Last year at Providence Centre, where I serve St Mark's Catholic Community of the Deaf, I was assisting my ministerial colleague in decorating the sisters' refectory in the late afternoon of Holy Saturday. Impulsively--perhaps even impetuously--I wrote on the community chalkboard,
Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!
In Greek, it reads "Christ [is] risen! Truly [He is] risen!"
By the next morning, the chalkboard was sprawling with the same Paschal Greeting in different languages:
Христос Воскрес! Воістину Воскрес! (Ukranian)
Chrystus Zmartwychwstał! Zaprawdę Zmartwychwstał! (Polish)
Le Christ est ressuscité! Vraiment Il est ressuscité! (French)
Christus ist auferstanden! Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden! (German)
Cristo ha resucitado! Verdaderamente, ha resucitado! (Spanish)
Si Cristo ay nabuhay! Siya nga ay nabuhay! (Tagalog)
Easter--or Pascha--is one of the few liturgical commemorations in which the Catholicity of the Church truly emerges, embracing all peoples and languages. It is the very reason we are Christians.
Slowly but surely, a "political" brand of the Catholic faith has been emerging, one that reduces it to an -ism, "Catholicism"--that is marked by faith not in the Paschal Mystery but in the conviction of sociopolitical conservatism. More and more, it appears that the central conviction of Catholicism in North America is hardly the resurrection of Christ, but rather a kind of theonomy that poses as the religious counterpart to the "New Atheism." Christianity is thus reduced to a battle-front of the culture wars. Instead of proclaiming the Gospel, it seeks to legislate causistry.
It is no secret that I am a member of the G.O.P. By persuasion I am a strict constructionist; I espouse limited government and share many conservative views. But, with Dr Martin Luther King, I am convinced that the cause of human rights cannot be won at the Supreme Court, but in the hearts of people--not at the forum of the judicial branch of government, but in the forum of conscience. Dr King believed that it was necessary for ordinary Americans to be convinced in their hearts that the Black person is also a human being, equally endowed with inalienable rights inasmuch as the Caucasian is. Only after such a grassroots "conversion" could the Supreme Court, with any real conviction, legislate that the Black person is in fact as much an American as the next white person.
For those, like myself, who are engaged in the pro-life movement, we must ask: How much is our sociopolitical agenda rooted in the Paschal Mystery, if at all? Is the "pro-life" label worn as a badge of our Catholicism instead of the belief that the resurrection of Christ reveals the inherent dignity and worth of every human being? It seems to me that, more often than not, political Catholicism places more weight on the anti-abortion agenda that it does in the article of faith that proclaims "Christ is risen."
To push the question further, we might also ask: how can caustic language, cruel words, and cutting remarks against capital punishment, abortion, homosexual marriage, and the Democratic party reveal the Mystery of the Resurrection of Christ? My answer is that it does not.
I would suggest that any action or discourse that serves to obscure the Paschal Mystery is in fact a "counter-evangelism"--we are convincing people not to become Christians because we have set ourselves up as shoddy exemplars. If we will receive an accounting for "every idle word" (Mt 12:36-37), how much more severe will our judgment be when our words, even unintentionally, actually disinvites people to share in the life of Christ! Really, who wants to be a Christian like Anne Coulter?
As the Holy Father reminded us in his Urbi et orbi address to the world this Easter morning, "Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra"--"the Resurrection of the Lord is our hope." Not, I would add, is the agenda of the Republican Party.
Being a Catholic means, first and foremost, believing in the Risen Christ, and from this act of faith is derived the belief in the dignity of all human life (and not the two, side by side, as in a non sequitur). If Christ was willing to undergo the torture of crucifixion and to rise as the Giver of Life equally for President Obama and President Bush, the least we can do is to respect their persons as recipients of Christ's self-immolation.
For us to venture whether they have accepted the offer or not is to paint ourselves as the anti-Pantakrator, because there can only be one "who will judge the living and the dead" (Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople).