POPE'S ROLE IN HOLOCAUST STILL AN ISSUE
The question of how much Pope Pius XII did in World War II to save Jews from the Holocaust continues to be debated fiercely. Now it has causes the Vatican's ambassador to Israel to boycott an annual Holocaust memorial next week because it portrays the pope in a negative light. I wish I could be around 100 years from now to read a much more fully documented account of this history. At the moment, my reading is that Pius didn't do enough but he did more than many of his critics contend.
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THE CHALLENGE OF CIVILITY
Earlier this week I served on a panel at St. Paul School of Theology as part of a program called "The Future of Civility."
Our panel was to discuss "Civility in the Local News." The other panelists were Vincent Orza, a former TV anchor who serves now as the dean of the business school at Oklahoma City University, and the Rev. Gordon McClellan, an associate pastor at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kan.
Lots of good discussion, but I thought these were some interesting points made either by one of the panelists or by someone in the audience:
* We don't own God. When we imagine we have God all figured out and then treat others as if they're all wrong about their perceptions of God, it leads to a lack of civility and needless division.
* Two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions have been occasions for the profound religious divide that continues to bedevil the nation: The decision outlawing school-led prayer in public schools in the early 1960s and the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. Those decisions did not cause the divisions so much as reveal them. And until we can reach some consensus as a society on the issues involved, we may not be able to re-establish civil discourse as normative.
* Labels inevitably hide more than they reveal. Our use of labels to describe people or groups of people should be careful and judicious, and we should pay attention to nuance.
* Too few people have time or take time for reflection. Information comes at us so fast from so many directions that, in response, we sometimes simply fly off the handle and spew out, Don Imus-like, whatever first comes into our heads. As Orza said: "There's never a moment when someone's not saying something."
I'll stop there so you can reflect. Take your time. (And for regular commenters on this blog, I appreciate those of you who try to be part of the solution.)
Oh, and by the way, click here for an interesting recent New York Times piece about civility on blogs.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow is about my recent visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.)
P.S.: If you haven't read much writing by Kurt Vonnegut, who died this week, you should, of course, read Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, but for a sense of his religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), read his book Palm Sunday, especially the Palm Sunday sermon he preached once at a church in New York. Vonnegut was one of my favorite writers, even though he sometimes disappointed me.