Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Religion and Irreligion

I keep wanting this blog to be funny, but I keep being seduced from my purpose by well meaning people who seem determined to spout misinformation about stuff I really care about. The latest is a post by a wonderful, if misguided, blogger who passionately objects to the Catholic Church because she thinks that it hates gays, divorcees, and people who have had abortions. She calls herself a recovering Catholic, and lately she is rankled anew by something one of her children learned in catechism class, where apparently she has sent him to prepare for the Sacrament of the Eucharist in spite of the fact that she herself does not attend church at all. Is it any wonder that her child is conflicted by matters religious?
First to lay the misinformation to rest. The Catholic Church does not hate gays, divorcees, or women who have had abortions. The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died for all of us. Jesus Christ died to expiate all our sins, including the ones we have yet to commit. Jesus Christ is all about love and acceptance and inclusion. Anybody who thinks otherwise does not understand my Savior or my Church.
Now, there are people in the Catholic Church who hate other people including gays, divorcees and women who have had abortions. These people are also misguided and sinful, and they have no more idea what their church is about than the misguided souls who take what they have to say to heart and condemn the Church on that basis. Some of these people are priests and nuns.
Now God, and, by extension, His Church hate sin, but neither confuses the sin with the sinner...ever. Only people do that, and they are wrong to do it. God hates sin, but loves sinners...all of them...equally. This is the reason He sent His Son to save them...all of them...equally. The Church exists to facilitate this process. It may not be indispensable, but it is very important.
In the grand scheme of things, all sin is the same. All sin involves rejecting what God wants in favor of what the sinner wants. Seen in this light, there is no moral difference between gay sex and heterosexual sex out of wedlock. There is no difference between having an abortion and skipping Mass on Sunday to play golf. There is no difference between spreading false stories about someone you don't like and stealing their retirement nest egg. God doesn't rank these sins the way people seem to want to do, and that is why God reserves judgment to Himself. We suck at it. He doesn't.
So when Catholics who ought to know better say that their Church condemns gays or divorcees or women who have had abortions, they are saying in effect that the sins they commit are not as bad as the sins the gays or the divorcees or the women who have had abortions commit. This is just wrong.
It's wrong because it's not true, and it's wrong because it drives a wedge between sinners who are more alike than they are different. It is wrong because it separates sinners for whom God makes salvation available through Jesus Christ from the fullness of that salvation. If you are working to drive sinners away from God's Church then you are working at cross purposes with your God. Stop it.
Now, for the people who reject and condemn the Church because they feel like they've been excluded from it. It's your birthright. Go after it. Don't give up what you know to be yours just because some ignorant blowhard has tried to set himself up as better than you.
By the same token you owe it to yourself and your children not to become an ignorant blowhard in response to the blowhards. You have a duty to yourself at least to learn as much about your faith as you can. When you have real knowledge and discernment you cannot be suckered by wrong-headed bullies, and you cannot have your faith undone by bad information.
If you have examined your faith and found it wanting, that's another matter. If you just can't accept the tenets of the Church after you've studied them long enough to know that you understand them correctly, then by all means leave the Church. But once you've left, don't send your kids back alone to get the Sacraments. You're not doing them any favors, and you're not giving them a leg up on working out their salvation either. One of two things will happen when you send your kids to a church that you don't attend and don't believe in. Either they will reject it as you have, in which case you will just have wasted their time, or they will become half-formed and wholly conflicted Catholics, ignorant blowhards in other words, who are likely to drive away the sinners who most need the succor and support of God's Church. Stop it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reality Check

I used to enjoy the Real Housewives of Orange County. This was back when they were merely clueless and pneumatic, and I watched even though they were, for the most part, neither housewives nor real. I found their vapid self-absorption fascinating, if a little scary. Their blond ambitions and their ability to overcome emotional setbacks with legendary shopping trips were astonishing. Then the franchise changed.
I think this happened when they added Atlanta and New Jersey to the mix. These new housewives weren't content with mere shallowness. They were the mean girls we all used to know in home room, only with way more money and snark. Their cluelessness borders on the criminal.
It would have been okay if this amped-up bad behavior had stayed in New Jersey and Atlanta, but it didn't. It got great ratings. People apparently like to watch women yell and curse and pull each others' hair. We like a good cat fight, and the more profane and ugly it is the better.
So rather than confine the carnage to the place where it began, Bravo decided to export it. They switched up the Orange County and New York shows to feature the cruelty like a new cast member. A show without tears and gnashing of teeth was a failed episode. I can imagine Andy Cohen calling Jill Zarin or Vicki Gunvalson and telling them they needed to step up their game or they'd be replaced by knife toting ex-cons.
Does anyone believe that Bethenny Frankel could have sold Skinny Girl Cocktails for $120 million if she hadn't spent two seasons trading insults at made-for-celebrity charity events with the other women of the New York franchise. I don't think so. She may have shaved the calories off a margarita, but she stripped out all the flavor as well. The only reason a woman would drink one of these is so that she could purse her lips and suck in her cheeks and look like she really meant the sarcastic remarks she was hurling at her frenemies.
These shows are not entertaining or astonishing to me any more. They are frightening. Truly bad behavior has become a norm. Snarky cruelty has become acceptable behavior. Bravo has made it so with its ubiquitous 'Real Housewives' shows. Now there are tons of reality shows trying to find slots in this televised parade of emotional abuse. Cohen's unreal reality shows have made me afraid to engage flashy women in conversation in the same way that the movie "Jaws" made me afraid to wade into the ocean any deeper than my knees.