Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, sports, and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
“No matter what, I’m still Catholic” [well, not "me"...]
Saw the above via a tweet by Christian Amanpour. See also, Gary Wills new book (he was on Colbert recently -- show is like Book TV) on how the whole priests thing is a failure, but I'm sure he's still a Catholic. Hey, whatever self-definition you want, it's your call. Still, at some point, it does seem a bit silly. For instance, if you are not for hierarchical decision-making, why you wish to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church is unclear to me. The first person says things that suggest "Christian," maybe, though the talk about inclusion leads me to think more "Unitarian." You cannot get more inclusive than that.
Choice of sect repeatedly is not about doctrine anyhow. It is often a matter of culture and other such things. I think there should be some degree of honesty here -- the failure of the Catholic Church is let's be blunt, is partially a matter of the membership sticking with it in various instances -- but "religion" is cultural. Been down this road before and will stick by my inclusive definition of the concept. Also, am not overly egotistical about those who share beliefs and practices that I find dubious. In time, my overall limitations only provides more reason for humility. Religion as a whole is a result of human need, after all.
This is why I am not a fan of those on the left who ridicule religion or talk about fantasy gods in the sky or make sarcastic allusions to spaghetti monsters and the like. That's fine up to a point and there is a lot of hypocrisy and harm to others out there, so yeah, some of that is deserved. But, the average person doesn't dwell on the metaphysics of God. Religion as a whole is not about that. It is practice and ethics. It's like those who scorn those who dwell on gossip over the more important things in life. Heck, life is tough. Dwelling on stuff like that, stuff most of us cannot do much about at all, is depressing. It's easier to read gossip, sports scores and the like. We cannot just do that, any more than we should just eat junk food. But, come on, the reason is understandable.
The average person, I think, also cannot think gigantic picture, the meaning of it all, the metaphysics of God and all that. They focus on something more easy to comprehend and imagine, something more concrete. These things are a form of representation and symbolic method of addressing bigger things. It's like ancient idols. That stone representation of a ram was a symbol, a means to focus on something bigger. When it was worshiped and religious prayers were said, people had a means of interacting with that something bigger.
"Religion" has an implication of adherence to something, a type of worship. This all mattered, including what was deemed sacred, even if the specific gods were not real. They serve the purpose of a flag, anthems and other patriotic ceremonies. Or, a ring on a finger. It is a concrete representation of marriage, just like a marriage ceremony provides a sacred meaning, a connection to something bigger, community and so forth. What is important can be lost along the way, sure, but the basic truth of the matter seems to hold true. Such is what all that ceremony, doctrine and all the rest is ultimately about. It is a means to connect to something, an "ultimate," which is different from the profane.
Something to keep in mind while a new pope is selected and all. Hey, we can debate the means here. I think the means of the Catholic Church has lost its way, if it ever was an ideal way of going about things. Personally, have a Protestant mind-set, bottom up, individual based, even if all that pomp and circumstance worked for me (it's a means to honor the sacred, but the biblical dinners at people's homes has more charm, though a community meeting time has charm too and is too big for a dining room). But, we should look beyond that to the core and understand all that ceremony and stuff has a purpose. It pops up in other places too.
Me? Am I'm still Catholic? Well, I don't feel Catholic. I think the Church has just too much baggage and as noted there is too much there for me to really reasonably still say that. You know, even beyond the God stuff. But, it's each person's call. I will just try to follow the words* of Micah 6:8:
To act justly and to love mercyand to walk humbly
it adds "with your God," but trying to be good is hard enough, so I will stick with that for now.
* In a favorite episode of the show Daria, the main character is tasked by her teacher to write a story, but she has problems. He helps her by setting a boundary, adding that sometimes limits are empowering. They can be. It is all well and fine to note that there is a lot more out there than the Bible, but it is what many here were taught or with which they are somewhat familiar. It is something to which many can relate.
So, it can serve as platform, especially if -- as was the case from ancient times -- like good books, we can get different things from it. This scares some people, who say a Bible or Constitution or whatever has no real meaning if we do not (artificially) pick some "right" interpretation that was "originally" there. Life isn't quite like that. Meaning is there and it changes, however you try to resist with artificial boundaries.