A Discourse on Particular Perspectives in Christian Ethics

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To give you some background on why it is that I am writing this, I am a Catholic neophyte, brought up in a Protestant household, and converted over time, beginning when I was about 15. During my conversion, I believe I was called to priesthood, and am now in the process of earning my BA in Religious Studies at the University of the Incarnate Word, a university which, unfortunately, has become only nominally Catholic in identity. Recently, my professor in Christian Ethics assigned a video of a sermon at a Black church which came out following the Trayvon Martin case in addition to a reading from Miguel De La Torre’s Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins on what it means to do ethics from the margins, and how and why we should. Regardless of my feelings on the Martin case, it needs to be stated that both the author and the pastor have their ethics compiled in a manner inconsistent with what the Bible says. In fact, while the author is at least on the right track, the pastor seems to have completely followed the wrong path.

Here’s what I mean, in De La Torre’s book, he makes a commentary on the superiority of theologizing in Christianity from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed giving them preferential treatment, which basically only reverses the roles of oppressed and oppressor. Conversely, the pastor, Howard John-Wesley, focuses on his skin color and the perceived slight (whether real or imagined) of the “Not Guilty” verdict of the case and equates this to the Passion of the Lord. How he gets from point A there to point B is beyond me, because he never reveals that in his sermon, save to say that African-Americans, like Simon of Cyrene, must now carry the cross with Christ. However, this is beside the point that both De La Torre and John-Wesley have completely missed the meaning of the Incarnation and Triduum.

When Jesus entered the world as the Word Incarnate (cf. Jn 1:14), and then entered willingly into His Passion after His ministry and the Agony in the Garden, each stripe, every blow, every minute of pain was the Christ taking each and every sin from then to eternity, from every corner of the world, and placing it all on his back. We Christians call Him the Lamb because, in parallel to the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac (Gn 22:1-18), he was God Incarnate, sacrificed to expiate all the sin of all the world into perpetuity. It was His precious blood that was wiped across the altar of the Lord, blotting out every sin. Now, because we have been liberated from sin, and all of humanity has been entered into the Covenant with Christ on voluntary basis, there is, as St. Paul of Tarsus says in Galatians 4:28, “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Were Paul writing today, he would probably include race. In short explication, in Christ, we no longer exist as ourselves, we only exist in Christ, who lives in, with, and through us. Therefore, to presuppose any sort of racial/social construct at this time, after the great expiation of the Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection and Ascension is erroneous and foreign to the Christian Ethic, which is why when the early Christian scholars began writing, they tended to take a perspective of “both/and”. Or, because there is no identity within Christ, except that with Christ Himself, who is the personification of Divine Love, there can be no extremes, save the distinction between what is within or what is without Christ; therefore, anything and everything must be taken whole.

It should be noted that what I am saying here is not that if you are Christian, anything goes. Far to the contrary, what I am saying is that to be in Christ is to obliterate any and all worldly distinctions. I am not a mixed Irish-German-Welsh-Chickasaw-Cherokee-American from San Antonio, Texas, which grew up in a middle-middle class family in rural South Texas. In Christ, I am Jonathan (Andrew) George, a member of the Body of Christ. I am on equal footing with anyone and everyone else, and THAT is exactly what the Rev. Dr. Howard John-Wesley, and Miguel De La Torre seem to have missed. When we theologize, it should not be from the point of view of any group, in particular, including our own. When we theologize, it should be from the perspective of Christ, who sees everything devoid of detail, though He knows what the detail is. In analogy, we aren’t composing our ethical outlook from the perspective of either of two distinct pastels, rather it is to be composed from the area where they are blended, where neither has identity or preeminence.