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Religious People I Admire: The Rhineland Jewish Martyrs of the People’s Crusade

After Pope Urban preached the first Crusade, a group of Christians took it upon themselves to march to Jerusalem.  This became known as the People’s Crusade, though it was not an official crusade, strictly speaking, because it was not sponsored by a French king (and in fairness, it was not exactly what Pope Urban had in mind when he preached a Crusade).

When the People’s Crusade took place, the crusaders took it upon themselves to kill Jews in nearby communities.  They used the threat of death and violence to convince Jews to convert to Catholicism and receive baptism.

File:Massacre of Jews.jpg

Massacre of the Jews by Auguste Migette

When I took my class on the Crusades in college, I read a description of the massacre by Solomon bar Samson, who described the event in 1140.  He specifically speaks of the Jews of the city of Mayence (in what is now Germany) who took it upon themselves to commit suicide rather than be forced to convert.   The mothers and fathers even slew their own children rather than permit the Christians to baptize them.

In fairness, our professor told us that Jewish scholars have argued for centuries over whether or not the Rhineland Jews did the right thing in killing their children and then committing suicide.  However, I can’t help but admire them, as well as pity them.  They wanted to live and die in Jews, despite living among people who were hostile to their culture and their faith.   They were given the choice between baptism and death.  They chose death.

Solomon Bar Samson says it best.

“The maidens and the young brides and grooms looked out of the Windows and in a loud voice cried: “Look and see, O our God, what w e do for the sanctification of Thy great name in order not to exchange you for a hanged and crucified one….”

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Weighing Anguish on Scales: Christian Grief and Mourning

In America, we don’t like sadness.  We are taught to walk around with smiles on our faces all the time, to “put on a happy face” and to appear cheerful every moment of our lives.

This cultural attitude is embedded into Christian culture, particularly Evangelical Christian culture, where being saved often means “being happy and successful all the time.”

This attitude is particularly curious at funerals.  When my aunt, God rest her soul, died two years ago, she forbade everyone from wearing black at her funeral, because she said that she was going home to heaven, and so we should be happy.  She, in a sense, forbade her husband and children from expressing their grief at a funeral.  Thus, she used religion to make grief, something normal and natural, into something grossly unnatural.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, since I attended a wake for one acquaintance, and sat Shiva for another friend.  Neither friend was over forty, one friend had yet to turn 30.   This was the first time I had observed the passing of young people, and I realized fully how shallow and silly the fear of grief is among some American Christians.

Sometimes, grief looks like this.

This is a close up on the Virgin Mary in Michelangelo’s Pieta.  In Michaelangelo’s famous sculpture, the Mother of Sorrows looks completely at peace as she holds her Son’s body.

However, at other times, grief looks like this.

The figures in this image are not peaceful.  They are in shock, confused, horrified even.  It makes no sense to them, and in their grief they reject the death of Christ.  They weep, they throw their hands towards heaven, they cry out.

Christians in past ages were not afraid of grief.  Think of Verdi’s Libera Me from his Requiem Mass.

The music is filled with fire and brass, anguish and drums.  It is music of terror and anger, and then suddenly, in the middle, it stops.  It slows down.  The soprano’s voice aches.  It is the music of pain and sorrow.  It is full of agony.

For the second friend, I attended Shiva, and was struck by how the Jews embrace the feeling of grief.  When Jews observe Shiva, they do not run from grief, they embrace it, even if they are not feeling particularly sad.   Jewish laws of mourning requires that the mourners tear a piece of clothing at the grave, and wear it throughout Shiva.  The mourners are forbidden from engaging in sexual relations, Torah study, and even personal grooming.  (The widower’s face was grizzled and unshaven when I saw him.)  They embrace the idea that grief disrupts life.  They are not afraid of sorrow.

Christians in America can learn much from earlier Christians and Jews, and indeed from Gandalf, who told the Hobbits at the end of Return of the King, “I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”

 

Chewed Gum and Purity Martyrs

“[My teacher] said imagine you’re a stick of gum and when you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed and then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who’s going to want you after that?”

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value.  Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

Elizabeth Smart

A month ago, Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City woman who was held captive for nine months and repeatedly raped, gave a speech about human trafficking.  In this speech, she talked about her education about sexual purity increased the shame she experienced after her rape, to the point where she felt that her life had no value or worth as a human being.  These comments have taken a greater significance over the last week because of the escape and rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina de Jesus, and Michelle Knight.  All three of these women lived in a horrific captivity the likes of which we cannot even imagine for ten years.

With these comments, many people have criticized the purity culture for the way it harms victims of rape and abuse, and for good reason.  It is important to think about the messages that we send to victims of rape and sexual abuse, intended or unintended.  It is especially important because, according to some statistics, one out of four women will be raped at some point in her lifetime, which means that many of the young girls or women listening to talks about sex and “purity” are future rape victims.  This brings me to the topic of this post, St. Maria Goretti.

The story of St. Maria Goretti is the story of an unfortunate young girl, about 12, who was assaulted at knife point by a 17 year old.  He came up to her with a knife and demanded that she sleep with him.  She refused, and he tried to force himself on her but she resisted.  He stabbed her 14 times.  She lingered for a time in terrible suffering, but was able to receive the last sacraments and to forgive her attacker as well as pray for his conversion.  Her attacker later converted, and was present at her canonization.

My problem with St. Maria Goretti is not with her specifically, but with the way she is portrayed as a “martyr for purity.”  This is problematic for more than one reason.

1 The desire to avoid rape is wrongly viewed as proof of chastity. 

In one episode of Rick Steve’s Europe, detailing the Netherlands, he describes the Red Light district of Amsterdam.  He talks about how each prostitute’s room comes equipped with a panic button that links directly to the local police station, just in case the liaison takes a dangerous turn.

No one wants to be raped.  Not even whores want to be raped. Unfortunately our society has often embraced the view that only virgins desire to escape rape, and if a woman has had sex with anyone, she is willing to have sex with everyone.  This is one reason why the sexual history of a rape victim would take on a huge importance during a rape trial.  Think about this for a second.  When a an elderly woman is the victim of mugging, does the defense attorney talk about the old woman’s habit of walking alone at night?  When a homeowner is burgled, does the defense attorney talk about the homeowner’s history of leaving the door unlocked?  And yet, when a woman with an active sexual history seeks justice for rape, her sexual history is seen as evidence that she must have consented.

St. Maria Goretti’s desire to avoid being raped does not prove her chastity; merely it proves her sanity.

2 The implication that rape damages a woman’s purity is problematic at best. 

I was raised to believe that virginity was something that you gave away, not something that anyone could take from you by force.  Whether or not a woman chooses to engage in sex before marriage, the choice to engage in sex for the first time (or any time thereafter for that matter) is hers, and hers alone.  The act of rape or molestation is not the fault of the woman and does not violate the woman’s value or personal integrity.

Elizabeth Smart was unfortunately led to believe otherwise, and she clearly suffered greatly for it.  She believed that her life had no value after being raped, that she was worthless, that there was no point of even being rescued.  It is also worth pointing out that these feelings are common among rape and molestation victims.  One piece of advice given to rape victims is not to take a shower after being raped, because it could wash away critical evidence.  And yet, some women after being raped find that they feel as though they must shower.  Why is that?  They hope that they can wash away the experience, and they feel dirty and cheap as a result of these acts of violence against them.  These victims do not need these feelings to be reenforced, what they need is for these wrong feelings to be challenged.

Unfortunately, the story of St. Maria Goretti, as it is commonly told, does not challenge these feelings and beliefs, but rather strengthens them.  The story refers to her maintenance of “virginal purity” at the cost of her life, implying not too subtlety that women who have been raped are not pure.

One writer wrote that while rape is not a sin, rape does defile a person in the way that desecrating the tabernacle defiles a church or chapel.  This is still problematic.  After all, if rape defiles a person, then why does physical violence not defile a person?  Imagine if St. Maria Goretti, by some miracle, had survived her attack.  Does anyone believe that she would not have been physically, psychologically, or spiritually scarred?  She was stabbed 14 times!  That would have been impossible.   My point is that, if this is the definition of violation, then we should admit that St. Maria Goretti ultimately failed to prevent her violation.

For readers who believe that rape is a violation and that stabbing is not, or that rape causes spiritual violation and that stabbing does not,  why do you think so?  “Do not fear the dagger that can harm your body, rather fear the penis that has the power to destroy your body and send your soul into Gehenna!”  Interesting metaphysics, I must admit.

3 The Harm of Conflicting or Unintended Messages

Many Catholics who support this portrayal of St. Maria Goretti argue that the Church does not teach that rape victims are guilty of sin, and they are correct in this assertion.  However, they do not take into account the idea of unintended messages and the potential for misunderstandings with rape victims.

Many Catholics who defend the traditional portrayal of St. Maria Goretti are well aware of the problem of unintended messages in other scenarios, particularly in regards to the liturgy.  One such example is the proper reception of communion.  In the United States, it is permissible to receive communion standing and in the hand, as opposed to kneeling and on the tongue.  They worry that this leads Catholics to disbelieve in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, which is the official Church’s teaching.  The same concern can be applied to the portrayal of St. Maria Goretti as a purity martyr.  The portrayal of St. Maria Goretti as a purity martyr creates confusion and can undermine official Church teaching, as well as cause genuine pain to victims of rape and abuse.

None of this is to take away from the courage and the generosity of St. Maria Goretti, or to say that she does not deserve to be a saint.  However, we must think carefully about rape and victims of sexual abuse, and provide them genuine assistance and care, not promote dangerous and unhealthy thoughts and attitudes.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for Amanda Berry, Gina deJesus, and Michelle Knight. 

 

Impious Religion, or Irreligious Piety?

“Piety requires us to honor truth above our friends.”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

“Oh cruel, irreligious piety!”

Tamara, Titus Andronicus

Last year, the National Catholic Register published an interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel to mark the anniversary of his order’s founding.  During his interview, the reporter asked him about his work with priests who committed acts of pedophilia.  It was this question that launched a bombshell.

In the article, Fr. Benedict Groeschel talked about how, in many cases, the priests are seduced by their victims, and he referred to Jerry Sandusky as “that poor man.”   This interview was eventually deleted from their page, and according to one source, the reporter who did the article was fired.

It is not my intention to rehash what Fr. Benedict Groeschel said or meant in the article.  What I wish to discuss today is the response of lay devout Catholics to his comments.   The comments on various different Catholic websites were a disturbing and enraging revelation to me, one that I can only now talk about calmly and rationally, somewhat.

The comments from devout Catholics were statements of unwavering support for Fr. Benedict Groeschel and blamed his comments on his stroke.  This is true, Fr. Benedict Groeschel has suffered a stroke, however, some people feel argue that he has made similar comments prior to his stroke.  (I have not been able to verify this, partly because I have not had time to listen to the recording in question.  It could simply be a nasty rumor.)   People blasted the reporter and the National Catholic Register for publishing the article and the comments because they caused scandal.  They praised Fr. Benedict Groeschel as a living saint among us, and even argued that he was right that even children could seduce, or attempt to seduce, adults.

I was outraged by their reactions for several reasons.  I was enraged by the general consensus that, even if Fr. Benedict Groeschel did say what he said, then Catholic “newspapers” and the like should work to hush up the statements in order to protect his other accomplishments, because his comments are unimportant.  I could not disagree with this sentiment more.  Fr. Benedict Groeschel was used by the Archdiocese of New York City to council and work with priests who were accused of pedophilia.  If Fr. Benedict Groeschel operated under the assumption that many priests were victims of aggressive youth, then there are possibly priests still serving in New York City, priests who may be in a position to molest children.  To the devout Catholics posting on various Catholic websites, the motivation to protect children from abuse is simply not enough to warrant besmirching the name of a “living saint.”

As horrible as their reaction was, I am glad I forced myself to read their comments.  I gained a crucial, essential, and horrifying revelation about lay Catholics from reading them.  Back in 2002, when I was 18, the news of the sex abuse scandal broke out with a vengeance.  I was not yet Catholic at that point of my life, and I was somewhat shocked and baffled at how so many leaders could be complicit in such a large cover up.  At that time, I attributed it to the celibacy among the priesthood, though shortly after that I was forced to reevaluate this knee jerk reaction.  (I discovered that my friend had been molested by her non-celibate father.)   Most non-Catholics attribute the sex abuse scandal to celibacy among priests.  Most devout Catholics attribute the sex abuse scandal to the corruption of the bishops.   But what if both these answers were wrong, or at least incomplete? 

Reading these responses, ten years after the sex abuse scandal, I realized that both these answers are, for lack of a better term, clerical.  By this I mean they focus too much on the priests, and not enough on the laity.   Indeed, the laity do not exist at all in these explanations, except as the young victims.   It does not even attempt to imagine how the family members and friends would have reacted to victims who told their stories, and some of them must have tried to tell someone.  After reading the comments on the internet, I realized that I had a fairly good idea of how the laity (or at least a large portion of them,) would have responded.  I can imagine more than one friend or family member quoting an apparition of Mary warning, “Never criticize a priest!”  The disturbing part about these comments is that these comments were ten years after the worst of the sex scandal broke, ten years after Catholics have (or should have, anyway,) learned their lesson.  How much worse it must have been all those years ago!  How many victims were silenced by family members and friends, how many family members chose not to call the police because they did not want to besmirch good and holy men, because they did not want to cause scandal, because they believed that the dignity of the priestly vocation made priests above the law, and because they believed that the victim willed the encounter?  We will never know, but the number must be fairly substantial.

The even scarier part of these quotes is that I realized that there is nothing stopping this from happening again.  The Catholic dioceses  across the country have employed many different tactics and programs to try to combat child sexual abuse, but these programs will likely fail, or at least not be as successful as they should be, if a sizable portion of the Catholic laity continue to stand in opposition to exposing and prosecuting the perpetrators.   It is also likely to fail because Catholics, both progressive and conservative (I hate those terms!) are too busy passing the blame for the sex abuse scandal to others, and never bother to accept that this could not have happened without the consent of the laity.

Lastly, I would like to end where I began, with the quotes above.   Is this action on the part of the laity impious religion, or irreligious piety?  It is tempting to say the first, because laity who object to the exposure of priests are preferring friends to truth, or rather, actively prefer deception and lies to the truth.  It is easy to promote exposing priests that are too conservative or too liberal for our personal tastes, but it is difficult to expose a priest that is popular, or a friend.  However, as Aristotle said, piety demands that we must favor truth (as well as justice) over personal ties.

However, I think that, in many ways, this action is irreligious piety.  For those who do not know, this quote comes from Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare’s early plays.  My friend used to call it “young, angry Shakespeare,” since the play is a bloodbath, an expression of horrific, vengeful rage.  At the beginning of the play, Titus Andronicus tells Tamara, the queen of the Goths, that the Roman gods require a sacrifice in thanksgiving for his victory over her people.  As a result, he is going to sacrifice her son.  Tamara begs him to show mercy on her and her son, but Titus refuses, and Tamara’s son is killed.

For decades, Catholic boys were offered up because the gods demanded a sacrifice.  What is most disturbing is that, in some cases, their mothers were not pleading for them, as Tamara, but perhaps joined Titus in offering their sons, declaring that the gods demand a sacrifice.  Even worse, many Catholic mothers stand ready to make the same sacrifice today.

O cruel, irreligious piety.

Confitemur

At the beginning of the Mass, the celebrant and the congregation calls to mind their sins, and ask God for forgiveness.  This is traditionally called the Confiteor, the Latin word for I confess.  The celebrant confesses that he has sinned through his faults, words, and his own inaction, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,” beating his breast at those words (though usually this is nothing more than a gentle tap).  The Confiteor is even more strikingly performed in the Latin Mass, where the celebrant and the altar boys kneel.

One aspect of Christianity, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, that is universal is the individual examination of conscience.  Catholics were historically encouraged to examine their consciences regularly, sometimes even daily, and many prayer books and pamphlets are published with long lists of sins.This impulse is not entirely lost in Protestant Christianity either.  Many more liturgical churches begin with the congregation reading a general confession of sins and asking for forgiveness.  But of course, this is not even a Christian impulse.  Jews every year, between Rosh Hashonnah and Yom Kippur set aside days to examine their conduct over the past year and ask for forgiveness.  (Even Trekkies who practice Klingon religion observe the Day of Honor, and examine their conduct over the previous year.)

However, the title of this article is not Confiteor, or I Confess, but rather Confitemur, or We Confess.  It is not unheard of for conservative Catholics to act as though the Church has never said or done anything wrong in 2,000 years.  In their zeal to make their case, they often find themselves defending the indefensible.  These people no doubt put much credence into the traditional practice of individual examination of conscience, but when it comes to collective acts, there is no possibility of sin.

Furthermore, I think that, if individuals sin, and a church or religious body is made up with individuals, then there is a definite role for a collective examination of conscience.  A religious body should take the time periodically to examine its actions, see where it has fallen short, and ask for forgiveness.

When I studied about the Shoah in college, my professor talked about how a Lutheran Seminary teaches a class called “The Failings of Martin Luther.”  (Do Catholic seminarians learn “The Failings of the Early Church Fathers?”)  I also saw a short film called “Sister Rose’s Passion,” about how a Dominican nun challenged the presentation of Jews in religious textbooks in the United States.

I’m curious.  What would it mean for a religious group to perform an examination of conscience, to look at the ways that, in the past and in the  present, it has sinned and needs forgiveness and penance?  What would it mean for a religious organization to confess its sins and do penance or make amends?  I don’t know, but I do know that if a religious body refuses to do such a thing, it’s because deep down it probably knows the religion isn’t true.

Torture Porn with Jesus: The Fetishism of Suffering in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ

I realize that I will, in all likelihood, get a lot of angry comments about this, so let me just remind everyone that angry comments are tolerated, abusive comments are not.

Before I begin, I am going to explain the title of this post.  First of all, torture porn refers to a specific type or horror film that is especially gory and involves torture as well as killing.  Movies like Saw are referred to as torture porn.

Second of all, the word fetishism does not refer to the sexual kind of fetishsm, but rather the religious kind of fetishism, where an object is believed to possess supernatural powers.

Now that that is out of the way, I can start the post.

The legends of the Buddha tell of a rich and happy prince who walked outside of his carefully protected world and discovered that there was suffering in the world.   Upon realizing this, he fled from his life in the palace to seek liberation from suffering.

I start with this anecdote because it is good to remind ourselves periodically that suffering is a problem, and there are no easy answers.  (I don’t think the Buddha’s 4 noble truths fully answer the problem.)  Suffering in this world is real, and too often in the United States we can pretend that this is not true.  We hush up the voices of those in pain, and tell everyone to smile, whether or not they feel like smiling.

Evangelical Christianity is the religious incarnation of this principle.  Acknowledgement of pain or suffering of any kind is frowned upon.  At my aunt’s funeral a little over a year ago, her husband and children were strictly forbidden from wearing black.  She said she wanted them to be happy because she was in heaven.  Her husband and children were not allowed to express the perfectly normal and natural reaction of human grief; furthermore, the experience of grief is suddenly a challenge to their faith.  (If I feel sad and experience grief, it’s because I do not have faith.)   It is relatively common in Evangelical Christianity to ignore all bad feelings.  The church service must often be a happy event, where everyone is happy all the time.  Evangelical Christians are fond of saccharine expressions that are created by people who have never truly experienced suffering, and since many Evangelical Christians are middle class Americans, their lives are often relatively free from suffering.  Evangelicals love to hear converts tell stories about how their conversion to Evangelical Christianity instantly cured their addictions to tobacco, alcohol and drugs, as if by magic.

The large problem with this is that, when the rug is pulled out from someone, when something unexpected and horrible happens, then the person is left adrift.  I remember seeing a silly PBS show where modern Americans had to live as though they were in Puritan New England.  The people had to attend a Puritan church service, and a young woman gave a talk about how awesome her life was, and therefore God was equally awesome.  As fate would have it, shortly after this talk, the young woman’s fiance was killed in a car crash.  I feel very bad for her, because nothing she learned at her church was going to help her in that moment.

Phillip Yancy, a prominent Evangelical writer, tells the story of a woman who attended a strict Evangelical college in the south, who graduated believing that, because she believed in God and was a good evangelical Christian, she could be confident that nothing bad was ever going to happen to her.  Her faith was a talisman to protect her from all evil.  Unfortunately for her, she discovered her husband was a closeted bisexual who cheated on her with both men and women, and her father (who lead the family in daily Bible study) was molesting her children, his own grandchildren.  It was, needless to say, a traumatic experience.

In a way, Traditional Catholics have exactly the opposite opinion on suffering.  Traditionally minded Catholics often love suffering, they wallow in suffering, and believe that suffering is not only good, but that it is the only good.  (It goes without saying that their favorite devotion is meditating on the Sorrowful, the More Sorrowful, and the Most Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.)   I have seen Traditional Catholics argue that the only way to get to heaven is by being totally miserable on earth.  Indeed, when St. Therese was dying of tuberculosis, she never received any pain killers of any kind, since the Carmelite order felt that pain killers or anesthesia was a violation of their religious vows.  H. L. Mencken once said that a puritan is someone who is haunted by the fear that someone, somewhere, was happy.  That definition can also be applied to a number of traditionally minded Catholics.  It is to this group, Traditionalist Catholics, that Mel Gibson belongs, or at least did belong.  (Before he decided to abandon the mother of his children, live in sin with his mistress, and generally go bat shit crazy.)   The mindset of this group is clear in his movie, The Passion of the Christ.

In Mel Gibson’s understanding of the passion, the total emphasis is on suffering and agony.  This is most clearly seen in the scourging at the pillar.  The first moment is when Jesus originally seems to collapse against the pillar.  Rather than staying collapsed, Mel Gibson’s Jesus wills himself to stand up, to take more of a beating from the Roman guards.  As Steven Greydanus points out in one of his comments about The Passion, Jesus in this scene almost seems to be inviting his tormentors to keep at it, to keep scourging him, willing them to sin.  (It should be pointed out that, in Catholic theology, to will someone else to sin or to encourage someone else to sin makes you complicit in that sin.)  If Mel Gibson’s Jesus is encouraging the guards to sin, then Mel Gibson’s Jesus is guilty of sin.

However, shortly after this moment, the film becomes ridiculous.  Jesus is lying on the ground, weak from the scourging.  The guards, who in the film have been ordered by Pilate to show restraint, approach Jesus, turn him over, and start beating him again.  Up to this point, I had actually been enjoying the movie more than I anticipated I would (I expected to hate it) but at that moment I almost found myself laughing.  The guards, who had no personal animosity to Jesus (any more than they would have had to any other political prisoner), who had been ordered to show restraint by the governor, suddenly turn into sadists worthy of the movie Hostel.  It was simply silly.  It’s one thing to ignore the Bible, Church teaching, and the writings of theologians, it’s another thing to ignore your own plot.  And yet, this act is very emblematic of the idea of Mel Gibson and his group.  Suffering of any kind, especially physical suffering, is good.  Pain is holy, pleasure a sin.

To me, the most clear indication of this kind of thinking is at the end of the movie, after the death of Jesus.  When the centurion pierces Jesus’ side with his spear, the blood and water sprays out like from a shower faucet, striking the Roman soldier in the face.  It’s worth pointing out that there is a legend about this occurrence, in which the soldier, named Longinus, has terrible eyesight.  When the blood and water from the side of Christ fall on Longinus’ eyes, his eyesight is healed.  There is no mention of this miracle in The Passion.  Instead,  the bad thief on the cross has his eyes gouged out by a crow, sent by a vindictive God who is far more interested in blinding people than in giving sight to the blind.  In a way, this makes perfect sense.  If suffering is good, and suffering is necessary to get to heaven, then the records of Jesus healing people are troubling, and even morally problematic.  How much better it would have been if Jesus had sent a message to St. John the Baptist, “The seeing become blind, the hearing become deaf, and the living are killed.”

Anyway, one of the most striking aspects of the build up of the film The Passion was the excitement of both Catholics and Evangelicals about the film, which brings me to my last point.  There are plenty of Catholics who are influenced very strongly by Evangelicals, reading Evangelical books, listening to Evangelical music, and watching movies made by Evangelicals.  What is striking to me is that those people often embody the worst of both worlds.  They spout meaningless platitudes such as “God answers every prayer, and he never says no.  He either says ‘Yes,’ ‘Wait,’ or ‘I have something better for you.'”  (I’m curious.  An acquaintance of mine had a friend whose two year old son, after three days of fervent prayer, died.  Which answer did the parents get?)

Evangelical Catholics, as I’ll call them, reject, for the most part, talk about suffering.  They embrace the Evangelical idea that having the truth means that we should be totally happy all the time, that being a Christian means we should be fat, happy, and prosperous.  However, when a person does start suffering, he should lie down and take it.  Even more, he should be grateful he cries himself to sleep every night, because suffering and misery rock! 

Instead, I think most Christians, Evangelical and Catholic, should consider the miracles of Jesus.  Jesus does not run away from suffering, or avoid talking about suffering.  However, when he meets a person struggling from illness, deformity, or even death, he heals that person and restores them to life.  Furthermore, Catholic religious orders have a long history of caring for the sick, feeding the poor, and liberating slaves.  People who call themselves Christians should not be afraid of talking about suffering and acknowledging its existence, but it should not embrace it as a positive good in and of itself.

Why I will not likely respond to comments

I don’t really intend to respond to comments on this blog.  This is in large part because I am not looking to argue in this blog, I am looking to express myself.  That being said, I will approve  most comments, including negative and angry comments, but I do reserve the right to censor comments that are personally abusive.