Friday, August 17, 2007

The Pope's Nuts

As Pope Benedict the XVI insults Islam with Byzantine references, proclaims some are simply destined to eternal hell fire, throws the Church back into the dark ages by reviving the Latin rites and now declares only Catholics have the 'means of salvation', one must wonder whether he is all there. Does he want to throw the world into a multifaceted religious conflagration? What could he possibly be thinking? In fact attacks on the Pope and Catholics have only risen in the blogoshere.

I am not a theologian and am hardly in a position to scrutinize centuries of writings by great minds in the Catholic Church or Christian tradition but problems with Christian thought in general are apparent. As people of faith decry the devaluation of human life legalized abortion has created (something the Catholic Church absolutely opposes) every time a newborn is killed by its mother or animals gain more sympathy than ones fellow man, do they realize how their own beliefs shape society?

The idea that eternal hell fire is preserved for some, and for those who believe in absolute predestination guaranteed, has immense implications for world peace that contradict the Christian vision. The very idea nurtures an inherent inequality among humankind, and though a Catholic belief many protestant churches take it to a much greater extreme. It is no wonder Christians become a target and people feel they want to force their beliefs on others as they stand before the lost sinner with absolute faith that they are going to heaven and the unbeliever to an eternal lake of fire. A good percentage of Christians spending much of their time deciphering exactly who will go to hell.

In the same vein how can there be any resolution between Judeo-Christian tensions or the current struggle with Islam that our President describes as taking decades but which has been on going almost since its inception. It is easy, very easy, to criticize the teachings of Islam as fostering violence and intolerance when not a Muslim. It is far more difficult to criticize ones own beliefs especially if those who would criticize you are conveniently damned for eternity or simply an anti-christ. Or are Christians asking Muslims to do what Christians cannot? Can Christianity work for peace while predicting Armageddon?

Or how can we bring religious and other freedoms to communist China and divert a real possibility of cataclysmic war? Communism with its ideology of social justice for all rolled over Christian cultures. Even now can we say the presumptive declaration of victory over communism had anything to do with Christian thought or even practice? Or did communism implode of its own inherent flaws? Well there were those Catholics again in Poland which may well have prevented the communist block from seeking a military solution to its problems but was not the reason for communism's failure; just look at South America or current day Russia. Without God the ideals of communism quickly turned to elitism with a ruthless ruling class. Without its inherent elitism, combined with practices inspired by a living relationship with Christ, how far could Christianity go? If the devote Christian finds the idea that the likes of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin will eventually enter Heaven irreconcilable with their beliefs do they really know God as the ultimate parent? If we cannot accept the fact that God created all, the suicide bomber and those he killed, to enter heaven together in love and harmony how can we understand the true tragedy of the event?

When Galileo proved the earth revolved around the sun disrupting Catholic doctrine eventually changes had to be made. Yet Christian teachings are put forth with an absoluteness that has and does justify continuous evil deeds against ones fellow man to a lesser or greater degree though out history. No reconsideration of the validity of said beliefs required. All from a book filled with parables and metaphor with thousands of interpretations.

The United States was founded on the Christian faith of its founding fathers. It was a faith that did not ignore the naturalism of the day. Their faith reached beyond denominationalism uniting together colonies often divided by religious affiliation and if there was any significant influence it was Universalism, the belief that all are some day destined to Heaven or a more liberal Unitarianism. The issue of slavery finally boiled over in the Civil War showing our nations Christian emphasis on social justice. ‘Manifest Destiny’ was the cry that took the United States to its present boundaries as a continuation of a strong belief in providence that filled the Christian faith of our nation from its founding; not exactly Deism which revisionists claim as a predominant influence.

In our modern age the League of Nations and eventually the United Nations were formed centering on the United States under the auspices of world peace. Is it any wonder that many in the United States see no value in our participation in the UN? While Christian missionaries went forth with a fervor to reach the far corners of the earth, now that its been done where has the passion gone? If a prominent Christian such as Franklin Grahm proclaimed a campaign to bring peace and prosperity to all men wouldn’t he be ridiculed by other Christians? As history moves forward and we literally have the ability, the technology and economic resources, to feed the world, cure disease and to give everyone a comfortable life Christianity teaches the goals are futile. Rather than believing in the reforming powers of Christ and trying to convert the UN into an instrument of Christian charity they seem intent to wait for the last day that appears imminent and exclusive.

Perhaps not as clear as the models and calculations of Galileo, but does not God’s work in history give evidence to His greater plan? Are the great blessings upon the United States where all men are created equal merely a coincidence? What kind of mind does God have to give man everything he needs to solve the problems that have plagued him since the first human family only to bring destruction to His children and this world, as if the creation ever did anything wrong? I guess this is just the point God has been waiting for to bring down His judgment and end it all. End meaning eternal hell for many. Did God preserve Himself a front row seat? Crazy me, who am I to think I could possibly understand God.

As far as the Pope, he is very different in character than his predecessor but I believe an equally good man, which is important for a church that puts all its eggs in one basket, declaring one individual the standard bearer for the entire faith. I'd stand clear of any Catholic tour buses but this Pope has done what too few do, clearly express the beliefs of his faith and is willing to take the heat for it. It takes courage and conviction, and contrary to appearances stimulates thought. Benedict the XVI has a real pair.