“Like a pack of starving Rats…descending on a wounded bird.”
A recent incident which I had the [mis]fortune of witnessing this past week called to mind how Christians, especially some Roman Catholics, so easily lapse into a self-righteous, hypocritical, cannibal feeding frenzy when given half the chance. I was able to witness firsthand how a group of allegedly educated Christians, the majority of whom were Roman Catholics, led by a Roman Catholic religious, can turn into an inquisitorial mob at the drop of a hat.
Mind you, an emotionally flooded midlife woman, a milquetoast pastor-in-training, and an inquisitional female religious (= a nun) with a tendency to incite and prooftext were just some of the volatile ingredients of this witches’ brew, but to have witnessed how a situation can be initially misused and then lapse completely out of control was baffling, to say the very least. All that could come to mind is some of the historical research I’ve done on the Inquisition, on the Protestant heretic trials in Geneva under Calvin, of the mob scenes in the Stoning of Soraya M. No matter what the religion, the education level, the status of human beings, the beast is alive and well within.
(The entire scenario reminded me of a passage in Birds without Wings, “But there was no one with any authority, and the plebians were of the sort that enjoyed a spectacle, paticularly when someone cleverer or more fortunate than themselves was degraded.” (“The Humiliation of Levon the Armenian,” p. 145))
Ironically, there were about twelve Christians, all of whom are in some form of ministry, who eagerly took up their verbal and non-verbal stones and cast them wildly at a single individual, while they chanted “disgraceful,” “inappropriate,” “offensive,” “Christian values,” “How could you?” “Prick!” Urged on by a would-be-moderator who, far from maintaining professional neutrality, actually fueled the flames by making unfounded remarks and observations, while those in the mob had no idea what she was talking about, much less whether the statements made by the emotion-flooded woman were factual or the product of her flooding emotions and histrionics–Who cares!–but they availed themselves greedily of the factoids to justify their aspersions and judgments.
(Interestingly, before the inquisitorial proceedings began, the mobsters required oaths of secrecy–that’s why I can’t provide more details–dirty deeds have to be kept confidential, don’t you know?)
So that’s what Christianity is all about. Silly me! I must have missed something in my formation and training.
The whole scene reminisced of some really poignant words I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I recently read a wonderful historical novel by Louis de Bernières, “Birds Without Wings,” and in that book I found some wonderful wisdom and worthwhile observations. Let me share a couple of quotes here, quotes that came to mind while I was experiencing the “stoning” last week.
As the narrator describes a group of Sufi dervishes arriving with clashing symbols, bells, chants, and the reaction of the character Mustafa:
“He divines clearly the advance symptoms of spiritual and philosophical immaturity, he smells a repellent backwardness, a radical irrationality and credulity which is only just beneath the surface, and he is increasingly convinced that it is Islam that is holding his people back, locking them behind the door that separated the medieval from the modern age. He will never understand why it is that so many of them actually like to be there, locked behind that door, enwombed within their tiny horizon, perpetually consoled and reassured by their tendentious but unchanging certainties.” (“Mustafa Kemal (3),” p. 39)
He could just as easily be describing Chrisitanity, the pastoral centers, with those words. And Bernières, through his narrator, reflecting on the evils done by the pious of all religions, but especially the licentious scrupulous piety he observes among Christians and Muslims, writes:
“… so many nominal Christians throughout history, took no notice whatsoever of the key parable of Jesus Christ himself, which taught that you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself, and even those that you have despised and hated are your neighbours. This never made any difference to Christians, since the primary epiphenomena of any religion’s foundation are the production and flourishment of hypocrisy, megalomania and psychopathy, and the first casualties of a religion’s establishment are the intentions of its founders. One can imagine Jesus and Mohammed glumly comparing notes in paradise, scratching their heads and bemoaning their vain expense of effort and suffering, which resulted only in the construction of two monumental whited sepulchers.” (“The Humiliation,” p. 143)
Christians, particularly those who feel that they are so righteous, should during this Lenten season, a time when they stand on their soapboxes with their heads anointed with ashes, and talk the talk so eloquently of self-examination, preparation, reconciliation, etc., should ponder the narrator’s words that ring so very true still today, right here in the midst of the pastors and the divines.
It’s almost laughable when I reflect on that evening last week and what I saw and heard. “Christian values?” Like the ones I was experiencing? “Truth?” Like the truth coming from those androgynous façades, painted expressions, the clichéed histrionic drama, and the vacuous heads and hearts? “Love?” If that was your Christian love at work, let’s try some hate, couldn’t be more vitriolic or strident, or more painful or humiliating!
I’ve written already several pieces on hypocrisy on this blog and since then nothing’s happened to change my mind. The more one looks below the idiotic grins and beyond the sorrowful grimaces, the personalized private piety, the uglier the ugliness gets beneath. It doesn’t take much to scrape away the patina and see the corruption, like scraping way the wax from a corpse’s face to see the decay beneath.
Yes, it might appear that the Church is rotting from within. The symptoms: when our emasculated male clergy fawn to feminist-sexists and fail to correct their heretical and errant views on women’s roles in the Church. When the female religious disparagingly refer to “Those men in Rome,” forgetting their own diaphanous vows and casual opportunist commitments to their Church (when it’s convenient). When we include in our theology seminars required books by renegade feminist theologians who want to perform transgender surgery on God because He’s too male (Lunatics!) Or the pitifully ignorant or scandalously scrupulous pious or outright evil parish lay and ordained ministers instructing the gullible, vulnerable old and young, even thrust upon the grieving and dying (! ) [See my articles Chaplain Wuss, Interfaith-Denial of Faith? and Interfaith & Supervision?] with their half-baked theologies and well-done hypocrisies. It’s shameful to see.
Yes, it’s true, as Paul VI preached in 1972, «da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio» (“through some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God”).
Yes, indeed, dear feminist religious, “Those men in Rome!” Indeed! And those eunichs sitting next to you!
But some of those “men in Rome” do make some sense–as much as it sticks in your anatine craws–, and it’s worth repeating here: According to the Vatican Information Service (Vatican City, 2 March 2012) this year’s meditations during the Lenten spiritual retreat of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia are being guided by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, who is focusing on the theme of “the communion of Christians with God”. According to the cardinal “We must walk in the light. In other words, we must choose to abandon sin” and let the Truth transform our lives via a journey of conversion. Understanding God as truth is particularly important for people “who have no awareness of their own sins, for people who have lost the sense of sin because they no longer pose themselves the problem of God”, and for people who do no longer possess moral criteria and confuse good and evil. This tendency is related to “religious indifference which affirms that all religious are alike but which, in reality, is seeking a lax morality.”
The cardinal continued, “To live in truth is to live according to the Beatitudes. It means repudiating the lies of our words and actions. It means rejecting the hypocrisy which impels us to appear other than as we are”. The Church too must combat lies and deceit, both within herself and in the world, and struggle “so that the truth of Christ’s Gospel may be known and lived.”
So my dear “Christian” brothers and sisters who have made the name of God as pedestrian as the word “hotdog,” try to keep in mind that it’s not what you say, it’s how you live. Wearing out the name of God does not make you divine. That might be a good Lenten meditation for some of you.