Democratic Underground

Blog Box

April 22, 2005
Compiled by Delilah Boyd, A Scrivener's Lament

Faith Fatigue

Wow! A cable news minute (actually, a segue into a commercial break) on the increase in gasoline prices! What did we do to deserve this? Of course, that Pinch-At-The-Pumps news was months old and delivered by a cutting edge MSNBC script-reading, Cheshire Cat Smiling... Hairdo. But at least it wasn't another interview with an obscure BushCo-approved America's Heartland priest, who automatronically automatically voiced eternal devotion to Benedict XVI.

Note: it is not my intention to bash the truly faithful. In fact, I feel really sorry for them right now, for the ones who try their best to live according to the tenets of their faiths and spread genuine goodwill. They suffer the consequences of fundie faith overload, too. The faithful aren't the problem, it's the extremists. And I don't even intend to bash extremists. But I have been known to bash back on occasion.

This week, one day after the College of Cardinals elected their new Pope, a simple Google search yielded 16,800 mainstream print news stories on religion: most reported the play-by-play action in Rome (and around the world); some addressed shrouding scandals behind the term moral values (as in Tom DeLay); and a few even covered the rally for mandatory religious education in East Timor and the difference between belief and religion.

The result? A severe case of Faith Fatigue. While I've suffered from FF (Faith Fatigue) repeatedly in recent years, my latest bout of FF started with the Laws Be Damned Tube-Feeding Frenzy in the Florida Garden of Face-Painting Fundies and Media Microphones. Excuse my insolence, but when I watch a TV interview or read a news story, I expect to learn something, well, new. Endless repetition of opinion-based, surface-level religious babble and Rovian stenography do nothing to relieve my FF symptoms.

Fortunately, bloggers have provided a much needed RX this week (as opposed to fundie pharmacists). I've learned a great deal this week from bloggers, who have addressed hot religious topics thoughtfully and thoroughly... Goldfish Don't Bounce cites Publius' unusually lucid post on Dobson Christianity and its ridiculous claim that the VLWC (Vast Left Wing Conspiracy) attacks all Christians when anyone speaks out against Dobson, and he provides an extremely useful formula for understanding how Dobsonites (and Republicans, in general) control the discourse:

The general principle here is to confuse the audience by convincing them that a particular subset of Concept or Goal “X” is equal to the entire set and that no other subsets exist. Some examples will help illustrate what I mean by that. In the lead-up to Iraq, everyone shared the same broad goal of fighting terrorism and keeping the country safe. However, there were many possible ways to go about securing the nation from terrorist attacks. Invading Iraq was merely one of many possible tactics. The rhetorical strategy of many pro-war advocates was to equate opposition to invading Iraq (the subset) with opposition to keeping America safe from terrorism (the larger "set").

GDB extends the argument nicely by adding:

Of course, the thing to remember here is that Publius' views on Christianity and Jesus (which parallel mine) are no more "correct" or "valid" than Dobson's. But that's the point. In this society, we don't allow one religious view to have government-approved dominance over another view, because such a situation would be contrary to the notion of religious freedom ... Why? Because when you empower government to impose or encourage one particular religious view, you ipso facto empower that government - at some future point in time - to impose or encourage a different religious view, one with which you might not believe.

While many newshounds got bogged down in "Hitler Youth/German Army" excuse mode this week, several bloggers continued to offer fresh perspectives on (and interesting quotes from) Papa Ratzi... Speed Of Life weighs in on Pope Benedict XVI's opinion of art by posting an obscure Ratzinger quote in his blog entry, New Pope - New Culture War?

"Art itself, which in impressionism and expressionism explored the extreme possibilities of the sense of sight, becomes literally object-less. Art turns into experimenting with self-created worlds, empty 'creativity,' which no longer perceives the Creator Spiritus, the Creator Spirit. It attempts to take his place, and yet, in so doing, it manages to produce only what is arbitrary and vacuous, bringing home to man the absurdity of his role as creator." - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Art, Image and Artists

Sorry! Did I just vomit on you? I really enjoy my arbitrary and vacuous art collection. And the next time I visit an art museum, I'll be sure to wallow in the empty creativity. By the way, I'm not bashing Ratzinger. He bashes art; I bash back. Another topic taking on Supersize Me proportion this week is the prophecy of St. Malachy. Deconsumption has the prophecies, the links, and this nifty little Ratzinger:

... regarding the un-released Third Secret of Fatima (the apparition of Mary, Mother of God to the three children at Fatima occurred, it might be noted, during the reign of the last "Benedict," Pope Benedict XV - presumably the one Ratzinger takes his name from): "In an interview conducted in November 1984, Cardinal Ratzinger (of the Holy Office) confirmed that, with the Pope’s permission, he had read the Secret and that it concerns, in his words, 'a radical call to conversion, the absolute gravity of history, the dangers threatening the Faith and the life of a Christian, and therefore the world. And also the importance of the last times.' The Cardinal went on to explain that 'if it is not published ... it is to avoid confusing religious prophecy with sensationalism. But the things contained in the Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture and are confirmed by many other Marian apparitions.'"

That Third Secret must be a doozy! But let's not confuse religious prophecy with sensationalism. It's not as if the Bible's ending isn't sensational or anything. Wait! There's more!

Nevertheless, as each new conclave comes and goes, people start to become a bit jittery about them (since the list runs out soon!). Apparently, in 1958, before the Conclave that would elect Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Spellman of New York hired a boat, filled it with sheep and sailed up and down the Tiber River, to show that he was "pastor et nautor," the motto attibuted to the next Pope in the prophecies!

Cardinal Spellman did that? Who knew? From prophecy to
contemporary reality... Atrios posts an excerpt from Michael Signorile's Queer In America, wherein the author describes a young man's fateful run in with Ratzinger a few years back:

Ratzinger sat at the altar, along with Cardinal O'Connor and several other prelates. Judge Robert Bork, the conservative Supreme Court nominee who'd just been rejected by the Senate, sat in the front row. Mrs. William F. Buckley, Jr., was there too, as was an incredible array of Upper East Side women, the upper crust of New York's Catholic Society. ... Soon, anger swelled up inside me: This man was the embodiment of all that had oppressed me, all the horrors I had suffered as a child. It was because of his bigotry that my family, my church - everyone around me - had alienated me, and it was because of his bigotry that I was called "faggot" in school. Because of his bigotry I was treated like garbage. He was responsible for the hell I'd endured. He and his kind were the people who forced me to live in shame, in the closet. I became livid... Suddenly, I jumped up on one of the marble platforms and, looking down, I addressed the entire congregation in the loudest voice I could.

AmericaBlog asks the pertinent question: when is it fair to call a Nazi a Nazi? Dragonland offers a prayer for the new Pope. And the reviewers of Ratzinger's book at Ignatius Insight Scoop don't exactly give God's Rottweiler a pass:

Jesus Christ is the only savior, says Christianity. "Can this absolute claim still be maintained today?" That's the question addressed by the Vatican's Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his new book, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. When, in 2000, the Catholic Church reiterated its teaching about Jesus in its declaration Dominus Iesus, "a cry of outrage arose from modern society," notes Ratzinger, "but also from great non-Christian cultures such as that of India: this was said to be a document of intolerance and of religious arrogance that should have no place in the world of today." Ratzinger argues that the Church's teaching is not intolerant but true.

Hmm. Not intolerant but true. That takes a humongous pair of a lot of confidence, doesn't it? Speaking of truth, William Rivers Pitt slices & dices the humongous pair on The Theocrats by detailing how Timothy McVeigh's "vision of America" came to be. For a little light pick-me-up, Buzzflash's One Citizen reveals George W. (Jesus is my favorite philosopher) Bush's Choice for War Pope. Ship Of Fools reviews the controversial New And Improved Bible, called Good As New:

There's not a demon in sight. Possession becomes "mental illness," "fits," or "autism," on the basis that we and the Gospel writers describe the same conditions differently. The Devil becomes "evil." There are still plenty of miracles, but some of them are rationalised. Here's the transfiguration, for instance... Against the clear sky he looked different, with his sunburned face and white clothes reflecting the bright light.

And The Curt Jester proves that Fr. Andrew Greeley is fallible:

The prophet speaks
Fr. Greeley's latest article
ROME - I don't think it likely that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will be able to assemble the 77 votes he will need to become pope. Nonetheless it does suggest that should he be elected (which I repeat I don't expect) he should be given a chance to prove who and what he is.

Ahem. Why didn't Greeley just do the math? Ratzinger had between 40 and 50 votes after the preliminary vote last week. It takes 77 votes to win. In the end, a simple majority (50% + 1) wins. OK. Imagine you're a Cardinal, and you see that the Ratzinger camp doesn't budge one iota in the 2 votes taken on Monday and the third on Tuesday morning. It would seem pretty certain that all the Ratzinger voters had to do was hold out until Simple Majority Vote Day. So what do you do, Cardinal? The Ratzinger supporters know who they are, which also means that they know who you are. Do you stand on principle and continue to oppose the odds-on favorite? Or do you jump on the bandwagon? Quickly, Cardinal! What'll it be? Holy Smoke! Habemus Pappam. Heavy sigh, Cardinal.

So what's the best course of treatment for my current case of Faith Fatigue? DUer xpat suggests rereading Tom Paine's The Age Of Reason. I concur wholeheartedly. After all, one simple word stood out among the millions of words in the multitude of news stories and blogs this week: Hope. In the end, isn't hope what it's all about for all of us?

Know a hot blog that needs some coverage? Send your recommendations to Delilah.

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