Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Ecumenical Value of Excommunication


I heard a lecture this past Sunday from a Catholic woman who works as an advocate before the Bangladesh Supreme Court. It was interesting to hear a perspective on the challenges and opportunities of the Church in Asia. One thing she mentioned has stuck with me: the fact that so many Muslims consider Christianity to be a Western religion, and furthermore, they consider it to be the religious arm of American hegemony. Christians in Asia "breathed a sigh of relief" when the pope opposed the war in Iraq, because it meant likely that their churches wouldn't be burned down in retribution.

Now, obviously those Muslims are incorrect. They would know this if they lived in America and saw exactly how secular our nation is. To think that the US government or even US culture is at all concerned with Christian love is laughable. Furthermore, they should recognize that Christianity is an Asian religion, since Jerusalem is, after all, in Asia. But maybe things aren't so clear from 6000 miles away.

This is where a few well-placed excommunications of politicians could be helpful, as well as some full-throated opposition to the destructive policies of the governments they belong to. Making public statements that certain politicians could no longer consider themselves Catholic would help to make it clear that Church and state are separate in the West. Making clear that the West is not Christian would perhaps have beneficial effects: first, it might awaken the West to the fact that they are no longer Christian, thus clearing the stage for a new evangelization. Second, it may make it clear to Islam that Christianity does not equal abortion, sexual license, Hollywood, war, and economic growth at any cost. This too would help, since it would enable Muslims to see Christianity as a real faith in God, worthy of respect, instead of just an imperialist tool of degenerate westerners.

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