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Preaching Peaches: Balancing Politics with Religion

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

by Fr. Jonathan Atchley

Religious beliefs ought to be common-sensical. When they lose their commonsense character, moral reasoning can become unrealistic and subject to irrational discourse. Consider Fr. Anthony de Mello’s modern-day parable:

“In a particular desert land peaches were very scarce. Some holy people of the land had a revelation which they put down in the following code: ‘Thou shalt not eat more than two peaches a day.’ Later some found the means to convert the desert into a garden. Trees started flourishing, peaches grew in plenty, so much so that they were falling from the trees and rotting on the ground. The young people began to rebel against the law on peaches, but the holy people were determined to maintain the law as they claimed it had been revealed by God. There were some people who ate more than two peaches a day and they were feeling guilty. Others also ate more than two peaches, and they didn’t feel guilty. Those among the young people who proclaimed, ‘It is all right to eat more than two peaches a day’ were punished.” [1]

Peaches once were rare. When they become plentiful, the morality of peaches may change. In any case, true religious revelation is always based on reality. While reality has a way of changing in appearance, substantially it remains the same. Truth does not contradict truth. When confronted by a paradox, the believer can reasonably assert, “perhaps we did not fully understand all its implications, but it is safer to say that faith is always reasonable than to claim that one can never establish moral truth at all.” Moral relativists, on the other hand, would argue that society never had the right to restrict access to peaches, that moral truths can and do substantially change. Liberal politicians nowadays will not only argue that abortion is morally permissible but ought even to be blessed by God! When natural law and commonsense truths (that life begins at conception) are rejected, one’s moral use of reasoning becomes subject to critical error.

Catholicism, on the other hand, is common-sensical. It offers sound reasoning in practical matters that allows a realistic pursuit of the common good, because our understanding is reality-based, even as that understanding of reality can change. How is this possible? The Christian believes that moral truth is never contradictory with reality, and that what God reveals as a matter of religious truth can be assured to bear out fruitfully in reality. Charity does not mean that truth will waver, just as peace does not preclude adversity; with grace, even paradox becomes practically possible (like the liquification of a dead man’s blood as in the case of St. Januarius).

When we are morally weak, Catholics do not jettison truth for the sake of justice or change religious beliefs that become too demanding: “Oh, that is such a heavy burden. God wouldn’t want you to suffer like that. You really the forbidden apple, bless same sex marriages, cheat on your taxes, allow men to compete as women in sports,” and so on. The difference between politics and religion for Catholics is that religious beliefs prove to be a solid starting point, based on truth from God that does not change, while political decisions are expected to change to suit varying circumstances. Christ’s teachings are the same yesterday, today and forever; we are built on a rock. When weak, we don’t change religion’s reasonable rules, but adhere to them even more faithfully. The Cross can raise us to new life; but when rejected, Jesus’ sufferings promise to become a source of shame.

[1] Aurel Brys and Joseph Pulickal, “We heard the Bird Sing: Interacting with Anthony de Mello,” (Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1995) pages 30-31.

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1 commentaire

Cynthia Matthews
Cynthia Matthews
24 sept. 2023

Thank you, Fr. Atchley. You're right on target. God bless you!

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