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Something to chew on from Morning Prayer today

June 27, 2009

I most often use the Mission of St. Clare website each day to pray morning prayer. Today James Kiefer wrote about Cyril, a man for whom he has ambivalent feelings at best. In response to those ambivalent thoughts, James posted a bit of an exchange he had while writing this piece while riding in a cab, between himself and the taxi-cab driver about what he was writing. It’s very unusual for James to include a personal nonsequitor in his presentation of the saint for the day, but it was definitely food for thought.

But it is as a theologian and a scholar, not as a bishop or human-relations man, that Cyril is honored. I do not find him on any Anglican calendars, and I think I know why.

But on the other hand….

As I was taking a cab back from the airport (thank you, William Raspberry), the driver asked me, “What are you writing there?”

I said: “A biographical sketch of Cyril of Alexandria.”
He said: “Not an altogether enthusiastic appraisal, right?”
I said: “Of course not.”
He said: “That figures. What do people like you have against Cyril anyway? Why can’t you leave the guy alone? He was a great theologian!”
I said: “He was a bigot and a tyrant. To start with, he forcibly closed the churches of the Novatianists.”
He said: “That was not a matter of forcing men to give up their faith. The Novatianists held exactly the same beliefs as other Christians in Egypt. They just couldn’t stand to worship with others whose ancestors had a less pure record than their own ancestors. When the government integrated the public schools and made the children of former slaveholders go to school with the children of former slaves, did you wax indignant? I thought not!”
I said: “Next thing, you’ll be defending the murder of Hypatia.”
He said: “Last time I checked, there was no evidence that Cyril had anything to do with the murder of Hypatia.”
I said: “Not directly. But his sermons and denunciations created the climate of hate that led to her murder.”
He said: “Climate of hate, indeed. You guys always trot that out when it suits you. After the Oklahoma City bombing, you said that anyone who had complained about the government’s actions in Waco was guilty of creating a climate of hate that caused the bombings. When an abortionist was shot, you said that anyone who talked about abortion as the taking of innocent life was responsible for creating a climate of hate that encouraged the shooting of abortionists. Do you ever put the shoe on the other foot? Have you ever written a column saying that people who complain about police brutality or complain that blacks in the United States face systematic injustice are responsible for creating a climate of hate that resulted in the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King trial or the Watts riots in 1965 or the Detroit riots in 1968? Do you say that people who raise concerns about battered wives are responsible for creating a climate of hatred that leads women to mutilate their husbands or set them on fire while they are sleeping? Just when does this ‘climate of hate’ argument apply and when doesn’t it?”

I gave him less than my usual generous tip. If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s an uppity cabdriver.

Interesting line of argument from the cab driver…I’m mulling it over. Care to join me?

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