Scandals, Scandals Everywhere: What Can Be Done?

It’s been a bad season for Catholics and evangelicals. Catholics are embroiled in a global scandal about who knew and did what about multiple instances of sexual abuse, a scandal reaching the highest offices of that church.

Meanwhile, evangelicals are tarred with the brush of Trump-praisers: not just Christians who, given limited options, reluctantly voted for and even continue to support the general policy direction of a blatantly un-Christian person, but who continue to praise him as a divine agent and tribune of Christian values.

I recently wrote an article for an academic journal that reviews books on contemporary Canadian religion. Among its main conclusions is that two Christian groups continue to show signs of vitality, even growth, in a narrative that otherwise features the decline of Christianity in North America and the rise of those claiming “no religion.” Those two exceptional groups? Catholics and evangelicals.

So what are faithful Catholic and evangelical Christians to do to keep bucking the trend of decline amid this maelstrom of terrible publicity? And what are other people to make of Catholicism and evangelicalism when so many of their leaders are so obviously wicked?

We must make the crucial distinction between people acting in concert with the tenets of their religion and people acting against those tenets.

As I walk down a street in Kolkata and come across a beggar reaching out to me for aid, my Hindu friend might say to me, “You can give him a handful of rupees, but otherwise not too much: He is working out his karma, his just deserts for the way he lived his previous lives.” I might find that response lacking in compassion (as my Buddhist friend might, too), but it is consistent with at least some strains in Hindu ethics.

In defense of Catholicism today, it is clear that its own ethics do not condone sexual abuse, coercion, lying, toleration of evil, blaming the victim, and every other unseemly or awful element of this situation. Quite the contrary: The people involved stand convicted by the teachings of their own religion.

Likewise with the evangelical courtiers to President Trump: their fawning refusal to acknowledge his manifold sins and their insistence on using the most glowing terms to praise him are in obvious co