Abp. Lazar Puhalo: “When you moralize a social issue, you have no hope of ever solving it”

In the comments for the “No religion, please, we’re postmodern” bit from last week, I suggested the following:

The trouble seems to be — and this is one of the things that I might take from the problems that these “young people” are expressing about church — that churches in the present-day have thrown out so much of what made them what they were in order to be “relevant”, and are thus left with not much more than a collection of moral shibboleths and Bible verses that seem virtually impossible to take seriously in the world that they’ve accommodated in their trappings, that there’s just no “there” there anymore.

With that in mind, I give you Abp. Lazar (Puhalo) on a Canadian program called The Standard (not entirely sure when this ran):

At 1:32:

When we… reduce religion down to a moral code, or to externally appropriate behavior, then morality as a legal code like that becomes a heresy because it’s a substitute for a life in Christ, and it’s also a substitute for an inner transformation of the heart. Anything which leads us to arrogance, condescension, pride, to judge and condemn other people, is completely contrary to the teachings of Christ, therefore it’s a heresy. So morality can become a heresy as a substitute for a life in Christ, as an alternative to an inner transformation of your own heart, and as a platform from which you can judge and condemn other people… Another problem, really, is that when you moralize a social issue, you have no hope of ever solving it… we’re really putting our foot on their head and shoving them down deeper into the darkness.

I find some of Abp. Lazar’s jurisdictional history a bit, shall we say, colorful, and I would want him to clarify a few things in a setting not quite so ruled by the clock, but I do wonder if there isn’t something worth pondering here. I have heard it suggested that his view is simplistic and unscriptural; I would say that it is simple, perhaps, but I’m not sure about simplistic, and while it may be simple, it’s definitely not easy. Unscriptural… well, among other things, I am reminded of verse 1:22 of the Epistle of St. James, which my friend Hal Sabbagh has been quoting a lot lately: “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, thereby deceiving your own selves.”

Anyway, I’m not going to get into a line-by-line analysis right now, but this seemed worth throwing out there given recent discussion.


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