Luke’s gospel is uncompromising. This Sunday’s reading:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
So much for “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” As Andrew Klavan has observed, he is nowhere in the gospels.
I have heard this passage described repeatedly as “challenging.” Followed by a sermon that did not challenge, but avoided mentioning what the passage actually says: Jesus is against peace and family values.
We should not be surprised. Either is an idolatry, the more dangerous for being so apparently desirable, and so seductive. This is what evil always is: God created all things good. Evil consists of valuing a lesser good over a greater.
Sex is good; and so the temptation is to elevate sex beyond its procreative station. Material comfort is good. And so the love of money becomes the root of evil. In the same way, family and peace are desirable, and so especially likely to lead to sin.
|Peace in our time.|
Neville Chamberlain serenely betrayed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in the name of peace. Lincoln could have had peace and avoided the carnage of the Civil War by guaranteeing the right to slavery. The neighbours of Kitty Genovese opted for peace. As Edmund Burke put it, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
And “family” is at least as often as not in rivalry with spiritual values. Family values are pagan values: valuing family relationships beyond the point required by gratitude implies devaluing all those to whom you are not related. It is at base no more admirable than racism.
St. Dymphna’s father demanded that she marry him. That would be the ultimate expression of family values.