Archive for November, 2017

“False Witnesses?”

Monday, November 27th, 2017

No one reputable questions the vast majority of claims of sexual abuse that have filled the media in these past weeks. Too many witnesses, too vivid descriptions to be made up. Plus most of those accused have admitted having made “mistakes” and apologized in one way or another (though mostly not to the satisfaction of the victims.)

But what happens further down this road, when people come forward who were not actually harmed but who want to cash in on the notoriety of the predators? This has happened before with those who falsely claimed to suffer from satanic cults, and it will inevitably happen in this case. Too much money to be gained. Too many lawyers who will take any case.

So, going forward, the evidence will need to be sifted even more stringently, and justice will need to be served. Otherwise, the gains recently made against powerful abusers will evaporate. —J. Douglas Ousley


Harassed and Helpless…

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

This text contains the best-known use of the word, “harassed” in the Bible. While the context (Jesus regarding his clueless disciples) is quite different from the current use of the word to refer to sexual abuse, the link of the word with “helpless” reminds us of the real underlying problem: those who are abused feel “helpless” in the sense that they feel alone and without power to resist the advances of the abusers.

I’ve never been in such a situation but I can imagine something of the feeling a person has who is being harassed. That Christians condemn such behavior unequivocally should go without saying. So also should we Christians feel the deepest shame when prominent Christians abuse. —J. Douglas Ousley


Where the Treasure Isn’t

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This saying came to mind as I was attending the Annual Convention of the Diocese of New York last weekend. An underlying theme of the Convention was certainly treasure.

Or, rather, the lack of it. 33 of 200 parishes are unable to pay their full assessment (tax) to the diocese, so the diocese will have to dip into its endowment to balance its budget this year and next. Though the diocesan bureaucracy has not (yet) been cut back, many of its outreach programs are seeing reductions in their budgets.

Happily, Incarnation is blessed with a growing endowment, and results of the pledge drive for 2018 are encouraging. But we also will need to watch our pennies in the future. We’ll need more fund-raising efforts, more supporting members–more work, more commitment. And through it all, we will need to remember that the goal of all our efforts is to love and serve God and our neighbors.

Ultimately, that’s where our hearts should be. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Banality of Evil

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

When I was doing graduate work in philosophy, I was fortunate to take some courses with Hannah Arendt. Prof. Arendt became known for, among other things, her phrase, “the banality of evil.” She was referring to the phenomenon during the Holocaust where terrible events like the death camps and tyranny were so common that evil became banal–ordinary.

It’s hard not to think similar thoughts these days, following many mass shootings and terrorist acts at home and abroad.

Our Men’s Group last night looked at the presence of evil and how its existence might be reconciled with the Christian belief in a loving and omnipotent God. The key component of any defense of the Christian position is the necessity of human freedom in order to fulfill the purposes of God. We can’t grow in love and service to others unless we have the option of being unloving. And a world in which accidents never occurred would similarly preclude human freedom. Justice further requires life after death so that wrongs in this life can be made right.

Nevertheless, we agreed that many mysteries surrounding the phenomenon of evil remain. In the words of the Psalmist: “Out of the depths we cry out unto thee. O Lord, hear our prayer.” —J. Douglas Ousley