As the debate continues over the A&E networks' punitive decision to suspend Phil Robertson indefinitely, because he openly professed his evangelical protestant faith in a magazine interview, I want to focus for a moment on a problem in my own Church - and among some of my fellow Catholics. I will use an example from a recent interview which Fox News mega personality Bill O'Reilly had with radio personality Laura Ingraham on Thursday, December 19, 2013.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Lest I be accused of being 'judgmental' or 'intolerant' by the words I used in the last part of my title of this article, I will begin with proper attribution. "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ" was a phrase written by a fifth century monk and bible scholar, a man acknowledged as a Saint in the Catholic Church, St. Jerome.
In fact, the phrase has become one of the favorite quotes used by the Catholic Church in her continual efforts to encourage the Catholic faithful to not only listen to the Bible at Sunday Mass - but to read, pray with it and come to know the written Word of God, in order to be changed in the encounter with the Living Word to whom it points, Jesus Christ .
For example, in Article III of the Catholic Catechism, entitled "Sacred Scripture" the famous saying of St Jerome is quoted: The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.(CCC#133) " The footnote in the text references St Jerome, as well as the beautiful document of the Second Vatican Council on the Scripture as the Word of God (Dei Verbum).
I think the United States could benefit from the kind of debate which the Duck Dynasty controversy has prompted, if it leads us all to a serious soul searching. The issues raised by the incident have deep importance for our future as a free people. I weighed in on it the day the news broke. You can read my thoughts here. Duck Dynasty and the GQ Interview of Phil Robertson: Rejecting Political Correctness.
However, as the debate continues over the A&E networks' punitive decision to suspend Phil Robertson indefinitely, because he openly professed his evangelical protestant faith in a magazine interview, I want to focus for a moment on a problem in my own Church - and among some of my fellow Catholics. I will use an example from a recent interview which Fox News mega personality Bill O'Reilly had with radio personality Laura Ingraham on Thursday, December 19, 2013.
Both of them are Catholics. In discussing the most quoted portion of the GQ interview, the part which caused offense to some homosexual activists, Phil Robertson used these words: Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won't inherit the kingdom of God.
In his comments, Bill O'Reilly paraphrased the words of Jesus, taken from the Gospel of Luke judge not lest you be judged. (Luke 6:37) He then "opined" - as he says - and offered his thoughts on the controversy. He made that facial expression which he often demonstrates when, to use an old expression, he feels "sure of himself".
He insisted that when Phil Robertson made the comment concerning the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers... he was violating the Bibles admonition against judgment. You could tell by the expression on his face that he thought he was being profound.
Laura Ingraham seemed a bit taken aback. Obviously she knows the Bible better than Bill O'Reilly does. She tried to steer the interview toward a critique of the intolerance which so often masquerades as tolerance these days. Her comments were truly insightful. However, Bill O'Reilly kept coming back, apparently thinking his own insight was much more important than hers.
It was an awkward moment. Laura Ingraham attempted to spare Bill embarrassment by saying something like, I think Phil was quoting Corinthians Bill. In other words, she tried to give Bill a clue, that Phil Robertson was quoting the Bible! However, Bill O'Reilly did not hear her. He was so enamored with his own take on the matter that he seemed to pay no attention.
Watching the awkward interplay between the two, I came to the conclusion that Bill O'Reilly simply did not realize that the words quoted by Phil Robertson were actually in the Bible - and not made up by Phil Robertson. So, in effect, Bill O'Reilly and A&E Network simply do not like St. Paul's words to the Christians in Corinth. They do not like what the Bible says.
That leads me to the second part of my title for this article, Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. Phil Robertson was quoting the same Bible which Bill O'Reilly hears at Mass - and is supposed to be very familiar with. It appears that Bill O'Reilly was simply ignorant of scripture.
In the GQ interview which O'Reilly was purporting to discuss with Laura Ingraham, Phil Robertson continued his conversation with the interviewer: If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead-yours and mine and everybody else's problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: 'You are now a brother. Our brother.' So then we look at you totally different then."
The interviewer made this observation: Despite his beliefs, the 67-year-old says he doesn't judge others. "We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job," Robertson told GQ. "We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus - whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later." Thus, O'Reilly was not only misguided in his analysis of the words which Robertson used, he was wrong in his claim that Phil Robertson was deciding anyone's eternal destiny.
I love being a Catholic Christian. I am what is often called a revert - a person who came back to the Catholic Church. I can relate to some of what Phil Robertson so freely shares about his own Christian conversion. I followed a wayward path, wandering away from that the faith as a younger man. My journey back to placing my faith in Jesus Christ led me home to the Catholic Church into which I had been baptized as a child.
That journey home came, in part, by my falling in love with the Bible. My hunger to understand it more fully led me to a discovery of the early Fathers of the Church. Over time, I questioned my way back into the Church of my childhood. I have since spent years in theological study but I embrace what the Catechism also affirms in the same passage I quoted above:
Such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life." Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful." Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture." (CCC#131,132)
In the whole Catholic Church we are now committed to what Blessed John Paul II called the New Evangelization. The phrase refers to the need to work with Catholics in the pews, helping them to grow in their faith. To fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ by encountering Him in prayer, receive His grace in the Sacraments and, yes, hear His word as it comes to us in the Bible.
That requires noting something of real importance, too many Catholics are unfamiliar with the Bible. The Catholic Church is dedicated, as a vital part of helping them become well informed in their faith, to helping them develop a familiarity with the Bible, the kind of knowledge which comes by more than simply hearing it at Mass on Sunday.
I conclude with a quote from that Bible, the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version. They are words written by the Apostle Paul. I offer them to my fellow Catholic Bill O'Reilly, just in case he reads this article:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. (1 Cor. 6: 9-11, 18)
Phil Robertson should not have been suspended by the A&E Network for being a Christian who knows the Bible, believes in it - and is willing and able to actually quote it in a freewheeling magazine interview. He should be affirmed for doing so by all who share the name Christian along with him, no matter which Christian tradition or Church within which they live out that relationship with the Lord. That includes Catholics, like me - and yes, Bill O'Reilly.
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