Catholicism is a term coined from the Greek adjective Katholikos, which simply means universal. Catholic was first used by St. Ignatius of Loyola about 107 D.C in a letter to Smyraeans (McBrien71). Catholicism has unique but specific religious and liturgical attitudes and practices. Since the reformation, the term has been used or applied in opposing the Protestants.
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What is emphasized in Catholicism is the universalism and orthodox of the Christian faith. St Cyril of Jerusalem describes the universal Church as “Catholic” because it exists all over the world. Besides, Catholic teaching centers on universality and doctrines that form part of human knowledge. The universality of Catholicism is ingrained in individuals’ faith because of its practices such as; being a true religion for all statues of people, rulers, and subjects.
The Word “Catholic” became controversial after the East-West schism of the 11th century and the reformation period during the 16th century. The West demanded itself the title “Catholic Church” whereas the East, which had a strong relationship attached to communion with Rome, seized the “Holly Orthodox Church”. After Reformation, those who had communion with Rome retained the term catholic whereas the splinter group was referred to as Protestants. However, modern theologians suggest that Catholics relate to all Christians. The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 expanded the concept of Catholicity to include churches outside the mainstream Catholic Church (McBrien 4).
McBrien has elucidated well on the use of the word catholic. I am personally convinced that Christians should be united as one. I am also convinced that the church at the chore is one save for differences due to different traditions. What the leaders of the church in our world of today ought to do is to seek ways of going beyond these traditions to embrace the oneness in faith. This cannot be done as a matter of compromise but as a matter of humble acceptance of the truth.
Ada Maria Isasi and Diaz Enlaluncha
Enlaluncha (87) looks into human solidarity as a calling to which all Christians have to respond. In current or common usage, solidarity is used with nuances to the effect that it is a temporal consideration. One is in solidarity at some point and can choose to withdraw solidarity at any time. True solidarity is anchored on shared responsibilities and interests as opposed to mere empathizing (Enlaluncha 89). Solidarity is anchored on true love for mankind or the world at large.
The people most in need of solidarity are exploited many. Through solidarity with such people, the world is healed of alienation. Solidarity is not based on pity but rather on belief in the soundness of the interests of others. Therefore, at the heart of solidarity is mutuality or mutual concern (Enlaluncha 93). If the oppressed in the world are to find liberation, then they have to find strength in their numbers and struggle together for their liberation. The easiest way of achieving dealing with oppression in the world is getting the oppressors to appreciate the benefits of solidarity with the oppressed (Enlaluncha 97).
Enlaluncha is right about solidarity as the sure way towards empowering the oppressed. Those who seek justice for the oppressed should not do it merely out of pity but out of profound identification with the interests and responsibility of the oppressed. Concern for mutuality should guide all solidarity endeavors.
Christ, P. Carol. Rethinking Theology and Nature
Christ (309) asserts that ecological problems are at the root spiritual. It is often assumed that industrialization, social and political decisions that determine human activities are the due cause of environmental degradation. However, all human activities are dependent on a realm deeper than many are willing to imagine or face; the spiritual selves.
As traditional theologians, philosophers and poets have shown, man is one with the earth and all that is in nature. The idea that reasoning and morals will mean man is superior to nature is misguided. In an actual sense, being rational and moral is a natural disposition; meaning that we belong to nature and we are one with nature. Quoting Susan Griffin, Christ’s article shows clearly that nature has a deeper intrinsic value that many trivialize through the separation of man and nature; dualism.
Although Christ (316) notes that Kaufmann’s conception differs from Griffin’s conception, they both make sense. Human ability to transcend nature and even self to detachedly look at everything does not translate into our lacking incapacity to feel as one with other beings in nature. Women in society are looked at as a rank lower than men. The dualistic theology of the west tends towards treating the female human beings kind of as less human or not as human as men. Man sets himself apart from other being through social choices. In their struggle to attain rational purity by way of pure reason, western theologians and philosophers minimize anything to do with intuition and our senses or feelings.
I agree with sentiments in the reading to the effect that human beings are neither superior nor different from nature. I am personally convinced that even though a dog may not be as rational as humans are, it has its superior capacities that humans can only imitate. I am also convinced that environmental degradation will reduce if spiritual misconceptions based on dualism were responded to.
Ackerman, Denise, and Joyner Tahira. Earth Healing in South Africa: Challenges to Church and Mosque
. It is argued by Ackerman and Joyner that social disparities and environmental degradation were augmented through the classist way of thinking and patriarchal attitudes. The church can be very instrumental in driving environmental awareness. It is noted that the majority of South Africans i.e. “over seventy-five percent are Christian” (Ackermann and Joyner 124). It follows, therefore, that if the church can be engaged in environmental conservation and preservations, a lot of gains will be registered.
The church in South Africa has for long identified with the paupers. However, many tend to think paupers have no contribution to conservation and preservation. For instance, one would wonder how paupers would be interested in preserving a forest rather than plundering the same for firewood and charcoal. Ackermann and Joyner (127), note that lack of participation in conservation has to do with a lack of awareness in terms of God’s will. If people can be helped to appreciate that environmental conservation is not only good for human survival but is one way of serving God, they will take to it with all their hearts. Muslims are not different from Christians in terms of their attitudes towards their environment.
Just like Christians, there is male dominion in Islam as well. Further, people have not come to appreciate that the environment belongs to God. Ackermann and Joyner (131) note that it is only a change in consciousness that can help towards environmental conservation and preservation. Apart from a general shift in consciousness, women have an important role to play in conservation. Women suffer most due to environmental degradation and they have to be incorporated in conservation efforts (Ackermann and Joyner 132).
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Ackermann and Joyner have a great case. It is true that in Africa the church is very strong and powerful. People are deeply religious and the majority are Christians. It would follow that around churches, mobilization towards a greener world would work. Moreover, change in consciousness and spirituality can go a long way in making a difference. Women are important in dealing with environmental degradation. However, due to patriarchal structures, they are dominated seriously.
Borg Marcus. The Heart of Christianity; Salvation
Borg (172) points out that one of the worst contributions of Christianity to religion is over-emphasis on the afterlife. One of the reasons why it is wrong to emphasize the afterlife is that people are pre-occupied with the next world rather than using their capacity to care for and transform mother earth. Borg (172) argues that the over-emphasis on the next life is unbiblical. To illustrate that salvation is in this world and thus individuals should face this world with appreciation, Borg (173) refers to Jesus’ life here on earth.
Jesus in his teachings and actions was keener on how best humanity can live in this world. He teaches his followers how to be each other’s keeper in this world. Moreover, Borg (174) points out in the gospels e.g. the gospel of John, use the phrase everlasting life as opposed to the afterlife. This is indicative of fact that the desired kind of life begins in this world and is not necessarily a preserve of the next world.
I am persuaded by Borg that salvation as popularly known is a mistake. Individuals tend towards rubbishing life here on earth. They go as far as creating boundaries, excluding themselves, and renouncing life on earth. This is an erroneous approach to life; individuals do not appreciate the beauty of this life that God has granted them. With lacking in such appreciation, one cannot claim to be in union with God.
Borg Marcus. The Heart of Christianity: “The Kingdom of God”
In chapter seven of his book, Borg explains that the kingdom of God is at the center of the biblical messages. The reason for this is an appreciation that our God is loving and caring; consequently, he is a just God. Borg (126) explains that in the gospels, Christian life is likened to the kingdom of God. Further, the bible goes ahead to frame clearly what the kingdom of God is like.
Interestingly, Borg (129) argues that political passion is at the heart of the biblical journey. In the bible, from the exodus story through the kings of Israel, exile in Babylon, and later the life of Jesus, one can discern passion for a new social order that is anchored on justice. Jesus’ message, Borg (131) indicates, was centered on the kingdom of God. The metaphor kingdom of God is multifaceted and captures the political struggles of the children of Israel and the reign of God or God’s presence among his people. Therefore, the kingdom of God is not about heaven or the next world but this world as well.
Just as Borg explains when it comes to salvation, we are supposed to unite with the Lord in the now and forever. The kingdom of God is not restricted to the heavens. Therefore, as Christians, it would follow that we have to enter the kingdom or become one with God or follow God’s ways of starting in this present life.
Isasi Diaz: to Struggle for Justice is to Pray
In this source, Diaz argues in support of the idea that struggle for justice has profound spiritual fulfillment and is one way of communing with God our Father. She narrates how participating in a procession had a profound impact on his understanding and faith (Diaz 30). From the experience, Diaz (30) confesses to having realized something profound about the religiosity of the poor.
Narrating her struggle with the notion of spirituality she was introduced to during novitiate, Diaz (31) points to duality in the church’s approach to matters of faith. The nuns, priests, and others in religious orders are considered spiritual while the rest are considered not as spiritual as the former. Duality also manifested in the dichotomy between the body and soul that was created. Drawn by the struggle against the oppression of women due to patriarchal structures, Diaz (33) argues that the more one takes on injustice, the more one feels close to the divine. The gospel message according to Diaz (33) is about justice and peace on earth. Therefore, profound prayer is a prayer of those seeking an end to injustice.
Like Diaz, I have also sought to be more spiritual. However, I noticed that the more I try hard to practice the austere acts like fasting, regularly attending church function, or meditating for long, the more I find myself even drier spiritually or confronting dilemmas in faith. I have noticed that profound faith is lived and felt not as a formal practice but as one’s life situation.
Borg Marcus. The Heart of Christianity: Thin Places, Opening the Heart
In the bible, there is a sustained rallying call for individuals to open their hearts. The heart according to Borg (147) refers to the self. Having an open heart or a closed heart as Borg (151) explains has to do with one’s way of living. One with an open heart lives lovingly and relates well with God, nature, and other human beings. One with a closed heart has difficulty in his or her relationship with God, fellow humans, and other beings in nature.
Human interaction with divinity is in thin places that are everywhere. Borg (152) quoting Thomas Merton indicates that the thin places are all over but one has to be disposed to seeing them be able to see them. The work of spirituality is to help individuals open hearts (Borg 161). When individuals open hearts then they can find the thin places and in them, they can experience or meet God.
I agree with Borg in the assertion that true spirituality should open people’s hearts. When one’s heart is open he or she can encounter and handle other beings with loving understanding. It is this kind of disposition that makes the difference between a holy man and an evil man. Evil men are too full of themselves and out of grandiosity to treat others as objects or tools.
Anne Cliff; Feminist Perspectives on Women and the Church
Cliff (133) points out that the challenge in the church at the moment lies in knowing what to change and what not to change. Over the years, the church has accumulated structures, systems, ways of doing, and ways of operating that served it. However, some systems or aspects of the established institutions are questionable in the world of today. The church is under pressure to reform and champion reform. However, the challenge is in deciding on the amount of change to allow in that will not jeopardize the chore of Christian mission and vision.
One such challenge has to do with the role or place of women in the church. The bible is replete with strong women followers of Christ who worked alongside other disciples in spreading the gospel. However, at some point, the patriarchal structures of a society overwhelmed the initial discipleship as instituted by Jesus (Cliff 135). The Romanizing of Christianity led to hierarchical structures creating inequality between men and women, clergy, and the laity (Cliff 139). Different traditions have also held differently on several issues such as the ordination of women. Such differences in standpoint to the relativity in some of the church’s teachings. Over time, women have become vocal and active in public life. Cliff (141) points out that the church can no longer afford to insubordinate women.
Cliff like all the other writers captures the sense that Christianity requires or needs purification. Over time, Christianity mixed with culture and the thin line between cultural relativities and the absolute truth is not visible enough. One such thin line concerns the truth about women’s position as per God’s intent. The cultural practice was taken up and informs what the church holds as truth. To be true to itself, the church has to discern such as practice and reform the same.
Comparison of the Readings
The theme of change and finding a proper social response to human problems runs through all the readings. The first source, which is a reading from McBrien helps bring out how differences in interpretation and understanding led to church schisms. However, there is something universal about Christianity despite the differences.
The second source discusses solidarity. This is a critical element in addressing issues like social injustice, oppression, and inequality in society. As the third source, reading by Christ shows the world would change a lot of human beings understood their place in nature. We are not superior to nature but rather one with it. This realization can serve as a good starting point towards the kind of spiritual consciousness that Christ refers to. The fourth source augments the idea that a change in spirituality would help in finding a better way of dealing with problems like environmental degradation. Ackermann and Joyner argue that if individuals saw the rest of nature as God’s creation and came together to care for it in service to God, environmental sanity would be restored.
In the fifth source, Borg Markus discusses the concept of salvation. He points out clearly that the spirituality that emphasizes life after death is misguided. In the sixth reading from Borg, he again brings out the fact that the kingdom of God begins with our life here on earth. In the same vein, in the seventh source, Isasi makes it clear that spirituality is not about dualistic endeavors that make the body and soul antagonistic. In an actual sense, profound faith is to be realized in day to day struggles for a just society.
The eighth source is a guide in terms of what true spirituality should be about. In the reading, Borg points out that true spirituality to open people’s hearts so that they are open to encounter others, nature, and God. In line with opening our hearts and being keen to test spirits, the 9th source by Cliff urges towards more objective consideration of the place of women in society. Just like Ackerman and Joyner, cliff points out that paternalistic tendencies have for long make women less than men.
From the readings, it is clear that the church has a great role to play in society. The church can be instrumental in dealing with social injustices, environmental degradation among other issues. However, there is a need to revisit traditional theology and expunge from it the life-denying elements resulting from human error over time.