Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

Beginning in 1979 and continuing at least into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the Roman Catholic Church underwent a “movement,” or “step,” back—in the sense of turning back from the shifts made possible by the Second Vatican Council. Aspects of the reactionary agenda include a greater distance between the clergy and the laity (as eventuated in less emphasis on lay ministries, ironically as the proportion of priests decreases) and more emphasis on two particular political issues: abortion and stem-cells. In other words, the clergy in the movement tend to hold themselves in a more elitist position vis a vis the laity while feeling more confident in asserting their particular partisan position. One such priest at a parish, and indeed diocese, “gone reactionary” is reported to have added a prayer in the petitions at Mass as the campaigns for the Republican primaries were revving up in 2011, “We pray for the election of a pro-life president.” As Barak Obama is pro-choice and most of the Republican candidates are pro-life in terms of being anti-abortion, the prayer was in fact for a Republican to win the White House. There are a number of problems with this sort of petition—none of which evidently had swayed the overconfident “high” priest

First, the partisan nature of the petition could be expected to turn off any independents and Democrats in the congregation. In fact, they could have felt alienated—some strident Obama supporters may perhaps have even skipped taking Communion. In attending the Mass, the members of that parish had agreed to take part in Roman Catholic religion; they had not agreed to attend a Republican or even a politically partisan club. Indeed, you can bet that priest would have quickly dismissed any members identifying themselves as intending to vote for Barak Obama. The priestly arrogance falls particularly flat when politics, wherein each person has one vote, is the priest’s chosen field of endeavor. Lest he object that religion is everywhere and thus preemptive in other domains, one might wonder whether he has any self-control or restraint, not to mention humility—particularly as it is his favored ideological stance that reigns supreme and trumps all others.

Second, the petition itself may be self-defeatist. According to the New York Times, “attacks on the E.P.A., climate change science and environmental regulation more broadly” are red meat to many if not most Republican voters. Some
of the Republican candidates would do away with the E.P.A. outright. Michele Bachmann, for instance, said, “I guarantee you the E.P.A. will have doors locked and lights turned off.” Now, if we let corporations and drivers send our climate to a new equilibrium that is incompatible with the human species, then any pro-life political agenda would be thwarted, at least with respect to human life. The partisan priest could take solace, however, in that there would not be any abortions.

In fact, not only is the petition narrow-minded and self-defeating, it bears a contradiction if universalized (i.e., everyone votes anti-abortion) that renders the maxim immoral, at least according to Kant’s categorical imperative. For the maxim “Vote anti-abortion” universalized could bring with it a trashing of the environment to the extent that the maxim no longer makes sense because there is no possibility for abortions when there are no human beings remaining. In other words, the maxim universalized is self-contradictory, so the maxim cannot be taken as a fact of reason (i.e., as having the necessity of reason, as in 4+5=9) and thus the maxim is immoral. This is obviously a rationalist method of assessing morality.

The main oversight by the reactionary politicized priest is that voting on a single issue opens one up to the risk of having voted recklessly with respect to other issues. Moreover, the tenet that one single issue is so much more important than all the others, such as social justice and aiding the poor, even with respect to the religion (and religious morals) not to mention politics is faulty at best. In Christianity, for example, Jesus is depicted as urging aid to the poor—the least of us or the lowly being exalted. Considering the Republican condition for raising the debt-ceiling in July 2011 that unemployment compensation be ended, it is difficult to see how voting for a “pro-life” candidate on abortion could be
consistent with Jesus’ admonition. Even from the standpoint of following Jesus, the self-vaunted ideology of the priest is problematic for him. With respect to humility, which the Catholic Pope (Joe Ratzinger) has maintained is God, a partisan petition is at the very least unseemly and ultimately self-defeating with respect to union with God.

See John M. Broder, “Bashing E.P.A. Is New Theme in G.O.P. Race,” The New York Times (August 18, 2011).

Read Full Post »

As Madrid prepared for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in August 2011, many people, including 120 priests, were raising objections to the Pope’s visit. Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman at the Vatican, said at a briefing at Rome that the protests were not very surprising. Dismissing the objections, he said, “It’s part of life in a democratic country.”  I contend that there is a certain arrogance in this statement. Would the spokesman use the same statement regarding protests against apartheid, for example?  Oh, well, what can you expect; there are always protests. To be sure, the frequency of protest does indeed rarify the impact of any particular protest. Surely, however, the gravity of the causes differs. Exterminating the Jews, for example, should not be treated as of similar importance as saving some bird species, yet both causes could be expected to eventuate in protests.

In the case of the Pope’s visit to Madrid for the youth festival, priests who work with the poor objected to the “lavish $72 million celebration.” That some of this sum would be paid with tax dollars even as Spain was in an austerity program affecting the poor had more than some people shaking their heads at the priorities of the Vatican and Spain. It was not as though the Pope had not visited the state. In fact, Esther Lopez Barcelo, a youth coordinate for a political party, observed, “They still can’t tell us how much the pope’s visit cost two years ago. Every time he comes here, the figures become opaque.” Cost-containment is obviously not a priority at the Vatican.

To be sure, having more than a million visitors in Madrid could be expected to benefit both local business and the government’s coffers, though it is doubtful that the spending by the youth would match the increased municipal expenses such as trash removal. In short, Spain—one of the PIGS in the E.U. in terms of the debt crisis—was in no position to host a church’s youth day. The Pope’s home region of Bavaria in Germany would have been a better pick, considering the state of the German economy.

For the Catholic Church, the Vatican’s dismissiveness of the protest signed by 120 of its own priests plus others rings of the sort of heartlessness in ignoring someone. It is the sort of heartlessness in someone who has no qualms about enjoying himself even as he knows that some people nearby are suffering. There is a fakeness to such a smile that involves willful blocking of something that is not convenient.

In a broader context, the Vatican’s indifference regarding objections to its lavish spending was amid a trend since 1979 away from social justice and human rights and toward a hypertrophy in abortion and stem-cell protests. I wonder, by the way, whether “It’s all part of life in a democratic country” could also be used by pro-choice groups to dismiss pro-life rallies? Furthermore, I wonder if the Vatican would object to that use of its statement?  Would the Vatican be willing to contend that using a human stem-cell in research is more objectionable than diverting religious and public funds from the poor in a time of need?

On the Church’s “own turf,” one could point to Jesus’ use of the five loafs and two fishes to feed the multitudes. Furthermore, one could recount the saying attributed to Jesus about the rich man getting into the kingdom of heaven being like a camel getting through the eye of a needle. Surely, profligate spending for a festival as the poor are suffering from austerity-program cut-backs is hard to square with Jesus’s teachings. Higher human love (caritas), and especially selfless divine love (agape), manifest justly in terms of universal benevolence (benevolentia universalis). Leibniz, for example, based this justness of this obligation on the fact that we all share in being—God is perfect Being. Augustine based the justness on caritas applying even to one’s enemies (as opposed to merely one’s friends—Cicero’s amicitia).

Similarly, John Rawls points to the unfairness involved in knowing beforehand where one is situated in benefiting from the benevolence. Under a veil of ignorance concerning one’s station, it is only fair to see to it that the least fortunate position benefits. Practically speaking, one never knows if one will someday occupy such a position. For a person (or organization) to ignore the poor while using funds that those people who are barely surviving badly need (from the state)—particularly when one knows one’s station (i.e., as not poor)—is to add selfishness and a hardened heart to the unfairness. This is not exactly a station of the Cross. Rather, it pertains to the lofty, who are justly brought low, rather than to the lowly, who are to be exalted.

To refuse to take part in the exaltation of the lowly by ignoring the obligation of redistributive justice, particularly as arrives at a festival as the star of the show, reflects on one’s underlying attitude toward the teachings attributed to Jesus (or Gandhi, for that matter) as well as the ethical principle of basic fairness. It is, in short, to practice hypocrisy, if one represents a Church in the name of a simple carpenter who may well have gone from meal to meal.

See Suzanne Daley, “Catholic Clergy Protest Pope’s Visit, and Its Price Tag,” New York Times, August 16, 2011.

Read Full Post »

While it might seem easy, discerning saints from sinners can be rather difficult. Hence, we are urged not to judge, lest we, too, be judged. This lesson landed on me when I found my opinion on a seemingly-saintly elderly woman change dramatically.

The elderly Philipino woman whom I met seemed at first to be very pious, having an explicit desire to gain the attribute of holiness. The simplicity of her faith appealed to me. Yet when I made reference to one of her priests being–to put it nicely–more of an administrator than a pastor, she replied that her priest “was Jesus.” I replied that the priests are in the line of the Apostles, rather than instantiating Jesus. I cited apostolic succession, and she relented. Not content to be corrected, she asserted that the Bible is sufficient as a source of historical evidence. I replied that a faith narrative is neither written with the intention of recording historical facts nor of the genre of historical writings that is taken as proffering historical evidence. The woman disagreed, insisting that a faith narrative can be considered as a source of historical facts. I asked her whether she knows or believes the so-called facts. She readily replied that she knows them. “Well,” I observed, “then it would seem that you have no use for faith then.” My unexpected comment stopped her in her tracks. “What do you mean?” she asked. “We have faith in things we don’t know–things we are not certain of, such as whether we will be alive tomorrow,” I replied. “It doesn’t make sense to have faith in something we know because there is not uncertainty about it. So if the Bible gives you facts that you know, that tells me that it is not a matter of faith.” Taken back, she repeated that she knew that the Bible proves that certain historical events took place. “And you can’t be wrong about that?” I asked. “Yes, I can’t be wrong about it.” As if giving the conclusion of a syllogism, I remarked, “Then that means that not only is faith unnecessary for you, but it is based on arrogance–that of presuming that you cannot be wrong.” My pronouncement stunned her into speechlessness. She stood staring at the ground as if unable to move. There was no anger or resentment–just a wall that was blocking her view and not letting her pass.

If Jesus is a door, then a believer opens the door and walks through; one does not keep holding on to a front door once one has entered a house. The elderly woman was stuck holding on to a doornob as if it were attached to a wall. For myself, I was simply stunned that religion could so distort cognition so much and involve denial to the extent that a human being readily admits to not being able to be wrong about something that most of us would say involves belief rather than knowledge. It is as if the domain furtherest from certain knowledge were somehow the most capable of proffering evidence about which a person could not be wrong.

Perhaps this exchange reflects the saying, “Where God builds a church, Satan builds a chapel.” My question is: In preaching against arrogance, was I in the church or chapel?

Read Full Post »

The pope in his homily at the 2009 midnight (actually 10pm) mass quoted Origen (early Xn theologian) who wrote that pagans (who worship stone images of God…which would include Hindus today) can only have hearts of stone (meaning they cannot love…even each other).  Specifically, according to Ratzinger, “Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist’s sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God’s love. Origen says of the pagans: “Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood” (in Lk 22:9).”  So a Hindu believer cannot feel love or use reason.  Being as though lifeless matter, such humans are in effect not human, or sub-human.  This is the implication from Ratzinger’s quote of Origen.  At the very least, one must wonder how insulting good-meaning Hindus (and people of other religions where the deities are in images other than that of Jesus, the “true image of God” according to Ratzinger) can possibly be reconciled with subscribing to a religion wherein God is love and that love is in neighbor-love universalized

Ratzinger continues in his homily,  “The God of whom no image may be made – because any image would only diminish, or rather distort him – this God has himself become visible in the One who is his true image.”   Is this not a contradiction?  If no image can be made, then none–even one believed to be correspond to the divine essence–could be made or seen by humans without distortion.  Otherwise, the statement would read, “the God of whom only one image can be made.”   Any image is distorting because God as the source of existence transcends any image within the limits of human cognition and perception.  Also, even if there were a true image, it would be presumptuous to assume that human beings can know which, if any, is the true image.  Even revelation must go through human hands in being written down.  Furthermore, the presumption that one’s particular image of God is THE true image involves a conflict of interest.   In other words, it is convenient for Joe Ratzinger that his image of God is THE true image of God.  At the very least, Joe Ratzinger’s claim ought to be doubted because it is self-serving. 

C’est vraiment incroyable.  Certainement, un mauvais homme qui croit que il est bon.  …Ratzinger, je veux dire.  Bien sur (ou naturalement), les journalists ont dit rien de ca plus tard.  Hindus ne pouvent pas aimer ou penser.  Sprechen das ist schlecter als  “they can’t be saved” because “being saved” is a Christian artifact.  Ratzinger’s homily represents Christianity on steroids.  …or an 82 year old man on steroids.  No wonder some (other) crazy person jumped on him during the procession.  To be sure, that was crazy too, but after he got up, it is telling that his eyes were shifty.   In watching him, I got the sense that he is not a very trusting person.  It is difficult to judge, but I would not be surprised were he a spiteful rather than a spiritual man.  I view his decision to quote Origen as just as crazy, and him comments on God’s image as convenient at the very least.  …yet in spite of his comments, the legitimacy is presumed to go with him so no one questions it, at least publically.  The Roman emperor, I submit, is not wearing any clothes.  Yet unlike the baby in the manger, he is all decked out.  It is time, in other words, to see through the glittering robe to uncover the man behind the curtain.

Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20091224_christmas_en.html

Read Full Post »

In Enchiridion (ch. 31, sec. 117), Augustine avers that “he who does not love believes in vain, even though the objects of his belief be true.”   For example, one can believe in the immortality of the soul, and this belief may correspond with there being such a thing as an afterlife, but unless one loves one’s neighbors–including one’s enemies–having the belief comes to naught in terms of going to heaven. 

I won’t belabour the point by pointing to noted Christians in history who have treated their neighbors with less than love.  The four popes of the crusades, for example, didn’t exactly love the eastern Christians in Constantinople and the Muslims in Jersualem.   When the crusading army entered Jersualem, it killed virtually all of the locals (whereas when the Muslems took back the city, they did not).    Unfortunately, when someone is charged with hypocrisy, he or she may lapse into rationalizations.   In general terms, a Christian might argue that tough love involves looking out for the other’s best interest even when the other objects.  Like the parent who takes the child for  a vacination, the Christian might view himself as actng to save the other’s soul over the objections of the other.  Burning witches, for example, could be said to purify their souls.   Love for the witch would be evinced in the concern for her immortal soul–freeing it from the cupidity of a sordid earthly existence. 

Such a rationale is problematic for a variety of reasons.  First, it involves a degree of presumption that goes beyond what being human can justify.  The Puritans of Salem who burnt witches can’t know for sure that burning them would purify their souls.  Moreover, acting on the basis of what one thinks is in the interest of another person’s immortal soul presumes that that one knows that interest.  Second, such actions as harm the person in this life cannot point to any precedents in Jesus’ example.  Indeed, acting to harm another is antipodal to Jesus’ example of compassion as consistent with the person’s well-being in this life.   Third, it is too tempting for human nature to throw a stone for any of us to be able to distinguish acting in the interest of another’s immortal soul from acting in anger or resentment. 

So the rationale doesn’t work.  It doesn’t matter if what you believe corresponds to something in reality; if you judge others on the basis of your belief and presume to override their contrary beliefs–imposing harm on them rather than having compassion and doing as they ask–your belief doesn’t matter.  If you pester another person to get them to be saved, you will lose your own salvation.  Having your believe in Jesus will be like confederate currency when you try to pay your way into heaven; you will be turned away.   Of course, whether there is such a gate, much less an afterlife, is a matter beyond my kin, so I use the example only to make a point.  Believing in Jesus can be your final obstruction to a salvific religious experience if you are not compassionate rather than judgemental.  

The parent/child “I know better than you what you need” rationale is extremely dangerous.  The problem here is that it can apply, though I would argue only within the realm of this world.  If someone unknowingly is about to fall off a cliff because they want to drive drunk in California, another person should stop him even above his objections.  The ends-justify-the-means rationale is problematic where the well-being is presumed to pertain to the other person’s after-life at the expense of one’s life here.  The problem is the nature of the belief in what is necessary for salvation.  But even if it were possible for a human being to know what is necessary for it, not acting in compassion in terms of this life effectively nullifies your having the belief even if your belief is true.  

Presumption is puffed up, whereas humility is amenable to compassion, which is neighbor love being realized in practice.   As Paul writes, love is greater than faith and hope (I Cor. 13:13).  The end of God’s precepts is love because God is love (Rom. 13:10; 1 John 4:16).   Consider the distance between burning someone and lying down one’s  life for him or her(see John 15:13).  

It is interesting how the very people who insist that Jesus’ resurrection must be taken literally are apt to view John 15:13) as somehow metaphorical or figurative…as though satisfied by or standing for any small sacrifice.  Speaking directly to such people: you desire for such convenience undoes all of the importance you place in holding your belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that salvation requires a personal relationship with Jesus.  Yet in your presumption you conveniently blow off this possibility. 

How far the insiders are from what they claim to adore…and how close those they label as  outsiders!  This is a major theme in Mark, where the strangers “get it” while the disciples continually miss the point.  The last are in fact first, and the first are far behind–looking down on the rest of us.  I don’t view myself as in either party, but somewhere in the middle, shaking my head in utter contempt for the puffed up self-proclaimed Christians who show but little love for others.  Meanwhile, I see the outsiders “getting it” but not knowing it, and I want to wink at them so they might take their rightful places and see the hubris in the front row–those whose feet are typically washed on Holy Thursday by the so-called servants of Christ (i.e., insiders washing insides, a form of incest).   How can such clean feet have such bad smell?  The clean are dirty, and the dirty clean. Now here is the point–have compassion on both, not just for the dirty!  It is the clean, rather than the dirty, who are most naturally constituted to be the enemy.  While it may be tempting to burn the clean to put them out of their misery, such behavior cannot be rationalized, at least by the teachings and example of Jesus.  So it is not enough to love the dirty; one must love not only where it is not convenient–one must go on to love one’s enemies…or one’s Christian belief makes no difference even if it is true.  

You are invited to join http://twitter.com/deligentia for more.

Read Full Post »

How, you might wonder, could “happy holidays” have wound up being used as a subterfuge for passive aggression against a major holiday.  The practice might well be akin to the impersonal politeness that some people dish out at others whom they don’t like.  The duplicity involved in using “happy holidays” becomes transparent when all of a sudden after a week of “happy Thanksgiving,” the next major holiday–the next national holiday–is obviated with the generic “happy holidays.”  The referent is never clear, but it is not supposed to be.  The  intended object of the slight is of course Christmas.  

Interestingly, the sheer magnitude of Christmas finally breaks through on Christmas Eve day, when people are able to summon the requisite guts to vocalize “Merry Christmas” in greeting strangers as well as friends and family.  It is as though people know that political correctness is unjustly imposed and say to themselves when the intensity of Christmas overcomes them, “to hell with it (really “them”), I’m going to say it anyway.”  I suspect that they tacitly know that “happy holidays” is something that they tolerate but do not accept.  That is to say, on the cusp of Christmas most people reckon enough is enough.  The force of the Christmas surge overcomes the feckless wall.  Of course, there are the diehard holidays people who insist on their politically correct greeting even on Christmas Eve day when the obvious holiday could only be Christmas.  Such people are utterly fake–they seek to impose a vaccum of cold empty space. Once the front guard has broken through the imposition on the cusp of Christmas, nearly it isn’t long before nearly everyone is wishing a Merry Christmas.  From this standpoint, is easy enough on the day after Christmas to go from “Merry Christmas” on to “Happy New Year.”  Happy Holidays is then only on the tardy television ads–which attest to the utter fakeness of the phrase.   That we don’t go back to “Happy Holiday” after the excitement of Christmas has passed not only points to the force of habit; it also indicates the duplicitous use of the phrase–singling out Christmas.  All of a sudden, it is once again ok to go back to using the holiday’s name.   What we are essentially witnessing here is disfavoritism being imposed in resentment.

To single out one of the national holidays in using the generic term “holiday” in place of the proper name is inherently insulting to those who celebrate that holiday.  Various motives go into the resentment. First, there is the mistaken assumption that Christmas is only a religious holiday; the fact that non-Christianscelebate it can safely be ignored.  In actuality, Christmas is not theologically a religious holiday at all.  The theological events concerning Jesus are his incarnation (i.e., at his conception rather than birth) and resurrection (i.e., Easter).  To treat Christmas as akin to Easter is to make a theological category mistake.   In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Pentacostals (I can’t remember which) refuse to celebrate Christmas precisely because it is not a religous holiday in Christianity.   One need only look at the Christmas trees and gift-exchanges in India and China to realize that millions of non-Christians celebrate “the holiday.”  Ignoring all this, some people who resent Christianity–perhaps even jealous from the mistaken association of Christmas with their own religious holidays–say “happy holidays” as a weapon of passive aggression as if to say “you must ignore Christmas because it is not my religous holiday.”   Such resentement is of and for the weak, according to Nietzsche–who was no anti-semite (in fact, he detested his brother-in-law for being one).

Second, some people are happy not to recognize Christmas because it has become so commercialized.  Among these people are those who mistakenly make the assumption above, and thus want to “put Jesus back into Christmas.”  However, there are non-Christians who celebrate Christmas and yet are turned off when stores are so greedy for business that they put up their Chrismas displays even before Halloween.  As a form of passive aggression, we might try wishing store clerks a such stores a “happy holiday” before Thanksgiving. 

In general terms, I recommend that “happy holidays” be used in general before Thankgiving, after which we should turn on a dime on “Black Friday” to wish people a “Merry Christmas.”  Then immediately after Christmas, we should return to “happy holidays” instead of “Happy New Year.”  Essentially, following this recommendation is to make transparent the duplicity in the current usage of “happy holidays” by using duplicity against the duplicity–passive aggression against the passive aggression.  All of it, subterranean.  

 I suppose the issue is whether a minority opposed to a holiday should be given such power that the rest of us feel ashamed to refer to the holiday by its name.   The weak use subterfuge in order to dominate beyond their means, out of resentment.  They are herd animals who want to dominate the herd, but they are not strong enough. We unwittingly give the resentful power beyond their means when we stop ourselves from saying Merry Christmas and Happy New Years.”  In effect, we feed their resentment and become weak ourselves. 

Just to be clear: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are national holidays in the United States.  After Thanksgiving, Christmas is the only gift-giving official holiday.  So “gifts for the holidays” is needlessly opaque (besides being passive aggressive).  Also, there is no such thing as a holiday tree.  Will we sit back and permit some people to redefine terms as per their ideological agenda?  I suspect we will because we are too vulnerable…not paying sufficient attention. 

And, now, as you might be expecting, permit me to wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

For more, pls see http://twitter.com/deligentia

Read Full Post »