Sometimes you have to. In my job, I spend a lot of time sweating the small stuff--because it's what I get paid to do, and because if I don't, it will be harder for the people I work with to get their research funded.
As always, however, the trick is to know when and how much--and as I look around at what's been going on around the country and the world, far too many people have been sweating far too much small stuff, and all at the wrong time. Consider the hoo-ha over President Obama's bow last week to the emperor of Japan. OMG, the president of the United States demonstrated manners and common courtesy in public in a diplomatic situation? What's the world coming to?
This week, the wingnuts are clutching their pearls and groping for their fainting couches at the prospect that people we've detained as terrorists might actually be tried and, if convicted, imprisoned on American soil. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that eight years is probably not what the Framers had in mind when they enshrined the right to a "speedy and public trial" in the Sixth Amendment, I should think the fact that as of June 2008 we had locked up some 2.3 million people would constitute sufficient evidence that we've gotten pretty good at doing so. I see no particular reason to feel alarmed at the possibility that people from Guantanamo Bay might be brought to the continental U.S. and put on trial for what we are claiming they did. Nor do I feel any heightened anxiety at the possibility that the federal government is considering buying an under-used maximum security state prison not all that far away from where I live and using it to house those very criminals, should they be convicted. The mouth-breathers are all wetting their pants, but that seems to be their raison d'être; myself, I just don't enjoy the practice much.
The Catholic Church is also getting into the fearmongering and small-stuff sweating game, though I really do wish the Holy Spirit would rigorously apply the Cosmic Clue-by-Four to the backs of a few bishops' heads starting any day now. Of all the problems in the world the bishops could choose to care about, they're worried about who is boffing whom? Worse yet, rather than face the possibility that they might not be able to discriminate quite as freely against their LGBT flock as they are accustomed to doing, the Washington archdiocese has threatened to shut down all of its charitable institutions in the city, cutting off food and shelter and health care to the poor and the elderly. I know I'm not the only Catholic in America who is simply livid at the very idea; I'm also pretty sure I remember reading something, once upon a time, in a pretty important book, something about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked... Oh, yeah, it was this:
Ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τῶν ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι μετ' αὐτοῦ, τότε καθίσει ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ· καὶ συναχθήσονται ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ ἀφορίσει αὐτοὺς ἀπ' ἀλλήλων, ὥσπερ ὁ ποιμὴν ἀφορίζει τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων, καὶ στήσει τὰ μὲν πρόβατα ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ, τὰ δὲ ἐρίφια ἐξ εὐωνύμων. τότε ἐρεῖ ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῖς ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ· δεῦτε οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου, κληρονομήσατε τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου. ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν, ἐδίψησα καὶ ἐποτίσατέ με, ξένος ἤμην καὶ συνηγάγετέ με, γυμνὸς καὶ περιεβάλετέ με, ἠσθένησα καὶ ἐπεσκέψασθέ με, ἐν φυλακῇ ἤμην καὶ ἤλθατε πρὸς με. τότε ἀποκριθήσονται αὐτῷ οἱ δίκαιοι λέγοντες· κύριε, πότε σε εἴδομεν πεινῶντα καὶ ἐθρέψαμεν, ἢ διψῶντα καὶ ἐποτίσαμεν; πότε δέ σε εἴδομεν ξένον καὶ συνηγάγομεν, ἢ γυμνὸν καὶ περιεβάλομεν; πότε δὲ σε εἴδομεν ἀσθενοῦντα ἢ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν πρός σε; καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐρεῖ αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐφ' ὅσον ἐποιήσατε ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων, ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε.
Whenever the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, at that time he will sit upon the throne of his glory and all the peoples shall be gathered together before him and he will separate them one from another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He shall place the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. And then the ruler will say to those at his right hand, "Come here, you who are blessed of my Father; inherit the realm that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked, and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, in prison, and you came to visit me." At this point the just will respond to him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?" The Ruler will say to them in answer, "Amen I tell you, as often as you did it for one of the least of these my brothers and my sisters, you did it for me."
--Matthew 25:31-40, my translation from the original Greek
Should the archbishop decide to follow through on his threat, I would recommend that he read the rest of that pericope first. I don't think he's going to like how it ends. Jesus never said a single word about homosexuality (hardly surprising, given that neither the term nor the concept had come into being in his day), but he had quite a bit to say about taking care of the last and the least among us--and what those who neglected that most important task could look forward to when they came to face him at the end of their days. In fact, there's another passage from Matthew's Gospel that the archbishop might want to include in his lectio divina: it's Matthew 23:13-33. Verse 23 seems particularly appropriate.