Friday, July 13, 2007

Christianity and False Reform

Now this is funny. What I enjoy the most about this blog is the fact that I can be as anti-clerical as I like. Not that I hate the church, I honestly don’t, I do have beautiful memories from that phase of my life. However, the church never chose to be neither modern nor tolerant, it was on a few occasions forced to evolve, to drop its old teaching and to claim tolerance. Forced because they lost popularity, they lost power, influence, so they had to remake their image to a more modern one, with much softer values that would attract the new generations. You see, the new generations were rather attracted to Buddhism and Gnosticism in terms of spirituality. Especially in the Occident as we call it. People simply lost faith in the church as the path to reach heaven/God, the discovery of old scriptures convinced the Occident of many churches and not only one and only church, the recent memory of religious clashes between Catholics and Protestants fortified the belief that there isn’t just one Church but many churches, that no one hold the truth eventually the conclusion was inevitable: Christianity is not THE religion and religion is not THE goal of life.

This loss in followers that gradually degraded the Catholic church in its cradle (Europe) meant a huge loss in political power and in money. Then Miraculously came John-Paul II, a man that many regard as remarkably tolerant, good, modern, gentle and so on. Some praise him as the iron fist that shook communism in Poland, others praise him as the defender of poor people around the world, the man who renewed the church… A lot has been said about this man but let’s get back to earth, his presence, his actions and his decisions were all part of a good plan:

  1. Attract the young generation:
    He gave the young generation a distinct place in the church they had camps and activities inside the Vatican itself, he emphasized on their role thus attaching them and using them for work that needs to be done

  2. Looking like a saint
    Well you know how they teach us in the bible that the early Christians lived in total poverty? How they relied only on the help of God? How Jesus in person forbidden us from piling riches? Well every time the Catholic church went through a identity crisis, they did readopt that Saint appearance. Just as an example, remember the establishment of the Dominicans and the Franciscans , also known as the Mendicant Orders. These orders were established as a direct response to the rise of Catharism. These orders quickly spread like mushroom on wet lands, the prohibition of Catharism and the inquisitions favored the rise of Mendicant Orders on the detriment of Catharism naturally. But the fast expansion of Mendicant Orders expresses the need among the population for a better spiritual guidance. That’s what was going on since the dawn of the last century, and that is why the church has been trying to restore a stoic/humble/poor façade.

    You see, a lesson that history has taught us, humans have an empathy/selfishness balance within them; rough environmental conditions favor selfish behavior, clement conditions favor empathetic behavior. This, in my opinion, partially explains the clash of cultures also. But in general the modern world is more at ease and satisfies its needs much more easily than before, especially in the Occident (again and again). That is why people would find a docile and soft Christianity far more appealing than a tough and powerful one. Christianity has the ability to fulfill that role, because Christianity in its beginning was a very oppressed religion, it was found and established in a hostile environment under constant threat, unlike Islam that spread quickly and establish an empire even quicker (the Coran being written under the guidance of kings not fugitives) and Judaism, a religion who’s holy books were written over a long period of time, and more often than not by an independent nation. So the New Testament is a tolerant book, because tolerance is usually the demand of the weak and the minority facing an oppressive majority. Christians in post-war Lebanon demand tolerance, Christians before the war demanded the right to preserve the Christian privileges by force.

    So the Catholic Church, back at the good old days of John-Paul II tried to resurrect the memory of that old Christianity backed with a very tolerant New Testament…

However there are a few flaws that show the insincerity of this docility. The Church is only docile with the powers… So can we call it a resurgence of tolerance or reassessment of alliances?

  1. Reinforcing the role of Africa and Latin America, but also the InterChristian, the Christian/Jewish and the Christian/Muslim Dialogue:
    Europe has always been the cradle of Catholicism and all Catholic Christians were subjugated to the central power of the Vatican, in fact all Catholic Churches were obliged to sing in Latin (except our Maronite Church), to pay the tax directly to the Vatican, the Pope was almost always an Italian… Many saw that the election of John-Paul II and his work afterwards was colossal and amazing, sort of like a liberation a modernism… Well allow me to disagree, though I do agree on these moves I don’t really understand how can people neglect the fact that John-Paul II’s election in itself indicated that the change within the church wasn’t the result of that pope’s election, on the contrary it is the change that brought him to power. In fact it was utterly absurd and idiotic to keep the power of the Church so centralized, it was absurd that Africans and Latin Americans would be so excluded of the church, it was absurd for people who never even come in contact with the latin alphabet to be forced to pray in Latin, thus pray in a language they cannot understand, the changes John-Paul II generated were the strict minimum that anyone would demand, he didn’t liberate the church he just didn’t want to fight the changes that were inevitably happening.

    To understand why this is not such a great work, you should simply remember how big Latin America and Africa are in terms of Christianity, of blind belief and compare it to the atheist and small Europe. I am shocked it took them so long to take this step don’t you think? These are powerful groups that the church simply needs
    And think of their attitude toward other entities…

  2. What about powerless minorities
    Now the modern society hasn’t just abandoned the old catholic beliefs like for example Muslims and Jews brought the plague in the medieval times or Protestants are heretics… They morphed their whole society, there were the emancipation of women, the gay pride, just to name a few. However, in an all-Male Vatican, the emancipation of women does seem absurd, of course don’t beat them but would they want to invert roles in society? Why do they refuse to bear children? Why do they demand to become part of the Ecclesiastic body? Why do they want to head the religious celebrations?

    I am sadly speechless against these questions as they express the blindness and the stupidity of the people in charge, starting from the head of the church back then to the simple priests… They simply refuse to listen, ever since the election of John-Paul II and his work for the Catholic Church’s reform feminists tried and tried to reason with them, it just wasn’t heard, we just looked funny for him.

    And allow me NOT to mention the homosexuality debate… The mere mention of such a subject is sufficient explanation in itself.

    In fact the Church is still the dictator that it always was, it only started to realize who have become too powerful for her to oppress, those that are still not powerful enough are still oppressed

  3. Condom anyone?
    Well it’s very very very very simple, what is the objection against safe sex? What is the objection against enjoying sex? What kind of modern church are we talking about? Why? Why? Why? Why?

My personal conclusion: It wasn’t that great and he wasn’t that much of a saint afterall

But wait! Don’t close the window just yet!

Well, I am not a big fan of John-Paul II but the last thing I wanted was the return of fundamental Catholicism. Yes I know many people cried out Nazi when Pope Benedictus was elected… and I know they were cruel, inaccurate and silly. But that doesn’t change the other aspects about this person. Benedictus is, just like John-Paul, the result of the changes that are storming in the Church and the world. And his ascendance to power was not the fruit of chance either. Three main points:

  1. The absence of Greater enemies
    When John-Paul II was elected, the Church was threatened by new ideas such as communism, there were a sense of anti-religion, a sort of anti-religion imposed by politics, churches were being burnt Christianity was being attacked (along with other religions). At that time the Catholic church had to struggle against that current to preserve its political influence, after all communism and other ideologies failed to eradicate Christianity as a belief but did manage to eradicate the financial and political power of the Institution (the Church).

    Nowadays, it’s different, attacking any entity is banned, there fore religions can’t be eradicated. However, a worse anti-religion has been established… the one that grows inside the individual, individuals are no longer against the church, they are indifferent to it! This is even more lethal than the political oppression.

    Struggling against the Church is now being tougher, to distinguish itself from others, to affirm itself as THE right belief, sort of creating a new Identity for Catholics. It is no longer OK to agnostic/atheist/muslim/jew/Buddhist for as long as you are “tolerant” no you HAVE to be Catholic Christian to be GOOD.

    Sadly this attitude is nothing but a regression to a time that we thought won’t come back.

  2. The rise of extreme Islamism
    Fundamental Islamism has hasted many changes both in the Muslim Middle East, The Christian West and the Secular West. Though the Christian and the Secular West have evolved side by side and have become archenemies they do rely on the same population. The Secular West could be described as a dreamer for the past few centuries they have promulgated fundamentalism as THE problem, claiming that secularism and tolerance will solve all the problems and that others (Muslims for instance) will be friendly if we are friendly… Skipping many details we can say that this simplistic view of the Middle East failed to protect the Europe and the West against gruesome and unimaginable violence.

    Up until recently, secularism was THE rule, among the Western population. The rise of Islamism and the apparent absurdity of this philosophy/ideology makes the Western population more inclined to the Fundamental Ideologies (throw the Muslims back to where they belong kind of ideas). One of the fundamental Ideologies is expressed by the rise of Christian Fundamentalism, remember when Benedictus claimed that Europe is unfaithful to its Christian roots and ungrateful to its Christian History. Unfortunately, people are now going to be more and more attracted to fundamental speech, and to be honest I am no longer sure if secularism/tolerance is the solution anyway, but I am certain that Fundamentalism is NOT.

As a final result, the Church tightens its grip and it launches outrageously intolerant remarks hiding behind the excuse of caring for linguistic precision! Just check this article:

Catholicism is the only true church, Vatican declares

Or this one (thank you Nomad for posting it):

Catholic claim 'offensive'

Ok let’s consider that this source is not that objective or whatever! I am honestly tired of this! This is STUPID… there shouldn’t be any comments that could be interpreted in a negative way by unsubjective sources.

I have no idea why I have spent around 5 hours writing this!


programmer craig said...

Good post, Pazuzu!

Benedict believed so, scholars said. For him, the battleground was a phrase used in a document of the 1960s Second Vatican Council. It said the church instituted by Jesus and his apostles "subsists in the Catholic Church."

So strange! The first seven Churches in Asia Minor weren't Catholic, though! That means that the word "Church" is improperly used, in the Bible itself :O

Too funny. I think the Catholics are very shaken up by the fact that Protestants have been doing VERY WELL with their ministries in Latin America and Africa, at the expense of Catholics.

The logical response will be for non-Catholics to pronounce that Catholics shouldn't be called "Christians" but only "Catholics". I already know many Christians who only use the word to refer to Protestants.

I'll be back to comment more later when I have some time. I love reading your input on this one :)

shlemazl said...

Well, I can't get too excited by Catholics believing themselves to be the only true religion. Same goes for any believer.

I do get a bit pissed off when they start using racial insults as part of their prayers.

NOMAD said...

another article

an american friend of mine living in Paris remarcked this new too ; I responded to her : " it's a turn back to the crusades church times ; this pope has an agenda : to remobilize his troops against the galloping islam ; it's probably the only solution for him to reach his goals, but I don't see with that recall a happy future for our western societies"

till now, I did not hear a comment on that new in our actualities, seems that here we don't care of the pope and his palabres

Pazuzu said...

I already know many Christians who only use the word to refer to Protestants.

LoL, in my soceity we only call Catholics Christians, we tolerate the "endemic" Christians that we have around here (orthodox for example) but protestants are a BIG NO! We don't even call them Christians...How funny

Nomad: thanks for the link

NOMAD said...

something that brings a smile :

a romanian call Got to the court

programmer craig said...

LoL, in my soceity we only call Catholics Christians, we tolerate the "endemic" Christians that we have around here (orthodox for example) but protestants are a BIG NO! We don't even call them Christians...How funny

Yes, Catholics are barely tolerated here :)

That will probably change as the population becomes more Hispanic. Right now I think Catholics make up about 20 something percent of the Christian population.

I'm exaggerating about Catholics being "barely tolerated" but most protestants don't call Catholics "Christians", and we've only had one Catholic President. And Catholics and Protestants truly don't get along very well when religion comes up.

Interesting article about Catharism. I think there are some issues I would have agreed with them about.

programmer craig said...

To understand why this is not such a great work, you should simply remember how big Latin America and Africa are in terms of Christianity, of blind belief and compare it to the atheist and small Europe. I am shocked it took them so long to take this step don’t you think? These are powerful groups that the church simply needs
And think of their attitude toward other entities…

This is an excellent point. I sent Nomad a link to an article about how much success protestant ministries have had in Latin America, which ties in to your points about the attraction of "kinder and softer" Christianity.

Pope Visits Brazil, Church Loses Ground

As Pope heads to Brazil, rival theology persists

I can't find the one I sent Nomad (link no longer works) but those two are related.

Money Shot: The conservative Protestant churches don't engage in social activism, but religious experts say they do better than the traditional Catholic church at meeting the basic needs of poor Brazilians.

The Protestant congregations "tend to generate a very strong sense of community with a much higher percentage of Pentecostals who participate in small activities like Bible study, outreach, providing financial help, finding jobs," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

I think the main problem the Catholic Church faces is with it's hierarchy, which is also the source of it's power and influence. It's a dilemma. But one doesn't get to be a Cardinal, Bishop or Pope by being a healer and a great spiritual adviser, one gets to that level by being a gifted politician and a skilled manipulator. And by being *visibly* devout. I think the much flatter (or non-existent) hierarchies in Protestant Churches makes it much easier for a good pastor to do good works with his ministry, on a personal level. And a bad/ineffectual pastor will see his ministry dwindle away.

I'm a protestant but I'm not really religious on an institutional level, so I'm commenting on these matters merely as an observer. I think it's interesting the way Christianity is evolving in different directions. The Anglicans (which I used to be one of) are really going off the deep-end and I don't expect the Church of England to be around much longer anywhere outside of England itself. Some of the things they've been pushing are overtly un-Christian, and I don't really know how they expect that to stand. Are they expecting to fill the pews with agnostics, or what?

Liev said...

Well, my two cents is that religion is one more way that humans adapt to their social environment. All the twists and turns reflect a need for adaptation to new environmental conditions. It will all work out.

Pazuzu said...

That's hilarious!

we've only had one Catholic President
You also never had any female president.... I guess this means that women are barely tolerated also?:P

I'm a protestant but I'm not really religious on an institutional level
Or maybe you are ... a little bit :P. But I do agree with your point in general

I totally agree :)

programmer craig said...

Hi Pazuzu,

Craig: we've only had one Catholic President

Pazuzu: You also never had any female president.... I guess this means that women are barely tolerated also?:P

That's a good point. I think there are many people (even women) who don't really feel comfortable with female leadership. (I'm not one of them)

Do you think it's the same issue as the Catholic/Protestant divide? I think it's different. There's a lot of ill will on a social level between Protestants and Catholics, and there always has been, in the US at least. And probably other places as well.

Craig: I'm a protestant but I'm not really religious on an institutional level

Pazuzu: Or maybe you are ... a little bit :P. But I do agree with your point in general

No, I'm not... not even a little bit! But every problem I have with Protestantism on an institutional level, it's amplified by a factor of about 10 for Catholics. Which makes sense (from my perspective) because there is so much more "institution" in the Catholic Church.