Society has moved in an increasingly egoistic direction without any protests of note largely because anyone that mentions morals is immediately labeled a moralist. It is not difficult to understand how society has come to this. (Photo: Trygve Indrelid) The view that religion should be excluded from social institutions originated from the numerous examples of church leaders that misused the Holy Scriptures and twisted central dogmas in the Bible to suit their own power-political agendas. For good reason many have criticized the behavior of some Christians and drawn attention to the distressing distance between this behavior and the moral principles advocated in the Holy Scriptures. At times there has been a significant gap between actions and teachings, between theory and practice. This criticism primarily relates to the Protestant groups especially influenced by the so-called liberal theology.
Observing the repugnant double moral of some Christians, outsiders unfamiliar with the true nature of faith — where theory and practice ideally form a coordinated unit with a clear acknowledgement of inherent weaknesses — might wrongly conclude that the fabric of religion is itself false. One might suppose that because his advocates are unjust, so too is Our Lord. It can be difficult to distinguish between those who seek religion to achieve personal gain, and those who seek faith on the basis of an honest desire to find the path to humble self-knowledge and harmony, both with oneself and others.
Inappropriate behavior among the faithful is today a major reason that many choose to abandon their faith and renounce spiritual rewards. The isolated and fearful attitudes towards society that many Christians demonstrate today support the impression that Christians no longer care about developments in society. Even the question of abortion no longer gives rise to debate of any consequence. The arrogance represented by the view of oneself as superior to other citizens in society, strangles humility and true spirituality. In this respect, the faithful are today heavily encumbered with a clear responsibility.
The horrible exposure of pedophilia in the Catholic Church is a dreadful example of faithless servants within the Church. In fact the struggle against the double moral and misuse of power was the focus of one of Christianity’s founders when he walked the roads of Palestine in a robe and sandals. The religious leaders of the time were so threatened by his outspoken call for truth, honesty, and solidarity with the lowest ranks of society, that they finally killed him.
While the Holy Scriptures encourage compassion for the weak in society and kindness towards children, there exist unfaithful servants of the Church that conceitedly presume the right to keep their clerical privileges and continue in their posts even though they can be nothing other than painfully aware of their betrayal of the Church’s teachings. Cognizant of actions in their own life that divest them of the moral authority to lead anything at all, what kind of conscience allows them to accept the position of priest or bishop? In relation to the Scriptures xxxx citation. if the Church and the clergy took the Scriptures more seriously, men revealed as pedophiles in the Church would have to run the gauntlet to admonish others against the conclusion that such behavior is acceptable.
The practice of the Catholic Church to allow such offenders, following deposition, to continue service in another place is deplorable. There is an important distinction between the fact that Christ, according to the Christian faith, loves all people, including murderers, pedophiles, and other criminals, and the demand for an ethical life, above reproach, for those who aspire to positions of authority in the Church. It is the difference between claiming the title of an ideal example, and being a contrite sinner who honestly and openly admits his transgression.
The dishonesty of the double moral is shameful. Also Christ welcomed the woman caught red-handed in the act of adultery and suggested that the man who was without sin could cast the first stone. At the same time he encouraged her to change her behavior. We all make mistakes. This is one of the reasons why questions of a moral nature often leave an unpleasant taste in our mouth: all of us feel struck at some level or another. The challenge in events like those the Catholic Church has experienced, is that leaders, allegedly personifying moral examples for others to emulate, performed criminal acts in addition to brutally betraying the Church’s own teachings.
The culture of silence that characterizes many Christian communities is reprehensible and confirms the Church’s complicated relationship to sexuality. This applies to Protestant Pietism as well as other denominations. The vow of celibacy for Catholic clergy was introduced by Pope Gregor VII as late as the eleventh century. It was ostensibly instituted to stop the proliferation of ecclesiastical offspring across the countryside. These offspring formed family dynasties that increasingly acted as a powerful, and problematic, clerical class. The recently exposed misuse of power shows an equally objectionable lack of agreement between lifestyle and teachings.
Cleansing provides a substantial joy and relief, not least because secrecy of this nature serves to lessen genuine zeal in the Church. Similar exposures would likely benefit many Protestant denominations. If the sexual practices of a priest or a Church leader violate the teachings of the Church, then the person should have enough sense to leave their position voluntarily, cognizant of their unworthiness in relation to the demands of the post for irreproachable behavior.
Even though the Norwegian media storm left the impression that something was also seriously wrong with the Church and its message, Bishop Bernt Eidsvig’s statement bears repeating: up to now there have been only three known instances of sexual abuse reported in the Norwegian Church, and two of these occurred in the 1950s. That is an extremely low number. The 2009 IRIS study that focused on conditions for missionary children in foreign schools, showed that 7% of the children experienced sexual abuse in Christian schools. Compared with the approximately 15% of children that experience sexual abuse in public schools today, a number so high that it reflects a real social problem, it is apparent that missionaries exhibit more moral behavior than the average Norwegian. If the same trend applies to Church leaders, there would indeed be fewer pedophiles among Church men than among the rest of the population.
However, the problem is that most people do not claim to be moral examples epitomizing the goodness of Christ on earth. Therefore some should fear new exposures, both in Catholic and Protestant denominations. As a whole the Church does not need the deception that often characterizes the power elite’s conspiratorial silence. We need the truly faithful with unadulterated lives conveying self-insight and transparency. We can only hope that Church leaders with dirty flour in their bag finally show some responsibility and resign their positions, so that the Church and many of us others can be spared further revelations of unworthy double morality.
The indifference and isolation of Christians are actually major causes for the process of secularization in Europe. Quite simply, no one cares. With an impassioned social engagement they should have struggled to achieve a better future for younger generations. A return to the appeals of the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, with his fiery demands for spiritual and moral rearmament in the England of the 1800s, appears unlikely in today’s climate of spiritual impoverishment.
During a time when imperialism dominated the globe and authors like Joseph Conrad described conditions in the African colonies in his famous novel, Heart of Darkness, the social critic Booth gave his book the title In the Darkest England and the Way Out! Published in 1890, it drew enormous attention and became a best-seller. The book’s radical and social constructive solutions for serious problems in English society made it a major source of premises for the development of the English welfare state. Even today the book retains a critical relevance and reflects Booth’s rock-solid belief that people have the ability to rise out of their own misery. His unusually strong ideal of giving people a chance to explore their potential as citizens of the world is nothing less than incredible.
With the slogan “Soup, Soap, and Salvation” he attacked Charles Dickens and the English ruling classes with a scathing demand for social and spiritual reforms. Kicked and punched, ridiculed and mocked, he never lost his fervent engagement. William Booth became the leader for one of the largest popular Christian movements of our times and laid the foundation for increased self-respect and standard of living among the lower classes in Great Britain.