A Pastoral Response to The Issues of today’s Climate or Extremism
“Love Your Enemies and Bless Those Who Persecute You”
A few weeks ago, I was asked by Fr. Chris to offer a Forum addressing an Introduction to Anglican and Episcopal Church history. I was thrilled to do it as teaching is one of my passions. As I prepare to enter a new phase of my life, joining you in the pews and retiring from my staff position at St Bart’s, facilitating that Forum on May 14 started me thinking about our Church in the world today. Here are some thoughts I want to share with you.
It seems like every week there is a new major controversy taking place within our country. Most of the time, the situation revolves around one group of people disagreeing with another and then taking to the internet and media to write slanderous posts about the other.
Whether it be White House leaks, misstatements or just poor judgement; there seems to be no end to poor judgement on many fronts. This seems to me not about difference views on polity, such as health care or taxes, but a genuine contempt, yes I said contempt, for the other side of the aisle.
The goal is to defeat those with whom we disagree with politically and socially by painting them as soul-less monsters.
That response is absolutely contrary to the way of Jesus. Jesus calls his followers to love the people they disagree with most and to speak blessings over them when all we really want to do is curse them. No matter what the situation is or what kind of enemy we have, Christians are called to bless the people who hurt us the most. This includes theological battles, political disagreements, national wars, and personal conflicts. We Christians are called to a radical position of nonviolence, forgiveness, grace, and even blessing of our enemies. There is no way around it. And when Christians chose to ignore these clear teachings, our hypocrisy is glaringly obvious to the watching world.
The point of this missive is to encourage those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus to reexamine how we are living our lives and practicing our faith. It is easy to get caught up in the flow that we fail to recognize just how far away from shore we have been carried. The words of Jesus are pretty darn clear, but oftentimes in our zealousness for our faith, we get pulled away from the basics and eventually end up living in a way that we believe is honoring to God, but is actually contradictory to everything Jesus has taught us.
Hundreds of teachings contained in the Gospels that, if we obeyed, would absolutely flip our lives and turn the world upside down both for the glory of God and the good of all people.
What is desperately needed today is a return to the plain teachings of Jesus. We need to set aside our political debates and meanderings for a season. Focus on simply reading, conforming, and obeying to the will of Christ, both as revealed in Scripture and led by his Spirit.
My prayer is that we would all turn our faces towards our risen Savior and seek to selflessly follow his commands. I am convinced that the Jesus’ way is the only way that will heal our broken world and country. I am convinced that the whole nation is groaning as it waits for men and women to take up their crosses and follow in the way of redemption, forgiveness, and prayer.
I am convinced that when those of us who call ourselves “Christian” re-orient ourselves in Jesus, the power of God will flow through us in an unprecedented and miraculous way that will bring salvation to the ends of the earth. How do we achieve this? I believe we achieve this by following the Middle way of the Anglican and Episcopal Church. A way we call Via Media.
Via Media celebrates who we are as Episcopal Anglicans and invites others to "come and see," offering seekers both the content and the context for conversations about Christian faith and the world from an unabashedly Anglican perspective.
Via Media invites those seeking spiritual community to explore Anglican Christianity through a non-threatening course of study, prayer and conversation surrounded by radical hospitality.
Latin phrase translated as "middle way" or the "way between two extremes." It is from the philosophy of Aristotle. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he found the virtues such as justice and courage to be the middle way between the extremes of either side. "Courage" was thus the via media between foolhardiness and cowardice.
The via media came into religious usage practice but without submission to papal authority. Uniformity of worship was required, but considerable latitude was allowed for individual conscience. Richard Hooker was the great apologist for the Elizabethan Settlement against both Puritanism and Roman Catholicism. Then Anglicans began to refer to the Church of England as a middle way between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Puritanism. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the via media of the Elizabethan Settlement established the virtues such as justice and courage to be the middle way between the extremes of either side.
Via Media is often misunderstood in a negative way to mean compromise or unwillingness to take a firm position. However, for Aristotle and those Episcopalians like me who have used it, the term refers to the "golden mean" which is recognized as a more adequate expression of truth between the weaknesses of extreme positions.
I believe the Anglican way of Via Media can provide some sanity today and is badly needed.
~The Rev. Bill Zettinger
The views expressed in this paper are my own and are not the provence of St. Bartholomews Episcopal Church, other clergy or, the vestry or membership.