"Of course we again have the challenge of thinking in terms of the group rather than strictly individuals, which means there may well be categories of people that could be considered 'parents' for us. Whenever we quote the Gettysburg address and say, 'Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation,' we remember just how broad the concept of parenthood can be. We honor those fathers when we take the Constitution seriously.
"We also honor our faith parents not just individuals who have led us in our personal faith, but entire faith traditions, without whom we wouldn't have the faith we do today. For Christians, we need to remember that we were birthed by the Jews. When Christians fall into anti-Semitism, as we have time and time again over the last two thousand years, we dishonor our faith parent. Honoring the Jews doesn't have to mean obedience to Jewish law. But it does mean treating the faith of the Jews with respect and giving their concerns serious consideration weight.
"When the Jews as a community tell Christians that something we're doing or saying is causing them pain, we need to listen. Speaking up about the historical persecutions of Jews in response to portrayals of Christ's passion is one example. Christians probably won't stop telling the story that is central to our faith. But we can truly listen to the concerns that are raised and see if there are ways that we can tell the story that don't lead to violence against Jews. We can hear how 'the Jews killed Jesus' has been used in murderous ways against Jews across the millennia and work to stop anti-Semitism in all its forms, both blatant and subtle. After all, the faith of the Jews was the faith of Jesus, Peter, and Paul as well as Judas, Herod, and Caiaphas.
"As a Protestant, I'm also a child of the Roman Catholic Church. There's been bad blood between Protestants and Catholics ever since Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door in 1517. You don't have to look beyond England, Ireland, and Scotland to see the horrors of this rivalry atrocities committed on both sides. Protestants came into being in 'protest' of some very real abuses in the medieval Catholic Church. We have some very real differences about many other things to this day.
"But Protestantism was a love child. We weren't seen as legitimate, but we were very much born from Martin Luther's love of both God and the truth of Catholicism that he felt was being buried in church practice and corruption. For Protestants to scorn the Roman Catholic Church and to seek her harm or dissolution is to dishonor our faith mother. In some Protestant circles Catholics are condemned to hell at worst and considered suspect at best.
"I attended a meeting to discuss ways to remember soldiers fighting overseas. It was suggested that each soldier connected to our congregation have a candle lit for them. I thought this was a lovely idea, but one woman was so deeply suspicious of what she saw as a Catholic practice that she grilled me for quite some time on why I'd thought of candles for this act, as if she were about to call the bishop and report me as a closet Catholic who'd infiltrated a United Methodist pulpit.
"Protestants need to honor their Roman Catholic mother. We need not do everything she says, but as with the Jews, we need to listen really listen and consider how we can make life better for her when it's in our power to do so. And so it goes for all groups that have had a part in shaping our faith. Maybe you belong to a church that split off from another one over some conflict. I learned of a church in seminary that had such a split over who took the last piece of fried chicken at a church dinner. It doesn't matter who wronged who, and your own church may be right in what they decided. That's not the point. The point is to honor your parents. You wouldn't exist if it weren't for that church you split from. You are a child of that church. Give her honor.
"Perhaps it seems like this has broadened the concept out too far, but the Hebrew words for father and mother in the commandment had the same scope of meaning from (very narrowly) the people who gave you birth to the very broad concept of ancestors, founders, originators, patrons, and the like.
"Not that any of this is easy, especially when the relationship has been difficult and/or abusive. Whether it's the child abused by a biological or foster parent or an altar boy abused by his priest, honoring the parent, even in the sense we're talking about here, is extremely difficult. To honor a parent in such situations falls into the category of loving your enemies, and that's never a cake walk.
"But even in those situations, thinking about kabed the gravity of our response to their needs still holds up. We aren't asked to like them or to approve of what was done to us, and we're not asked to continue to put ourselves in harm's way. But we are asked, I believe, not to discard their humanity, even when their own actions seem to have waived all rights to human compassion. Perhaps it's in honoring abusive parents in this way that we become the most like Jesus."