Sunday, November 2, 2008

Truely Religion: St. Bartholomew Day Massacre

What then are we to say about the modern way of life? What are we to say about the desires of so many of us that are content to live without God in our lives? The things that we say and the means by which we address them. I like so many of us, know a significant number of people who are openly gay, remorseless and not confounded in any way by their lifestyle, many of whom say they are Catholic. I am told of Catholics who have children out of wedlock and go anyway to have them baptised by the priest who when asks of the woman's husband has no problem telling him "Oh father, we don't live like that anymore." There are thoose who maintain that this perception of modern conveniences are more than convienent but paramount. Leading one to believe that not only is it okay to have children out of wedlock but to have children through artificial insemination is fine as well, not knowing their biological father is fine and abortion when necessary is fine. What has become of us? We have cultivated our desire to stay away from God through these means but then maintain to others that we maintain a 'spirituality' about us. I listen to a radio station that plays Gospel music every weekday mornings but on weekend mornings they play the pop love songs. On weekday mornings there is gospel but in the afternoon filthy talk from a investigative talk show host who tries to unravel all the sordid details of the wayward. These kind of compromises nod in the direction of God but ultimately escape any obligation to His word, this seems to be the way that we live today.

One thing I can say about God that perhaps the Protestants will disagree, He certainly works in mysterious ways. Or perhaps they seem mysterious because we have lost sight of the fact that He does not work for us, we work for Him and to His own means. The fact that I pray and pay tithes does not preclude me from being a fool, which almost through vocation I am. Today being wise is equated with keeping your income, saving money, never having to spend any of your own. I know people who work in the computer industry who do not feel even a pinch of obligation in paying for software created through the hard work and intellect of others, they go through all kind of means to 'get it for free' because they are so smart. Not as smart as the guy who can actually wrote the code and produce something every one else becomes dependant on but they are clever and wise because they got it without paying for it. However, were they to go to work and not get paid for their time I am sure they would feel cheated or sold a record that everyone was dancing to but did not recieve royalties I am certain would upset them. However here I am being a fool and a 'punk' for mentioning something like software piracy because everyone does it and if you are not a punk all these things contract and metabolize away deep within the unconscious mind, the body and therefore you never have to confront what you are doing or admit that what you are doing is stealing. These people are not religious in the first place and so as they read this they cry out "Jesus Christ!" in exasperation of my idiocy. Why they call on Christ and not Buddha or some other divine figure would seem self incriminating but at length I do not know. Except for the fact that, as they say they are not religious all these actions immaterial as they are simply 'go away' getting absorbed again into the depth of the unconscious never to come to light again.

I have difficulty with the sense that other people should know 'better'. So I walk around like a moral whipping terrorist chastising people for taking the name of the Lord in vain and telling people that they ought to simply do their job instead of cutting corners. My only problem is ofcourse that I personally find it impossible to have faith and feel good at the same time and so I cannot adequately persuade other people who are secularist to live the way I do as a Christian. The Catholic faith has a utilizes a profound logical that perhaps one should trust as a matter of faith, but it cannot keep me from destroying myself. I live with people who are not Christians and when I look around it is only the Christian who appear to be suffering. I remember a Pastor of a Baptist church who said on the podium but in no unveiled manner directed at me, that I would be a homosexual if it were not for the fear of God. Yes, I probably would have a 'gay affair', I would do a lot of things if it were not forbidden in the Bible. I am sure a young girl would be a fascinating tryst to have as well, perhaps some boys. I am sure I would smoke marijuana until the cows come home and they don't here in New York and drink (a lot more) if I could afford to lose any more brain cells. I would screw like a bastard (given the oppurtunity), I would eat until I died in my own fat, I would kill anyone I could get my hands on who I felt had it coming. In other words I would be a Muslim, oh wait, they can't drink.

Living with faith is tough and often disquieting, in fact I would like not to do it. That is the reality of the matter that if I had my choice as I am sure millions of other Christians may attest I would rather live with complete assurance on a finite number of 'sure' things but we do not have any 'sure' things, not any of us. We are told to put our trust in money yet it seems obvious that anything I have to save cannot in anyway provide security for me nevertheless that is exactly what we call it, insurance, security and trusts. We stare at the Dow Jones as barometer of our confidence in the system that man devised. This doesn't seem to make anyone suspicious or weary at all.

Two things as Catholics that differentiate us from Protestants(and their prosperity gospel) and that distinguish us from the Jehovah Witnesses(with their anti-Trintarian stance). One is that we as Catholics keep a crucifix, neither Protestants or Jehovah Witnesses use the crucifix in their rendition of Christianity. The Protestants take Christ down from the cross with the notion that he has risen but if that is the case why venerate an instrument of capital punishment and horrendous torture? The Jehovah Witnesses do not put Christ on a cross because they say it is historically inaccurate and that the cross is a curse. Well it is a curse and that is because He has become a curse for us(Galatians 3:13), as far as keeping him on the cross He is the serpent(Homosapian) raised up to be a healing for us(John 3:14).

The second concerns prosperity here on earth, with the Protestants similar to the Jews when they do well or prosper it is because God has caused them to prosper. Yet even though the reach into the Old Testament regarding these matters often and trust only scriputre originally written in Hebrew many of them solemenly believe that the Jews are going to hell as anti-christs. It is one thing to go through the Old Testament through to the New Testament but when you justify your behavior based on the Old Testament when it is convient it seems a bit venial. I remember the Protestant Pastor Creflo Dollar say over the radio one morning,"I thank God for the faithful but we also need the able." He seems possessed of that "can do" spirit where faith is only a wonderful but abstract addendum, so much for through 'faith alone'. So many people believe that Christianity is an idelogoy, something of the mind whihc is another reason for keeping Christ on the Cross, a clear reminder that it is not. Wait here, allow me to digress a little and compose a short list of the worldly saying that are anti-Christian.

  • "Seeing is believing"
  • "No news is good news"(The Gospel is the 'Good News')
  • "In the flesh" (Romans 8:8)
  • "I don't want to set the world on fire..." (The Inkspots ca.1940 Jazz Ensemble)(Luke 12:49)

St. James tells us that faith without works is dead(James 2;21) and so the heritical teachings of Martin Luther of "Fide Sola" or faith alone cannot be correct it is almost as if he did not read James at all. Further, when we consult the Bible what else are we consulting, yes the Holy Word of God but it is through the Apostles and the Prophets, if one is willing to abide by what they wrote as authoritative then why would one not be subject to their oral authority and that of their successors? Further how can you believe that fatih comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God but profess the Bible to be paramount and the people inspired to write it? Because in fact you would not trust what you heard but rather would insist to read it yourself, that is the essence of scripture, that it is read. Subsequently you only trust yourself as the pastor mearly reiterates what you have already investigated. I find it hard to believe that if even Isaiah was standing before them without a Bible they would take him seriously. Further, why would one accept the word of the previous more so than the current if they be truly a believer? Is it because the authority lays far away in the distant past and thus one can appear to be obedient just so long as they are not confronted by any one person in particular to be obedient to? Are we to suppose that Judas Iscariot is a greater apostle than Matthias who replaced him(Acts 1:25), is the Gospel of St. John false because it was written in Greek and not Hebrew?

The fact that at least Old Testament writings must be written in Hebrew and not Greek is a litmus test for many Protestants as to the validity and the authenticity of the scripture is striking considering that the Jews themselves given the scripture they had were confounded by elements of the faith around them such as Jesus the Christ coming form Nazerath, scripture did not help them even identify Christ in their midst. Jesus is ironically the central player in a faith that could not be identified when He arrived by even some of the most learned theological scholars of the day. The Jews had scripture and still did not accept Jesus so why now follow the Jews, they did not recognize the Messiah in the first place or denied Him. The Jehovah Witnesses as well who decry St. Augustine as not a good enough student of ancient Greek(through his own admission) to interpret the Bible to the height of its potential accuracy. Yet they print out Bibles in which their own interpreters remain anonymous under the guise that they did not want to seem presumptuous, in what way, to whom, who whether God or man would mistakenly give them credit for writing the Bible?

In any case it is a convenince which makes it impossible to take up any discrepancies with their version of the Bible. My dad God rest his soul used to say "This world is world of convenince" and he could not be more right. When I am looking for the convenience, when I am conducting my actions as to how convenient one thing is over another to decide what action I am going to take then I can indeed admit the use of this basis of decision making that I am living in the world and not in the word. When we have these glaring discrepancies from not only the faith but from common honesty then we can also assure ourselves that we are acting falsely. Not only is this a hard and incriminating realization it is a challenge and a struggle to live correctly, according to the Word of God and not to our own legitimizing and rationales. We say things, myself included that are false to ourselves and to others, we behave, myself included, especially piously towards those things that affect us not and less so for those things that affect us directly. The Catholic Church is clearly against abortion, homosexuality on the other hand well that takes time, that takes council. The Protestants talk of praising God but poverty itself is an anathema to their practice, seldom do they go without or see any virtue in 'selling their possessions' and only then following Jesus.

It is interesting, the Santa Clausification of Christ of which Cornell West speaks, his attenuation to the way in which we water down the gospel to make it 'comfortable' was created by Thomas Nast a fierce anti-Catholic. It is hardly possible that St. Nicholas of himself would have become the central figure of Christmas were it not for Nast's characterization of the man. Protestants are not the only ones engaged in distorting the Word of God, diluting it to ineffectiveness so to speak. To soothe parishoners even priest fail to remember certain passages like when Christ says that he has come to cast fire on the earth, that he comes with a sword and not peace, or even Matthew 15:26 when Jesus told the Canaanite woman that it was not right to throw the children's bread to the dogs, I have heard Catholic priest claim,"Oh, He was just kidding. It was a joke." imagine that.

Yet still we must know that Santa Claus was a real person in fact the uncanonized St. Nicholas who was known to give gifts to those that came in contact with him was actually well remembered figure by Pope John Paul II. The actual Santa Clausification or fictionalization of this real person was carried out by political cartoonist Thomas Nast as well through the poet and Columbia University professor Clement Clarke Moore who was attributed to be the author of the originally anomalously published, "A Visit From St. Nicholas" or "The Night Before Christmas".

But what of the True Church?

When we look at the lives of the Saints like that of St. Bartholomew we see terrible suffering. It is quite a difficult thing to look at the lives of the saint's and see something for ourselves that we want. However, In Catholicism there is a great premium but on martyrdom (which the Protestants do not have but would like for the purpose of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.) Yet when a Catholic looks at how other Catholics can sometimes interpret the faith they would have one imagine that Catholicism is a wonderful and divine history of love. Just to look at the many wars of religion that have existed between the Protestants and the Catholics though luckily not here in the United States (which is in part as a religious safe haven it had come into existence the way we know it today) we can see that to actually be a practicing Catholic one cannot live in an Ivory tower of pollyannish purity. The St. Bartholomew Day's massacre of 1572 was more than a week long of horrible butchery much like the Rwanda tragedy between the Hutu and the Tutsi in 1994, where Calvinist Huguenots at least 2000 in Paris and another 3000 in the French Provinces were slaughtered by the Catholics for fear that they would do it to them. To which the then Pope, Pope Gregory XVIII had cast commemorative coins to celebrate, calling the murder of the Huguenot Admiral Coligny an act of divine retribution, he commissioned art work from the painter Giorgio Vasari to paint three murals which hung in the Sala Regin, and order a Te Deum to be sung and thereafter designated September 11th 1572 as a joint commemoration of the battle of Lepanto and the massacre of the Huguenots.

St. Bartholomew himself of course died a martyr, he was flayed alive and then crucified, reportedly upside down.

Then there is of course the sex scandal that took place in the Catholic Church. It is not to condemn the Church that I publish this here but to note the challenge to the faithful that exist when one tries to reminisce on the Church as a pure and unblemished white cotton fabric which it is not. The children who were preyed upon lived with this terrible knowledge about the Church for years in silence. It is only fitting that we share this sense of shame for the Church with them and the reality is that the only thing that was lost or should have been soiled was this notion that many Catholics would like to have that the Catholic Church is in fact pristine and spotless. As soon as we do away with that we can see these children as psychological martyrs every bit as grotesque to us as the visible Crucifixion of Christ on the cross.

Which of us are free from the truth? We all know to be humble and subservient to our superiors but how difficult is it to practice our faith really? We could look at Christ on the Cross or St. Bartholomew, or any of the martyred saints. Do we really practice in full knowledge or in a blissful ignorance? I am sure that in all of this I will be painted the devil and the 'good' Catholics who serve at the mass every day will be the saints because none of this is usually in their minds and still yet they would prefer not to know. Also make no mistake I am not advocating a moral relativism or suggesting that you should by any means eat from this tree, the Church is right in what it teaches and obedience is superior to any knowledge of good and evil. In fact I am sure it a blessing really the things we do not know and in fact choose to forget, yet let it be known that every Sunday just like the last supper of Christ, where we brake bread with Jesus we brake bread with Judas as well.

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