Monday, January 7, 2008

Does No Mean Yes?

Attorney: Do you have a sexual attraction to post-pubescent adolescents?

Defendant: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may incriminate me.

I don't know what I find more frightening, the question or the answer, especially considering the defendant is a Dominican friar, A. J. Cody. Cody is facing charges of sexually molesting young boys at several different parishes in and outside of the United States.

The issue the question raises is disturbing enough. However, I think I am more bothered by the response that Cody gives. As I was listening to this exchange (part of NPR's latest weekly religion podcast that you can get at ITunes), I suddenly thought back to Jesus instructing his disciples, "Let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'". Somehow, I don't think, "I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may incriminate me" fits in real well with that teaching.

I think sometimes following this teaching of Jesus may mean having to stand up and answer the hard questions that make us uncomfortable or force us to admit to something we would not want anybody else to know. Even in a culture that presumes innocence, I hear Cody's response, and all I can think is, "The fact that he won't answer the question means he did it." Haven't we taken the same attitude with someone like Mark McGwire and his comments before Congress about steroids?

We talk about the need to confess our sins. Sometimes that is painful, embarassing, and humiliating. Sometimes it can cost us freedom and rights. Sometimes it can cost us fame and popularity. Maybe that is where the whole idea of "seek ye first the kingdom of God" takes on a whole different meaning.

I know I probably sound like I am assuming guilt where there has been no judgment of guilt yet. However, I feel like such a thought is left open when we as Christians can't just say "yes" or "no".

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