Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Distinction: Ethnic Cultures & Faith

The Faith always grows and spreads in a culture and with a culture. One danger is that what properly belongs to the Faith and what properly belongs to the culture may become confused. For example, now it's simply a joke that only the Catholic faith can bring together German, Polish, Italian, Irish, (etc.) people under the same roof. But all these different ethnic groups, despite their apparent Catholicity, have always been famous for their ethnic jingoism. This is also especially apparent in Eastern Europe.

People caught up in the midst of these ethnic rivalries and grudges may not realize just how St. Paul strikingly speaks against them: "There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Christ, when His relatives came asking to see Him and given a space because they were His blood kin, replied, "My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God, and do it" (Lk 8:21). A woman among the crowd cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck." And Christ responded in a way quite puzzling to those who place blood relations above everything else: "Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it" (Lk 11:28). To His Mother, this was not a rebuke but the highest compliment, for Mary heard and kept the Word of God above all others. It indicated the closest and most permanent relationship: the relationship of grace.

But when Faith develops alongside ethnic culture, these simple admonition may lose their clarity. Then actions against other ethnicities may be taken in the name of the Faith.

It isn't clear what steps must occur for there to be a collective realization that the Faith and the ethnic culture in which the Faith develops are separate principles. In America, perhaps the pluralism and secularism have allowed for this realization to occur at least among those who pay attention to such matters. Perhaps it requires a culture in which multiple ethnicities are accorded equal dignity or at least the attempt is made to do such.

Nevertheless, it remains that in Christ, the only relation that matters is that of grace. There are those in Christ and those who aren't. Hence Christ also warned:

Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And as a man's enemies shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. (Mt 10:34-37)

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