Despite that America is the rock upon which a nation of religious freedom was built, Americans have been losing footing with respect to freedom of religious expression for sometime. Due to the repression of political correctness, Christians have been cowed out of extending the simple Christmas greeting of joy. Hostility toward Christianity has swelled, often led by some committed atheist/scientists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who maintain falsely that science and religion are not compatible, reducing religion to silly superstition and elevating science to the status of ultimate enlightenment.
Since September 11 anti-religious feelings have crested. Islamic radicalism has made Islam itself suspect of a violent creed. Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, inexcusably managed, has weakened its moral authority. Some Protestant sects have been criticized for overly active financial campaigns and preaching the gospel of wealth rather than the gospel of charity. And certain aspects of Zionism are cited as being at the root of Middle East tensions. All in all organized religion has been fired upon in such ways that perhaps we the faithful are now understandably, less faithful. Is nothing truly sacred anymore, we ask? Disillusioned, we begin to feel it is better to do without.
This week as I watched Pope Benedict, descended from Peter, the rock of Christ, I stood away from the firing line the laity now feels entitled to aim from and saw just a man, a spiritual leader, try to grapple with what I also agree is a world crisis. I too see people lost in sea of hedonism, governed by an immature moral relativism, a morality that has only one guideline beyond which you have no further obligation but to please yourself first, put yourself first. Yet high divorces rates, materialistic driven workaholism, substance/prescription abuse, isolation in our technology, obsessions with body image, health and diet testify that we are not a content people.
If we can transcend the errors that are made by man in man- made religious organizations, if we stop judging and hear the whisper of Benedict’s words, we realize his message is like a thunderclap even though he speaks low- keyed and resolutely. He advises that man needs to commit to principles to live by that are more powerful than what feels good at a given moment. Man needs to uphold values that are eternal and universal--- the value of life, all life, human dignity, love and respect for each other and the place in which we live. There is no freedom from our moral obligation when we enter the workplace. And furthermore, man has a guide if he would accept that helping hand.
Religious and spiritual principles are bigger and more powerful than anyone person who speaks on their behalf. The truth of these principles is their own strength. Their truth does not vary from person to person or year to year. Abandoning these beautiful tenets that pivot on the inherent sacredness of life and preserving it no matter the inconvenience, because the stewards have failed to reach the ideals is like abandoning our democracy because at times our political leaders have breeched its codes.
No matter your particular spiritual creed, Pope Benedict embodied in his presence and words that morality and spirituality has to exceed any interminable set of laws legislated by the state and that salvation is not found at the hand of the state in the form of giveaways. Salvation comes for within, from strength of character cultivated by daily fidelity to a set of principles that demand more results than our personal pleasure. We need to live courageously in consort with moral consciousness, to follow that internal moral compass even though this is very, very hard sometimes. This pitch is a tough sell these days to a tough audience, too sophisticated for such naïve nonsense. Yet Pope Benedict captivated thousands of us, didn’t he? The truth has a certain ring to it, perhaps.
On Sunday Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in the most famous sports arena in the world, Yankee Stadium. This was a very public demonstration of a particular faith, a faith that it is now politically correct to marginalize according to the illuminati of our country. No more, I hope. Religion is a rightful object of human need. May the public-ness of the celebration begin to free people from the repression they have been subjected to lately so we may dialogue again about needing more than diets, pills and health spas to feel whole again. Yankee Stadium was a very appropriate forum for the discussion to begin anew in the country that began as the rock of religious toleration for the entire world to emulate by a man who is the rock of one of the world’s great religions.
The opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author.