83 Richard B. Hays Quotes on Cross and The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community - Quotes.pub

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what are we to say about the Catholic military chaplain who administered mass to the Catholic bomber pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945? Father George Zabelka, chaplain for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb squadrons, later came to repent of his complicity in the bombing of civilians, but his account of that time is a stunning judgment on the church’s acquiescence in violence. To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and as a priest as 1 see it…. I was there, and I’ll tell you that the operational moral atmosphere in the church in relation to mass bombing of enemy civilians was totally indifferent, silent, and corrupt at best—at worst it was religiously supportive of these activities by blessing those who did them…. Catholics dropped the A-bomb on top of the largest and first Catholic city in Japan. One would have thought that I, as a Catholic priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. (Three orders of Catholic sisters were destroyed in Nagasaki that day.) One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn’t bomb Catholic children. I didn’t. I, like the Catholic pilot of the Nagasaki plane, “The Great Artiste,” was heir to a Christianity that had for seventeen hundred years engaged in revenge, murder, torture, the pursuit of power, and prerogative violence, all in the name of our Lord. I walked through the ruins of Nagasaki right after the war and visited the place where once stood the Urakami Cathedral. I picked up a piece of censer from the rubble. When I look at it today I pray God forgives us for how we have distorted Christ’s teaching and destroyed his world by the distortion of that teaching. I was the Catholic chaplain who was there when this grotesque process that began with Constantine reached its lowest point—so far.4 It is difficult to read such accounts without recalling the story of Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem, because “the things that make for peace” were hidden from their eyes (Luke 19:41
Thus, metaphors reshape perception. For example, when the Gospel of John presents Jesus as saying, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51a), the message jolts his hearers, who are looking for him to play the role of Moses by providing them with miraculous bread to eat (6:30–31). Jesus’ striking response refuses the identification with Moses and posits instead a metaphorical conjunction between himself and the manna that fed the Israelites in the wilderness. The metaphor quickly takes a gruesome turn when Jesus goes on to say, “[T]he bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” and affirms that “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (6:51b, 54a). At one level, the metaphorical shock induces the reader to confront the scandal of John’s claim that “the Word became flesh.” (Indeed, the statement that the Word became flesh strikingly illustrates the power of metaphor to “mutilate our world of meanings” and create a new framework for perception.)13 On another level, the metaphor leads the reader to make the imaginative connection between the Exodus story and the church’s Eucharist, with the flesh of Jesus as the startling common term. The hearer of such a metaphor is confronted by two options. We can take offense at this jarring conjunction of images, as did those disciples who went away murmuring, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Or, alternatively, we can “understand” the metaphor. To “understand” it, however, is to stand under its authority, to allow our life and perception of reality to be changed in light of the “ontological flash”14 created by the metaphorical conjunction, so that we confess with Peter, “Lord, to whom [else] can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (6:68).