What Can You Trust???
(Today, Tomorrow… 2,000 Years from Now)
Recently, a conservative, Roman Catholic friend (recalling the Vietnam War), said he will “forever question the motives and direction of our government.” That’s good. Always question your government as a doubting Thomas would, and always hold a mirror up to government. The First Amendment of our Bill of Rights invites that response, invites what I call the “synergy of citizen empowerment” … close to what Irish Priest, Diarmuid O’Murchu, says is the core “Message” of Jesus, the “empowerment” of people (Christianity’s Dangerous Memory, 2011 Crossroad Publishing… a rather difficult read).
My friend’s statement of distrust energized me, as I sought to write a comprehensive commentary on, what we “Citizens of the World” can trust… what we can trust today, tomorrow and 2,000 years from now.
I am all for citizens across the world distrusting their government. I am all for us Americans distrusting our government. But, I do see America as the best Country in the World because of…
(1) the “ideals” set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and
(2) the “freedoms” set forth in the Bill of Rights.
But, the American government ??? Well, the American government is just another organization, another Corporation, another GM, another Wells Fargo, another Amazon, another Comcast, another group of men and women with clay feet… that will violate, compromise, water down and nullify the “ideals” and the “freedoms” of America… in a heartbeat (repeat for emphasis… in a heartbeat). Thurgood Marshall, lead counsel in Brown vs The Board of Education (the 1950s Supreme Court decision that opened the doors of all American schools to Blacks), and later the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice… once said, “Ah America… the greatest Country that never was, but, hopefully, always will be.” Great summary of “human rights.” America the “hypocrite” and America the “protector”… the two faces of America, with us citizens never really knowing which face will surface on any given day. But, it is the “ideals” in the Declaration of Independence and the “freedoms” in the Bill of Rights that endures and that saves America from its self.
DISTRUSTING ORGANIZED RELIGION
I am all for distrusting organized religion too… even my own “Roman Catholic” religion that I was raised on and educated by. But, I do admire and respect (with full measure)…
(1) The “ideals” embraced in the “do unto others” Message of the Man walking in sandals.
(2) The recognition of “freedom” embodied in God’s greatest gift to us humans… “free will.”
(3) The good Priests that have held me together emotionally and intellectually… as they slowly changed my life (Fathers Livius, French, Donoher, Hathaway, Brown, Clemens, Elmer, Kehoe, Heutter, Cavanaugh, Steiner, Clement Kern, Solanus Casey, etc).
(4) The Nuns who put their lives on hold to educate my generation, and the Nuns who ministered to the sick, the hurt and the dying in the old Catholic Hospital system, and the Nuns of today who are there for and pray with forlorn families of poverty and mental illness, the confused, the depressed, the broken spirits, the misfits, the down and outers on the streets of life… with the Nuns comforting and giving solace to the broken souls and homeless spirits, drowning in a sea of loneliness, despair and addiction.
I saw that overwhelmed “society of endless needs” up close, just outside my front door as I grew up, sometimes even on my own porch… closing in, closing in, always closing in. Steven Foster also saw it a hundred years before me when he wrote Hard Times Come Again No More.
While we all seek mirth and beauty,
And music light and gay.
There are frail bones fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent,
Their pleading looks will say…
Oh hard times come again, no more.
Tis the song, the sigh of the weary…
Hard times, hard times come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh hard times come again, no more.
God bless the good Nuns and Priests… who walk side by side with the Man walking in sandals, and carry on his Message… all these 2000 years later.
But, the cynicism I have for America government is the same cynicism I have for the organized, Holy Roman Catholic Church. It’s a Corporation, a Police Belief system with a top down chain of command, a business organization with a tightly structured hierarchy, a band of Patricians (Rome’s original aristocrats), and a synod of Bishops… including our Bishop of Detroit, Allen Henry Vigneron, who has (in his paternalistic way) told the rest of us we need to pray more on Sunday… so all sports are cancelled on Sundays. Given my personal history of tons of Sunday football in the Catholic League, and tons of Sunday baseball games at Bell Isle, Northwestern, Manz Field, Butzel Field, Jayne Field, Palmer Park, Rouge Park, etc with family picnics and love and comfort abounding, I think Bishop Vigneron is overreacting and exulting form over substance. It wasn’t broken, and it didn’t need fixing from a Catholic Bishop. To “recreate” yourself and to “compete” in the daytime hours of Sunday is a traditional family affair that praises and thanks God for life, for physical health and mental health… while providing a temporary respite from the anxiety and depression of Humanity’s overwhelmed existence.
Some of the Roman Catholic Church’s leaders have forgotten that… the “do unto others” Message of the Man walking in sandals, and the emotional, psychological and economic, survival needs of humanity are more important than religious ritual and Corporate structure. Perhaps, the same cynicism I have for organized religion is the very same cynicism that the Revolutionary Jesus had for the Jewish Religious leaders of his day… fixated on ritual and power (as they are described), rather than on the Message of love and acceptance. But, hooray for the present Jesuit Pope Francis. He is a breath of fresh air, non-judgment and humility… riding to and from work on public transportation.
Just as the the “ideals” in the Declaration of Independence and the “freedoms” in the Bill of Rights save America from itself… the “ideals” in the “do unto others” Message of Jesus, likewise, saves the Roman Catholic Church from itself. The good Priests and the Nuns, their Educational systems, their Hospital systems, their Soup Kitchens, their outreach for unwed mothers, their Corporal Works of Mercy and their adherence to the philosophy embodied in the Eight Beatitudes … save the Roman Catholic Church from itself.
THE MAN WALKING IN SANDALS… WHAT DOES HIS LIFE STAND FOR ???
Rhetorically, I ask what is more important for us Catholics ???… the Jesus who is supposed to be the Messiah, the Deliverer, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity… or the Man walking in sandals who…
(1) Impacted his world as a Revolutionary who interrupted the sanctioned Capitol punishment of the adulteress with those famous words… “he without sin cast the first stone.”
(2) Impacted his world as an Agitator who threw the money changers out of the Temple.
(3) Impacted his world as a Challenging and Querulous Spirit who took on the Jewish religious leaders of his time and held a mirror up to them… telling them they were men of formality, triviality and ritual… rather than men of love, kindness, inclusion and forgiveness.
(4) Impacted his world as a Victim of Capital Punishment who suffered the cruelest death the Romans could devise… slow suffocation on the Cross of Crucifixion (over hours…some suffering for days).
Like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights saving America from itself, the “Message” of the Man walking in sandals saves the Roman Catholic Church from itself.
ROMAN CATHOLIC… ???
History has put a warm glow of admiration on the Romans. But, they were the brutalist bunch that existed in the very brutal world of yesterday… with their brutal reign as Kingdom, Republic and Empire spanning 2200 years (753 B.C.— 1453 A.D.). The legendary conquests and slaughter by Julius Caesar and his endless campaigns of conquering, colonizing, subjugating and murdering are crimes against humanity… including his slaughter of Germanic tribes during an armistice, with every man, woman and child killed.
A recent PBS documentary (4/12/2020) showed the strenuous and exhausting lengths the Romans went to in 73-74 A.D. (35-40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus) just to get to the top of the mountain, Masada, so they could unleash the rage of their Roman Legions on the Jewish rebels who were hole up on the mountain top with their wives and children. When the 900 and some Jews realized they were doomed to a savage death and torture at the hands of their Roman occupiers, they took their own lives… a brutality they saw as a lesser of two evils.
The history of Rome is a slap in the face to the “turn the other cheek” Jesus… a pacifist who had no Army, a pacifist who had no weapons, a pacifist who held no political office, a pacifist who had little local support from his own disciples who betrayed him, denied him and ran off when things got tough… during the Passover that lead up to Crucifixion. The bottom line… the Romans were a very well organized and disciplined bunch of ruthless murders, colonizers and occupiers… of the lands inhabited by others. Yet, for the last 1700 years the “Message” of the Man walking in sandals (peace, love, acceptance, inclusion and forgiveness) has been sacrilegiously linked to the ruthless, torturous and murderous Roman Empire. How can this be ??? Say it aint so !!!
Irish priest, Father Diarmuid O’Murchu pointed in his book Christianity’s Dangerous Memory how the the name “Roman” as a modifier to Catholic (as in Roman Catholic) highjacked the Message” of the Man walking in sandals, and highjacked Christianity.
” [Jesus’ ‘new counterculture of human empowerment’] will not be about proclaiming Christ in any King-like
status or structure, but rather becoming Christ to others… devoid of the trappings of earthly power and glory.”
“[Roman Emperor Constantine] legalized Christianity … paving the way for it to become the official religion of the Roman Empire toward the end of the fourth century. The greatest betrayal Christianity has ever known” (page 31).
Not only a betrayal, but an open door invitation for the Message of Jesus to become an International Ruler and Corporate Conglomerate. But, as I point out (and, as I I think Father O’Murchu would I agree)… the Catholic Nuns, Priests and followers of Jesus who “become Christ to others” save the Roman Catholic Church from itself.
WHAT CAN YOU TRUST ???
So… what can you trust, today, tomorrow and 2,000 years from now ???
- The “ideals” set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
- The “freedoms” set forth in the Bill of Rights, and
- “do unto others” (non-Roman) “Message” of the Man walking in sandals from his home town in Nazareth to Jerusalem, to stir up the spiritual and social order of who dominates whom.