Posted by: cmittermeier | November 23, 2011

Rationalizing away the need for religion

Ever know someone who is missing something vital in their life – like veggies or calcium?  If the answer is yes, then you know that urge to help get them that missing piece of the puzzle.  When you’re practising your religion, you start to see the benefits in your own life and you start to see that others are missing those benefits.  Then you start to want them to know those benefits – like peace and joy, strength and love.

Then you are in a tricky spot.  You know to speak up you run the risk of being accused as a fanatic, pushing your religion.  You know they are likely getting pokes already to come back and that if you say the wrong thing it will be the hand-caugh-in-the-cookie jar response.  Its a tricky situation.  If I get hostility, its easy to say you just want them to have the same benefits you get, but what do you do when they start the other arguments?  You know, the rationalizations…

  • you don’t need to go to participate in religion to be a good person
  • our priest is boring, I don’t get anything from going
  • I don’t agree with what the church says
  • Not everyone who goes to mass is a good person

How I wish I could attack what is underneath all those rationalizations: they don’t think they need God.  If you knew you needed God, you’d search, you’d question, you’d consider the above questions as things you want real answers to – and you’d be willing to accept that the answer might bring a challenge of ‘do more’.  When they are just rationalizations, all that happens when you find the answer to one of them another pops to mind.

Its still important to be prepared for those questions.  Can you be good without going to mass – of course.  Can you go to mass and still be a bad person – of course.  Mass is not some zapping activity that takes bad people and spits out good people.  Go deeper – do a scientific query: have people around you rate a few important characteristics about you… your patience, fortitude and rate your own joy, peace, strength.  Then go with an open mind to Mass for 6 months, have everyone to the ratings again.  Did it make a difference – that is the litmus test for me.  I still have a lot further to go, but I’m pretty confident people around me can see a difference in me even if they won’t change the overall label (generally good or generally bad)  from before and after.

I don’t agree with the church on… ask yourself

  • What is the official doctrine I am disagreeing with, can I cite the source or am I citing ‘common knowledge’?
  • I can’t be the only one to disagree with this, who else has and what have been their arguments?
  • What are the church’s counter-arguements? (Didn’t know these existed? search “apologetics”)
  • Am I buying into emotion, or reasoned statements?
  • Logically, if I changed that doctrine, what are the consequences?

I’d like to an example.  Homosexuality.  I had a hard time with this one.  Turns out, it wasn’t asking homosexuals to refrain from acting on their impulses that was at the root of my issues… it was the fact that the reason they have to restrain is exactly the same reason heterosexuals are called to wait till marriage and why in marriage its not a free for all.  Logially its IF/THEN.  If I accepted the churches premise, I was stuck admitting I was wrong – it had nothing to do with anyone else – I didn’t want to accept I missed the mark.  Better to let everyone miss than mark than admit I was off course.  Hmm.  By exploring the question, I found it wasn’t the church, but myself that needed to change.

It happened with so many of my ‘issues’ that now when I come up with new ones I instinctively ask what part of church teaching am I misunderstanding.  I’ve asked a lot of questions, after a while you start to realize that you’re really not breaking new ground.

The one I have a hard time answering people is when they just don’t get anything from the church and or mass.  I remember a friend saying it was great for the kids, but she’s heard it all before.  I thought I knew what she meant, till I started teaching my child. It didn’t take long before I was called to task, in a very fun loving manner.  As I started finding the correct answers to my sons questions I quickly realized I knew nada – what I thought I knew was the teeny-tiniest tip of not just a mountain, but a universe.

The hardest part of that problem is that people see it as the priests responsibility to entertain them, to make it relevant.  I see some of that argument, but, uh, what about personal responsibility?  That is where I’m stuck – way too in your face to go there!  Today I read a nice post in one of my favourite blogs and this one paragraph I hope sticks in my brain.  He puts it in such an encouraging way!  Eloquence!  Beauty!  TRUTH!

Room to Grow?

If our devotion to Christ in the Mass, therefore,  is easily disturbed by a sloppy or irreverent priest, then we know that our faith has room to grow.  Are we truly seeking to please God, or are we seeking the sweetness of consolation for ourselves?  If we seek to worship God, then sometimes the less glorious liturgies are even better than the glorious ones.  Not because Christ doesn’t always deserve our very best – he does.  And the liturgy of the Church should shine with reverence and beauty and respect and mystery (this is one of the reasons we have a new translation coming).  But if true worship is about our trusting in God in spite of everything, just as Jesus trusted in his Father on the Cross, then we can actually exercise our trust even more when the externals of a particular celebration of Mass are rather mundane.  To pray devotedly in that situation requires a more mature faith, a stronger faith.  We have to truly believe that God is working through his Church, through his priest, even when the appearance of things seems to say something else.


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