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January 8, 2000
Column #958


     WASHINGTON -- On New Year's Eve, my wife and I went to the National Cathedral to bring in the New Year, New Century and New Millennium with what we thought would be great music and spiritual reflection about the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Our Lord.

     There were two services. The first for three hours was called ''A Concert of Hope'' that was followed by a hour of prayer, both in the magnificent cathedral, and then outside at midnight.

     Our first shock was the only Scripture we could find was in the printed program, not what was spoken. But we heard from Yu Xuanji of China, who lived in the 9th Century, a 12-year-old whose thoughts began with ''Hi!'' and a ''Fanfare for four conch shells and four trumpets.''

     No one noted that we measure time from the birth of a man who never wrote a book, lived only 33 years and died as a criminal on a cross -- but who was resurrected and came to bring salvation to all who believe in Him. For many centuries, the years of history have been calculated either B.C. (Before Christ) or A.D. (Latin for Anno Domini, the year of the Lord).

     Instead, in the service there were reflections by Al-Ghazali on the ''Duties of Brotherhood and Sisterhood,'' a man who lived from ''1058-1128 C.E.'' What is ''C.E.?'' Secularists who hate what A.D. stands for, invented a new abbreviation for the ''Common Era.''

     But why would a Christian church use a secular term for Anno Domini?

     Has the Episcopal Church, which runs the National Cathedral, forgotten why it exists?

     Washington Episcopal Bishop Ronald Haines was a minor participant in the service. He gave equal time to representatives of the Baha'i faith, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Hindu faith, a Muslim Imam, a Jewish spokeswoman faiths which do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord.

     How can they celebrate the 2000th Anno Domini? They didn't.

     As one of them said: ''This we know. The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.'' Interesting, but unbiblical. In Genesis 1, after God created Adam and Eve, he said to them, ''Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.''

     What I witnessed at the National Cathedral is a small example of how some religious leaders genuflect at the altar of tolerance. Everyone's faith is of equal value. You have your beliefs, and I have mine. All roads lead to heaven.

     Billy Graham recently was critical of such soft-minded tolerance. ''If you should ask a man the direction to New York City and he said, `Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead there.' you would question his sanity or his truthfulness.

     ''But Jesus Christ, who journeyed from heaven to earth and back again, who knew the way better than anyone who ever lived, said, `Enter by the narrow gate, for broad is the way that leads to destruction., and there are many who go by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it''' (Matthew 7:13-14).

     Tolerance has become a supreme American virtue. We tolerate men who cheat on their wives without being critical, accept divorce as if it were a real solution to troubles in a marriage, and, sadly, are accepting of wickedness in high places. ''We have been sapped of convictions, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith,'' Graham said.

     ''The sciences, however, are narrow-minded. There is no room for careless broad-mindedness in the laboratory. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. Mathematics is also very narrow-minded. The sum of two plus two is four,'' said the evangelist.

     Similarly, Jesus said, ''He who is not with Me is against Me'' (Matthew 12:30).

     On sin, Jesus was tolerant of the sinner, but not of the sin. To the adulteress He said, ''Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more'' (John 8:11).

     Graham noted that ''Christ spoke of two roads, two masters, two rewards and two eternities. And he said, ''I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:5).''

     The leaders of the National Cathedral have forgotten Christ's message to such an extent that his name was almost not mentioned at in four hours of celebration of his 2000th anniversary.

     It made this Christian sad and angry.

Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.

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