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Fr. Barron comments on Andrew Sullivan's Non-Threatening Jesus
"... and that's the problem." Very insightful commentary, again, Fr. Barron. All the modern (and now post-modern) attempts to turn Jesus into what I want Him to be, only produce a bunch of "de-fanged" fairy-tale characters divorced from the real Jesus of the New Testament. And when Jesus is no longer real, then the only real 'lord' is the one with the most political, economic, and military power - and that's a real problem. The Church is the Evangelist of the Real Jesus Christ (and Him crucified), and thus is the "provocative" safeguard of the poor, the weak, and the marginalized against the political powers of the world in any age. Thanks for your ministry in raising our awareness of these issues! May God bless you.
4/9/2012 3:27:15 PM
Sheer brilliance, Father. You're whetting the edge of the knife, and making the Rock of Offense even more provocative. This is a further extrapolation of your previous charge: You must choose who this Jesus is, and whether or not you will believe His claims, and the claims of those who followed Him.
4/9/2012 3:29:27 PM
Thank you Father....I wonder if the author thinks that when Jesus arrives for the second and final time, that it will be a quiet, "non-political" event? We really must get it right..the stakes are high!
4/9/2012 3:35:41 PM
If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.... But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead
Does it for me. We have to make that choice
4/9/2012 4:58:44 PM
Father, please live to a ripe old age! I have a 10 yr old son who's gonna need your way of thinking even more than I do now. I worry for all our youth.
4/9/2012 5:30:53 PM
Well said Fr. Barron. Thank you!
4/9/2012 5:37:40 PM
Brian A Cook
Hasn't the Church had to deal with all sorts of worldly baggage that has undermined her efforts to preach the Gospel? Hasn't the Faith been linked too closely to authoritarian earthly regimes and imperialistic forces? Isn't that what liberals are rightly getting at, even if they don't acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God? (For the record, I do.) Hasn't the Church tried to get away from all that in recent decades?
4/9/2012 6:11:55 PM
At a time when the Obama Administration is attacking religious liberty and pushing forward a very slick media campaign that is trying to marginalize the use of religion in the public square, this video by Fr. Barron is both timely and provocative. Like the early Christians in the Roman Empire, today we Christians should be inspired by Jesus' teachings to taunt our own government officials, and remind them that our government was founded to secure our God-given rights. No government, not even our own, can take those rights away from us.
4/9/2012 8:06:54 PM
Matthew 28:15 says it all!
4/9/2012 8:08:26 PM
Inspired and relevant message. Thank you. Please continue to take a stand against secularism!
4/9/2012 9:53:44 PM
Brilliant! Christ is Risen! The horror of evil and death has been conquered. Father, your analysis of Sullivan's article is right on target. Thanks so much
4/9/2012 11:01:07 PM
Jesus was not political. He stood outside, above, and beyond politics (as Garry Wills and others point out), and he still does. In fact, it was Jesus' failure to lead a political rebellion -- as opposed to a spiritual one -- that caused many in his day to become impatient and lose faith in him. Also: to say that much of the Christian liberal theology of the last 200 years has been devoted to stripping Jesus of his divinity and divorcing him from the miraculous, the supernatural, and the resurrection is unfair and untrue. There is a long history of progressive Christians, including "social justice" Catholics (see Catholics United, Pax Christi, Catholics for Peace and Justice, etc.), who believe very much in the full-strength Jesus but who believe religion should be about tolerance, charity, and above all, love.
4/10/2012 4:29:34 AM
Brilliant, Fr Barron! Simply Brilliant.
I pray that the Holy Spirit continue to guide you for you are like St John the Baptist - a voice crying in this wilderness of secularism.
4/10/2012 7:02:19 AM
This is what worry myself: the Beast of the Book of Revelation is within each of us and if we travel east of Eden our beast seeks to prefect our fellow humans. Mr. Sullivan does seem to represent John 6:66.
4/10/2012 8:44:55 AM
Alethea Black, Catholics who believe in the full strength Jesus believe that religion should be ABOUT JESUS and not just tolerance, charity and above all love.
The problem with some so called social Justice Catholics is that they tend to equate tolerance with tolerance even of things that are morally bad and equate love with feelings.
One can come up with a religion based on tolerance, charity and love (just think atheistic humanism) without referring to Christ.
Christianity is about Christ Risen from the dead, about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
4/10/2012 8:58:38 AM
I don't really understand your coeur de combat. Andrew Sullivan needs correction yes, we can't cut out scriptures that don't fit with our natural sensibilities, but I also wonder if he's not appealing for a deeper interior life. I was softened by his admiration for Saint Francis of Assisi, who built a church stone by stone rather than engage in commercial politics. We could never negate our Catholic responsibilities to protect life, and speak out against injustices but it also requires a deeper spirituality than many of us have. Why do we believe this? What do we believe? Why is it worthwhile? I think it's time to go back to the Creed.
4/10/2012 9:38:56 AM
Maria - Yes, one can come up with a religion based on tolerance, charity, and love; and one can come up with a religion based on intolerance, greed, and bitterness. Unfortunately, the latter is what a lot of people see when they look at modern Christians ... and it turns them away from Christ. Yes, Christianity should be about Jesus. And what is Jesus about? Love. That's what so often gets lost in all this.
4/10/2012 9:50:05 AM
Yes and no. Unfortunately, many people do see intolerance, greed, and bitterness when they look at modern Christians. And that's not (necessarily) a good thing. Jesus isn't just about love ... He is Love - a Love so unlike anything we can imagine that it burns. Unfortunately, when a lot of people in that day looked at Jesus, what they saw was intolerance, greed, and bitterness. If He walked among us today, I wonder how many of us would cry out: How dare he tell me that even thinking lustfully is a sin! How dare he tell me what to do with my money! How dare he tell me that I'm possessed by a demon! How intolerant and conceited of him to call himself the Truth and the only way to life! Who does he think he is anyway?!
And the answer to that question is the crux of the matter at hand. Peace.
4/10/2012 10:13:08 AM
Alethea: We really can't control how people view or misperceive us. Moreover, if we truly live the Gospel, I'm not sure that we should really care. The problem is that secular society wants to make faith--particularly faith in Christ and His Church--a bit less threatening. Indeed, this is the probable reason that our president speaks of "Freedom of Worship" and avoids the use of "Freedom of Religion" (the construct used in our constitution). The former is a private practice; the later often requires us to resist the unjust restraints of society and government. And when we resist those restraints, some might think less of us, but if we follow Christ we can and should be confident that our faith is not one "based on intolerance, greed, and bitterness," regardless of how we are portrayed.
4/10/2012 11:19:53 AM
First was the video Man searching for God "why I hate religion but love Jesus"...
Liberals [like Andrew Sullivan] are trying to reign in their fleeing flock. Elections are coming; the HHS mandate did more damage than expected. In this article they offer the concept that you can have your Jesus and drink their purple Progressive Kool-Aid too.
But it's not possible, Jesus Christ is the most radical, subversive, divisive character in all of history. And the liberal agenda is diametrically opposed to His teachings those of His Church...and they really hate that. We choose life; they choose death - killing the most innocent and defenseless among us.
Like Herod? Yes - just like Herod.
Thank you again Father Barron for calling them on it.
4/10/2012 1:56:38 PM
Yes, indeed people have come up with a religion based on tolerance and this has mostly been about toleration of sin. Christ is not about toleration of sin but the forgiveness of it and the conquering of it.
As GK Chesterton has said: Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.'
While it is true that Jesus is about love, this is not about sentimental love, but a “suffer to the death” kind of love. Furthermore, Jesus said he is Truth. Love must be guided by the Truth that is Jesus Christ and Truth must be sought in the Love that is Jesus Christ.
Any atheist can come up with the kind of religion you are advocating- by defining love, charity and tolerance according to their own notions. But that is not what Christianity is all about. Christianity is not just about Christ’s teachings, it is first and foremost about the PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. JESUS IS LORD.
What gives power to what Christ teaches is that it is the teaching of the Son of God – THE LORD.
4/10/2012 10:45:04 PM
Just another lame attempt to water down Christ. It's interesting though, I remember a poem that Bsp. Fulton Sheen shared about how Christ would have preferred the torments and mistreatment of Calvary and Golgotha over the indifference and apathy of modernity.
4/11/2012 10:32:20 AM
Brian A Cook
Have I not pointed out the various things which repulse people from the Church within several comments spread throughout the site? Aren't certain aspects of the "indifference and apathy of modernity" a reaction to those things within the earthly Church?
4/11/2012 10:50:16 AM
RE: Jackson Morgan
Wow! What an incredible scriptural insight you gave; Matthew 28:15
Are we bribing or being bribed to hide our Jesus? God Speed!
4/11/2012 11:14:12 AM
I often agree with Andrew Sullivan as well and find him to be a talented writer. But Father is absolutely right. CS Lewis in the Screwtape Letters credited the Devil for trouting out a new, abridged version of Jesus every twenty or thirity years. The new, inauthenic version is toothless and can't save anyone. I know Mr Sullivan has read Lewis i just wish he had applied him.
4/11/2012 11:25:20 AM
Father is ALWAYS on target. It seems like he just addressed this issue very eloquently a few weeks back concerning the "I hate religion" video that was popular. I posted on Sullivan's blog also. He is either creating a new denomination or has really gone to salad bar theology/cafeteria Catholicism. I'm not sure how Sullivan or Jefferson receive the SACRAMENTS that JESUS gave to us. Can then self administer ABSOLUTION or HOLY EUCHARIST? There is always an agenda at play. God Bless You FATHER BARRON and your ministry!
4/11/2012 2:12:51 PM
Father, thank for you with everything including your continuing evangelism. I do take slight issue with your statement that Thomas Jefferson attempted to remove the mystery and god title from Jesus. Jefferson did not name his book Jefferson Bible but The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He did keep true to the title by chronologically ordering Jesus's teachings.
God bless you Father!
4/11/2012 8:32:03 PM
Brian A Cook,
The indifirence is not because of what is happening in the earthly Church. That may cause anger, frustration and sadness but not indifference. The earthly Church will always remain also Divine because she is the Body of Christ.
The indifference stems from the the hegemony of relativism and the pre-occupation with I, Me, and Myself.
People want the Church to conform to them rather than them conforming to the Church. That is nothing more than self-centredness.
4/11/2012 10:12:38 PM
By removing any reference to the supernatural, the Jesus of Nazareth of Jefferson is only a human being. Which is misleading.
The arrogance too to think that one can decide what is and is not truly Of Jesus of Nazareth considering Jefferson comes almost several hundreds years after the earthly life of Jesus Christ.
4/11/2012 10:16:11 PM
Once again, you provide a well thought out and compelling argument to a misguided mind. Thanks for that.
I would add that, by "re-writing" the gospel so that our savior Jesus Christ becomes little more than the best of all moral guides, one misses the major point of Christ's nature -- He became the perfect sacrifice so that we sinners might be united with our Father in heaven for all eternity.
I don't deny that He was the best moral leader the world will ever see, but as you so rightly point out, He is so much more.
Thanks again, Father, for all your good work.
4/12/2012 2:25:01 PM
Great commentary Fr. Barron. I’ll have to read the article to which you referred… but without having read the article and trusting in the importance you place on accuracy, I’d like to make a comment or two.
Jesus was their when Adam and Eve were expelled, when Noah came into being and the great flood happened. He was there during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, lest I or anyone forget Passover… and so forth. I think Jesus is a nice man too, no one exists that is more loving, however, not all who call on Him will be saved… hence the need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. At any rate, these were some thoughts I had that followed your commentary. I agree with the position you took, I also think he could have applied more time and thought in his attempt to re-view Jesus, minus the political aspects of his life – which I believe is impossible given the huge political upheaval He caused just stating the Truth, not to mention His death.
I got the feeling though (based upon what you had to say) that he was trying to convey a “one size fits all Jesus,” minus the drama/politics. Jesus really is for everyone, but maybe, just maybe, he could have simplified the attempt in just repeating a Psalm, one in particular comes to mind (46:10) – “Be still and know that I am God…” That would have been a much safer way to demonstrate the awesome simplicity of God and how we complicate Him rather than the other way around.
4/14/2012 9:29:55 AM
Awesome, as usual, Fr. Barron.
4/14/2012 10:10:52 AM
Fr. Barron: I enjoyed your thoughtful commentary, but, in my opinion, most of what you said was attacking a straw man of your own making, and you miss the point of Sullivan's equally thoughtful essay. You suggest that Sullivan is promoting new-Ageism. No, he's not. Right at the beginning of his essay, Sullivan affirms the following: "Whether or not you believe, as I do, in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection—and in the importance of celebrating both on Easter Sunday—Jefferson’s point is crucially important. Because it was Jesus’ point. What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand? What is politics if not a dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?"
Sullivan makes it perfectly clear that, perhaps unlike Jefferson, Sullivan believes in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus. So he's not at all in league will all those straw men new age philosophers you reference. The point of Sullivan's essay is not to diminish the central importance of the Death and Resurrection. You are preaching to the (Sullivan) choir with all of your affirmations of this central tenet of Christianity and Catholicism.
The central point of Sullivan's essay was the unfortunate politicization of American Christianity. Among other things, he makes a thinly veiled critique of the American Catholic Magisterium. The type of "political" action of Jesus bore no relationship whatsoever to the current political activities of the USCCB.
I'll close with Sullivan's own conclusions:
"Jesus, like Francis, was a homeless person, as were his closest followers. He possessed nothing—and thereby everything.
I have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations, and above all its enmeshment with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God."
- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA
4/14/2012 3:33:43 PM
Edgy...I love it...besides the insight...I got this incredible deeper and more substantive understanding of Paul's "battle cry" -- I preach Christ crucified. Wow...and we Catholics "preach" the Cross, but with the Corpus still displayed...and make the Sign of the Cross in public (grace in a diner/restaurant...what an edgy group we Christians are... especially we Catholic Christians...the Crucifix and the Empty tomb...yea World, bring it on (but only if I am in God's grace and with his Holy Spirit--in His Church)!
As they say in Japan Father: domo arigato gozaimasu
4/14/2012 8:04:30 PM
woohoo! Keep up the "Good News" Father!
4/15/2012 8:54:59 AM
Brian S. Donahue
Because I love the "edgy" Jesus, I propose meditating on the following 5 "Passionate Mysteries of Christ" while praying a standard Marian Rosary (I call this a "deutero-rosary"):
1. Jesus heals on the Sabbath
2. Jesus talks with a woman at the well
3. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees
4. The cleansing of the Temple
5. The Trial before Pilate
I have gained a lot of spiritual insight from this sort of meditative prayer.
4/17/2012 2:23:54 PM
By coincidence, there's a current article in Commonweal which addresses the precise points to which Sullivan was alluding. http://commonwealmagazine.org/partisan-dangers
Here's an "executive summary" quote:
"Religious freedom “ought not to be a partisan issue,” the bishops declare. They are absolutely right. If defending religious freedom becomes a partisan issue or, worse, an electoral ploy, it will engender enormous cynicism in an electorate in which a significant majority of voters already think religion is too politicized. Unfortunately, the bishops’ statement and proposal for public action are likely to increase that possibility. This initiative is being launched during an election year in which one party has assumed the mantle of faith and charges the other with attacking religion. The bishops need to do much more to prevent their national campaign from becoming a not-very-covert rallying point for the Republican Party and its candidates. If that happens, it is the church and the cause of religious freedom that will suffer."
Now, the good folks at Commonweal are well known for their "liberal" points of view, but, like Sullivan, they are NOT "new age" philosophers, denying the cardinal tenets of Catholic teaching.
Once again, Fr. Barron's "non-threatening Jesus" homily avoided the point of Sullivan's missive, which is precisely that the promulgation and reinforcement of the cardinal tenets of Christianity are being harmed by the unprecedented stridency of entirely secular political activities of Catholic Bishops, in league with conservative evangelical Protestants.
- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA
4/18/2012 5:30:26 PM
I've just read the Andrew Sullivan article Fr Barron makes reference to, and Father was right to take issue with it. Sullivan makes some points I like...namely the importance of the contemplative life. However he seems to want to steer the discussion of human morality away from interpersonal relationships. Jesus spoke to all aspects of human life....our public lives and private selves. The Church's so called preoccupation with sexuality, marriage and family...is necessary however because of the world's obsession with the unrestrained expression of sex, the devaluing of marriage into mere sentimental union, and the undervaluing of the role of family. Removing human sexuality and lifestyle choices from the gaze of God, creates an unhappy 'duality' in thinking; feeling and behaviour which is destructive - and we see the ill effects around us. For the Church to not comment on the personal and social implications of for example, sexuality defined in purely secular terms would be abandonment of it's basic responsibility.
Interestingly I don't see a Church unable or unwilling to comment or act on on issues of say...rampant consumerism, worker exploitation or poverty....Pope Benedict constantly speaks about these matters and calls on the laity to act on it. But to join the Church in it's efforts in these areas will require a level of change in lifestyle and outlook...which many critics of the Church, are themselves often unwilling to make.
Sullivan also trots out the ...'Christ didn't comment on homosexuality or abortion'....as a reason why the Church should 'focus only on the bigger picture stuff'. But it's not hard to understand why abortion and homosexuality weren't major social issues in the predominately Jewish community Jesus was living in. But when Jesus spoke about divorce..and adultery...the underlying message of honouring commitments, acting unselfishly, and 'sitting with' personal pain, angst or worry for the sake of higher values, spoke to every personal choice and human dilemma through the ages; and still speaks!
Sullivan also makes simplistic comments on power, and how power ultimately requires violence to be effective. This is such rubbish. There is nothing wrong in having responsibility over others...or exercising domain over others. Indeed, sometimes this is necessary, especially for those who are vulnerable and in need of safeguarding and protection. What can go wrong with power...is the abuse of that authority, the removal of the notion of service and accountability, and the failure to see that all earthly power is subject to God's ultimate authority. Christ was not anti-power, but preached it's just and compassionate use. His own life was an example of how our careful use of personal power can be a source of transformation and inspiration in the lives of others. Certainly Christ was a leader. He began by inviting people to change,.....but he also directed and admonished others when necessary. Christ exercised earthly power well, and when the time came He showed that we can too take part in God's supernatural triumph over evil.
I'll say one final thing, whilst elevating the contemplative life....Sullivan makes a peculiar comment about the Church supposedly spending too much time pondering who Jesus is. He seems to forget that even Christ asked "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered well, and Jesus gave him his mission. And there in lies the merit in pondering WHO IS JESUS for us.
4/19/2012 7:28:44 PM
I am not Catholic, but I really enjoy Fr. Barron's teachings. He "hits the nail on the head" again and again.... Glory to God.
4/20/2012 5:38:59 PM
Your comments on the Sullivan article are right on, except for the Jefferson history. Thomas Jefferson owned many Bibles, belonged to a Bible society and contributed to it, gave out copies of the full traditional Bible and assisted in publishing said Bible. Jefferson compiled "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth" in 1804 for the Indians. And it contained many references to the miraculous and supernatural. This was his way of promoting Christianity among various tribes. The second compilation in 1820 was titled "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth." His purpose was to collect the major moral teachings of Jesus in a short simple collection. Jefferson was a great American father and a great proponent of Christianity. Please read David Barton's books on Jefferson.
4/23/2012 2:08:37 PM
Just as a follow-up: After having made the above comments, I received (via UPS) "Catholicism: The Journey of a Lifetime" ("The Complete Series; 5 Disc set"; CatholicismSeries.com) from a totally anonymous donor.
This was/is an extraordinarily generous gift, from my unknown benefactor. I have no was of contacting him/her, except though this blog. I simply wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation. I shall, indeed, view these and look forward to doing so.
- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA
4/27/2012 1:16:55 PM
Hey, I want one, too!
Will you share, when you're done?
4/27/2012 11:38:41 PM
Fr. Barron, at one point in this reply, you state what is probably the impetus behind Sullivan's article "God is more powerful than the powers of the world, which relied and still rely, on their capacity to cow people into submission, to frighten them."
While I'm not sure if Sullivan brings this up explicitly, these calls to defang Jesus are in my opinion a direct response to attempts by organized religion to cow people into submission. While I don't think you do, certainly many religious organizations do. Its no secret that the culture of many churches could stand to greatly improve, and I feel these common pleas to remove the religion from Jesus are based in them.
The political Jesus you mention is a far cry from the political christianity at work in America today. Jesus did not seek direct control over people, while its clear the policies espoused by many sects of Christianity do.
4/28/2012 1:29:26 AM
Larry, I enjoyed reading your defense of the article and your comments about Commonweal article. I will read both, but something you don't appear to acknowledge is the fact that one political party has made abortion rights an essential platform issue. I agree with the notion that the Republican party treats "faith" as their issue, while they pile up earthly riches in their party coffers. but it is the Democratic party that has made death and licentiousness their issues while they pile up their own earthly treasures (all the while accusing the other guys of being the greedy ones). Politically there is plenty of mud to sling, but one party claims to need God and faith, while the other appears to think it can create its own Heaven here on earth if they just abort enough babies and tolerate enough sin.
I do agree with you that the Bishops should ge out of politics. If they want free healthcare, let them call Catholics to build and staff charity hospitals. If they want immigration reform, let them call Catholics to care for the migrant worker and let them call Catholics to open their doors to the widows and orphans of the world. Leave politics to the politicians, get back to leading the faithful into lives of faith, hope and charity.
6/19/2012 12:11:17 PM
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