Theologian to Speak on Political Divisiveness

By Karen Lincoln Michel
Green Bay Press-Gazette
September 17, 2010

A nationally-known theologian says the divisiveness fueling American politics has spread to churches, but Christians still can live in peace during contentious times.

The Rev. Bryan Massingale, associate professor of moral theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, will talk about those divisions and how to address them when he speaks in Fish Creek on Sept. 25 as part of the Tom Bennett-Stella Maris Distinguished Speaker series. His speech, titled "'An Instrument of Your Peace': Christian Witness and the Challenge of Unity with Our Adversaries," is based on his extensive research on reconciling a divided world and reducing tensions within the Church.

"There seems to be this general atmosphere of anger, resentment and meanness in the public sphere as we've seen in the debates over immigration and health care reform," Massingale said Wednesday. At the same time, he said, churches have experienced a "sense of polarization and fragmentation" particularly the Catholic Church from such issues as the "sexual abuse crisis" and the priest shortage.

"I think what happens all too often, unfortunately, is that we Christians replicate the practices of political discourse and we bring that into the church," he said.

Massingale said he will share practical tips on how faith can guide Christians through these challenges. Some of his practices, he said, are based in life principles of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"He (King) would say the right relationship with the adversary requires truth telling," Massingale said. "We tell the truth about the situation in which we live."

Massingale, immediate past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said he has studied this subject for many years but has concentrated his efforts on it in the past three years.

He said for those who come to hear him speak, he hopes to leave them with a deeper insight into what's going on in church and society and the reasons why.

"I also hope they will leave with this deeper sense of inspiration that our faith has a credible message of how to live in the midst of the difficult times that we're living in," Massingale said.

The Distinguished Speaker Series is named after one of its principal founders, the late Thomas J. Bennett, former professor and administrator at Marquette University, prior to his retirement to Door County.



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