Andrzej Kostelic, Vice

As Catholics, we can acknowledge that yes, the crucifix on a Christmas tree and Nativity scenes in public schools are contrary to Catholic teaching. Nor should we be overly willing to accept the wholehearted,…

Andrzej Kostelic, Vice

As Catholics, we can acknowledge that yes, the crucifix on a Christmas tree and Nativity scenes in public schools are contrary to Catholic teaching. Nor should we be overly willing to accept the wholehearted, wholehearted declaration from my fellow bishops who call this a “moment of grace” and call for a religious right that you won’t see in the context of the Mass, but they want.

The truth is that we must recognize the bishops, however, are not God or have ever been God. When Pope Francis himself recognized that climate change was a real crisis with grave implications for our common home, he called on us to create a world of justice and peace. A world where a basic Christian identity could be lived in every corner of the earth, including a world where there was a real measure of equality for everyone, of wholeness for everyone.

Because I love my sisters and brothers in other religions and cultures and value the difference, I am thankful that my own Church is a land of acceptance of that diversity. No matter what you believe, we are made in the image of God. That’s a bond we need to affirm and protect. And we must be able to admit that God is not monolithic and may not call everyone to worship the same God.

What is true and must be true is that Christmas is a day of giving. We cannot ignore that. That meaning is not exclusive to Christians; it’s in fact universal. That becomes particularly significant in the current context when some of us are troubled by what our evangelical brother brothers and sisters — who are grateful for our religious freedom — and especially those of us who criticize them for authoritarianism and authoritarianism say about our religious freedom.

First, some of these Evangelicals don’t understand the freedom we’re talking about. Freedom from oppression or freedom to live a life of solitude in which we are able to choose our beliefs. But freedom from the strength of the state and the state’s authority. To quote author C.S. Lewis, it’s as though people suddenly thought that they could throw off the yoke of “‘social’ or state punishment, so as to bring about the creation of a world in which no individual was obliged to obey their authority or obey them in principle, and to life in a world in which justice prevailed and the group’s interests were sometimes identified with the individuals’ own interests.”

The Church understands this and we are deeply troubled about the current Trump administration. In a recent statement, Pope Francis spoke of “powerful” state powers that create “what Philip Luther called a deathly fear of society.” Religious freedom cannot simply be another card when when one plays chess or in a “great game,” as Pope Francis has said. The Church knows that when one puts a believer under the enormous weight of the state, that believer is the one who loses more than the believer that’s left. It’s true that we are all seeking religious freedom. But we have different conceptions of that freedom. Some Christians are indifferent to it. We need to promote what might be called “social” religious freedom — freedom from economic exploitation and the pressures to forsake the vulnerable and oppressed on behalf of wealth and power.

This isn’t revolutionary. It’s just a different vision of religious freedom that unites us in common care. It’s a vision that defines Christian commitment in community as diverse as we are, including Baptists, Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, Jews, Sikhs, and others.

Catholic teachers need to demonstrate the identity of their Catholic faith and represent the social gospel and not the social gospel just because the institution that calls them to that ministry calls them to that ministry.

We know Christmas is not just a day of giving gifts to the kiddos, a day of the largest gift exchange in the world or a day to don red stockings to “gear up” for The Merry Olde England Christmas (pronounced “Dieintyondgeldwoirth”), to “warm up” for the football game with Morris dancing, to fill up on turkey and plum pudding, or to go skating with the glee of orphans on Christmas Eve. It’s a day to proclaim the dignity of every human being, to answer the call of our Lord to “make disciples of all nations” — a call that has been our calling from the beginning, that’s now part of our identity, that’s indelibly

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