Issue Date: November 9, 2007
From the Editor's Desk
What price Christianity?
When we least expect it, life can challenge our beliefs in a way that does not allow for compromise. To preserve the integrity of a decision, we may have to pay a high price. In late October, NCR sent Tom Roberts to Austria to attend the beatification ceremony of Franz Jägerstätter (see story), an Austrian farmer who was executed Aug. 9, 1943, for his refusal to serve the Nazi army. Our decisions are seldom of this magnitude, but Jägerstätters life forces us to reflect on whether there is anything in our own beliefs for which we would lay down our lives. What value do we place on our beliefs? Which ones cannot be compromised?
Compromise is about a mutual acceptance of terms that produces an agreed upon outcome. Though it can have a positive meaning, it usually refers to a situation where something is lost. In the play A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More speaks with his daughter, who is distraught over her fathers refusal to sign an oath of allegiance to the king.
When a man takes an oath, Meg, hes holding his own self in his hands. Like water. (He cups his hand.) And if he opens his fingers then -- he neednt hope to find himself again. Some men arent capable of this, but Id be loath to think your father one of them.
Jägerstätter and More, from different centuries and facing different situations, reflect the same story -- confrontation with the state and their refusal to acquiesce to its demands. At what point must we do the same and withhold our assent?
Another story reported on our pages this week addresses a similar confrontation, the ordination of three women in St. Louis Nov. 11. These women will not lose their lives for defying the church, but they will lose themselves if they do not speak out for a belief they hold without compromise -- that God is calling women to ordained ministry. (See story)
A third story reported in our pages tells of the victims of torture and the people providing assistance as they heal both physically and emotionally. Again, these are people who have chosen to resist the demands of the state and in so doing have incurred a high price for their refusing to compromise their beliefs. At what point must we do the same? (See story)
To be a Christian is to place the demands of the Gospel above all else. The question is whether to add the phrase without compromise to that determination. This is a personal question that each person must grapple with. And though the answers may vary, to avoid the challenge altogether is to risk losing ourselves as disciples. What do you believe in, with all your heart, without compromise?
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On another note, by now I hope you have received your Friends of NCR annual appeal letter. This campaign is our major annual fundraising effort in support of NCR. While we work to keep expenses down, your subscription fees, combined with the revenues we receive from advertising, cover only 65 percent of the costs incurred in publishing this newspaper. Your contributions help make up the difference. We are most grateful for your support.
-- Sr. Rita Larivee, SSA
National Catholic Reporter, November 9, 2007
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