Monday, August 24, 2009

Does our society hate itself?

Something rather amazing has occurred. Recently I have been pondering whether we as a society have started to hate ourselves, and the closer we come to "us", the more we despise it. I wondered that question even today. Then I happened to come across, by chance, and without searching, an article written by Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI on Europe's self-hatred. Part of what he says is the following:

My last point is the religious question. I do not want to enter into the complex discussions of recent years, but to focus on only one aspect that is fundamental for all cultures: respect for what the other holds sacred, and in particular respect for the sacred in the highest sense, for God, something that we can legitimately suppose to find even in one who is not disposed to believe in God. Wherever this respect is denied, something essential in a society is lost. In our present-day society, thank God, whoever dishonours the faith of Israel, its image of God or its great personalities, is fined. Whoever scorns the Koran and the basic convictions of Islam is fined, too. Instead, with regard to Christ and to what is sacred for Christians, freedom of opinion seems to be the supreme good, and to limit this would seem to threaten or even destroy tolerance and freedom in general. Freedom of opinion, though, finds its limit in this, that it cannot destroy the honour and the dignity of the other; it is not freedom to lie or to destroy human rights.

The West reveals here a hatred of itself, which is strange and can be only considered pathological; the West is laudably trying to open itself, full of understanding, to external values, but it no longer loves itself; in its own history, it now sees only what is deplorable and destructive, while it is no longer able to perceive what is great and pure.

It seems Cardinal Ratzinger was thinking the same thing I am now. Is this idea of self-hatred plausible? I think we just need to look at the evidence around us to find the answer.

As Ratzinger points out, there is this overwhelming need to be politically correct when it comes to other faiths. We must say all the right words, even use the right pronunciation. Nothing negative can be said of another religion, even if it's true. But when it comes to Christianity, and specifically the Catholic faith, anything goes.

A good illustration of this is an incident which happened to me several years ago. A lady at work very much lost her cool in an email to me after I had sent her an innocent message say I am Christian. Her response said vile and angry things about priests and the church, she even blasted the Bible and Mary. Her anger knew no bounds but were not spurred by anything I said. However, sometime close this to incident, this same lady corrected me hastily and with bitterness when I called what Jewish men wear on their heads a skull cap. She snapped at me and said "It's not a skull cap, it's a yamulke!" Her reaction was visceral. I felt as if I must have said something extremely offensive. It's important to note that this lady is a Christian (or former Christian) and indicated that she wanted to marry in a church.

It's rare to find someone who identifies as Christian and will stand up for Christian beliefs. You are much more likely to find people who identify as Christian or Catholic, but nonetheless feel it appropriate to bash their religion. It's common to hear people say things like "I'm Catholic, but I believe women should be allowed to have abortions if they want, and they should be allowed to be priests." People will say they are Catholic but believe gay people should have the right to marry or that they think contraception is fine.

If you have watched any television lately, you will notice something. The media will gleefully bash the Catholic Church on her stance on abortion, female ordination, contraception, married clergy, and any other issues. Comedians will constantly make crude jokes about pedophile priests, or to mock the Holy Father. If you are offended by this or object to this, you are condemned as a tight wad who doesn't know how to have fun. But if you even stated something that was factual about another religion you would be in the hot seat. Whenever there's a terrorist attack, media reporters and politians will bend over backwards to emphasize that Islam is in fact peaceful. Do we see these same reporters making sure to indicate that the vast (98% or more) or priests are faithfully celibate and wouldn't hurt a fly? Of course not!

How often do you turn on the TV and hear that HALF of all AIDS patients in Africa are receiving direct care from Catholic Aid organizations? I didn't even know abou this until I did some research. Of course you will hear about the pope being opposed to condoms in Africa.

You may hear the fictitious story about how the Catholic Church bullies its way into India to forcefully converts people against their wills. But do you hear the actual information that although only 2% of the population of India is Christian, a whopping 22% of hospitals are run by the Catholic Church? I doubt it.

The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet, but you are far more likely to hear about the inappropriate behavior of one of her 500,000 priests before you ever hear that important stat. As professor Philip Jenkins says, Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice.

The bottom line is the Catholic Church has done far more for the benefit of humanity than all other organizations combined. We ought to be very proud of our Christian heritage and understand that sharing it with others is helping them. We need to stop being ashamed of ourselves and start to realize the real contribution our faith has made to the world. But at the same time, we needn't be surprised by the persecution. Jesus promised we would be persecuted because of our belief in him. Any time we are persecuted, let us think of that as Christ's promises being fulfilled.

1 comment:

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