Shunning is not a word we hear or use too often in everyday life. Shunning is, however, prevalent as a practice within the church to our great shame and loss. The most recent example came before us on Sunday, when the Catholic bishop of Brooklyn ordered his priests to shun politicians for their passage of gay marriage in New York state.
This was a sad day for the Catholic Church. Shunning fails at making disciples, Jesus‚ Great Commission (Mt 28:19). It also fails at loving your neighbor, Jesus‚ Great Commandment (Mt 22:39, Mk 12:31, Lk 10:27).
What shunning does accomplish is to push away Christians who believe that God’s all inclusive welcome is all inclusive. It also prompts the non-believers watching to say to themselves, “There they go again,” reinforcing in their mind why they shouldn’t pay any attention to the church or to God. In my mind there has to be a correlation between the loss of young people in the church and their conviction that the church is repeatedly and egregiously ostracizing a whole class of people.
Shunning on the part of the church, of course, is nothing new. The bishop of Brooklyn has the institution of Protestant churches to remind him that the primary outcome of shunning is believers abandoning the community they have historically been a part of. The history of Protestantism is full of splintering that leaves us with thousands of Protestant denominations today. Every time we threaten to push someone away or walk away ourselves, we fail to live as one in the Body of Christ and the fracturing continues.
All of this leaves Jesus weeping. The Gospel is left unproclaimed. The hungry are left unfed. The inquirer is left untaught. God’s children are left unloved. The shunned are left out and the church loses out.
Separation between church and state acknowledges that both church and state are important, powerful institutions of human society. Right now, the church would do better to attend to itself --its fulfillment of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment -- rather than fulminate at its fragile, fruitful boundary with politics. Shunning has no place in any of this.
| Jun 30, 2011 7:02 AM