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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Don't give me that old time religion 

When I read that rather bizarre Hugh Hewitt/Terry McAuliffe interview last week, one of things I started to think about was whether maybe, finally, our society is beginning to shake itself loose from a lock-step, all-or-nothing approach to religion.
Maybe we've realized where that can lead -- to Guyana and to Manhattan.
One advance would be if people did not think that the only way to be religious is to slavishly revere every single thing their religious leader has decreed to be an article of faith. Terry McAuliffe (who is former chair of the Democratic National Committee) demonstrates this when he refuses Hugh Hewitt's You're-Not-A-Real-Catholic frame just because he is pro-choice:
TM: Hugh, I don’t cite Catholic doctrine all through the book. I say I’d gone to Catholic schools, Hughie, through the book, and I am pro-choice, no question about it. But I don’t pretend to be a priest . . .
HH: No, but I mean, the whole abortion controversy, that’s just…you compartmentalize that and put that aside?
TM: I can, as can many Catholics.
. . .
TM: And as you know, the Holy Father himself, John Paul II, blessed my wife’s engagement ring when I wound up being at a private Mass for us in his private chapel.
HH: Nice picture. I know. Did he know about your supporting late term abortions?
TM: Sure, he knew he was.
HH: Is that teaching optional, Terry McAuliffe?
TM: Is what teaching optional?
HH: The Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life?
TM: Hey, listen, I have my views on my religious beliefs, Hugh, you’ve got yours.
HH: But I’m asking, do you think it’s…
TM: And you know, if you want to do a show on religious teaching, that’s fine. I’m talking about my book.
. . . HH: No, but it’s in the book all the time about how Catholic you are.
TM: It’s not how Catholic I am. I’m an Irish Catholic kid from Syracuse. It’s probably mentioned five times, Hugh, so please don’t incorrectly characterize my book to your listeners.
HH: Well, it’s in here a lot…
TM: If you want to talk about the book, talk about the facts as they exist. I know you’re a right wing whacko, but don’t make things up.
Another advance would be if religion itself could change its own hurtful, narrow, mean-spirited doctrines and find a shining, kind, expansive, inclusive, and, dare I say, a more "Christian" God for its adherents to worship. Here is Lance Mannion's rant about what is wrong with the Catholic Church:
. . . I can't imagine a wedding outside a church.
I can't imagine Christmas without snow, either.
I can't imagine the World Series without the Yankees, cars without gas tanks, books without covers, Greenland without glaciers, living happily in Dallas, shopping at a mall, keeping ferrets as pets, any social situation in which Joe Lieberman is taken seriously, anybody but Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, and a world in which I've been dead and forgotten so long that I might as well never have existed.
There's tradition, and there's what you're used to.
There's what is, and there's what you wish there was.
There's the world as it ought to be and there's the world as people have made it.
There's convention, there's culture, there's ritual, there's a right way and a wrong way, and then there are things people do because that's what people have always done and they're too stupid to imagine doing them any other way, even if an obviously better way has come along.
There's marriage, and then there's the desperately clung to notion of marriage of an unimaginative, ranting, and frustrated old man who sees the institution he has devoted his life to and in which he has now risen to the position of supposed ultimate authority disintegrating into irrelevance. Pope Benedict is seeing the end of the world as he knows it in Italy's taking steps to legally recognize the unions of unmarried couples. (Pssst, homosexuals are among us!)
. . .
Maybe if the Church hadn't spent centuries imposing and enforcing an idea of marriage that was horrifically unfair to half the people getting married and a trap and a curse to many among the other half. Maybe if it hadn't spent the last fifty years teaching that children are the result of Divine whimsicality and mood . . . Maybe if it hadn't spent the last forty years teaching that the simple application of science and common sense that would allow women to decide how many children they would have, allow some to even have them, is a sin . . . [then] people would think the Church had something useful and helpful to say about marriage . . .
And maybe if they hadn't spent all that time defending celibacy as an ideal at the expense of all others to the point that it made itself hospitable to no one but the closeted, the hypocritical, and the perverse, especially the perverse, so that it became a criminal organization of pederasts and their enablers. And maybe if when the scandal was revealed church leaders had responded with courage and honesty and admitted its guilt and taken the one, easy, intelligent step to ending the problem---allowing priests to get married, making the rectories homes for real adults and their families instead of hideouts for creeps and villains---instead of reacting with a hypocritical and self-defeating purge of homosexuals. Maybe if the Church acted as if it cared about its own survival, then people might think it had something to say about anything.

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