Category Archives: Patriarchy

Of Race and Men

Since Heather Heyer was run down and murdered by a racist while she was protesting Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, there have been more offenses to decency and democracy. It’s difficult to keep track. Like these three who were in Gainesville, Florida, stirring-up violence to show their support for white supremacist, Richard Spencer, who was also previously in Charlottesville.

I wonder if you see the pattern I see? When I watched HBO’s “VICE News Tonight” story on the spectacle and violence in Charlottesville, I was not surprised that the agitators were mostly young, white males. Let’s be honest: they weren’t protestors or free speech advocates, they were a heavily-armed militia. They want to overthrow civility and civil rights, which is essentially democracy. Their march was an exercise by radicals committed to intimidating anyone unlike themselves, or anyone even disagreeing with their self-serving, hateful ideology. Even the word ideology is a flattering description because it implies thought-out ideas, rather than the narcissistic trash talk it is. Their attempt to elevate white male supremacy to a political platform would be laughable, if it weren’t so dangerous. These are playground bullies, grown-up and armed, wearing their whiteness like a divine right.

 

I really can’t figure out why they are so perpetually pissed-off. From where I’m sitting, white males still have it easier than anyone else. But how we have de-evolved? Remember the good old days when it was frustrating to try and talk or work with men thinking with their dicks? Ah, simpler times…Now they’re thinking with their guns.

After Charlottesville, I watched cable news and listened to NPR podcasts. I read online stories and even had a complete stranger at the train station talk to me about the state of our country. Usually everyone on the train platform has their head-down with eyes and thumbs on their mobile device. I guess she was reading some news and just had to say something to someone. That is a feeling I understand. For me, it’s the additional confusion of disagreeing with the nothing less than the ACLU, which is quite rare for me. I send them checks. I consider them one of the organizations with the ability to impact some of the countless shames of the current president and his regime. However, they’re getting this one wrong. Very wrong.

These are not the good-old-days of street protests. Free speech is not relevant when there is an action by an armed militia. Make no mistake that Charlottesville was a coup rehearsal. The ACLU is trying to conduct business in a civil democracy that is currently operating like a Banana Republic. Stop being naïve. It’s not hip or enlightened to sanction a platform in order to give voice to violent radicals who intend to overthrow the very system that is allowing them this opportunity. And by the way, violence often starts with rhetoric. I wouldn’t fault the ACLU if they hosted a panel in the local school auditorium with speeches from both sides. Invite the damn Nazis to that. But you better have security at the door because these are the domestic terrorists with whom we now live. They are exploiting our commitment to free speech and an open society, in order to advance their mission to destroy our foundational values and democracy itself.

ACLU internal tensions

The article link that follows is about white supremacist, Richard Spencer, speaking in Florida. The University, the municipality, and the state spent lots of money to make the community safe from everyone his hate talk attracted. Yes, the same guy (one of them) who fomented violence in Charlottesville. Again, this is not free speech. This is allowing a forum for anarchy and oppression. Free speech does not mean we have to allow every thought into the public square. The photo below is Spencer in Charlottesville, and we know how that turned out.

Gainesville shooting and Spencer

Gainesville state of emergency

With all this news, things seem hopeless. I went to the Women’s March on Washington, and it was one of the best days of my life, but I don’t think I would have had the courage to go to Charlottesville. I am sad to say that since that immediately after Charlottesville, I heard a few white people try and rationalize by saying, well, there were actions on ‘both sides.’ (I don’t mean the racist president. I mean regular people.) Only white people would say something that outrageous. When you have an angry, armed militia of white men from all over the country invade a small town, then why is anyone surprised that some of the people protesting their presence would get upset? I ask you, who died? This is just about blaming the victim so white folks can excuse themselves from speaking-up.

I have been reading a Joan Chittister book from 1998, Heart of Flesh: Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men. Though I expected it to be dated, I found it sad how little things have changed. In writing about patriarchy and spirituality, Chittister said, “The patriarchal society, agreeable as it may be, is an essentially violent thing (p.24)…Patriarchy is built on the backs of the powerless by the powerful, who take all power to themselves, public, intellectual, and religious,” (p.27). I can’t do Chittister justice here, but bear with me while I try to provide a glimpse of all 175 impeccably written and researched pages here.

Chittister could not have imagined the current president (who could?) in the nineties. She wrote about narcissism (p.96-97). She said it was named as a disorder by the American Psychological Association in 1980. Then she gives us context when she describes narcissists, “They are the beginning and end of what is important to them; they can’t possibly be sensitive to, aware of, or concerned about someone else…it is also surely a by-product of a system that demands competition, ambition, self-aggrandizement, and superiority as a matter of course…Narcissism is a patriarchal disease.” And there we have it. This puts our angry, white males in context. They have drawn faulty entitlement conclusions and when the world is not indeed their oyster it pisses them off. And then they need someone to blame.

Chittister recommends a “feminine” approach to spirituality. She is smarter than me and I do get her point, though I am uncomfortable with defining feminine in traditional terms. I don’t see how improvement is possible until at our cultural core, we are willing to finally address the immorality of patriarchy. I have written of this before, so I hope you don’t find it tedious. But we live in a Christian-dominant culture and I challenge you to find a Christian church which isn’t praying to a god-the-father every Sunday.

“Women are subsumed, excised, erased by male pronouns, by male terminology, by male prayers about brotherhood and brethren, even and always by exclusively male images of God,” (p.116). So if we can’t count on the church for fairness and inclusion, where can we go? I don’t believe my fear of white men is irrational nor my concerns strictly anecdotal. I agree with Chittister that patriarchy is the root evil (my word, not hers). And if we don’t address the root evil, more people will die – which doesn’t excuse the everyday oppression. This white male entitlement is the biggest threat to our safety and society. Supposed Islamic terrorists are insignificant in comparison. And as one aside, why isn’t anyone asking about the religion of the latest white male domestic terrorists?

Mother God, please have mercy on us. -J.B.

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Past post on the Roman Catholic leadership

In light of the pope’s extraordinary resignation, I re-offer some thoughts from a previous blog on the Roman Catholic Church and make the distinction between the established leadership and many of its devout practitioners on the link below.

Sins of the Fathers: The original sins of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy

-J.B.

 

 

Sins of the Fathers: The Original Sins of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy

If you are reading this column only because you want to see what those crazy religious people are talking about now, stick with me.  I intend to address why what happens in Rome doesn’t stay in Rome and why Vatican policies and activities affect both Catholics and non-Catholics around the world.  And I warn you this blog is longer than usual.

When I was in junior high school my mother took me along to the wedding of one of her students at a Roman Catholic Church.  It was the most beautiful ceremony I had ever experienced and I felt drawn to the mass.  When I was old enough to drive sometimes I would sneak to Christmas Eve mass and allow my parents to assume I was going to a Protestant Church so as to avoid stirring their bigotry.  It was early middle age when I converted to Catholicism after many years of being one of those people who said they were “spiritual but not religious,” or “unaffiliated.”  After five sincere and dedicated years of not missing mass one week and putting money in the basket, I began taking mass with the Episcopalians, where I still participate.  (The details of all this are not pertinent to the column but you can e-mail me at goodreligionjb1@gmail.com  if you have any questions.)

Since I started this blog I have written very little about the Roman Catholic Church for several good reasons – but what matters more is why I am writing now.  I read online news every day.  I seek out mainstream media, as well as sources that feature religion.  I want to know what is being said, as much as what isn’t being said.  In the last month, it has been impossible to avoid news about Catholics, and it’s not good.  (I posted a select few of these on my Web site at http://allthingsreligiousonline.com/ .)

Though I hope it is evident in most of my blogs, I do not believe Christianity is the only path to truth, heaven, or anything else.  I embrace pluralism and work to be an equal-opportunity critic of religion.  There are two reasons I’ve gone a little easy on the Roman Catholic Church.  One reason is that there is so much deservedly bad press, it doesn’t require my comment.  The other reason I have been reluctant to comment is that I understand how very large the Catholic Church is and how many different Catholics there are.  The most important distinction for non-Catholics to grasp is the vast difference between the practicing Catholic laity and their supposed leadership.  In my view, the Catholics in the parishes are really the Church and the Rome-based leadership is as corrupt as any other large organization with wealth and power.

I was taught ‘once a Catholic always a Catholic,’ though there was always a difference between ‘Cradle Catholics’ and converts.  Many Catholics feel this way, so when their Church rejects them it is devastating and not as simple as just choosing a different church.  Like all other Christian denominations, the pews are emptier than they used to be and there’s less money.  Catholic schools are a source of revenue and retention for parishes, but with shrinking enrollment many are being closed, along with also shrinking parishes.  Most organizations would consider this a wake-up call.  Not the Roman Catholic Hierarchy.  It ruthlessly enforces authoritarian rule as the ultimate Good Ol’ Boys Club, clawing to survive in a world that has passed them by and now sneers at them.

Here’s what should matter to everyone else: do not forget that the Roman Catholic leadership, based in, well – Rome, is a political organization, and that is a literal definition.  People forget that the Vatican is its own country and functions accordingly.  Not only that, as the wealthiest organization in the world it claims influence on millions of Catholics around the globe.  All these things make the Boys in Rome very appealing to global politicians, and Rome wants to assert that influence in ways that shouldn’t be overlooked by any of us.

Please allow me a sidebar story as an example of our government’s willingness to pay attention to enemies of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy.  Meet late author Penny Lernoux, to whom I was introduced in Matthew Fox’s book The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s secret crusade has imperiled the Church and how it can be saved.  He cites much of her work and met with her prior to her 1989 death from cancer.  In her obituary, the New York Times said, “Ms. Lernoux, who had lived in Latin America since 1962, was a knowledgeable interpreter of religious and political changes in the Catholic Church. Her freelance work appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, The Nation, Harper’s, Newsweek, The Washington Post and other publications.”  She was an established and respected reporter and author.  When Fox met with her in California she showed him the CIA agents that were following her.  Your tax dollars at work, people.  She was of interest to the U.S. government  because she was an investigative reporter who wrote about the unholy alliance between the U.S. government, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and Latin American dictators.  (The stories she reported are very ugly and too complex for this blog.)

Rent the movie “Breach.”  This fact-based movie was about a CIA principal who was one of the most infamous traitors in recent history.  He was a member of “Opus Dei,” a secret cult within the Roman Catholic Church and whose membership includes priests and bishops, chosen and placed by the Vatican.  As Fox said, “Opus Dei has been called the ‘holy mafia,’” (p.115.).  It’s more than Dan Brown’s imagination from the Da Vinci Code.  This is the branch of the Church Hierarchy that gets its hands dirty for the Vatican.

The Original Sin of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy has been the intentional melding of governance and religion, using situation ethics and distorted theology.  The Roman Catholic Church Hierarchy needs to get out of governance, local and global politics, and tend to their own business, which should be spiritual.  Now I do not for one minute expect this to happen any more than I expect them to give up their wealth and influence, but while they cling to the things of this world, no one should take them seriously regarding things of the spiritual world.

The second sin is a result of the first.  Patriarchy.  The institutional misogyny and systematic exclusion of women from church leadership has been a negative and destructive force within the Church.  Make no mistake there is no solid theological basis for this.  I strongly believe that if women were an integral part of leadership, not just nuns treated like slaves and servants, the global pedophile scandal would not have existed.  There would have still been some sick bastards abusing their power (that exists in every organization – religious and secular), but it is less likely they would have been so protected or that it could have been so wide-spread.

To the real, everyday Catholics, I encourage you to stop letting go of your money to such a corrupt hierarchy.  To others I encourage you to distinguish between the hierarchy and the human beings.  For every story of gluttony, I can offer you a story of sacrifice.  There have been many priests, nuns and laypersons who have died trying to help protect the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous people, for example.  And that has been to help them survive as human beings, not to proselytize.   As Father Riegler told me, “The Catholic Church has a rich and colorful history.”  I’m looking forward to history and karma catching up with the Hierarchy.

Catholics and Episcopalians say the “prayer of contrition.”  Here is an excerpt I would offer to Rome as a reminder: “Father forgive us.  For what we have done and what we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.”

– J.B.

Rick Santorum and Blue Jays and Burqas

Blue Jays seem like they should be the stars of the “Angry Birds” game.  They are always caw-cawing at everyone, all the while making sure they are getting enough for themselves.  Cardinals and Robins don’t seem to take them too seriously, though they do intimidate the smaller, meeker birds.  That’s why they remind me of Rick Santorum, with apologies to Blue Jays, that is.

Sunday (3/11/2012) morning Santorum was one of the talking heads on the weekly television news shows (this one with David Gregory).  In the seconds it took me to wrestle the remote control from my spouse I had to listen to this Blue Jay in my living room caw-cawing about moral issues like he had been appointed by god – which he does seem to think is the case.  Even worse, he repeatedly mentioned that he was running for president because he and his wife had prayed about it.  If you are trying to convince me that god wants you to be president then your ego is too big and your god is too small.  Ironic, the prayer part though, since many of us in Pennsylvania having been praying Santorum would just go away.

Without taking a breath, he rambled on about what government should stay out of while insisting what government should take over.  Particularly, what the federal government should take over is the control over women’s bodies.  Here we go again, Ricky Blue Jay.

I have never written about abortion before because I consider it a personal ethical issue, not a religious one.  If you are opposed to abortion, then don’t have one.  The rest is none of your business.  I don’t object to the Roman Catholic Church, or any other religion, taking a position on this for its own practitioners.  However, in this secular country, it is not only wrong, it defies the U.S. Constitution for any one religion to impose its morality on everyone else.

Usually the louder the Blue Jay the more likely you will find situation ethics.  Santorum likes to brag about “home-schooling” his children.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  They are enrolled in a Pennsylvania online charter school, paid for by Pennsylvania tax-payers, even though they are living in Virginia.  His caw-cawing-of-the-day can be found on the link below to a CNN story.  I wonder if he and his wife asked god’s permission to rip-off Pennsylvania like that?

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/13/santorum-rails-against-maher-on-christian-madrassa-comment/

But let’s go back to Virginia, for a visit to the Dark Ages.  It is not really for lovers, as their bumper sticker used to say.  It’s for rednecks and misogynists.  My very first blog in April 2010 was about Governor Bob proposing “Confederate History Month.”  The same governor was involved in Virginia’s latest plan to force sonograms on women seeking abortions.  This is legally-required rape using a medical instrument, since the law initially would have required a vaginal probe.  That it passed, minus the “probe,” is a small consolation.  That burqa is sounding pretty good right about now, isn’t it?  (You can read the Reuters update on the Virginia law at the link below.)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/29/us-abortion-virginia-idUSTRE81S0DR20120229

A more subtle form of demeaning women can also be considered in the context of freedom of religious expression.  For example, I support the right of Muslim women to wear a hijab, but I sure wish they didn’t want to.  In Lancaster County Amish women, and many Mennonites, wear “coverings.”  These are sort of a large yarmulke for women made of stiff white netting.  They cover their heads in deference to God and men.  Ask yourself, do men have to do it?  Of course not.  Again, the same principle as a burqa.

The rhetoric associated with the Virginia law is the ‘War on Women.’  If you actually think it was not going on underground (without regard to political party) then you are either lucky or oblivious.  The same system that patronizes and oppresses women regularly commits other sins.  Listen to the mean-spirited talk by Republican presidential candidates or radio-mouth-piece /hate-mongers and see how fashionable it is to pillory the impoverished, like poverty is synonymous for lethargy, not disadvantage.

When all the children of (at least) this country are well-educated and well-fed, then I am willing to engage in a conversation about abortion, but not before.  To caw-caw about protecting fetuses when already-born children are abused and neglected is a mask for oppressing poor women.  Keep in mind that women of means will always be able to get an abortion, so all the moral superiority by the Santorum Blue Jays of the world is moot for the wealthy.

There is a difference in both religion and ethics between influencing individual behavior and oppressing select human beings or groups of people.  I have written this before, but it bears repeating: protecting patriarchy is about power and control, not about God.  Religious folks trying to bully others into their own ethical system are just arrogant.  Politicians using religious rhetoric to procure votes are the worst sort of prostitutes.  Shameless politicians and religious bullies need to watch some Bill Maher and make less noise.  When I hear Blue Jays I just want to tell them to shut-up already.

-J.B.

“Football is God”

One of the minor benefits to waiting tables is being able to eavesdrop, which is usually just boring.  However, in the last two days, at two different restaurants, I have overheard discussions about child abuse and the recent Penn State scandal.  As dreadful as the allegations are, I consider this one good outcome, that is, to remove the shroud of sanctity that has surrounded the Penn State Football Machine and raise very serious questions in Pennsylvania and around the country.

I read the Grand Jury’s disturbing report about the alleged sexual predator and former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  If the report is as accurate as it is believable, then a very destructive individual has been arrested and will no longer enjoy the protection of the Penn State Football Machine.  If you want an excellent summary of that report and recent events, go to the New York Daily News article published 11/13/2011, link following.  It is my interpretation that this time line demonstrates that the University was aware of Sandusky’s behavior and moved to protect the organization and the football program years ago, but did not take steps to help victims or to prevent ongoing abuse.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/penn-state-scandal-timeline-sex-abuse-scandal-rocked-happy-valley-article-1.976843

If you think being devoted to God means unquestioning loyalty, worship and obsessive enthusiasm, then football is god.  For many, the Penn State Football Machine is the Vatican and Joe Paterno (JoePa) was the pope.  I’m not the first to make this comparison.  CNN contributor Roy Peter Clark, link follows, makes the point well.  When his story was originally posted to CNN’s Web site homepage, the headline was “Football is God.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/11/opinion/clark-penn-paterno/

Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, wrote this in the New York Times 11/11/2011: “If the allegations are true, head coach Joe Paterno and top-ranking university officials allowed former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to roam loose as a sexual predator even though there were clear indications of his abuse of children.  That has nothing to do with the Nebraska game coming up Saturday. It has to do with a culture at Penn State in which the football program, with Paterno as its god, was allowed to do whatever it wanted, including the protection of one of its own regardless of his alleged depravity.”

The football game was not cancelled Saturday and Penn State lost.  Instead of the display like  earlier in the week when students rioted over the firing of JoePa, there were students holding vigil for the victims.  Nonetheless, what continues to disturb me is the image of football players kneeling in prayer on the field at Saturday’s game.  This strengthens the religion of football, but not real religion.  It is a pathetic attempt of self-aggrandizement to elevate a tainted program.

Most likely the majority of those players would claim to embrace Christianity, being the majority religion of the country and all.  How about a quote from Jesus about this kind of behavior?  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others,” (Matthew 6:6, New International Version)  If you need others to see you pray, then it is about you.  Just you.  Here’s a prayer: “Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; in your compassion forgive us our sins, known and unknown, things done and left undone…”  (Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church).

I admit to not being a sports fan and have blogged about sports in two prior columns: “Smackdown: Man v. Nature” (10/11/2011) and “Sex and Sports and Religion” (6/24/2010).  Neither am I a Penn State graduate, even though many people confuse it with the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), from which I did graduate.  I am close to more than one Penn Stater and they are very upset by any criticism of their alma matter.  The moral failure of the University’s leaders, including JoePa, merits criticism.  That does not diminish things at Penn State like “Thon,” when each year thousands of Penn State students work feverishly for months to raise millions of dollars to help kids with cancer.  I have been to Thon and contributed to Thon.  It remains a valuable and important philanthropic activity at Penn State.  But that does not excuse the lack of morality in the football program.

Football is not god.  In fact, unquestioning loyalty is more appropriately attributed to a cult than a religion.  As we have seen in the past week, it is dangerous.  In both the small decisions and the large ones, each individual has personal responsibility.  Some students were weeping for JoePa while others were lighting candles for victims of abuse.  These are small decisions that I believe affect what will happen next.

I wonder if the Vatican is breathing a sigh of relief that the media winds are blowing a different direction right now.  I hope not.  Because one of the underlying cultural problems is patriarchy.  When you mix men, money and power, bad things will happen.  And when they happen, they will be covered-up because they will protect each other – not the vulnerable and powerless.

Forgive us – for what we have done and what we have left undone.

-J.B.

Photos from CNN online

Smackdown: Man v. Nature

This is football season (insert frowny-face icon here).  I live near Philadelphia where fans have a reputation – especially football fans.  Because of all the disorderly and illegal behavior at football games, the Philadelphia Eagles and the City of Philadelphia had to create a mini-court at the stadium to be able to process the hoards of law-breakers.  (Take a look at what a Google search on the “Philadelphia Eagles and fan violence” generates.)  I remember when the Eagles lost a playoff game there was a television news clip of a woman with tears streaming down her face who said, “this was the worst day of my life.”  Really?  Lucky her – if that’s as bad as it has ever been.

There are two sports that are worse than football: professional wrestling and demolition derbies.  Yes, trophies are given for smashing up other cars.  I’m at a loss to propose which of those ‘sports’ is more absurd.  At least the pretend violence and staged melodrama of WWF doesn’t burn fossil fuel.  But the WWF stage does remind me of how some religious people view nature: God using nature to smackdown bad people, and people trying to smackdown nature for personal gain.

Every time there is a natural disaster, some religious simpleton claims that it was God’s will or Divine punishment for sin as God uses the force of nature to toy with silly humans gone astray – perhaps reflecting on a literal view of the Noah’s Ark story.  My friend Kathleen is a talented environmental science teacher and reported that one of her students said (I’m paraphrasing here) that they know how humans came into existence, “God created them.”  Kathleen responded, “You can believe anything you want in your church, but this is a science class and we are learning about science here.”  Good thing Kathleen isn’t in Texas, she could probably get fired for saying that.

When combining the view of a punishing god with the supremacy of human beings over nature the result is a world view that provides resources only for the godly and allows for the reckless exploitation of everyone and everything else.  Joseph Campbell told a story about how Zen philosopher Daisetsu Teitaro (D.T.) Suzuki described the Western world view (The Power of the Myth, Program Two: “The Message of the Myth”):  “God against man.  Man against God.  Man against nature.  Nature against man.  Nature against God.  God against nature.  Very funny religion.”

One source of this view, I would suggest, is the creation story from historic Judaism and Christianity.  The first chapter (Genesis 1:26) describes “dominion” over creation by human beings.  According to Strong (The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., 1995) the word dominion in the St. James Version of the Bible is based on the Hebrew word râdâh, which is translated as “rule” or “subjugate”.  More recent translations of the Bible use the word “power” (Good News) or “rule” (NIV), which I do not find any more enlightened than “dominion”.  I had hoped a little research would reflect the St. Jame’s version’s use of “dominion” to be a poor translation, but that was not the case.

I have not gone to rabbinical school nor am I a Christian Biblical scholar.  I’m a regular person with an interest in religion and a drive to consider context, which is my explanation for “dominion”.  That creation story was passed on in the context of a patriarchal culture, which by definition subjugates everyone to the (male) patriarch.  In doing (secondary) research for this column I have been reading Karen Armstrong’s The Bible: A Biography, and reviewing her earlier work A History of God.  What I continue to learn as I study religion, especially Christianity, is about the human influence on theology and sacred text.  In talking about New Testament parables, an Episcopal priest (from whom I always learn something) said that Jesus’ stories often teach us more about people than God (Rev. C. Reed Brinkman, 9/25/2011).

Power over nature, to most thinking people, is an arrogant illusion.  Go ahead, try and stop a tornado.  And if the only way you can exercise your god-given dominion on the earth is by exploiting the environment and abusing animals, then you are not even a very smart patriarch.  In the long run you are hurting yourself and your descendants.

The selfish exploitation of animals and natural resources may nicely complement Western capitalism but does not reflect the underlying spirit of either Judaism or Christianity, and is certainly not part of most Eastern religions and practices.  The Dominion World View is the unfortunate result of isolating an antiquated minor Biblical reference to justify selfish behavior.  Drowning puppies that didn’t sell, over-fertilizing fields which corrupts the water table, irrigating crops that aren’t intended to grow in arid regions and thereby lessening water resources for everyone else – all justified because God gave you dominion.  That should be an offensive view to both the godly and godless.

Because you have the resources to smash cars into each other doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  It just makes you a stupid, wasteful bully.  Unfortunately, power and resources don’t go only to the deserving.  In fact humanity has a sad history of resources being ravaged by the greedy at the expense of the powerless.  The wise and compassionate stewardship of shared resources not only sustains our survival but make us human beings.  And if you’re religion doesn’t guide you to be a better human being, then trade-up for a better religion, or get to know your own religion a little better.  -J.B.

Everyday Saints

Whenever a bunch of men meet in secret with their own private rituals and then decide things, the rest of us should be skeptical.  This is true whether it’s the Masons, the Klan, or the College of Cardinals.  These groups represent patriarchy on steroids, clinging to days that most of us (except Wal-Mart executives) wish would stay lodged in the past.  That is the biggest problem and the gravest sin of the Roman Catholic Church: legitimized, organized, protected patriarchy.  If the Church weren’t ruled by patriarchy, then priests as sexual predators would be dealt with in an entirely different manner.  Be reminded the Roman Catholic Church is not the only organization with a Good Old Boy Network.

Patriarchy has nothing to do with actual religion or theology.  It’s a human construct that has to do with power.  Non-Catholics have difficulty understanding how practicing Catholics can overlook the sins of the bureaucracy, but in reality, we all do this with organizations we like.  In any organization, there’s the official party line, and then there’s what happens locally.  Everyday Catholics relate to the Roman Catholic Church one parish, one priest, and one nun at a time.  In that context, there are a lot of devoted, inspirational people practicing their faith within the context of a deeply flawed institution.  Couldn’t that also be said about the U. S. democracy?

Another common misunderstanding by non-Catholics is about saints.  They are not demigods worshipped like idols in violation of the Ten Commandments.  As I was taught by Sister Kathleen, they are a community of spiritual souls from whom believers can learn and pray for intercession to God.  You may consider it a subtle distinction, but it is different from polytheism.

When it comes to saints, there are the official ones, and the ones that are accepted culturally.  Not surprisingly, there are fewer women and it takes longer for them to be sainted.  Sometimes they are burned alive by the Church, as with Joan of Arc who died in 1431, and was “beatified” (made a saint) in 1909.  There are about 2,500 saints, but the Institutional Church likes to approve them with a process the patriarchy created in the year 993 so many observed saints are not official saints.  (You can learn more at the link below, from which most of this information is sourced.)

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/byname.aspx

Of course it is easy to laugh at some of the patron saints.  In case you were wondering, there is one for advertising and one for astronauts, and that’s just the first letter of the alphabet.  The next time I’m waiting tables and get stiffed on a tip, I will think of St. Martha, the patron saint of food servers.  (I welcome her intercession here.)  More importantly, there are recent saints, Everyday Saints, who inspire us, challenge us, and humble us.

My friend Nick wrote an article which I hope gets some traction outside academic and Catholic circles.  I’m posting the link without permission, by the way.  He writes about two Everyday Saints of our generation.  It is a compelling story about these two women and how they knew each other.

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/us_catholic_historian/summary/v027/27.4.rademacher.html

Both Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and Mother Theresa (1910-1997) were devout Roman Catholics and social activists.  Dorothy Day was the champion of the working class and underclass.  She founded The Catholic Worker paper which had a circulation of 150,000 at its peak. She was a poor, unwed mother who opened homeless shelters and soup kitchens, living in a public tenement until the day she died.

Most people know more about Mother Theresa who was born in Yugoslavia and entered the religious order at 18.  She taught for 15 years when she felt called to serve in India.  It took her two years to get the Church’s approval to start her new order.  She did receive that permission though did so without financial support.

Both of these women served the poor and disenfranchised their entire lives making tremendous personal sacrifices.  Mother Theresa was more deferential to the Patriarchy than Dorothy Day, who was comfortable criticizing the institutional Catholic Church.  While the Church has taken steps to recognize both women as saints, the progress on Dorothy Day is slow.  Contrast that to the fast-track beatification of the late John Paul II who spent his papal days living in the luxury of the Vatican.  Pope John Paul II is the saint of the Patriarchy.  Dorothy Day and Mother Theresa are Everyday Saints.  They are saints for regular people.  You don’t have to be Catholic to be inspired by these women.

Though I can’t put him in the same paragraph with Dorothy Day and Mother Theresa, I do want to acknowledge another Everyday Saint, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who died June third.  His work was controversial, but he also followed a call to assist those who couldn’t assist themselves, and for that he deserves recognition.

There are more Everyday Saints all around us.  These are the people that inconvenience themselves to help others.  My friend Sue is 70-something and works nearly full-time.  After work she gardens at the church.  She has children and grandchildren whom she enjoys, but still visits shut-ins, though I can’t really figure out when she does that.  She and her husband are the kind of people you just want to have in your life.  Whether you have good news or bad, they are there for you – front and center.  They are regular folks who watch baseball games and have a glass of wine now and then.  These are the Everyday Saints from whom we all benefit that the Patriarchy will never understand or appreciate.

Consider this my salute to the under-recognized Everyday Saints that make things better for the rest of us.  It feels good to know there are still real heros.  – J.B.

Other sources for this blog were:

Chittister, Joan: A Passion for Life

Coles, Robert: Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/tag/miracles/feed/