Christian Confusion

     A friend once told me that to be a good Christian you have to hate a lot of people. Archbishop Raymond Burke took that philosophy to a new level during his leadership of the St. Louis Archdiocese from 2003 to 2008. His tenure was littered with controversy that divided many area Catholics until his appointment to Rome in June.
     Thankfully the last of Burke’s enduring controversies came to a close Thursday in St. Louis City Court – the battle over St. Stanislaus Kostka’s multi-million dollar assets. In what many believed to be nothing more than a greedy land grab, Burke led the charge to gain control of the historic church’s money. He removed priests and excommunicated board members in an unsuccessful attempt.
     After Burke’s appointment to Rome in June, cooler heads prevailed. The Archdiocese agreed to allow St. Stanislaus to continue control over its assets and in return both sides agreed to drop pending litigation over the matter.
     Jesus denounced material wealth and spoke of great riches in heaven for following Him and His Father. Burke failed to understand that God didn’t need St. Stanislaus’ money.
     It was just one of many actions by Burke than many Catholics and Christians believe fly in the face of the biblical teachings he is supposed to uphold.
     During the 2004 election, Burke stated that Presidential Candidate John Kerry and other politicians who support abortion rights should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Burke based the statement on Catholic Canon Law, which states that ministers of Holy Communion should not offer the Eucharist to people who publicly persist in some serious sin.
     So just what is a serious sin? Burke would have you believe abortion is, but the Bible never makes a distinction. The Bible says sin is sin, that a lie is treated the same as murder in God’s eyes. The only sin that is greater than the rest is grieving the Holy Spirit, which some interpret as the rejection of God and his son, Jesus Christ. Shouldn’t an Archbishop know this?
     In 2007, Burke stepped down as chair of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital’s board of directors after the hospital confirmed that it would have singer Sheryl Crow, a pro-choice advocate, perform at a benefit concert. And most recently, Burke said he would deny St. Louis University Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Majerus communion and urged the university to discipline Majerus after the coach publicly advocated abortion rights and stem cell research while attending a rally for Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton.
     None of these people are grieving the Holy Spirit, at least publicly. But Burke, by speaking out against them is involved in character assassination, which is a sin. So if a sin is a sin, Burke is just as guilty as those he attacks.
     Jesus turned no one away. He invited the most wretched sinners to his table and acted as a servant to them.
     Instead of being like Jesus, Burke has acted more like the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. The Pharisees abused their positions of power, took advantage of their congregations and had a “holier than thou” attitude.
     The Pharisees missed Jesus’ message, rejected him and ultimately had him crucified.
     There is a war going on against Christianity, and we Christians are our own worst enemy. We stand divided instead of united.
      Most of this country’s citizenship is of Christian faith, yet we remain silent while a vocal minority imposes its will limiting Christmas and Easter celebrations. We are quiet when Oprah Winfrey publicly denounces Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation on her show. What would the Muslim community do if she had made reckless comments about the prophet Muhammad?
      Burke’s actions, though well-intentioned, negatively affect Christianity as a whole. We can’t allow church leaders, no matter the denomination, to deny holy sacraments because congregation members refuse to go along with their personal motivations.
      This hypocrisy is what drove my wife and me from the Catholic Church. Thankfully we landed in a non-denominational church where our faith continues to grow. We realize that we are all sinners, saved only through accepting God’s amazing grace.
      The Catholics are not the only ones who are guilty of letting politics get in the way of Jesus’ message. There are Baptists, Presbyterians and members of every other Christian faith who feel separated or disenfranchised by similar actions. Aside from the afterlife implications of such a separation, these people live with a God-shape hole in their lives that may never be filled.
      Every sect of Christianity makes fun of the other through false stereotypes. Baptists don’t sing, dance or have any fun . . . Catholics do nothing but drink, pray to saints and wallow in guilt . . . Non-Denominational Christians are cult members. These gossipy stereotypes divide instead of unite and cloud Jesus’ message.
      When more and more Christians are staying away from churches on Sundays because they can’t relate to a faith that says one thing and does the other, then how are people who are undecided about God supposed to embrace it? We are all guilty and we all need to do a better job of loving, not hating.
      Jesus hates the sin, not the sinner. We cannot let our church leadership, or ourselves, get in the way of Jesus’ message of love and acceptance. I’m as guilty as Burke in one way or the other, because we’re all sinners. But we cannot stop growing and let our sin warp our view of Christianity.
      We all worship the same God. It doesn’t matter how we get there, but it does matter that we stand together.
      It’s time to ask ourselves, what would Jesus do?

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