Author: Dana Dillon

Hiroshima and the Transfiguration of Christ

Each year, on August 6, I’m reminded of the strange convergence.  In the liturgical calendar, August 6th is the Feast of the Transfiguration, where Jesus goes up Mt. Tabor with Peter, James, and John, and they see the manifestation of his glory, as he talks with Moses and Elijah.  It is a feast (and a story) that reminds us of the power and glory that was Jesus’ own, even as he came “in our midst as one who serves”: teaching, healing, washing feet.  And, to paraphrase Philippians 2, he did not cling to the glory that was his, but instead humbled himself, choosing to make his most striking statement of power on the Cross.  Christ did not stay on Mt. Tabor, but moved forward to Calvary. And yet it was on this day in 1945 that the US, led by President Truman, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan.  Three days later, we would drop another on Nagasaki.  There were certainly reasons to do this, which of course came down to shortening the war, saving American lives, and showing American strength to our enemies and our uneasy alliances alike. But there is no room at all in the just war tradition for truly justifying reasons to use a weapon which cannot discriminate between soldiers and non-combatants.  In all our talk (for instance, in moving into war with Iraq...

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Freedom, Justice, and Blessing

For those of us in the US: Happy Independence Day! As I prepare to celebrate the holiday with family and friends, with hot dogs, hamburgers and all the trimmings, I’m deeply grateful for the freedoms and privileges that being an American citizen has afforded me.  I’m mindful, too, of the cost of those freedoms, both in terms of those who have given their own lives or those of their family members in military service and in terms of the people around the world who know poverty as an effect of our collective wealth.  I think too of all those...

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Love, Truth, and DOMA

A friend of mine wrote me yesterday and asked if I could say something about how to speak to fellow Catholics and others about same sex marriage in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings.  This, of course, is one of the most divisive issues in our nation and in our Church.  It is very difficult for me personally to write about.  The reason for that is quite simple: there are many gay and lesbian persons who are very dear to me.  I love them and value them, like other friends and family members, more than words can say.  And, honestly, part of me wants to celebrate with them, at the very least their feeling of being honored and respected by the Court’s decisions.  But I also believe that marriage is a natural institution that is ordered to the procreation of children and so requires a man and a woman.  This natural institution is prior to the state and as such cannot be redefined by the state or any of its powers.  I’m not going to argue that case here. What I want to talk about is this: we are a Church who holds both of these things (the inherent dignity of every person and our obligation/opportunity to love them; and that sex and marriage have a fundamental relationship to the procreation of children).  Yes, most of us seem to...

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Journeying in Faith from Family Foundations

This post is part of the series on the Faith of Theologians.  Read the introduction to the series here. To talk about one’s faith is more difficult than one would think.  Faith, though deeply personal, is not at all private.  I find that I cannot talk about my faith without speaking of the faith of my parents, and even of their parents.  But my faith is not theirs; my faith has been reshaped and refined through encounters with great theologians who were my teachers and with even greater ones whose timeless books were assigned reading as I pursued three very different degrees in theology. It has been shaped in friendships, through love and service and loss. And my faith has been tested, challenged, and shaped by the young people who were in youth groups, RCIA classes, and high school and college theology classes that I have led or taught throughout my adult life. I grew up in a home where every Sunday was spent at Church, and everyone went either to a Catholic school or to religious education classes.  But there were also family rosaries and monthly family trips to confession.  There was prayer at meals and prayers at the start of trips.  There were conversations and readings about popes and saints.   And, of course, every bit of family life was shot through with conversations about how faith (and...

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The Faith of Theologians: Introducing a New Series

At this year’s meeting of the College Theology Society, among many other helpful sessions, there was an open forum in which theologians were placed into groups (I had not met anyone in my group before the session) and were asked to share answers to two basic questions: (1) why do you do what you do?, and (2) what gives you hope?  Matt Shadle and Dan Horan have already written about this session. This may sound odd to believing, practicing Catholics, but theologians don’t actually talk much about their personal faith, at least not in meetings of the guild.  We talk about the tradition, the arguments, the crucial points, the key criticisms.  We may be arguing about grace or virtue or Jesus or the Trinity or the relation between faith and reason, or a thousand other things that have everything to do with faith.  But, particularly because we are academics, we tend to argue as though we are scientists, neutral observers of these things “out there.”  We often argue as if we have no personal stake in the argument.  We don’t often pause and talk to one another about what we believe, about how our faith shapes our work and lives, nor even about whether we indeed share a faith that is deeper than the arguments that often divide us.  That is the stuff of faith-sharing groups, not professional conferences....

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