The Hand of Welcome: Hope in a Contraceptive Culture

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

That contemporary western culture has many problems is beyond dispute, as a cursory glance at the current affairs section of any bookstore will illustrate. What is debated is exactly what those problems are and where they stem from, what are their root causes? Despite the differences in description and definition advanced by cultural commentators there is arguably a common thread that wends its way through all of them, namely the original human sins of pride and accidie; “accidie is a spiritual listlessness or depression, a reluctance and finally a refusal to respond to God. Pride on the other hand, puts the self in God’s place.”1 The prevalence of these in our society has led to a variety of situations that, while promoted or accepted by different facets of our society and the political spectrum are all at a basic level, affronts to the Gospel.

The spiritual restlessness that is a hallmark of our time is the result of these sins. Pride and the “sickness that stalks at mid-day,” as accidie is sometimes called, bring people into a sort of spiritual no-man’s land where allegiance is won by the highest bidder.2 People find themselves searching for fulfillment in a variety of places and ways. Like Qoheleth, satisfaction is sought from good food and good drink, power and authority, material wealth, hopes for posterity—but found to be illusory and fleeting. Many who have experienced some or all of these attempts at satisfaction discover that the desire for something has only grown stronger. Yet there still remains a sort of spiritual despair arising from a society that has rejected the idea that truth can be anything beyond individual. Ours is a society wherein people have the means to invest in themselves and covet the things they believe will bring them happiness. But there are visible fruits of spiritual decay all around us.

The particular evidences of these sins cut across time and ideology, being confronted or supported at different times by people of varied political persuasions. But it is the same spirit, the spirit of sin and death, the spirit of our first parents’ rebellion against God that animates each of these actions whether politically supported from left or right. Our society manifests this spirit of decay in many ways, but at a fundamental level they all consist in the use or abuse of others toward our own (individual or corporate) ends. This is a situation that may seem ironic in a society that so highly values the individual; yet, in such a society the individual comes to be seen as a commodity as well. The structural elements that lead to these abuses are implicit within liberalism and capitalism whenever they are unmoored from basic virtue.

At the close of the twentieth century liberalism triumphed over its sibling ideologies; communism and totalitarianism are entertained by few people as viable alternatives and socialism, once so vibrant an ideology in Europe, has begun to give way to liberal thought as European politics have increasingly become more Americanized. Today European conservatism and socialism have “increasingly lost [their] more socialist respective conservative features and become variations of a basically liberal polity.”3 Even in those nations where totalitarianism is attempted, leaders use plainly populist and liberal language to justify their rule.4 Indeed, the primary threat to liberalism today seems to be terrorism, which may owe its own existence to the fruits of liberal ideology.5

As capital markets expand, they seek to predict and control human action and desire; as an outgrowth of the intellectual and political order arising after the enlightenment capitalist practice shares many assumptions with ideologies that have their roots in this era, for “it is clear,” as Alisdair MacIntyre notes, “that the Enlightenment’s mechanistic account of human action included both a thesis about the predictability of human behavior and a thesis about the appropriate ways to manipulate human behavior.”6 The history of the ideologies arising out of the enlightenment has been one of continual attempts to control human behavior. Communism, socialism, totalitarianism and liberalism agree that humanity must be controlled but differ as to the means of that control and the best means for the satisfaction of human desires. Each begins either by freeing the individual from traditional bonds, or in constructing new identities to superimpose over the old.

In seeking to empower the individual—often morally, usually economically—our society has extended what it means to be free in the Anglo-American school of thought. This school of thought bears some differences to the continental school. John Dewey articulates the difference this way in Freedom and Culture:

In the American and English liberal tradition, the idea of freedom has been connected with the idea of individuality, of the individual. The connection has been so close and so often reiterated that it has come to seem inherent [. . .] in the continental European tradition the affiliation of the idea of freedom is with the idea of rationality.7

In the continental school the person is most free who has the most reason, whereas the Anglo-American concept is that the person is most free who has the most individuality, the most choice. The world wars, especially the second, stand as testament to the failure of the continental belief in freedom; again from Freedom and Culture:

The same difference in contexts that give freedom its meaning is found when representatives of totalitarian Germany at the present time [pre WWII] claim their regime is giving the subjects of their state a “higher” freedom than can be found in democratic states, individuals in the latter being unfree because their lives are chaotic and undisciplined.8

Few people today would associate freedom with discipline, instead the Anglo-American principle of freedom equating to individuality has become standard.

Granting these differences, the common point of departure for both the Anglo-American and Continental schools is that people desire safety. In their own ways both guaranteed safety. But safety from what? Ultimately the safety sought is from facing one’s own mortality. But the goal is more: it is with making people feel truly safe by empowering them to make choices, choices that help them forget about death.

The Anglo-American system, with its focus on autonomy, seeks to empower the individual, to make the person feel as though they have control over their choices and by extension over their life. The function which government and to a broader extent society, has taken upon itself has been to expand the amount and means of choice, seeking to give people a feeling of control and authority over their own mortality and life—the ultimate expression of this being assisted suicide. As Stanley Hauerwas relates:

[W]hen you live in a liberal society like ours, the fundamental problem is how you can achieve cooperative agreements between individuals who share nothing in common other than their fear of death. In liberal society the law has the function of securing such agreements. That is the reason why lawyers are to America what priests were to the medieval world. The law is our way of negotiating safe agreements between autonomous individuals who have nothing else in common other than their natural fear of death and their mutual desire for protection.9

The progression is: more choices equate to more power, more power equates to more control, more control means more authority over life and circumstance. So in some ways a new jaguar is an evocation of the power exercised over life and fate, or rather, it is the pretense of power and control. Of course, this belief is not totally unfounded; after all, those with more money often do exercise greater control over their health care and other important issues than the poor who lack such resources.

The problem arises when people begin to feel such a sense of security is the natural state of humanity, when in reality the natural state of humanity, and the state in which the majority of humans still live, is one of powerlessness. Rowan Williams rightly points out that it is through the pursuit of unassailable security that horrible injustices are perpetrated; as he states:

“the more we seek—individually, socially, and nationally—to protect ourselves at all costs from intrusion, injury, and loss, the more we tolerate a public rhetoric incapable of affirming our mortal uncertainties, errors, and insecurities, the more we stand under Ezekiel’s judgment for ‘abominable deeds’—the offering of fleshly persons on the altar of stone.”10

The part of our nature that seeks to control events and destroy or submerge any evidence of weakness—to sacrifice on an altar of stone—can be seen as an aspect of the spirit of rebellion and pride. Just as the first instance of this sin was closely linked to shame and fear, so too does fear play an important role in the desire to bury all evidence of weakness. Indeed, such a desire can be seen as a sort of spiritual backlash to the effects of the fall; resentful of the consequences of our sin we have two options: one, reconciliation with God, leads to life. The other, the further election of self, leads ever more down the path of decay and death. This spirit of rebellion takes many forms and the policies that combat or are animated by it cut across the political spectrum and stands in stark contrast to the spirit of the Gospels, the spirit of liberation and life, through which we are truly unable to find a cure for our restless souls and assurance even in our weakness.

The abuse of persons by others because their weakness serves as a reminder of our own powerlessness is seen through all stages and states of life. It begins in our own day with a devaluing of prenatal life and touches multiple aspects of our society. That this devaluing touches so many aspects of our society is unsurprising given that a rejection of children reflects a rejection of the future and hope—a society that rejects or marginalizes children is a society that is existing in a state of spiritual despair. Such practices exhibit tendencies that become more accentuated at other stages of human development.

Sometimes it is hard to welcome children. As Jeremy Taylor observed in the seventeenth century “Poor men are not so fond of children . . .”11 Yet its not so much that children are hard to welcome as it is that we’ve come to the position of conceiving our entire lives without the interruption of children, and have medicated them appropriately. As Amy Laura Hall has commented, many North Americans simply don’t desire the interruptions that children inevitably create. A rather pathetic indication of this is found in her statement that presently “the average father in [her] social class spends twice as much time each evening watching television as listening to his children.”12 Hall has written extensively on issues surrounding the welcome our culture shows—or does not show—children. By highlighting problematic assumptions underlying the pursuit of new medical and reproductive technologies, Hall hopes to demonstrate that the type of welcome we offer to the helpless and dependant infant will condition the welcome we offer to others whose limitations lay claims upon us. Other commentators have observed that children impinge on the vision of what Christian counselor Charles Taylor has called the companionship model of marriage that seems to have become the primary model in our society. As Ragan Sutterfield observes:

Children, undoubtedly, often keep one from doing what one may want to do. With children, travel is limited and more complex. Schedules become more regular and less spontaneous. Time and attention must be concentrated on activities outside of our list of wants and goals. Children interrupt the ideal modern marriage in which both partners want the same things and share the same goals. In short, children inevitably break the modern ideal of shared selfishness.13

In the end, the failure to recognize children as a blessing and receive them as such merely sets the stage for further abuses.

But the importance of the kind of welcome we offer to children does not begin or end with the question of simply welcoming their births. In Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement Rowan Williams builds upon the theme that a disordered sexuality is one that refuses to recognize the dangers inherent in human relationships—relationships which by definition include opening oneself up to rejection and emotional pain—and is to refuse participation in reality and to objectify other people by seeking pleasure without the attendant risk. By extending a similar analysis to issues surrounding children, Williams offers a deep critique of the manner in which our advertising culture targets children in a manner that limits their growth and understanding.14

According to Williams children within western society, being consumers, are economic subjects; by extension they are also sexual subjects. The fluidity of this barrier—if there is one--testifies to the extent sexuality is seen as a sort of currency. According to Williams the effect of the advertising culture is to shape children into pseudo-adults lacking understanding of the consequences of their choices. The rapid social aging engendered by the loss of free space in which to master appropriate choice-making results in developmentally disadvantaged or disabled children; these consequences aren’t limited to children however:

In this context—but also in many that are supposedly more ‘privileged’—the effect of blurring the boundaries of childhood and limiting the choices of adults is a situation in which adults revert to child-like behavior, uncommitted and fantasy-driven, and children and adults can come to see themselves as rivals in a single area of competition. Sexually, socially, economically, the child may seem to be bidding for the same goods, and the difference between a child’s and an adult’s desires is not grasped.15

This situation is perpetuated by the culture of scarcity, in which even the wealthy are conditioned to feel as though they lack something. Because children are seen as competitors for scarce resources we have created a contraceptive culture that cannot conceive of children as an intrinsic blessing. So internalized have our relations become that a child’s worth—indeed anyone's worth—is simply a function of how much "I" value them—the statement becomes "how wonderful to have a wanted child" rather than "you must be so thankful for your child."

The concerns Dr. Hall and others have expressed regarding the welcome shown to children by our culture goes beyond a desire that abortions be rare—if not unheard of—and touches on the specific reasons some abortions occur and looks beyond the surface to see a large number of negatives arising from current medical practices. For Hall, the trend that nine of ten women who are tested beforehand (admittedly a self-selected group) choose not to have babies that are diagnosed with Down Syndrome is staggering; she asks what kind of message this sends to those living with Down Syndrome or other handicaps about their worth as human beings?16

Hauerwas’ statement, that “capitalism is the ultimate form of deconstruction, because how better to keep labor under control than through the scarcity produced through innovation,” can be extended by the understanding of an economy of icons. Society does not simply change, destroy or pervert icons, it creates new ones such that a whole economy can be based on them and someone may be killed for a pair of air Jordan’s or an iPod. Economic icons are items that “attain market value through carefully constructed, proprietary images that evoke the consumer’s dreams—dreams of ethnic identity, rebellious youthfulness, close-knit community, or sexual excitation.”17 It is through the accumulation of such icons that our protean project of self-creation takes place and our bodies are made to bear meanings that result in the removal of our real selves from the current of human relation. Just as children can loose themselves in the flood of choices opened up to them at too young an age, adults who have never learned appropriate choice-making can find themselves washed away under a flood of images and presentations.

Inherent in this and other elements of our society is a sort of cultural nihilism. This nihilism has been connected to postmodernism’s focus on competing segments of power, an emphasis which David Hart argues to be a hearkening back to a pagan understanding of the world. Hart cites John Milbank who states that while the primary postmodern philosophers Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and Lyotard all exhibited some form of left-wing or liberationist politics none of these “neo-Nietzcheans” could “wriggle out of the implication that while nihilism may be ‘the Truth,’ it is at the same time the truth whose practical expression must be fascism.”18 Thomas Merton captured this realization powerfully while reflecting on the holocaust in his journal Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

The realm of politics is the realm of waste. The Pharaohs at least built pyramids. With the labor of hundreds and thousands of slaves, they built temples, and they built pyramids. Perhaps in a certain sense this labor was wasted: yet it has meaning, and its meaning remains powerful and eloquent, if mysterious, after centuries. The work of the slaves was forced, it was cruel, but it was work. It still had a kind of human dimension. There was something of grandeur about it. The slaves lived, and saw “their” pyramids grow. Our century is not a century of pyramids, but of extermination camps: in which man himself is purely and deliberately wasted, and the sardonic gesture, saving the hair, the teeth, and the clothes of the victims, is simply a way of pointing to the wasting of humanity.

It was a way of saying: “These people, whom you think to be persons, whom you are tempted to value as having souls, as being spiritual, these are nothing, less than nothing. The detritus, the facts and chemicals that can be derived from them, the gold fillings in their teeth, their hair and skin, are more important than they. We are so much better and more human than they that we can afford to destroy a whole man in order to make a lampshade out of his skin. He is nothing!”19

The focus upon the product of humanity—what others can provide for me, rather than who others are as children of God—was taken to the extreme in the horrors of the holocaust, yet it is a tendency that is all too common and visible throughout society.

Children are only one group of interlopers that some in society wish would disappear. And just as the means of making children disappear—both through abortion and less obviously through the sexualization and parentification of the young—has become commonplace, so too have we developed the means of excluding others from our midst who might remind us of our own finitude. Prisons and ghettos are just two examples of such places of invisibility. And while the message Christopher Marshall relates in his book Beyond Retribution most directly applies to prisons and perhaps secondarily to ghettos, it arguably applies to many facilities that care for the elderly and the handicapped. In each of these situations there are numerous people who work within the systems to make them humane and even, in some cases, encouraging—but they are fighting a larger enemy than themselves, they are fighting the apathy of a society that does not want to be bothered by the needy and alien in its midst.

In Beyond Retribution, Marshall cites Peter Griffith who argues that the problem with prisons is not their failure to prevent evil acts, rather “the problem is that prisons are identical in spirit to the violence and murder they pretend to combat. . . . Whenever we cage people, we are in reality fueling and participating in the same spirit we claim to renounce. In the biblical understanding the spirit of prison is the spirit of death.”20 One cannot imprison human beings, segregating them from community and expect health and healing to come as a result. To Griffith and Marshall it is no surprise that our prisons are growing, after all that is to be expected if prisons secrete the evil they were created to contain.

Similarly urban ghettos can act as sources of decay and death. The Jonathan Kozol book Amazing Grace is replete with examples where society has sought to place the poor and the ill out of sight and therefore out of mind. At one point in Kozol’s journey he has a conversation with a poet who had been a well known political poet in the sixties. Mr. Castro states that he sees New York as a symbolic city:

“These buildings are our concrete prisons piled up like Babel. A satanic technology surrounds us. What we see is apparatus, not humanity.” Speaking of the simulated flower pots and curtains painted on abandoned buildings next to Featherbed Lane, he says “The people downtown”—he calls them “the big roosters”—”they wanted passerby to think it was inhabited: an Eden. But when you’re backstage you know the tricks. The people who live in the neighborhood are not deceived. They know their banishment has been accomplished.”21

One can see the same impetus underlying the way in which we deal with aging, sickness and death in our culture. In each of these cases, whether it be the exclusion or harsh treatment of aliens in our midst, the explosion of the prison population, or the invisibility of the homeless, poor and sick the spirit is the same. It is a spirit of rebellion which seeks to be completely autonomous, free from every obligation or tie which may limit individual expression and is a spirit which seeks to destroy anything that exposes the lie it tells its victims. This spirit can operate individually or even nationally, as Rowan Williams indicates in “Hearts of flesh.” The more we seek to rid ourselves of our frailty, to ignore our finitude the more we come to exclude our very humanity from our midst. By being unwelcoming to the unborn, to the handicapped, the sick to the friendless to the needy, by isolating people from our society, by ignoring our elderly or by simply using others as means, or ignoring or destroying others because of a perceived threat, we offer ourselves to the spirit of rebellion that refuses to grant God his rightful position as Lord of our lives.

The politics of scarcity extends this competition dynamic to all human relations, whether among the poor, the wealthy or between them as well as between various ethnicities and interest groups within society. It is this same fear of competition that drives the exclusion of certain segments of our society from the public discourse. Likewise, it is this fear that underlies the failure to recognize the inherent right of people to migrate.22

What are we to do in the face of such daunting problems? The first step is examining the fact that “our own lives, loves and actions are not readily demarcated as obedient or rebellious.”23 As Hall highlights in her study of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, the primary task of the Christian when confronted with their own human relationships is to recognize that their motivations and goals are always suspect, whether consciously or unconsciously. As such we should always stand ready to have our lives examined through the lens of the Gospel. This is a difficult task because so much of what we do on a daily basis, when examined in light of the cross, seems at least unfaithful if not outright rebellious. The situation is not hopeless however; Christians always have hope, and recognizing this could go a long way toward reinvigorating a world that seems to have lost hope.

In contrast to the spirit of rebellion, the Gospel presents a message of Redemption and liberation; liberation arrived at through the hard work of Christ our Lord. The work of Christ was that of salvation and a sacrificial death for others. The spirit of rebellion seeks to subvert the Gospel imperative that we “go and do likewise” serving others in the name of Christ. This rebellious and selfish nature means that we can never step outside of ourselves, share another’s pain or bear another’s burdens, seeking instead to free ourselves to make choices for ourselves without interference, at times going so far as to eliminate all evidence that we are not in fact, in control. Given its origin, it is unsurprising that the spirit of rebellion seeks always after autonomy and control. This sense of control, safety, is the real motivation behind the lust for power and the accumulation of material wealth, yet even in situations where wealth or objects are not at issue, we seek to focus our own sense of power and control through the perversion of our human relationships.

Our cultural obsession with youth and the medical means to maintain it, our willingness to allow injustice for the sake of comfort, convenience and safety, our questionable moral calculus when a particular science is so hopefully greeted as possibly furthering the other goals.

Williams’ observations in this area can be coupled with his concern, expressed in “Hearts of Flesh,” that a people unable accept their own frailty and fragility or mortality—ultimately, unable to accept their dependence upon the sovereign power of God—will inevitably find themselves in the position of “offering fleshly persons on altars of stone.” Williams intends this warning for individuals, groups (socially), society (corporately) and Nations. And it is true in all cases—the fear of weakness or frailty—of humanity, leads to its rejection and to the erection of an inhuman monolith in its place.

Such a human tendency—the tendency to reject our humanity in favor of something more durable—should give us pause and more than sufficient reason to ponder our treatment of the “other,” particularly the weak, helpless, alone or guilty in our personal as well as our social and governmental policy. Our history in this regard has been anything but positive.

Combine such an attitude with other social policy that indicate active exclusion of certain groups from the public consciousness and you are left with a society in which the formation of morally responsible people is difficult to say the least. Our societal obsession with sex indicates that individuals who are starved for affection and human contact may turn to sex for fulfillment. Instinctively we seem to understand that sex is inherently linked to life and so, in a world full of death, the unformed or deformed conscience looks to sex as a means of experiencing life. Yet this focus is one that covers more grievous wound that threatens us from multiple sides.

This wound is one that has always been there at the center of our human interactions, but there are times when it is able to be soothed; at others such as our own, it has become gangrenous and begun to claim healthy flesh. This wound was created by a spirit of rebellion and from such in gains its power. This is spirit of rebellion has its origins in the fall and can be contrasted with the spirit of liberation testified to by the Gospels.

Liberation theologians have long argued liberation as an outgrowth of the Gospel message, and Christian history attests to a trend toward greater respect for human freedom. Yet it is not only the struggles for national and ethnic political self-determination that deserve the respectful attention and assistance of Christians as some seem to indicate, nor is the Gospel only about freedom from the bondage of individual sends as others emphasize. The Gospel is both of these and more—it testifies to the Kingdom of God and to the citizens of the kingdom; and as such it should have an impact our corporate interactions and our personal relationship with God. The Gospel is about transformation.

The spirit of rebellion is one that is most dangerous precisely because of the ease with which it is confused with the spirit of liberation. Both promise freedom, but differ in the means by which freedom is secured. It is the nature of the spirit of rebellion that it seeks freedom from something while it can be said that the Gospel seeks liberation through something. This is a sentiment keenly expressed in much of Rowan Williams’ writing. Yet the Spirit of Rebellion however cannot offer true liberation because it subjugates those who follow it.

Liberation if it is to come must come through the cross, our liberation comes in the form of the perfect victim, the only victim not turned victimizer, Jesus Christ. As he expressed it in his book Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, “salvation does not bypass the history and memory of guilt, but rather builds upon and from it.”24 Such a reading not only short circuits all our attempts at judgment, inherently biasing them toward mercy, but in fact sets us up for judgment ourselves by virtue of “God’s judgment pronounced against human judgment.”25 Because we are to view all of our subsequent actions in light of the cross and all those we judge in light of the guiltless one whom we can be and, we come to a place where we are to imitate the God “whose property is always to have mercy.”

The way in this mercy gets translated is through the open embrace of welcome. Christianity operates in a world where the logical calculus has been upset, where one is expected to turn the other cheek, forgive seventy times seven, goes the extra mile, and love one’s enemies. Such a message certainly has ramifications for the way we live our lives and how we should seek to exercise our wills as individuals or implement our laws as a body. It has ramifications for the way we are to treat the alien in our midst, the poor, the oppressed, and the guilty. Indeed the call of the Gospel is the call to forgo any special privilege because of who we are, as we are and instead recognize an innate and worth in all humanity, a worth expressed in the love of humanity for all its flaws and validated through the saving work of Christ: because Christ has died and is risen, we have no standing to challenge his evaluation of the goods he has redeemed.

The message of welcome is one that goes deeper than simply recognizing the equal worth of every human being in the abstract, or excepting that certain people have rights in theory indeed we are to do good until all (Gal. 6:10). People have worth because they are created in the image of God—one person is equally that image as another; and this imprint does not alter or change with the passing of time—it is there from the beginning, from the time a child is “human” it bears the likeness of God and must be treated with dignity and respect, not excluded—either socially or terminally—for the benefit of others. A society built upon the suffering and exploitation of others will implode upon itself and secrete the substance of its own demise.

But there is more to God’s proportionality. Just as the victim or the guilty elicit mercy, so too should powerlessness and dependency illicit responsibility on the part of the powerful and able. We can see this idea forcefully presented in William Tyndale’s “Parable of the Wicked Mammon”, which states in economic terms the principal I am attempting to highlight. “Why is Mammon ‘unrighteous’? Not, says Tyndale, because it was unlawfully come by: there is a simple course of action with that sort of money. “Of unrighteous gotten goods can no man do good works, but ought to restore them home again” (p 69). No, the problem is the evil use of money; and the definition of evil use is the failure to use it to me in need of another.”26

Here we see two ethical points: the ends do not justify the means, no matter how well-intentioned because it is intrinsically impossible to make a proper end from an evil beginning. The second point is that what ever benefits or powers we have been entrusted with are to be used in the service of others.

The first of these premises was stated forcefully and memorably by Stanley Hauerwas when discussing the ethicality of experimenting on fetal tissue, “what if it were discovered that fetal tissue were a delicacy; could you eat it?” Such words seem harsh, yet they expose the underlying presuppositions at work in support of such activities, the contrast between the two, and the discovery that all that separates the two is ideology is revelatory.

The hope available to Christians in the face of such dilemmas is testified to in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt 25:34-40)

As Christians we should be prepared to welcome the infant, the dependant, the poor, the sick and the stranger, not from fear that we will not be welcomed by our Lord, but out or gratitude that Christ has welcomed us and out of obeisance to the task he has set us, to spread the good news of his salvation. It is impossible to spread this good news while taking part unquestioningly in systemic evils that exclude and prevent others from experiencing holy relationships with others and being brought into the Kingdom of God.

Works Cited
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Dewey, John. Freedom and Culture, Great Books in Philosophy. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989.

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Hall, Amy Laura. Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love, Variation: Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought; 9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

———. “Naming the Risen Lord: Embodied Discipleship and Masculinity.” In The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, edited by Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells, 82-94. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Hart, David Bentley. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

Hauerwas, Stanley. “Abortion, Theologically Understood.” In The Hauerwas Reader, edited by John Berkman and Michael Cartwright, 603-22. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

Kozol, Jonathan. Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation. 1st HarperPerennial ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 1996.

MacIntyre, Alasdair C. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. 2nd ed. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984.

Marshall, Christopher D. Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment. Grand Rapids: WB Eerdmans, 2001.

Merton, Thomas. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. New York: Image Books.

Milbank, John. Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, Signposts in Theology. Cambridge, Mass., USA: B. Blackwell, 1991.

Rasmusson, Arne. The Church as Polis: From Political Theology to Theological Politics as Exemplified by Jürgen Moltmann and Stanley Hauerwas. University of Notre Dame Press rev. ed. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995.

Reno, R. R. “Fighting the Noonday Devil.” First Things August/September, no. 135 (2003): 31-36.

Stafford, William S. Disordered Loves: Healing the Seven Deadly Sins. Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1994.

Sternberg, Ernest. “The Economy of Icons.” In The Asheville Reader: The Individual in the Contemporary World, edited by Grace Campbell, Michael Gillum, Dorothy Sullock and Mark West, 600-03. Acton, Massachusetts: Copley, 2002.

Sutterfield, Ragan. Vol. 1.2 Spring 2004. Weddings and Wrong Choices. In, The New Pantagruel, http://www.newpantagruel.com/issues/1.2/weddings_and_wrong_choices.php. (accessed.

Williams, Rowan. Anglican Identities. London: Darton Longman and Todd, 2004.

———. “Hearts of Flesh.” In A Ray of Darkness, edited by Rowan Williams. Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1995.

———. Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement. New York: T&T Clark, 2000.

———. Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2002.

Yuengert, Andrew M. Inhabiting the Land. Edited by Gloria L. Zuniga. Vol. 6, Christian Social Thought Series. Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2003.


  1. William S. Stafford, Disordered Loves: Healing the Seven Deadly Sins (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1994), 107-08. []
  2. R. R. Reno, “Fighting the Noonday Devil,” First Things August/September, no. 135 (2003). []
  3. Arne Rasmusson, The Church as Polis: From Political Theology to Theological Politics as Exemplified by Jürgen Moltmann and Stanley Hauerwas, University of Notre Dame Press rev. ed. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995), 249-50. []
  4. credit for this observation goes to Dr. Fhugabe (?) who presented at the North Carolina historians conference that took place on the campus of UNC-Asheville in 2002-2003 []
  5. Jean Baudrillard, “L’esprit Du Terrorisme,” in The Asheville Reader: The Individual in the Contemporary World, ed. Grace Campbell, et al. (Acton, Massachusetts: Copley, 2002), 72. He states: Terrorists, like viruses, are everywhere. There is no longer a boundary that can hem them in; it is at the heart of the very culture it’s fighting with, and the visible fracture (and the hatred) that pits the exploited and underdeveloped nations of the world against the West masks the dominant system’s internal fractures. It is as if every means of domination secreted its own antidote. Against this almost automatic form of resistance to its power, the system can do nothing. Terrorism is the shockwave of this silent resistance. []
  6. Alasdair C. MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 84. []
  7. John Dewey, Freedom and Culture, Great Books in Philosophy; (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989), 26. []
  8. Ibid. []
  9. Stanley Hauerwas, “Abortion, Theologically Understood,” in The Hauerwas Reader, ed. John Berkman and Michael Cartwright (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 608. []
  10. Rowan Williams, “Hearts of Flesh,” in A Ray of Darkness, ed. Rowan Williams (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1995), 35-36. []
  11. Taylor, 261 []
  12. Amy Laura Hall, “Naming the Risen Lord: Embodied Discipleship and Masculinity,” in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, ed. Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 93. []
  13. Ragan Sutterfield, Weddings and Wrong Choices [Internet] (The New Pantagruel, Vol. 1.2 Spring 2004 [cited); available from http://www.newpantagruel.com/issues/1.2/weddings_and_wrong_choices.php. []
  14. This argument is discernible in much of Williams' writing on marriage, sexuality and the body, but is perhaps most noticeable in his essay "The Body's Grace" and in his homily "Unveiled Faces" in A Ray of Darkness. []
  15. Rowan Williams, Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement (New York: T&T Clark, 2000), 28-29. []
  16. Genetics & Public Policy Center, Custom Kids? Genetic Testing of Embryos (2004 [cited March & December 2004]); available from http://www.dnapolicy.org/policy/pgdForum.jhtml. []
  17. Ernest Sternberg, “The Economy of Icons,” in The Asheville Reader: The Individual in the Contemporary World, ed. Grace Campbell, et al. (Acton, Massachusetts: Copley, 2002), 600. []
  18. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, Signposts in Theology; (Cambridge, Mass., USA: B. Blackwell, 1991), 279. cited by David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 37. []
  19. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York: Image Books), 88. []
  20. Cited by Christopher D. Marshall, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment (Grand Rapids: WB Eerdmans, 2001), 14. []
  21. Jonathan Kozol, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, 1st HarperPerennial ed. (New York: HarperPerennial, 1996), 75-76. []
  22. Andrew M. Yuengert, Inhabiting the Land, ed. Gloria L. Zuniga, vol. 6, Christian Social Thought Series (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2003), 11. []
  23. Amy Laura Hall, Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love, Variation: Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought; 9. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 57. []
  24. Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2002), 4-7. []
  25. Ibid. []
  26. Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities (London: Darton Longman and Todd, 2004), 13. []