Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Saving Our Hope

On November 30, 2007 Pope Benedict issued a new encyclical entitled "Spe Salvi"; "SPE SALVI facti sumus—in hope we were saved." I have been reading through the encyclical with fascination, especially after having taken a college course entitled "Women and Religion". This course ended up being a great spiritual gift for me. On the last day of class our instructor asked us to share anything we may have gained from taking the course. My personal response was that before I'd taken the class I had known things instinctively, but didn't know WHY. After having taken the course, I now understood the logic behind my instincts and felt stronger for having solid fact to back up my opinions and beliefs.

As a recanted Roman Catholic I have no trouble viewing the edicts of the Church with a critical eye. In fact, I think I was born for it. I come from a long line of almost fanatical catholics and as the darling of the family (first grandchild/great grandchild!) I was expected to reflect that religious zeal and be a shining example to my siblings and cousins. For some reason it never worked. I remember questioning everything from a very early age. I know that every child is famous for going through a "why" phase, but I seem to have been born asking, "why?" Furthermore, unlike other children, it is a habit I have never outgrown.

So here I am, reading the Spe Salvi, and every sentence therein I want to debate! I have only read a portion of it, but here are my thoughts thus far:

On "Introduction" 1 and 2:
Pope Benedict supports, recycles and glorifies the same old Christian message, which is that the promise of salvation, which is our goal (I use "our" loosely), transcends the physical reality of the present. He states that faith equals hope and that if you don't have one then you can't have the other. In other words, unless you believe in the Christian God you cannot know the concept of hope. WHY not? WHY can't you know hope without God? WHY can't you hope for a better world with peace and love and understanding? By making such a statement, the Pope creates a monopoly on hope, turning it into an exclusive right rather than an inclusive offering.

Furthermore, he calls Christian faith a "trustworthy hope". Which leads me to ask, "WHY would you trust a God who is historically (and I use the word "historically" quite liberally), particularly in the Old Testament, jealous, wrathful, and in so many other ways akin to a petulant, spoiled child?"

He goes on to discuss Paul's experience with the Ephesians. The Pope does a little magic trick here. He uses wording that leads the reader into unconscious notions that aren't supported by fact. (Is this an example of why we must have faith?) He states that the Ephesians "...had had gods... had had a religion..." as if the facts were past tense and the Ephesians were without religion when Paul met them. Now I realize this is semantics, but is it necessary? Certainly for the Pope's agenda it is! But I must ask, WHY? WHY did he have to state it that way? What was his motive?

Here's where the Pope becomes the pot and calls the kettle black: he states about the Ephesians that "their god had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths." Here I am at semantics again! If they "had had gods... had had a religion" (PAST TENSE) then how could they be struggling with the concept of a questionable god and contradictory myths? I know I'm being nit-picky here, but I just can't let it go. Yet here is my main point: since when has the Christian god not proven questionable (why, he's questioned several times in the Old Testament alone, nevermind the questioning he receives in broad scope in our modern world!), and since when have the Christian myths not been contradictory in their own right? Consider the Ten Commandments, then go through the Bible and count how many times they are disregarded through some loophole or other. Then again, maybe I'm completely wrong to question this issue. After all, maybe all the Pope is suggesting is that it is okay to worship a questionable God and believe in contradictory myths as long as the religion offers hope. So WHY is it okay?

Sheesh. I'm already tired of this now. I have more to write, but I'll add it later. In the meantime you can ponder my "why" questions and maybe even offer some informative answers. Just do me a favor: if you have a response please offer it respectfully. If you can't be Christ-like then don't call yourself a Christian and don't patronize me with your contradictory nature. Save the contradictions for God and the Pope.

No comments:

Post a Comment