Only Jews Know
Regarding Bruce M. Bogins letter (Sept. 1993) agreeing with John Warwick Montgomerys column, When Is a Jew Not a Jew? (June 1993) that, in Bogins words, any Jew [should have] the right to believe in the Messiahship of Jesus and to remain a Jew [in the eyes of Israeli law]: I disagree.
The question of who is a Jew should be left to the Jews themselves. After 2,000 years of history, mostly tragic and full of suffering at the hands of Christians, only Jews should judge whom they want to recognize as a Jew. Moreover, Jews have had very bad experiences with converts: Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews were forced into apostasy, and renegade Jews were used to torment Jews. This torment often took the form of rigged disputations in which the converts put forth trumped up charges against Judaism, while the Jewish partners in the disputations were not allowed to defend themselves. Forced conversions would then be imposed.
In modern times, when six million Jews have been massacred in Christian lands, it would be the height of wickedness for Christians also to force renegade Jews on us, many of whom are intent on proselytizing among the Jews. Do Christians really want to eradicate Jews entirely? Do they have to complete the job of Hitler?
Israel is living proof of the divine selection of the Jews, and their return to their own soil vindicates all the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible. The Christian world, especially the Vatican, will sooner or later have to make peace with this fact. While Christians expect Jews to forget and forgive 2,000 years of unspeakable crimes and atrocities against Jews, Christians themselves have not forgotten what happened 2,000 years ago to one Jew, at the hands of the Romans. Renegade Jews are totally misled and confused: You cannot be a Jew and recognize someone in whose name such crimes were committed. The Supreme Court of Israel has the right and duty to follow Jewish law on this, which is crystal clear: A renegade Jew is no longer a Jew, just as someone who believes in the overthrow of the American government or who was a member of the SS cannot ever become an American citizen.
Christians should learn to be tolerant of others religion. It is a rule in Jewish law to respect others religion, but not to allow their intermingling.
Manfred R. Lehmann
Miami Beach, Florida
Ed. Note: Just for the record: Bruce Bogin is a Jew (not a Jewish-Christian, but a Jew).
We Deserve Better
What a pleasure it was to read the perceptive article by Fr. Bernard D. Green, Tremors in the Foundation of the U.S. Catholic Church (Oct. 1993). However, it doesnt take an erudite observer like Fr. Green to see what is taking place in the U.S. Catholic Church. In trying to be all things to all Catholics, the Church has inadvertently brought upon itself the current situation: licentious priests, congregations ignorant of Church history, the outright disregard for the reverence due Christ in His house, churches that look like auditoriums, the collapse of ecclesiastical dress and manner, etc.
But I guess I can see how difficult it must be for a religious institution to satisfy an increasingly materialistic and indifferent people, not to mention to get its flock to encounter the grace of God through the eyes of faith.
Yet, we Catholics do not deserve what our Church is allowing to happen.
Middle Village, New York
Regarding the October 1993 NOR: I was, as a political scientist, intrigued by Jean Bethke Elshtains article Salvaging Patriotism from the Narrow Nationalist and, as an Anglican, interested in Brian Barbours review of The Panther and the Hind. Both are good treatments, but I feel both miss important points.
Elshtains statement that the overriding political passion of our time is nationalism perhaps needs some qualification. Certainly the force of nationalism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union surprised us all, and the apparent religious fervor of East German Protestants and Polish Catholics may have lessened once their nationalistic goals had been achieved. I would submit, however, that the first loyalty of Protestant fundamentalists in the Americas and Islamic ones in the Middle East, central Asia, and north Africa is such as to override any nationalistic instincts they might have. Also, for much of black Africa, it appears that tribalism, rather than nationalism in the Western sense, is the first loyalty. In fact, dominant or would-be dominant tribes have attempted to use the structure of the nation-state, once it was vacated by the colonial power, as a vehicle with which to dominate rival and usually weaker tribes.
The review of Panther and the Hind also missed something. Present-day Anglicanism, in spite of Hookers invention (Barbours term, not mine) in the 1590s, claims to have no distinctive dogmas of its own, but to put forth merely the belief of the early and relatively undivided Church. It is in this context that the lack of interpretive authority, noted in the review, becomes so serious: What is the cutoff date for this authoritative period, and what beliefs were considered essential during that time? The end result is that in practice there is no agreement within Anglicanism on what the basic minimum is for Christian (and, therefore, Anglican) orthodoxy. Worst of all, some of the more extreme relativists within the Anglican Communion are not even concerned about the question, considering it irrelevant.
Fido & Me in Donkey Heaven
Regarding John Warwick Montgomerys inability to say whether animals can go to Heaven (Fido in Heaven? Oct. 1993): Chimpanzees have 98 percent of the genetic stuff that current humans have. Where, and on what rational basis, does one draw the line between creatures with a spirit life and those without? If dolphins in the Seaquarium have more brains per body weight than do Dolphins in the Orange Bowl, why the put-down on aqua-life?
One tale out of Genesis that I buy completely is original sin. Man is cursed. In an old Star Trek episode, the Alien says to Captain Kirk, The human is one of the few species in the universe that preys on its own kind; it truly is a vicious, cruel species. A hundred years ago Francis Jammes wrote a prayer poem asking to be sent to Donkey Heaven in place of Human Heaven. Donkeys, dogs, and dolphins sounds like heavenly fun to me. Would listening to some blowhard lawyer from London (Montgomery) for all eternity be Paradise for you?
Cresskill, New Jersey
Orthodox Catholics: Poor & Ignorant
As a former Catholic, I found Mark Lowerys article Why Catholic Orthodoxy Is Not Catholic Fundamentalism (Sept. 1993) interesting. He is quite right that many self-declared progressive Catholics have fallen outside legitimate boundaries of Catholic belief.
Human beings have an innate desire for certitude regarding God. On a gut level we sense that we perceive spiritual truths through something of a haze. The human species must endure the ambiguity. Most traditional Catholics are merely high-church Anglicans who feel comfortable within their theological surroundings. Their milieu fits like a warm protective glove. Their minimal financial wherewithal and lifestyle allow them to envelop themselves in a cocoon protecting them from the tensions the majority of us grudgingly accept. Their intellectual pursuits are usually narrowly focused. There are more things in heaven, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Aye, also in your religion, dear Prince of Denmark.
Catholic Fundamentalism? So Be It!
I found Mark Lowerys article Why Catholic Orthodoxy Is Not Catholic Fundamentalism (Sept. 1993) interesting, but he left out some important facts about those Catholics who appear to be taking on an image of fundamentalism.
If some Catholics seemingly slide into what is perceived by others as fundamentalism, it is only because of the magnitude of their zeal to defend Catholic orthodoxy. If that zeal is somewhat faulty, that should not distract from the legitimacy of the concerns of Catholics over the loss or watering down of Catholic orthodoxy as exhibited in the changes made in the name of the spirit of Vatican II.
Church leadership today has dramatically deviated from many pre-Vatican II Church teachings, and I dont mean customs, such as how long the tassels of a cardinals robe should be. I am referring to basic Church teachings up to Vatican II. If some Catholics raise the question of orthodoxy within the Churchs leadership, it should be answered not with accusations of fundamentalism, but instead with truth to the contrary, which has never been done. The answers given are usually a rigid defense of Vatican II changes, the very same things that have created the attack on Catholic orthodoxy. This is usually followed by a severe rebuke for questioning Church leadership in the first place.
A good example why some Catholics legitimately question the orthodoxy of present-day Church leadership is the changes in the Churchs liturgies, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The new liturgy of the Mass completely reverses the fundamental teachings of the Church as clearly written in the decrees of the Council of Trent and its catechism that followed just to appease Protestant theology. In fact, the changes in the Mass have so masterfully appeased Protestant theology that Protestants actually now use the new Mass liturgy without any qualms of Protestant conscience, which certainly is a fitting tribute to the legitimacy of questioning the orthodoxy of present-day Church leadership, from top to bottom, in adopting such changes. If reaction to such changes results in some Catholics sliding into Catholic fundamentalism, so be it! The basic questions remain: Why the changes, and under whose rightful authority do we accommodate Protestant theology at the expense of Catholic theology?
There is nothing wrong with changes in the Church. They can actually be a sign of vitality. However, the Vatican II changes represent not mere changes or reforms, as has happened occasionally in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church, but complete substitutions; they represent a new ecclesiology.
It certainly is strange that while Catholic leadership, from top to bottom since Vatican II, has bent over backward trying to please Protestants with all kinds of changes, the Protestants have not moved one inch in their position. They have not even said one Hail Mary! The reason is obvious. They cant without compromising their Protestant faith. They still really believe in their theology a sincerity and honesty somewhat lacking in our present-day Catholic leadership.
What precisely was wrong with the pre-Vatican II Church? All seminaries were full; parish churches and schools were full; priests and religious leaving their calling were very few in number; lay contributions to Church activities were high; and past council decrees and papal teachings were given a place of honor throughout the Catholic world.
William J. Holdorf
Not the 'Type'
I must take exception to Dale Vrees offensive caricature of religious pacifists in his review of Gordon Zahns Vocation of Peace (Oct. 1993). Pardon me, but I dont know the type at all. Perhaps the Catholic Church abounds in such abominations as he describes, but permit me to draw attention to the fact that there are whole churches of religious pacifists which practice a biblically consistent Christian nonresistance of the type which, apparently, Zahn represents. I refer, of course, to the churches of the Anabaptist tradition: Amish, Hutterite, and Mennonite. If Vree would care to meet religious pacifists who oppose all wars, including the one against the unborn, and who uphold a biblical standard of sexual morality, we would be very glad to welcome him at one of our communities.
Paul C. Fox
Spring Valley Bruderhof
DALE VREE REPLIES:
Point well taken. My apologies. Still, if youd spend time, as have I, among the most vocal, visible, and influential grouping of religious pacifists in the U.S., the Quakers, youd probably find yourself coming to know the type quite well. But not to pick on the Quakers yes, youll find the type in the Catholic Church, though it would be an exaggeration to say the Church abounds with the type.