Barack Obama is currently taking some heat for what has been characterized as a shot at Catholic education. While in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit recently, Obama spoke to an audience of approximately 2,000 students at Belfast's Waterfront hall and said, “If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can't see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden — that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.” Now, it should be mentioned here why this is considered an attack on Catholic education. While there are Protestant schools in NI, the government school system is mainly Protestant while most Catholic children attend schools run by the Catholic Church. And you can bet that if Obama were authoring an end to school segregation in NI, his solution would not be to eliminate the government schools and have everyone attend the Catholic ones.
Yet I won’t criticize Obama here the way some have. After all, there is a controversy in the U.K. over NI’s school “segregation,” a situation that sees more than 90 percent of children in NI attending separate schools. So, in fairness, Obama’s writers were likely just echoing the politically correct, Kumbaya sentiments of the U.K. press. Instead, I’d like to pose a question that gets at a deeper issue:
What is the real source and nature of division?
Since Catholicism is thought part of some negative division here, perhaps we should start with the words of Christianity’s founder. Jesus said in Luke:
Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation. For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
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