Dispatches from Wolf Country — Not a Christian, bruv

Jesus had a nice time in the Temple that Passover week, kicking over tables and setting free the chickens and pigeons and lambs. I suspect that probably had more to do with the High Priest's interest in getting him nailed up and gone than any heresy. "He's messin' with our thing!" is a line gangsters have used to justify judicial and non-judicial murder.

 

“Cleansing the Temple” Jeffrey Weston

Did he bring the family? What’s the Mother’s name.Mary, oh, I’m so nervous! I read the book today, Mary Hail, Hail Mary. Lenny Bruce, 1967

The problem with people who bring religion to their politics is that they’re obsessed with sex. It’s never “I’m a devout Anglican, therefore I couldn’t possibly vote for a cap on social security payments (Acts 4:34).” When a politician’s potted history starts “a committed Christian”, you can bet this isn’t a prelude to a CV full of redistributive tax policies. It’s all sodomy and foetuses, Tim Farron on a brightly lit TV sofa explaining why the adamantine but immeasurable quality of his “conscience” prevents him from according some people’s sexuality the same dignity as other people’s, or Jacob Rees-Mogg informing the pregnant victims of rape or incest that abortion is not an option, for, unlikely as it seems, this is what his Lord had in mind. –Zoe Williams, The Guardian, 9/10/17

Ms. Williams is a well known liberal commentator in the UK, and she has a way that some of the best writers do of cutting to the chase and then shooting the bastards. In this case, she’s dealing with the problem of religious politicians who have nothing to say, so they plead a selective form of Christianity that ignores most of the teachings of Christ.

Come on Down, Come on Down, Christ and Moses! Lenny Bruce, 1967      

       

Now, I am no longer a Catholic as I see it, nor am I a Christian. It’s kind of hard to claim to be one when you no longer believe in a theistic universe. The is something that caused the big bang and started all this, but there is nothing that requires it to be rational, merciful or even creative. The case can be made that everything was balanced and stable and that force was destructive not constructive. I don’t know, and until we are able to see the facts, accept the facts as I see them. There is no god, and we’re responsible for the world we have based on the best thought and intellects and debate we can find. But, if God works for you as a unifying and necessary concept, that is actually very cool with me.

But, twelve years of Catholic education followed by four years of Jesuit education with a major in Philosophy and a minor in theology and a lifetime of observation, reading and reflection about these issues do give me some reason to claim insight into matters of faith and belief and divine imperative. Like it or not, I am spiritually Catholic to an amazing degree as are a lot of other former Catholics whose intellects and world views began with memorizing Catechism questions and answers in 90 year old classrooms with a Franciscan or Josephine or Sister of Charity beating out the rhythm with a yardstick.

I don’t recall a class that discussed abortion in my very Catholic grammar schools, High School and my Jesuitical College. My first serious girlfriend and I had a conversation, as good little and smart Catholic boys and girls did when it seemed pretty likely we were going to stop being frustrated and have sex. She decided to go on the pill, and her doctor said, “Sigh. Ok.” Her doctor was a Catholic of course, but he had a simple point of view and screw Humanae Vitae. As he told her and as I have recalled often over the intervening years, ” A lot of contraception is infinitely better than one abortion.”

Looking back, I seem to have had a lot of conversations like that one with my girl friend and the conversation with her doctor. Somehow, you get to the point with people who really have faith and think about it as opposed to finding things to parrot, and they cut to the bone quickly and find the answer that most reflects the underlying goodness inherent in their faith.

Which Ones Are They? The One’s That Are Glowing! Lenny Bruce, 1967      

Williams comment is on target for most societies and faiths. You know what I remember from my classes on in that education? Anti-Discrimination, violence, peace, economic justice – a Catholic-Christian concept that goes back to the Beatitudes but shows up in doctrine quite clearly in Aquinas where he equates not paying fair wages to theft. Jesus had a nice time in the Temple that Passover week, kicking over tables and setting free the chickens and pigeons and lambs. I suspect that probably had more to do with the High Priest’s interest in getting him nailed up and gone than any heresy. “He’s messin’ with our thing!” is a line gangsters have used to justify judicial and non-judicial murder.

Everyone disappears down the rabbit hole of church versus state, and what accommodations a reasonable political system can make to an immovable set of beliefs that are part of our cultural history and must not be erased. It’s a basic category error: the principle is not that religion has no place in politics; it’s that sex has no place in politics. If this assertion means we also have to stop going into a moral panic every time a minister has an affair, I’m OK with that. — Zoe Williams, The Guardian

Ourteachers spent their summer vacations either in school or doing things like marching in Selma and Montgomery and Memphis. Supporting the Berrigan Brothers and their various bands of Merry Pranksters, except instead of the Grateful Dead, they poured their own blood on draft records and instead of acid, they had the Eucharist and the rosary. They marched with Cesar Chavez; they went to volunteer at hospices and refugee camps.

Fr. Joe LaBran, 1915-2005, College of the Holy Cross

One of my great Jesuit friends and mentors, Joseph LaBran, our college Chaplain, spent ten years in the missions in the middle east in Iraq until the Baathists kicked them out, and then in Palestinian refugee camps. When Jacob Javits in his role as senior Senator from New York and Tel Aviv came to the campus to speak one December Day and spoke about the horrors of people abused in Palestine — the Israelis, not the Palestinians, just to be clear, Father Joe took the Mic at the question time and showed us his way of speaking Truth to Power.

In his heavy, Lynn Massachusetts accent, the old priest with the shoulder length white hair, cowboy hat someone gave him and Ignatian medallion someone else gave him, said this as eloquently as possible. “My name is Joseph LaBran, I am a graduate of this college and have been a Jesuit for 40 years. I spent ten years in the Middle East, first in Baghdad until we were expelled and the university close, and then in the Palestinian Refugee camps trying to care for those people, in Gaza and in Lebanon. You sir, are a fucking liar and a disgrace.”

Joe left. About 90% of those of us in attendance also got up, and left. It wasn’t a protest; there was really just nothing left to say or to listen to. Truth to power.

Oppression, Bill Bragg, The Guardian, 9/10/17

The Christian Church in the US has long since lost its way, focusing so much on abortion and contraception to the exclusion of social justice and equity and charity that you have to wonder what Jesus might think about it. Instead, we have people wandering around preaching about how much Jesus wants tax cuts on the rich and the end to the welfare system; denying sanctuary to immigrants is another big one for the Lord according to them. Not providing adequate health care so the sick people will lift themselves up from poverty to get their chemotherapy and HIV drugs. Putting an idiot savant in charge of housing when we have a homeless crisis affecting broad tranches of the population who admits that his only qualification is that he lived in public housing as a child.

So that’s why, when sex enters politics, we all make such a fuss. It may all be a lovable pose from the person with the conscience, but to those against whom their consciences recoil, it is a matter of life and death. Plus, there’s a simple hygiene issue: no consensual sex act is anybody else’s business. Nobody wants Mike Pence in their bedroom, even if only in his imagination. — Zoe Williams, The Guardian (NB. Williams referenced her bete noir in the UK, but I used one of ours. If someone leaves Catholicism in order to seek a more restrictive religion, tread carefully around them.)

This article addresses a set of Tory demagogues in the UK who are excited to the point of near orgasm by the possibility of cutting support to poor people and the middle class and kicking all the refugees and migrants out of the UK to go…somewhere else. They are also claim to be  serious, serious “committed Christians…” People, regardless of whether you are a Christian, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, atheist or agnostic, RUN! RUN!Run away from the “Serious, serious committed Christians.

Mr. Pence made a speech in which he said he was ” In order a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican.” I found it interesting that he never said anything about being an American. Guess he missed that class in Law School and slept through his various oaths of office.

There are lots of clowns like that here. We have definitely revved up the gene pool on that breed — One claims to be a very religious Catholic while an equally religious follower of Ayn Rand. That’s a lot more like schizophrenia than intellectual agility. It wouldn’t be so troubling if he wasn’t Speaker of the House. In the high Temple of American government, he’d be the equivalent of Caiaphas.

History has no shortage of religious movements for peace, equality and universal rights, and arguably, it is within church structures that warriors for social justice – the Oscar Romeros, the Desmond Tutus – are likely to be found, while hard-right authoritarians, the Mike Pences, exist outside it, enabling them to appropriate the energy and respectability of their faith without having to go back and check that closing down Planned Parenthood is the stated priority of the synod. — Zoe Williams, The Guardian

He claims adherence to the gospels while also advocating policies that adversely affect the poor, the weak, the hungry, the homeless so he can give big tax cuts to the rich and famous. There are lots more on our side of the pond. But, regardless of location, Zoe Williams has called it. Christian religious leaders need to get their heads out of their collection plates and investment portfolios, and start telling these clowns, ” You ain’t a Christian, bruv…”

Pope Francis could make a start in his quiet, rational, charitable way the next time Ryan or some other US Catholic pol like Callista Gingrich with Newt in tow come to express their fealty to Jesus Christ who was betrayed by a bribe, was beaten, insulted, suffered, died a horrendous death and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

The mistake – also made with Islam – is to present all this on a sliding scale…These positions are not gradations on the same scale: they are completely different world views, as different as pluralism and absolutism, as different as tolerance and authoritarianism, hanging on the same godhead not by ideological commonality but by historical coincidence. — Williams, the Guardian

In other words, I guess we need to say the hell with Christmas and get Jesus Christ back in Christianity. It would be a start, possibly the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

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