance: loving another human being, realizing his needs, taking care of him and working so that he can also reach his well-being.  To act in tolerance is to identify that the other is different from me, for his or her life history, ethical or religious conviction, political or moral, and allow him, like me, to live what he believes without being penalized.

Also, John, the Apostle of Love, as it became known, provides us with sacred writings on this subject: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love cometh from God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He who does not love has not known God, because God is love. In this, God’s love for us was manifested: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live for him. In this is love: it was not we who loved God but he who loved us and sent us His Son as the victim of atonement for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (…) God is love: he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him. Herein lies the perfection of love in us: that we may have full confidence in the day of judgment, for as he also is in this world. There is no fear in love; on the contrary, perfect love casts out fear, because fear implies punishment, and the one who fears has not reached the perfection of love. As for us, let us, love, because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but he hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love his brother, whom he sees, whom he does not see, he cannot love. And this is the commandment which we have received from him: he that loveth God, let him love his brother also.[10]

The words of the Apostle John speak for themselves, not without great explanation. It is clear, in the light of this passage, the importance of love for good coexistence among human beings. And if, in the first century, when John wrote this Letter, it was extremely important for men to accept, in love, the differences they had among each other. It is even more important today because we live in multicultural societies, open to new knowledge, ideologies and lifestyles. If we do not act in tolerance between us, we will not make the society where we enter a better place. Note that the love that John tells us is not a servile love, a love that is guided by fear or fear. It is not a love that leads us to do good because we fear that evil will affect us. No, it is a love that leads to action based on the love we receive (first, in the love we receive from God). If we do not give, we will not receive. It is a simple logic that works because we are outside the legal field. There is no law, made by human hands, that compels us to act in love or to do good. To do or not to do depends on something that is beyond the law, and the principle of tolerance proves this: it invites a man to act in love, a place that a human law cannot reach.

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BIBLE

 

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It seems paradoxical that a sacred book, the basis of faith of millions of Christians, should promote the idea of religious freedom, but as we shall see, there is no paradox here.

We start from the idea that the concept of religious freedom broadly promotes an idea of equality before the various churches and religious communities existing in the same physical space. This is the initial premise of the idea of religious freedom that we have in our legal system today as a fundamental right – to put all religions in equality before the law. Notwithstanding the fact that the lawmakers speak in great detail on the subject, as we intend to explain in the second part of this short essay, Jesus, too, throughout his short ministry has been leaning on it. Jesus, in unity with God the Father, knew better than the man himself how important it was to be free to profess his faith without suffering any harm, without anyone questioning the truth of that conviction.

500 years after the Protestant Reformation, it is important to remember how important this event was in the establishment of religious freedom (apart from the replacement of Christian values with that originally designated by God). In this period, many were the Protestant leaders who complained against intolerance and especially oppression by the Catholic Church, which did not welcome the idea of a doctrine other than its own. Recalling John Locke’s words, religious intolerance cannot be the way to go, for “to believe what the Gospel and the Apostles says, no man can be a Christian if he lacks charity and that faith which works not by force iron and fire), but by love. Well, I appeal to the conscience of those who, under cover of religion, persecute, torture, destroy and kill other men, and ask if they do so out of friendship with them and Christian love. [11]

The Catholic Church would certainly be in a bad place if the story were to end here. An example of this, History tells us, is John Calvin, one of the great names of the post-Reformation period. The episode dates back to 1553, when he met Miguel Servetus, an Aragonese scientist, and reformer, who died at the will of John Calvin in the same year. The problem arises when Servetus wrote a critical work of the Institutes of John Calvin, refuting the idea of the theory of election and the idea of Trinity, which he considered heretical. John Calvin did not like being refuted and vowed to kill him if Servetus returned to Geneva, a threat that was met by death at the stake.

This small example, one of several committed by John Calvin, shows that the religious freedom so sought after during the Reformation did not put an end to sad episodes of religious intolerance and oppression.[12]Conflicts over theological misunderstandings were announced by Jesus Christ, which centuries earlier were presented during the Prophetic Sermon, in which he stated that the times would come when men, claiming to be truth-keepers, raising the banner of theology, would commit treason and seek enmities for lack of understanding of what they claimed to be the truth.[13] This is the scenario we see today: churches and religious communities with their backs turned by not being able to live through their differences. This is, in our view, the point where religious freedom fails, that is, in the lack of tolerance and love among the various denominations. In John Locke’s words, “tolerance of those who differ from others in matters of religious opinion fits both the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the genuine human reason that it seems monstrous that there are men so blind that they do not clearly perceive their need and advantages. (…) It is man’s own sin and he is seldom free from such defects. … But let it not be that some disguise their spirit of unchristian persecution and cruelty in the colors of false concern for state interests or breach of the law.”[14]

We understand that a good example of a liberal and tolerant person is that of Jesus Christ who, on his journey through this world, never presented an unworthy conduct to those who refuted his ideas. In his words, we see humility, tolerance, and love for others. There are several times when we observe Jesus mingled with the sinners and the poor, thus contradicting the typical attitudes of the Pharisees, or calling to Him who desired to hear what He had to expose, not only by His attitude (which did not coax or oppress) but especially by the truth of His words. At no point in the Bible do we see Jesus demanding to be heard or taken into account. He himself criticized his apostles when they displayed biased attitudes, as we can see in Mark 9: 38-40 and Luke 9: 51-56.

The key point of Jesus ‘discourse on love appears in the book of John, where Jesus left a simple commandment: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”[15] What was Jesus’ intention in uttering these words? Looking at the context in which Jesus was revealed, in which Jesus reveals his love for his hearers, shortly before he was killed on the cross, Jesus intended to revive in their minds to give their lives for others, not in a literal sense, in a death of cross, but in the sense of living their life thinking about the well-being of the neighbour. Accepting the next, even if different. Even if the other does not accept our way of living, of being in life; our religious, political or other beliefs.

It is before the difference that we are faced with the idea of tolerating. Of loving, according to the Scriptures.

  1. THE STATE AND THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

In this second phase it is important to observe how the Portuguese State embraces religious pluralism in its bosom, looking with special attention to the principle of tolerance expressed in article 7 of the Law of Religious Freedom (LLR). This article refers that “conflicts between the freedom of conscience, religion and worship of one person and that of another shall be resolved with tolerance, so as to respect as much as possible the freedom of each person.

            In the first place, it is important to understand what is going on in the mind of the legislator when it states the freedom of conscience, religion and worship, concepts that we will now explain.

The right to religious freedom is enshrined in Article 41 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, entitled “Freedom of conscience, religion and worship“. No. 1 of this constitutional norm contains three disparate but complementary rights, since the second is closely related to the first, while the third has its origin in the second. This precept thus regulates the right to freedom of conscience, which is evidenced by the freedom to choose ethical convictions and standards, the right to freedom of religion, which includes the right to choose whether or not to embrace a religion, to actively defend a certain cause for or against the religious phenomenon, not to be prejudiced by their beliefs, and, finally, freedom of worship, which allows the individual and religious communities to perform public acts of faith according to the religion that they confess.

The Article 41 is divided into two distinct parts: an individual part, which absorbs the sphere of personal rights, and an institutional part, which integrates the sphere of churches and religious communities. With respect to the individual part, this guarantees a broad religious freedom for the citizen, who can always proceed according to his ethical or moral ideologies, without thereby suffering embarrassment. These freedoms have clear reflections in the daily life of man, allowing him to express his faith in public or in private, in groups or individually, “by teaching, by practice, by worship and by rites,” without being “persecuted, deprived of rights or freedom from civic duties or obligations”, which ensures a wider and more accessible religious pluralism, atheistic or proselyte manifestations, daily actions in accordance with the professed religion and public demonstrations of religious practices. It is, of course, an application of Article 13, no. 2 of the Constitution, which establishes the principle of equality and, consequently, the prohibition of discriminating or privileging citizens for religious reasons.

The Constitution goes even further in consecrating religious freedom in paragraphs 3 and 6. In the first, it enshrines a right to the personal reserve of religious convictions, which translates into the prohibition of any authority to question citizens about the religion professed and/or convictions. Religious convictions are therefore part of the inner circle of the citizens and cannot be questioned. In the last, it establishes the right to conscientious objection as a way of not practicing certain acts that conflict with human conscience for religious reasons. It is relevant to mention that it is a right under the law, which is responsible for delimiting its contours and forms of exercise. Regarding the individual part, we would like to draw attention to the provisions of article 19, paragraph 6 of the Constitution, which prohibits the suspension of the rights of freedom of conscience and religion in the event of a declaration of a state of siege or emergency.

Regarding the institutional part, it is now important to analyse the rights conferred in paragraphs 4 and 5. We know that the principle of separation between the State and the churches is an apanage of the Portuguese State and the Constitution proclaims it in paragraph 4, where we can conclude that this principle entails two important corollaries:

– the first is manifested in the principle of non-confessionalism of the State, which challenges a sense of neutrality on the part of the State in relation to the religious phenomenon, visible in the prohibition of State interference in purely religious matters and in the guarantee of a public education non-confessional;

– the second is in the free disposal of churches and religious communities as to their organization and function. The State is not allowed to interfere in these areas, except for the regulation of freedom of worship and demonstration, as is the case of religious assistance in the Armed Forces, Prison Establishments and units.

With regard to no. 5, it equally guarantees two important rights to churches and religious communities as regards freedom of education, expression and the press, arising from freedom of religion and the separation and independence of churches and religious communities. Facing the reality of the catholic and evangelical religions, we observe that the first right has to do with the freedom to teach the confessed religion inside and outside the temples.

The second right includes freedom of expression and of the press of churches and religious communities, through the written press, radio and television.


THE PRINCIPLE OF TOLERANCE

 

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BY VIKTOR HANACEK

 

Defined, in the light of the Constitution, the concept of freedom of conscience, religion and worship, which the ordinary legislator reinforced in the LLR, in articles 8 et seq., we now look at the principle of tolerance, that which is, in our view, the most innovative in the range of principles presented in the LLR, our focus throughout this essay.

It is a principle that deals with an appeal to the resolution of religious conflicts. We say appeal because throughout the LLR we find in no article a practical consecration of this principle, a model of resolution of religious conflicts. It seems that the only concern of the legislator, in adding this principle to the rest, is, in fact, to appeal to the dialogue between the opposing people or churches or communities. It is a principle that deals with an appeal to the resolution of religious conflicts. We say appeal because throughout the LLR we don’t find in any article a practical consecration of this principle, a model of resolution of religious conflicts.

The Portuguese State, as a democratic State of Law, therefore opts for a perfectly correct solution: it accepts and accepts the political relevance that religion has without, however, meddling in matters that concern particular religious (collective) institutions and believers in particular. In our view, the principle of tolerance applies both to the legal sphere of churches and religious communities and to the legal sphere of individuals.

In the first place, it is important that in case of conflict between churches or communities, by opposing rights, they be resolved in a tolerant way, using peaceful dialogue. Regardless of the religions involved in a conflict, we know that it is characteristic of religions to promote the well-being of those who confess it. No religious community has the ability to inflict some kind of suffering, physical or psychological, on its members, or to present them with a Truth that they have as a lie. It is true that sometimes one or another news of a certain community that sells the faith to its faithful comes to our attention, that it seeks the profit of the one who directs it instead of seeking to help the other in its walk. It is, for example, the typical a community that sells the faith to its faithful, who seeks the profit of the one who directs it instead of seeking to help the other in his walk. It is, for example, the typical case where the new member of the community is led to buy a special place in heaven, ignoring the hoax behind the whole scheme of illegally raising money. Fortunately, this is not the general rule; are small but clear cases of fraud and illicit exploitation which must be reported to the competent authorities following a normal judicial procedure. Or, in another example, when there is a practice of other criminal acts by religious leaders (defamation, discrimination, corruption, among others). When there is, in fact, a right of a community that is violated by another, and if such violation is committed in the practice of a crime, it must be denounced. In this case, the State cannot resign from administering justice, under penalty of discrediting our entire Justice, increasing the distrust of citizens in the Courts competent for this purpose. Starting from the idea that all communities seek, through the truth they proclaim, to help their members during their earthly lives, guiding them through healthy, tolerant leadership in case of conflict with another community, it must be the same love that must guide the whole process of resolution, applying the principle of tolerance. As we have already mentioned, tolerance means that each one places the other in front of himself, which in these cases will be the key to solving the problem effectively and peacefully.

Among individuals the situation is similar. Unless it is a clear violation of a right (namely, discrimination on religious grounds in the context of work or school, the inability to profess faith in public, in association or alone) which, as we have already seen, must be denounced, everything can be solved peacefully. We speak, then, of the classic case in which a lady insists on inviting her friend daily to go with her to the church, offering her magazines and other material to spread her faith. The right to practice acts proper to their community (proselytizing activities) thus collides with the right to choose not to have a religion, or because they do not want to have to do with that particular religion. It is a typical case that opposes private individuals, which creates estrangement between believers and non-believers, which causes embarrassment towards religion; however, it is a case where clearly the principle of tolerance is called upon to intervene, otherwise, it will be complex to guide the parties to the best solution of the problem.

The issue is complicated when conflict divides the state and communities, and this is the most common situation. We are talking, then, of the case in which a certain community intends to carry out a worship in the garden of the city and intends to obtain a license by the Autarchy to be able to use the space and this one rejects the request, without explanation or alternative supply. We are talking, then, of the case where a chaplain is prevented from providing assistance in a hospital or prison on the grounds that it is impossible to provide assistance at that time because it is not visiting time. There are many cases in which there is a total lack of awareness of the LLR by the municipalities and other public entities, which increases the number of complaints to the competent regulatory body. Examples of common cases are the weak knowledge of a law that has been in place since 2001.

In these cases, we understand that the principle of tolerance has no direct application, since it is a conflict between a church or religious community and the state, not between communities and / or individuals. In situations of this nature, it is necessary to follow the legal procedures and denounce so that such situations, prohibited by the Constitution and the LLR, will not be repeated in the future. There is, in fact, a mysticism about the issue of religious freedom that continues to hang over Portugal and that it is urgent to clarify, otherwise we will see, in the not too distant future, freedom of religion to lose ground in a road that has been difficult to go.

The article 7, an article, without a doubt, innovative, which asserts the excellence character of our LLR. It is, without doubt, a victory for the Portuguese, believers or non-believers. A victory for religious communities that see their equality attested to other churches and religious communities. A challenge for religious communities to put into practice the commandment of Jesus Christ: to love the other (like ourselves).

It’s difficult. It is. But at the same time, it is interesting for the State, in the person of the ordinary legislator, to entrust the religious communities themselves to work out their differences through respect, acceptance, tolerance. In short, of love. A State that does not interfere with the most intimate decision of its citizens, who accepts, without questioning, their convictions and allows them to resolve the conflict, within the limits we have observed, in their own way: through the teaching that you hear week after week, in the meetings of a religious nature. Through love. We see, therefore, that it gives freedom to religious confessions to publicly show the faith they live: through tolerance.

To conclude, the question remains: Where Jesus passed, he left his peace, to whom he welcomed him, to whom he mistreated him.[16] What about us? What brand are we leaving? Are we leaving the peace?

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

Bíblia de Jerusalém. Trad. de Euclides Martins Balancin [et al.]. 1.ª ed. São Paulo: Paulus, 2002.

– Lindberg, Carter, História do Cristianismo. Trad. de Paula Reis, Lisboa: Editorial Teorema, 2006.

– Locke, John, Carta Sobre a Tolerância. Lisboa: Padrões Culturais Editora, 2014.

– Pratas, Cláudia Alves, O Direito da Religião – A Proteção das Minorias Protestantes. Lisboa: Chiado Editora, 2014.

– ________________, As Testemunhas de Jeová e a Discriminação no Acesso a Tratamentos Isentos de Sangue. e-Pública, III, n.º 2, (2016) 160-193.

 

[1] John Locke, Carta Sobre a Tolerância. Lisboa, 2014, p. 7.

[2] Cláudia Alves Pratas, O Direito da Religião – A Proteção das Minorias Protestantes. Lisboa, 2014, p.13.

[3] Cláudia Alves Pratas, As Testemunhas de Jeová e a Discriminação no Acesso a Tratamentos Isentos de Sangue. e-Pública, III, n.º 2, 2016, pp. 166 e ss.

[4] According to data presented by the 2011 Census, 7,281,887 Portuguese are assumed to be Catholics, a number that decreased compared to the result of 2001 (7,353,548).

[5] For example, Acts of the Apostles 17: 22-23.

[6] Genesis 1:26-31, 2: 7; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10.

[7] Cláudia Alves Pratas, O Direito da Religião…, 2014, pp. 17 a 21.

[8] Job 42:2-6.

[9] I Corinthians 13 (Jerusalem Bible).

[10] I John 4:1-21 (Jerusalem Bible).

[11] John Locke, Carta sobre… Lisboa, 2014, p. 9.

[12] Carter Lindberg, História do Cristianismo. Lisboa, 2006, pp. 152-155.

[13] Matthew 24.

[14] John Locke, Carta sobre… Lisboa, 2014, pp. 13-14.

[15] John15:12

[16] John 14:27, 20:19; Thessalonians 3:16.

Non Duco Ducor – Part 2

On the first part of this series, I wrote: “Never like today our society was challenged to lead. Leadership became something that can be traded, acquired and taught. The leadership evangelists scream with both lungs that this is the last hit and that everyone can be a leader. That seems a pretty good idea, except for the fact that not everyone can be a leader. This added to another idea, that enabling leadership enables us as people, come to bring the feeling that if we’re not leading, then we’re following… and followers finish last!

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Today I’m going back to leadership, one of the pressure points our generation faces. Right now, it’s all about being the next big thing. Leading markets, leading corporations, leaders… they’re hunted for hire like they’re the last cookie inside the jar. Those who evolve faster in this society, tend to outgrow in visibility those who don’t. And with that, we have people growing up too quickly, not taking time to mature things up and reaching breaking points soon enough.

Names like Jeff Bezos, Ellon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg; they all share a tendency to be seen as the prototype of the leader for the millennial generation. Obsessed with work, always craving for new ideas, trying to get faster than others to a certain point. We might ask: “What’s wrong with that”? Afterall, they’re only doing what they are paid for, they set the pace for this era development.

But we have to be certain that things have to take their time. Creating amounts of pressure walls that smash us, elevating suicide rates to those like in Japan (with  22.94 victims per 100,000 people) is a dangerous reality. Families are left behind, ties get severed to never get together again. Production seems to take charge of our lives and the fear of being fired comes and goes, day by day, week by week.

What should be our stance in front of all this pressure?

First things first… We have to remember that God himself rested. After His work was done, He rested in order to show us the significance of a taking time to be able to get closer to Him (Genesis 2:2,3). This isn’t an optional thing to do… rest is important for our body, for our mind and for our spirit. So much that the Lord made a commandment out of it ( Exodus 20:11). Reuniting with God, contemplating His creation, taking time to adore Him, to read the Scriptures, to think in His everlasting love… That is the first step to break the cycle of overwhelming work chaos. Not only during the Apostles time it was practiced, but afterward as the Church Fathers show us.

To take a break is important for communion, it strengthens our lives and the Church itself:
But every Lord’s day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.
Didache Chapter XIV.11 —Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day. 14

It identifies us with the New Covenant, signed on the cross with Jesus blood:
If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death—whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master
Ignatius of Antioch – Letter to the Magnesians(shorter) Chapter IX.—Let us live with Christ

Therefore, since it is manifest that a sabbath temporal was shown, and a sabbath eternal foretold; a circumcision carnal foretold, and a circumcision spiritual pre-indicated; a law temporal and a law eternal formally declared; sacrifices carnal and sacrifices spiritual foreshown; it follows that, after all these precepts had been given carnally, in time preceding, to the people Israel, there was to supervene a time whereat the precepts of the ancient Law and of the old ceremonies would cease, and the promise of the new law, and the recognition of spiritual sacrifices, and the promise of the New Testament, supervene; while the light from on high would beam upon us who were sitting in darkness, and were being detained in the shadow of death.And so there is incumbent on us a necessity binding us, since we have premised that a new law was predicted by the prophets, and that not such as had been already given to their fathers at the time when He led them forth from the land of Egypt, to show and prove, on the one hand, that that old Law has ceased, and on the other, that the promised new law is now in operation.
Tertullian – An Answer to the Jews Chapter VI.—Of the Abolition and the Abolisher of the Old Law

For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us.
Cyprian – Epistle LVIII.2 To Fidus, on the Baptism of Infants

Secondly, to avoid being devoured in the shark tank, one must make a choice between gathering money or gathering peace. Money does not buy peace. Work-related stress does not grant money. It generates sickness of the heart, spirit and body, which can’t be cured without a surrender.

The one thing that grants peace everlasting is Jesus Christ, and with Him, His Kingdom:
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27, KJ21)

for the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17, KJ21)

Your work is important, but you have to take measures to avoid letting it take the first place and become the ruler of your life. Pray to God, let Him know how you feel about the pressure that this generation faces to be the best of the best, ask Him for help to avoid falling into temptation of over occupation and forgeting Him. And as Paul wrote:

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, KJ21)

Taking justice into our own hands

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“The earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
Wars and abuses have nature growing with death
We say we’re just trying to stay alive
It looks so much more like a way to die
And this too shall be made right
Derek Webb

The pencils of french cartoonists design jokes of dubious taste. As a response, intolerant radicals spread death. These radicals are blind by an all too narrow worldview, which only allows space for the existence of that which is equal and not that which differ from them.

In smaller letters, we read about kidnappings and massacres in Northern Africa and in the Middle East. We read about the Indonesian Government asking that clemency may be granted to an Indonesian citizen condemned to death in Saudi Arabia, while denying the same kind of request from other Governments regarding the death penalty that Indonesian courts systematically impose on foreign citizens. We heard of the suicide bombing perpetrated by a 10 years old girl in Nigeria. We read about freedom being one hundred times whipped in Saudi Arabia, being imprisoned in Angola, being persecuted in Russia. We read about the slow death of Afghan children whose only toy is the clay used to manufacture bricks. We read about little girls carrying their Kalashnikov while marching in Gaza. We saw the humanitarian crisis escalating in Greek beaches, in Calais and in Turkey. We have heard about the increasing casualties of the unending Syrian civil war. We open our computers, we scroll through the newspaper, we push the TV button and what we see is a world full of people thinking that they are taking justice into their own hands while they are, on the contrary, perpetuating injustice, cruelty and fratricide.

In the biblical narrative, the fratricidal tendency of humanity is present from the beginning: it first appears in Abel and Cain’s story. More important than discussing whether or not the story told by Genesis 4 is literal, it is important to understand and accept the literal truth that lies within the story: we kill our brothers. Mankind, alienated from its Creator, excels in killing one another. If not by weapons and bombs, it’s through policies and economic artifices or even by means of mere words and hateful attitudes. UN statistics show that 836 million people still live in extreme poverty[1]. Even though slight progresses have happened to make poverty history, data still shows a dreadful reality and the rampant inequality – it is said that half of the world wealth is now in the hands of 1% of its population[2] – raises new obstacles in the campaign against poverty. Such whopping inequality may also turn fratricide: it may not kill instantly but it also causes the slow asphyxia of those who struggle to survive out of nothing.

The bitterness and frustration arising from such a devastated world became more personal for me while living in Timor-Leste. This is a young developing country, in Southeast Asia, still facing huge challenges to overcome poverty and to construct a fair society. When I was living and working there, I was often taken by a sense of impotence and hopelessness. The country has surely developed since it became an independent nation back in 2002. But there is still so much work to be done! Sometimes we wish we had the power and the authority to turn everything that is evil into righteousness. We wish we had the omnipotence to transform our society in a blink of eyes… I don’t have such omnipotence… and that is actually a good thing. Since I know that, at some point, I could also fall into the temptation of using my omnipotence for evil and not for good.

Maybe it’s this knowledge about myself – that I fail to use power to love and care for others – that makes me a skeptic and an unbeliever when it comes to regard the self-progress of the humankind as a valid metanarrative. Yes, I would like to believe that, by our own efforts, humankind will one day be able to form a global brotherhood; but such belief collapses when I look inside of me. Thus, I cannot surrender to the idea of a humankind able to self-generate its own progress. Such metanarrative cannot be my ultimate creed. I keep having this conversation within myself and, so far, I have always came to the same conclusion: I do not believe that humanity will find the strength within itself to rise above her broken condition and to achieve the humanist dream by its own efforts.

When I only think about what I don’t believe and when I can only see the ugliness of the world, I may be taken by despair and frustration. There are moments in which I see the ugliness of the world and I am filled with such anger and crying. I am reminded of Nehemiah crying when he first heard about the destruction of Jerusalem [3]. Have you experienced this same kind of anguish? When the immediate reality around us becomes so overwhelming that our hearts hurt, tears fall and crying arises? In such moments, we do reenact the story of Nehemiah

Then, just like Nehemiah, I must also remind myself about the things I believe. I deeply believe in Jesus Christ. I have put my trust on him. He is my hope, my model and my way. I strongly uphold this conviction: that, in Him, the fratricidal humankind finds its cure; that in Him all things are made right:

All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. [4]

The Christian faith offers an alternative metanarrative both to the narrative of hopelessness and to the humanist approach. The cross is how Jesus fixes the world. All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe are made right by is sacrifice. He literally took justice into his own hands, when he was nailed to the cross. And His is the perfect justice that we long for in our broken world. Not anymore an humane, unreliable and equivocal justice, but the restorative Justice from which the biblical authors provide many glimpses. This is the kind of Justice of which I can say that I hunger and thirst!

At this point, it is convenient to step back and remind myself about a basic truth: I am also part of the problem. I am also part of this fratricide humankind. I remember once listening to a preacher explaining that this beatitude – blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied [5] – should first be understood in terms of hunger and thirst for righteousness regarding our own lives. That is, blessed is the man who, confessing his own unrighteous and unjustified condition, seeks ardently for a kind righteousness that may dwell in him and transform him. Such righteousness must come from a pure source and not be self generated. Blessed is the man that acknowledges that self-sufficiency is a lie: only the work of redemption operated by someone much bigger and better could be efficient to overcome such hunger and thirst.

Therefore, it is not mankind that recreates itself but it’s Jesus Christ who recreates it. According to Paul’s words to the Ephesians, Jesus is forming a new humanity [6]. This new humanity receives an unique challenge: to show the world a new kind of Justice, much deeper, much more beautiful and much more divine. We are called to enact in the world the same Justice that satisfies our hunger and thirst. Perhaps such Justice can be understood in light of the Hebraic notion of shalom: the shalom is real when everything that is good, right, true and just completely permeates our relations, our communities and our cities, bringing peace, harmony and welfare for all. Shalom becomes a reality when ‘love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other[7].

This is not anymore the simplistic and primitive concept of retributive justice that feeds the endless fratricide. The justice that we find on Mount Calvary, and that we are called to enact here and now, seems paradoxical since it returns good for evil. And our hope lies in the promise foreseen on the resurrection Sunday: even though this Justice may seem, at times, fragile and powerless, it will surely vanquish evil.

We can therefore say that the way of Christ is for the stubborns: for those who have experienced this beautiful and pure Justice acting in their own lives and now refuse to accept the world as it is; for those who are willing to give their lives to proclaim and demonstrate the restorative justice of God; for those who are committed to live here and now as close as possible to the promised shalom.

As I wrote before, I am not a believer in the metanarrative of a self-accomplished human progress. I also do not believe in progress as a Christian eschatology, although I would like to. I can only believe that our deeds will always be tiny compared with the overwhelming problems of the world. But, as Mother Teresa would say, even if we can’t do great things, we can surely do small things with great love. And as the biblical authors remind us endless times, small things always matter in the Kingdom of God.

In this sense, we are called to take justice into our own hands but the expression acquires now a new meaning. To take justice into our own hands: we visit the widows and the prisoners, we take care of the orphans, we shelter the refugees, we love our neighbors, we hear those who are not heard, we lay down our lives in service, imitating our Master. In every area in which we step in, we seek to reverse the systemic injustices that are deeply instilled in our human relationships and in our human societies. We seek the surrendering of all things and all people to the shalom, trusting that, one day, the shalom will be the whole reality not by our own efforts and accomplishments but by what Jesus accomplished at the cross.

Let us hear the challenge of the contemporary prophets shouting that this too shall be made right. Let us hear the challenge of the ancient prophets, Isaiah, Micah and Amos, that many centuries ago were already shouting about God’s dream for the world.

For instance, if I stand in silence for a moment and listen carefully to the song that comes in between the lines of God’s revelation over time, I can almost hear the distortion of the electric guitars and the voice of Amos leading a hard-rock band and singing the everlasting chorus:

But let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream![8]

Let our lives be like living responses to this challenge!

[1] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/oct/13/half-world-wealth-in-hands-population-inequality-report

[3] Nehemiah 1:4

[4] Colossians 1:20 (MSG)

[5] Matthews 5:6

[6] Ephesians 2:15

[7] Psalms 85:10 (NVI)

[8] Amos 5:24 (ESV)

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