We live in an era of transition between more stable ages. We face material choices now that will shape and serve our communities for long generations to come. Society is emerging in fits and starts from centuries of essentialism that defined people by race, gender, religion, and class into narrow identities with determined roles.
When Vice-President Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate last month for a plan to require background checks on people making purchases at gun shows, it was hailed as a major triumph for gun control. The lobbying power of the National Rifle Association was ebbing, we were told, following the school shootings in Colorado and Georgia.
Do you remember how zealous you were about reaching “perfect attendance” marks in grade school? How careful you were about avoiding the first “absent” day? How easy it was to fall into a pattern of delinquency and how you thought your parents foresaw a life of crime for you after even the smallest precedent-setting misdemeanor?
It may seem odd that at the beginning of the 21st century our lives are so pervasively dominated by rules, big rules and small rules, rules that frame our interactions and rules that enter into the fine fabric of our personal lives.
You may find it strange that I, an African American, do not believe in interracial marriage. I do not believe in interracial dating or even in having friends of other races. I do not espouse trying to understand racial differences or promoting awareness of other races. I can say all of this unabashedly because I do not believe in race!
The Jews of Jesus’ time, the preacher intoned, were slavishly devoted to the practices of their ancestors. They studied scripture but did not apply it. Their temple was “rotten to the core.” Ancient Judaism was a religion whose rituals were “impressive, inspiring and empty.” It was a faith preoccupied with the superficial and lacking in substance.
Though he was one of the most significant English theologians of the 20th century, influencing such figures as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and literary critic Terry Eagleton, Herbert McCabe, O.P.
Janet Jackson’s recent display of her bare breast at Super Bowl halftime, the trials of Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart, and the public debates over gay marriage and the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy—such events make a study of disgust and shame timely.