The Common Good

Are Catholics and Evangelicals Cut from the Same Cloth?

Sojomail - January 19, 2006

Quote of the Week : Catholic bishops: Leave Iraq 'sooner rather than later'
Batteries Not Included : Are Catholics and Evangelicals cut from the same cloth?
Faith in Action : Host a 'State of our Values Watch'
Haiti Journal : Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Port-au-Prince prison with Father Jean-Juste
Theologically Connect : Revolutionary midwives: Women and Peace
Verbatim : Two new women presidents
Signs of the Times : God's wrath watch: First Robertson, now New Orleans' Nagin
Boomerang : Readers write
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"Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to 'cut and run' versus 'stay the course.' Instead we need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared.... Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later."

- Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Florida, in a statement on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Source: USCCB

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Are Catholics and Evangelicals cut from the same cloth?
by David Batstone

Wheaton College pulled a shocker last spring by terminating the teaching contract of a professor following his conversion to Catholicism. Though popular among students and highly respected by his peers, The Wall Street Journal reported, assistant professor Joshua Hochschild became controversial once he shifted theological camps.

I do not question the right of Wheaton College to establish its own standard for hiring and firing professors. Christian colleges conceive of their mission quite differently than a secular higher learning institution. They give spiritual and ethical formation equal priority to intellectual pursuit. Therefore a critical piece of the puzzle is following the mission in hiring.

But it does trouble me that in the case of Hochschild, the Wheaton administration showed so little theological imagination.

Ironically, the college hired Hochschild, 33, to teach its students medieval philosophy, with a special emphasis on the work of Thomas Aquinas, a giant in the world of Roman Catholic theology. One might say that Hochschild got too close to his work, for the depth of the Catholic tradition began to tug at him. In 2003, he made a choice of conviction to leave his Episcopalian church home and join a Catholic community. Though the distance from Episcopalian to Catholic may seem a small leap to some, it crossed a line in the sand at Wheaton.

In the church of my childhood - a staunch evangelical church in central Illinois, just a few hours drive from Wheaton - Catholics were not considered to be Christians. I was taught in Sunday School that Catholics did not read the Bible and elevated Mary the mother of Jesus into a fourth place in the Trinity. Worse yet, we learned that Catholics did not believe Jesus died once and for all for our sins; he had to repeat the act every time the Catholics took Holy Communion.

My understanding of Catholics changed when I began working in ministry in poor communities first in the United States, and then Latin America. I met Catholics who loved to read the Bible and faithfully explore its message for their lives. On many occasions, I was humbled by their sacrificial quest to follow the path of Jesus.

Of course, over the years I discovered that there are all kinds of Catholics, just as there are all kinds of Protestants. Some Catholics are happy to go through the motions and find shelter in the security of orthodoxy. Other Catholics desire a living, breathing faith that fills them with wonder and purpose.

It was never a part of my plan, but I ended up as a professor at a Catholic institution, the University of San Francisco. Maybe my heart goes out to Joshua Hochschild because I was not required to convert to Catholicism in order to teach theology and ethics at USF. That does not imply that my Jesuit university does not hire in accordance with its mission "to educate hearts and minds to change the world." But the university eschews a litmus test of orthodox religious beliefs, and concerns itself with whether its faculty can inspire students to engage its mission.

I do not want to misrepresent Wheaton College or its administration as anti-Catholic. In the front page story in The Wall Street Journal covering the Hochschild firing, Wheaton President Duane Liftin showed a refreshing attitude. In weighing the decision, Litfin reportedly said he wanted to keep Hochschild, "a gifted brother in Christ," on staff, but felt that he had to uphold a "faculty who embody the institution's evangelical Protestant convictions." Unlike in my childhood church, at Wheaton Catholics can be embraced as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Wheaton, however, chooses to define its institutional identity in a narrow orthodoxy. The Wheaton faculty are required to sign a faith statement anew each year. The credo points to the "supreme and final authority" of scripture. While the statement does not prohibit the acceptance of Catholic doctrine, it unashamedly aligns Wheaton with "evangelical Christianity."

Hochschild told the Journal that he would have no trouble signing Wheaton's statement of faith after his conversion, and informed Wheaton's President Litfin as such. Litfin said - according to documents acquired by the Journal - that a Catholic "cannot faithfully affirm" the Wheaton faith statement because Catholics regard the Bible and the pope as equally authoritative.

It is a shame that Wheaton students will study within such a shallow theological bandwidth. It is almost as if a wall separates Catholics and Protestants, and it cannot be breached in the pursuit of Christian understanding. Oddly enough, despite their historic breach, an Episcopalian and a Plymouth Brethren will find themselves on the same side of the wall at Wheaton.

I humbly suggest that the administrative team at Wheaton College pass some time in prayer with Catholic contemplatives, or work in the slums of Calcutta with Catholic missioners, or reflect on transformative education with Jesuits. Bringing these historic Christian practices, rooted in the Catholic tradition, into a young student's education would serve to enhance a church guided by the evangel.

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Easter Peace Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
April 6 to 17, 2006
Middle East Fellowship and Holy Land Trust invite you to spend Palm Sunday and Easter in the Holy Land. The pilgrimage will be led by Dr. Frederic Bush, professor emeritus of Old Testament and Near Eastern studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.

  • Commemorate Palm Sunday in a march for peace in Bethlehem
  • Learn from Israelis and Palestinians working for justice
  • Explore sights of religious, historical, and political significance
  • Worship and stay with Palestinian Christian families
  • Celebrate Easter in Jerusalem
    For more information please visit:


    Host a 'State of our Values Watch'

    On Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006, at 9 p.m. EST, President Bush will deliver his sixth State of the Union address. After his speech, pundits and policymakers will respond. We expect a lot of talk about national priorities and values. But who will respond that represents your values? You can by hosting a State of our Values Watch in your community. Here's our vision: On the night of Jan. 31, people of faith in communities across America will gather, listen to the president's speech and reflect with each other and for the local media on his words and the actions behind those words. The goal: to provide a bold and rapid response to the speech that reflects the biblical call to social justice and peacemaking. As people of faith who believe that an America of strength and security can also be an America of justice and compassion, we must ensure that our moral vision is represented and our voices are heard.

    + Sign up to host a Watch

    + Download free Watch organizers' toolkit

    + Find a Watch near you

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    Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Port-au-Prince Prison with Father Jean-Juste
    by Bill Quigley

    We ended our prison visit in Haiti on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Father Gérard Jean-Juste by standing hand in hand and singing "We Shall Overcome." Jean-Juste has been in prison since July on sham charges in order to silence his lifelong voice for justice for the poor and democracy for all. Amnesty International has designated him a prisoner of conscience. Many other human rights organizations have taken up his cause. Scores of congressional representatives have called for his release. Hundreds of religious leaders have signed letters to President Bush and to the unelected leaders of Haiti calling for his freedom.

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    Mercy Center: Conferences, Retreats & Spiritual Programs
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    Revolutionary midwives: Women and Peace
    by Amanda Hendler-Voss

    The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live." But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.... So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong (Exodus 1:15-17, 20).

    Each time I hear the story of the midwives Shiphrah and Puah in the book of Exodus, I ponder the role of women in creating peace. God had blessed Shiphrah and Puah with the skill to guide life into the world. They refused to use this gift to deliver death. They refused to heed the pharaoh's decree to kill Hebrew baby boys.... Shiphrah and Puah remind me of courageous women around the world who have taken to the streets in recent years to stop the violence in Iraq, a nation in which children under 16 comprise nearly 50% of the population.

    In my work with Women's Action for New Directions, an anti-militarism organization based in Arlington, Massachusetts, I have learned that women have a complex, distinct relationship with the violence of war. War is fought primarily by young men who are compelled to kill or be killed. For centuries, this meant that men suffered the most direct violence of warfare. In modern warfare, things have changed drastically.

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    VERBATIM ^top

    Two new women presidents

    "We recognize this change is not a change for change's sake, but a fundamental break with the past, therefore requiring that we take bold and decisive steps to address the problems that have for decades stunted our progress."

    - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, newly elected president of Liberia - the first woman ever elected president of an African nation. Johnson-Sirleaf was finance minister and went into exile at the time of the 1980 coup by Samuel K. Doe, but has been criticized for supporting Charles Taylor's rebel movement in 1989.

    "I was a woman, separated, a socialist, an agnostic...all possible sins together."

    - Michelle Bachelet, just elected first woman president of Chile, third in Latin America, remembering how she expected opposition from military conservatives when appointed defense minister. A member of the same Socialist Party as President Salvador Allende, Bachelet was arrested and forced into exile after the CIA-sponsored coup that killed Allende and installed Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1973.

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    Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership For Clergy in Congregations

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    God's wrath watch: First Robertson, now New Orleans' Nagin

    Last week, televangelist Pat Robertson offended Jews and fellow conservatives with speculations that God was punishing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stroke for withdrawing Israeli settlers from Gaza. Now, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin has apologized following Martin Luther King Jr. Day remarks that "God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country."

    God is displeased with our government as well as with divisions in the African-American community, asserted Nagin, who said that God "doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely [God] is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves."

    In response to predictions that New Orleans' black population - once 67% - will not be able to return, Nagin generated further contoversy by saying, "It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans - the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans.... This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be." He later attempted to diffuse those comments by telling a CNN affiliate, "How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about."

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    BOOMERANG ^top

    Readers write

    Julie Bell writes from Wilmington, Ohio:

    [In response to "It's not over!" SojoMail 1/12/2006]: My fiance works with the mentally challenged and the developmently disabled. They live on Social Security and work for $1.50 an hour at a specially supervised facility. After the first of the year, their Medicaid was cut so now they have co-pays for their medications, which in some cases are numerous. What is wrong with this government? Taking money from some of the most challenged in our society and then giving a tax break to the most wealthy? I'm disgusted.


    Grace Yukich writes from Brooklyn, New York:

    Vince Gamma from Houston, Texas [Boomerang, 1/12/2006] shows disdain rather than empathy for the prisoners our government is holding at Guantanamo Bay, many of whom are likely being tortured. The government is not even required to charge them with a crime, so there is currently no evidence to support your calling them "jihadists" and "our Taliban friends." I agree that torturous acts committed against Christians and all human beings in other countries are also unspeakable and that God cries out for them to end as well. But these acts are not being committed by the U.S. government in our name. Witness Against Torture is acting on the idea that we should start with ourselves, our own country, in addressing such problems of human rights (though the group members do care and speak out about humans rights violations in other parts of the world, contrary to his assertion). And they believe, as I do, that even people who could be terrorists should have the right to be treated humanely and to be charged with a crime and brought to trial. They are living out Jesus' teaching that "love your neighbor as yourself" means everyone, including your enemies. (For more, please see or


    Joel Tippens writes from Daytona Beach, Florida:

    I was happy to see that my old Coast Guard shipmate, Vince Gamma, is reading Sojourners! In reference to his comment on the article about the Witness Against Torture group, I know that Vince would agree that there is disagreement among believers concerning many aspects of the war in Iraq. But as believers we all find common ground in the shadow of the cross. And standing together there we would all agree that torture of anyone is inhuman. We are all challenged as believers with the desire to ask Jesus just exactly what is meant by his teaching to "love your enemies." But we should all understand and agree that torture, of anyone, breaks the heart of God.


    Paul Rogers writes from Columbia, South Carolina:

    Jeff Hendricks [Boomerang, 1/12/2006] seems to reflect the opinion of many Christians in America today that "we must use all means necessary to stop them," i.e., "these ruthless fanatics." Yes, I do recognize that there are people who want to destroy America and our way of life. And I do recognize that they are willing to use "any means necessary" to accomplish this. But we supposedly represent something higher, even if we are not a theocracy. If we resort to torture and other immoral actions, such as spying on our own citizens, in order to defend ourselves, we have already been defeated. All of us who confess Jesus as Lord should fully trust ourselves to God and call for our nation to remain committed to the values that reflect kingdom values, even when we are compelled to defend ourselves against those who would destroy us.


    Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Because of the volume of letters we receive, concise responses that include a name, hometown, and state/province/country are the most likely to be published. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. E-mail:

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    by Charles Dickinson

    If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

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