Is the Church obsessed?

A thought struck me while I was sitting through Holy Mass last Sunday. What if Christianity was as obsessed about social justice as it seems to be about sexual morality?

It is probably best to state it upfront: I am not asking the Church to be indifferent to sexual morality or to change its doctrine regarding matters related to sex and interpersonal relationships. I am in no way asking for an edit of the Scriptures or a change in tradition so that they reflect a more relaxed attitude governing sexual behaviour.

Listening to some Christian leaders though, the proverbial visitor from Mars would be certain that the faith is no more than a code regulating the type of sexual relations they may or may not have, instead of a comprehensive framework touching on every area of human life and our relation to all creation.

In as much as the Church should not change its doctrine for our comfort with regards to sex, it should be equally demanding that believers live up to the expectations the Scriptures place on them with regards to loving our neighbour.

One can probably go to any book of the Bible and discover that the one theme that keeps coming up is how seriously God takes our duty to be socially responsible.

From last Sunday’s readings, the Book of Amos said: “woe to those who are at ease in Zion and those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria…” The Psalmist wrote about the Lord who “does justice to the oppressed; gives bread to the hungry, loves the just…protects the stranger, upholds the orphan and the widow.”

In our country, with one of the biggest gulfs between rich and poor, spilling over with xenophobia and misogyny, hunger and poverty, reading and listening to ancient scriptures seems as if they could very well have been written last month!

The Gospel retold the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The story ends badly for the rich man not because of anything he did as such, but because of his indifference in the face of the need and neglect around him.

Of course the Scriptures, from both Testaments, are awash with other passages that call on the faithful to show kindness and compassion to the poor, the widow, the leper and other social outcasts.

It is thus surprising that a Church, in a country that has suffered some of the worst forms of social experiments, appears to have become indifferent to the tools our faith has which teach us how we as individuals should live in our unequal society.

If the Church is to live up to its prophetic mandate, it will have to start (or continue for those that have started) to remind the faithful that fidelity is not limited to what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Our fidelity is tested when we glare at the poverty, misogyny and xenophobia around us. Are we just as obsessed with these ills that affect so many of our brothers and sisters?

Mr Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury, The Witness and Sowetan and a senior journalist at many other mainstream South African newspapers.

f.moya@jesuitinstitute.org.za @fikelelom
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