April 22, 2005

Genetic Religion

I've linked the entirety of Andrew Sullivan's blog. Although eventually this will become outdated, for now it's appropriate. More or less all of the latest few dozen entries are about religion and the new Pope. Pretty much everyone is a rehashing of his diatribe against Ratzinger and mainstream Catholicism.

So why is this guy, who apparently really doesn't like the church's teachings on several key issues and doesn't like this Pope, still even a Catholic? He tries to hit on the issues a few times. He says, in essence, he feels the truth and power of the religion and he feels some need to stay. Why can't he feel these things alone or in some other denomination - like UCC or Methodist or something? After all, the Episcopalians now have a gay Bishop (Robinson) or whatever. They also have female bishops, they're pro-choice, and they probably fit really well with his political and theological views. In a lot of ways, Episcopalians are basically Catholics that can divorce. Why not just make the jump over to Anglican?

It would appear that he considers the Catholic Church his family and he likens it to his biological mother. This is pretty fundamentally anti-Christian in its outlook, if not necessarily in its theology. I mean, if nobody left their religion, wouldn't all the Christians have stayed Jews? Christianity (perhaps moreso Protestantism than Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox) is based broadly on the premise of human fallibility - and correcting human mistakes as much as possible. That's an oversimplification and ignores other factors (like God's grace) but it's relevant here: Christianity would not exist without change and reform.

Don't like how Catholics do things but don't think they will change? Then leave and join some other church that's closer to what you think is right. Seems simple.

It's just that so many people view religion as a cultural thing and not a theological thing. This is fallacious. Church is not a social club and it's not supposed to be a genetic identity. You are not supposed to stick with a church because you were born into it. You stick with a church because it's what you believe and what you think about humanity and the universe. It's simply silly to stay in a Church out of no more reason than it feels like yours. I mean, that's like staying because all your friends are in that church.

A lot of people do see church as a merely social event. This is fine, I suppose, but it doesn't make sense to stay in a church for non-theological reasons then complain of its theology. You made the trade-off to stay for petty, vernacular reasons instead of leaving over theological and moral ones. If you don't like the trade-off, then leave. You're allowed to complain, sure, but why go through the torture and headache when you ought to have resolved this already?

What's especially is the surprise some of these errant Catholics seem to have when they find the church being confident in its moral views and acting 'as though' it had God's ear. Umm. Actually, according to my basic understanding of papal infallibility, the Pope DOES know what God wants. If you don't buy into papal infallibility - as I don't - then at least don't be shocked when Catholics do. After all, that's a signature distinction between Catholics and non-Catholics, and something they tend to take some flak for in theological debates (deservedly so).

But how can any Catholic be offended when the Pope speaks as though he knows what's right? Correct me if I'm way off the dogma here, but isn't that basically his job? Isn't that part of the doctrine.

I mean, it's not like they're the first people in history to criticize the Catholics as centralized, squelching dissent, and casting down unquestionable moral edicts from on-high. It's just that the previous critics tended to realize that these were signature parts of Catholicism, and left for other religious groups.

It's not likely to change, because that's how things have been done and will likely continue to be done. Protestants stopped trying to reform the Catholic Church in the 16th century. Get with the times. If you don't like the Catholic Church, then there is a wealth of other options for you. Just because you were born Catholic doesn't mean you have to stay Catholic. It's not like race or hair color or something. It's open to change.

I suppose it's ironic that many of the Catholic critics say the Church isn't reforming but refuse to reform themselves and just convert.


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