Unification News For March 1996


Evangelicals and Catholics Together

There is a hopeful sign, a sign of God's work, appearing in conservative American Catholic and Evangelical circles. It centers upon an informal group consisting of academics, clergy and activists from both sides, at the center of which are Southern Baptist Charles Colson and Catholic Richard John Neuhaus. Included are some major figures, including Bill Bright and John Cardinal O'Connor. At the end of March, 1994, this group published a statement fifteen pages long, stating that God seems to be drawing Evangelicals and Catholics together.

The main impetus drawing them together is their common cause in America's culture war. Theirs is a common battle against secularism, fought over issues of school choice, market economy, limited government and America's international responsibilities. They call together for a renewed appreciation of the western religio-cultural heritage. At the forefront is the battle against abortion and its twin, euthanasia.

This statement has had a significant impact in the circles which are impacted by these sorts of things, to spin a phrase off President Lincoln. But before proceeding with my comments, I will note two points concerning the origins of the group which created the statement which should be of interest to Unificationists.

One, Colson and Neuhaus first met, and discovered something of their common cause, in the context of Colson's prison ministry in Virginia in 1985. The ECT, as "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" is referred to, had its beginnings in a prison ministry setting. We meditate upon another religious leader confined at that time in another prison, this one in Connecticut. We meditate upon the commitment that prisoner, Reverend Moon, made to America, in particular to Christians, from that prison. His commitment was for social action and interracial harmony. It spawned the Washington Times, which has had great impact along the same socio-political front-line upon which the ECT fights.

Second, the immediate impulse behind the ECT work was their anguish over "the growing conflicts between our communities in various parts of the world, especially Latin America. . . animosities between evangelicals and Catholics threatened to mar the image of Christ by turning Latin America in a Belfast of religious warfare." (ECT, p. xi) This same inmate in a Connecticut prison in 1985 also has turned his energies to the problem of Catholic-Protestant strife in Latin America. It is interesting to compare strategies.

Colson, Neuhaus et. al. soon turned their attention to the problems in the United States. "How could we speak a useful word to our brothers and sisters elsewhere," they reasoned, "if we had not in a more careful and comprehensive way addressed our relationship with one another here in North America?" (Ibid., xii) This sentiment led to a series of discussions and drafts, the statement published in March, 1993, and further comments, criticisms and responses, which are represented by a book published in 1995 with the same title, Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995).

The impetus is very agreeable to the Unificationist perspective, I think, namely that unity comes through common purpose. But we'll come back to that after noting a second strategy, that pursued by Reverend Moon. Reverend Moon sent missionaries and members to South America, who developed a conferencing and economic base along with a church foundation in every country. He supported victory over communism education through CAUSA, which was dedicated both to neutralizing Marxist falsities and upholding democratic principles. He supported the work of AULA, the Association for the Unity of Latin America. On this foundation he is now calling leaders from all walks of life in South America to share his vision for the future of their continent, centered on God and the restoration of the family.

In particular, he is devoting himself to the resolution of the Catholic-Evangelical split. His strategy here has one similarity with that of the ECT group, namely, identifying a common purpose. And the "common purpose" in question stand in relationship with each other. For the ECT, the common purpose has to do with the conservative social agenda informed by a common faith in Christ. This agenda is formulated around the concerns of the family. Reverend Moon is the same. The distinction here is that the ECT tends to work in the sphere of politics and social action. Reverend Moon is working in the sphere of the restoration of the family through God's Blessing of marriage. He is offering a profound development of God's in-breaking into the realm of husband-wife love.

These two are not incompatible as such; they are two sides of the same coin, one more external, political and social; one more internal, religious and spiritual. Both are calling Catholics and Evangelicals to unity through a common purpose.

Reverend Moon, unlike the ECT group, is locating himself in South America. Much of his time is spent in isolated, primitive environs of southwestern Brazil and northern Argentina. As reported in this issue of UNews, he is meeting local village people, and teaching them and learning of their problems and addressing those problems. He is bringing resources to bear upon the agricultural base, not just for the sake of developing South America, but for the sake of feeding the world. And, of course, he is fishing. And he is encouraging tourism. He wants to connect South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and everywhere, into one village.

With that having been said, I offer some thoughts on the content of ECT.

ECT is a work of God. The age of Christian separation should have ended long ago. In Divine Principle terminology and analysis, the sixteenth-century Reformers, centered upon Luther, were as Abel to their elder brother Catholic Cain. Like Cain, Catholics had the seniority and power. But God accepted the offering of Abel, the Protestants. Both brothers are fallen and full of faults. The acceptance of Abel and rejection of Cain had little to do with their personal merits. The time of separation of the brothers is over. It is God's will that Christians unite.

ECT is a sign of the last days. Its authors, in particular Father Neuhaus, are aware that their work bears some relation to the return of Christ. As to how, when, why, they profess openness and ignorance. They are aware that they may be shocked at how he chooses to reveal himself. They refer to the possibility that the Lord will return soon, and yet allow it could happen that "the merciful and mysterious ways of God the Second Coming is delayed, . . ." (Ibid., xv) Their work is dedicated to help "prepare the world for the coming of him to whom belongs the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever." (Ibid., xxxii)

ECT represents a key of love opening the locks of doctrine. No matter what the sincerity and genius of the Protestants and Catholics who advanced in separate ways, the final test of doctrine is love. Love is the ability to bring oneness. Or, as Voltaire put it, "we all are miserable wretches; why do we condemn each other for being miserable wretches in different ways?"

Finally, the ECT group must avoid the tendency to intellectual self- indulgence. According to their own testimony, their project began in 1992 as an effort to prevent religious warfare in Latin America. Not to discount what has been achieved, I am wondering if anyone in Latin America (besides a few scholars interested in the Anglo Christian world to the north) has heard of it.

We all know the tendency to gravitate toward what one likes to do, especially when one is receiving accolades, engendering stimulating dialogue, with a bit of heroism thrown in, and no doubt helping the principals maintain their careers, publications and subscription lists. This is all fine; I for one am obviously stimulated by it and am a customer. But, after all is said and done, it is what North Americans are good at. Is it been of help to South America?

Perhaps this is where Reverend Moon has his God-given role. Consider: he is the one South Korean leader whom the North Koreans trust. Thus he is playing a critical, albeit behind-the-scenes, role in the unification process. At this moment he has declared his commitment to Catholic-Evangelical unification. From that position, he is educating literally thousands of evangelicals from Brazil. He is educating them about God's plan for Adam and Eve, and about God's preparation for a sinless man, Jesus Christ, to be born, and God's plan for Jesus Christ.

He is teaching, in effect, about God's ideal for marriage, for man and woman in relation to God and each other. This is to reveal the flaw with the marriage of our original ancestors. He is also explaining why Jesus did not marry. What is at stake here is what theologians call "theological anthropology": what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, in front of God.

I will close with one thought. We see hopeful signs of Evangelical- Catholic unity through a shared social and moral vision. As hopeful as this is, it is a house built upon sand. The root of Catholic- Protestant unity must be planted within the context of the fundamental human relationship with God. On the surface, Evangelicals and Catholics have grounds for agreement, according to the ECT authors, in their common affirmation that Jesus Christ is Lord. Then what's the problem?

If we had to boil the matter down, the apparent key problem is the authority of one man called the Pope. I suggest what I believe to be a novel perspective from which to approach it, which may be helpful. I propose that there is a deeper level to the Papal authority issue, and that is the definition of what it means to be a Christian man.

Within Catholic society, there are men who marry and those who don't. Within Protestant society, all men marry, but some of them are Christians and the rest are not. These contradictory positions reflect a gap within the Christian foundation. That gap lies between the primordial human archetypes: Adam and Christ.

Adam married. Christ did not. Adam is the primordial archetype of married men; we have no other. Adam was deceived by a woman, his wife, who herself was deceived by a serpent. Christians know that this serpent was an angel, Lucifer, who fell to become Satan. Satan was a seducer of the woman, and the seduced woman became a seducer of the man, Adam. We are born the children of Adam and Eve, although Jesus' words cut through even this physical cloak to the inner reality: "you are of your father the devil" (John 8:44).

Christ did not marry; he knew no woman and had no children. He is the model of the Catholic priest, who has authority by it. This distinctive view of manhood is at the root of the magesterial teaching authority of the church, in particular the Petrine office of the Holy Father. Therefore, without a consensus as to the model of manhood, Catholic-Evangelical unity will not obtain. After all, we are not only talking about man's relationship with God, here, but of the relationship of half the human race with the other half; the combination of those two halves being the means of creating the generations on the earth.

Adam sinned and married. Jesus did not sin and did not marry. The Catholic grasps the sinlessness, rejecting marriage. The Evangelical grasps marriage, and, counting on the righteousness of Christ to justify him, rejects sinlessness. Is there a synthesis between Christ and Adam? Yes; it is sinless marriage, marriage with its root in God. Christ is called the "last Adam" or "second Adam." (2 Cor)

Jesus returns to let us know: we can have it all. We can have sinlessness and we can have marriage. Both are in God's plan. This is the gift of God in the last days: the Blessing of marriage. It resolves the two views of manhood. It will bring together Catholic and Evangelical. And Jew and Muslim, and all of God's family. It is the work of Jesus Christ toward which Evangelicals and Catholics together profess expectation, even assurance, and open-mindedness.

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