( #Pope #Catholics )
Image Credit: Catholic Church of England
The conclave of Catholic Cardinals (say that three times fast) is in the process of picking out the next Pope. Taking my personal feelings about organized religion aside, these Cardinals have the opportunity to make legitimate changes that will improve the survival of the organization. With the departure of Pope Benedict XVI, the church should make a clear statement by picking someone youngish and accessible to mobilize the world’s remaining Catholics.
The church needs a dynamic leader who is willing to support thoughtful and forward-thinking change within the organization. I think the abrupt departure of Benedict is telling. I am expecting some unflattering news to emerge about the former Pope within 5 years. The church’s reaction to the sex abuse scandals was horrid. The business-as-usual approach will continue to eat away at the organization’s more moderate members until only extremists are left.
Choosing old, out of touch, sickly old men is a mistake. It will be interesting to see if the church has learned from their bad decisions, especially their most recent ones.
( #StephenFry, #AnnWiddecombe )
I wanted to share this interesting debate between Stephen Fry and Ann Widdecombe about the Catholic church.
( #Rapture )
…or not. These rapture people should have to throw themselves off a cliff… only fair.
( #Pope, #Jews, #Dragons )
The Pope apparently exonerated the Jews from their role in Jesus’s death yesterday. Huh? The fact that this is/was a real issue for some people is mind-boggling to me, but it is even crazier that Emperor Palpatine seems to have gone into the past in order to come to this decision:
In the book, Benedict re-enacts Jesus’ final hours, then analyzes each Gospel account to explain why Jews as a whole cannot be blamed for having turned him over. Rather, Benedict concludes, it was the Jewish leadership, the “Temple aristocracy” and a few supporters of the figure Barabbas who were responsible, but not Jews as a whole. “How could the whole people have been present at this moment to clamor for Jesus’ death?” Benedict asks.
I am glad the old man was able to come to an obvious conclusion to a made up story about 2000 years too late.
In related news, I am exonerating Japan for their involvement of breeding dragons during the great Dragon War of 1207.
Even though I was raised Roman Catholic, my family was not overly religious. Sure my mom made us go to church on Sunday and yes, I was an alter-boy (please refrain from the sexual molestation jokes – I was a fat kid, the priests weren’t into me). Looking back, I feel like any of my religious activities at the time had more to do with my Italian heritage and South Philadelphia neighborhood than any feelings about faith or God. By the time I was in 6th grade (11ish), I had pretty much written off Christianity, but I kept it to myself until I was in high school.
While I spent most of my “family time” with my Dad’s side, my mom’s sister held a special place in my heart. She was (and is) very independent, odd, and a DEVOUT Catholic. It didn’t seem strange to me at the time, but as I got older, my Aunt became more immersed/dependent on the church. The summer that I turned 12 she told me she had a very special birthday present for me (she usually indulged my obsession with electronics). Since my birthday was at the end of the summer, I was left waiting almost the entire 12 weeks for my gift. At some point I found out it was on a specific date, so I knew we were going to a place. Finally the day arrived and my Mom volunteered to drive the three of us. We were in the car for what seemed like hours and finally we pulled into a very pleasant looking place (farm like in appearance – open fields, barns, etc) and then I spotted the ENORMOUS WOOD CROSS.
My exact words: “Oh Shit”
My mom pulled into the parking area and this place was packed. We were late, but I could see kids everywhere. They all had purple and blue shirts on with crosses on it. I could tell that they were not the Catholic flavor of Christian that I was familiar with which made the situation (in my mind) even worse. I shot a nasty look to my mother and she communicated with her eyes that she had no idea what was going on. Knowing how her sister operates, I believed her. My aunt was already out of the car and pre-introducing me to these creepily polite kids. I walked up and exchanged pleasantries (translation: I was a total jerk to them) and they invited me into a retrofitted barn. I walked behind them looking back to see if my mother and aunt were following (I didn’t want to be abducted into their cult) – as I passed the massive barn door, I saw a stage.
My exact words: “Get me the **** out of here”
I am a music snob now and I was a music snob then. Christian rock did not exist in my mind as a viable musical genre (it still doesn’t). I see my mother and aunt peering into the door (they being the only Italian looking people in the establishment besides myself, everyone else looked like they walked off the set of “Children of the Corn”), I start to walk back to them and my aunt holds up her hand and says “just give it a chance”. “No.” She says: “You might like it since you love music.” I say: “That’s exactly why I won’t.” I could see that I might have cut a little too deep on that last line so I relented and sat down. The Children of the Corn started telling me about the clown that was about to play and I nodded and thought of better times. The guy comes on stage and is rocking 80’s era Richard Marx quaffed hair and even has the pierced ear with long dangling earring. Opening chord rings…
I sit through three songs. The Children of the Corn are swaying and holding hands. The musician is singing about his deep Jesus Love…. I walk out. My aunt looks at me with disappointment, as my Mom has this amused look on her face – no doubt she enjoyed my suffering at the hands of the uber-Christians as cosmic retribution for some other act of defiance. As we walked out of the barn, a tall lanky looking fellow stops us, “Aren’t you enjoying the show?” My aunt starts to engage this man in conversation, trying to explain away my “unexpected” bout of good taste. Soon enough they start passing bible quotations between each other. I look at my mother, who is equally ready to get the hell out of this nightmare (although she would never admit it), and she politely reminds my aunt that we are leaving. My aunt who I now know is exacting her own revenge on me continues to chat away with this fellow until he turns his attention to me.
“Didn’t enjoy the show?” I will admit that during my pre-teen years I could be a rude little snot. I considered my silence at that point an act of extreme restraint. I looked at this tall bastard and said “This is not a show, it is a membership drive.” He just looked at me, I am sure thinking I was destined for a life of sadness. My mother and aunt did and quickly escorted me to the car before I could inflict further damage or embarrassment. The ride home was very silent. In the 12 weeks leading up to this “surprise”, I bragged and taunted my sister as (to my knowledge) she wasn’t included (I assume she didn’t need to go because she didn’t “reject the church”), so now I was stewing because I would have to tell her what went down.
We walk into my grandmother’s (who was watching my sister): “How was it?” she asks as she flipped through a gossip magazine. “Christian Rock Concert.” She looks at me and starts laughing hysterically. She was right to laugh – who gets tricked into going to a Christian Rock Concert? Me. That’s who.
(I don’t think the dude was Michael W. Smith, but he was trying his best to be him)
[RANT: Christian Magazines]
I was at my local library this week waiting for my GMAT Prep class to start when I noticed the cover of a magazine shouting “The Shaming of Religion”. I walked over and picked up Liberty Magazine (which I had never heard of before), and found the main article. In the opening paragraphs, the author, John W. Whitehead, quotes another author John Leo from a 2002 essay he wrote:
“History textbooks have been scrubbed clean of religious references and holidays scrubbed of all religious references and symbols. Some intellectuals now contend that arguments by religious people should be out of bounds in public debate, unless, of course, they agree with the elites.
“In schools the anti-religion campaign is often hysterical. When schoolchildren are invited to write about any historical figure, this usually means they can pick Stalin or Jeffrey Dahmer, but not Jesus or Luther, because religion is reflexively considered dangerous in schools and loathsome historical villains aren’t. Similarly, a moment of silence in the schools is wildly controversial because some children might use it to pray silently on public property. Oh, the horror. The overall message is that religion is backward, dangerous, and toxic.”
I’d like to comment on this quote. If a person of a religious background makes a valid and quantifiable statement, it is valid, but valid on its own merits. Any point made by a religious person should not gain credence or be detracted from because background of the person speaking. That being said, if someone claims they received a direct message from a religious deity, their comments should absolutely be discounted and the speaker should be greased and feathered (I am looking at you Pat Robertson).
The concern that Jesus is not being discussed in public schools is also not valid in my opinion. I didn’t realize schools were expected to teach children about people who probably never existed in a historic context. I am going to spell it out for you believers… there is a strong probability that THERE NEVER WAS A JESUS CHRIST. Will Mr. Leo get upset when the school doesn’t teach Santa Claus’ work against the Nazis in WWII? I hear those reindeer took down their fair share of fighter pilots.
To even group Christ in with Luther is problematic. Luther can and is taught in most high school level history courses because he was responsible for the splitting of Christianity which laid the groundwork for many issues in England. Stalin is taught because he played a major part in the last century’s political makeup, and it would be hard to understand how the Cold War started without understanding Mr. Stalin’s motivations. Finally, I was NEVER taught or talked about John Wayne Gacy (except when I was chatting with my friend Jeff who liked to throw in the occasional mass murder reference from time to time). Actually, I have a suggestion regarding Gacy… students should learn about him and the many Catholic priests who abused children in a sexual predators awareness course.
Mr. Whitehead’s article then discusses a child in Colorado who was not allowed to give a live report about his hero Jesus Christ. This is a tricky situation and I feel bad for the child and the school, but I would ask if children were allowed to do reports on Superman and Spiderman. If not, then to my previous point, in this context Jesus has no place in public education. He then continues to expose the most extreme examples of religious avoidance in public schools. I find it interesting that schools have gotten to this point not because of Liberals, but due to other religious conservatives validly arguing why their children are learning about Christianity but not of their own faith. What can a school do except draw a very bright line and tell their educators not to cross it – schools are in a no win situation. Whitehead’s closing example about the high-school brass band that couldn’t play a musical version of “Ave Maria” at graduation is the perfect example of the situation. Whitehead argues that the principle who requested another song be played didn’t even know the words to the song. Who cares? If I were a part of that graduating class, I wouldn’t want that song played, there are other songs that could be more universally enjoyed.
The article essentially builds the argument that Christianity has permeated our culture via music, art, and history – so how can you separate it? You can’t. You don’t. You have to teach religion in history class. Greek polytheism right through Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith. But you teach the facts. Teach students about how the Catholics started the crusades to gain access to rich middle eastern spice markets but whipped up religious fervor about bringing Christianity to the heathens – many died. Or you learn about the Salem witch trials and how people were burned at the stake based on a stupid girl’s accusation, or how the Church overlooked the holocaust during WWII. All of the music, art, and documents with a judeo-christian background SHOULD and IS accessible to students at any school, but that doesn’t mean they should be having prayer vigils at the front doors of the schools. Do it at home.
Parents have the right to teach their children whatever beliefs they want, but they should not expect a school or other students to learn/listen to their beliefs. Religion belongs at home and in the church. Students and adults alike need to take the moral framework from their upbringing (religious or not) and incorporate that into the world they operate in. You don’t have to hide it, but you shouldn’t rub it in people’s faces either.