Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Bible in the Stampede

I teach and I am the vice principal of academics at a small Catholic high school. I know a lot of people are reacting to Catholicism these days with a great deal of negativity, for every reason from the pedophile scandals to a complete dismissal of the possibility of God or of an afterlife. I understand. (I think dismissal of belief because of unprovability is foolish, but I have said things about that elsewhere.)

Lately, though, a lot of people (including Catholics) have been pointing to Pope Francis and saying, "Finally! -- a pope who is x, y and z." He is tolerant. He is an eschewer of wealth. He even went to far as to say he is not in a position to judge homosexuals who earnestly seek to find God. People see him as a breath of fresh air.

(Most people, anyway. Recently, I saw someone trying to prove he is the Antichrist.)

Funny -- I hear what the pope says and I think...well, yeah. That's the stuff I thought Catholicism, at its core, was about in the first place. Love. Sincerity. Concern for the poor. Et cetera. To me, Pope Francis is just saying all of the things I have understood were represented in the Gospel -- stuff that, perhaps, has gotten lost in bureaucracy and in human weaknesses since the start of things.

Be that as it may, I have long defended belief. I feel that belief in God and acknowledgement of our inferiority to the grandness of the world is a good thing. No, I don't always think religion is a good thing. Only an idiot would think religion is not without its serious flaws. It is a platform for a lot of bad stuff, but that bad stuff is usually a result of convenient-chosen fragments of ideology filtered through warped minds. (For the record: Pope Francis recently delivered a homily denouncing faith becoming ideology. [Hat tip: Cherie Calletta.] ) There is something good about having faith, so long as one's faith is not filtered through agenda, hate and insanity.

I could go on with a long essay about this, but, instead, I'll sum up what I see as the positive side of faith with the following scenario and I will let you unravel it in your own way:

I teach in a small building that is part of our campus. In the main hall, leading in, our religion department has placed a rather flimsy table, dead-center. On it is a Bible, on an angled stand. The book is adorned with a rosary. One's first reaction to this might be, "Are they crazy? -- that table will be knocked over by rampaging teenagers within minutes."

It's been there for at least three years and it had stood undisturbed, through thousands of rush-bys, as kids, bulging with heavy book bags and buzzing with hormones, have lumbered by trying to get to class.

It has never been knocked over.

No, our kids do not sit with their hands folded. No, we are not staffed with priests and nuns. (We only have a two sisters and a priest on staff.) We do not smack them on the knuckles with rulers. (That is, neither the kids nor the sisters and priest.) No, our kids are not "rich kids" from perfect family backgrounds. (We are not a "prep school".) No, they are not all good students. In fact, our student population consists of middle-class Catholics, non-Catholics and students who are fleeing poor school districts in the area. We even have a growing number of Chinese students whose parents send them to us for an American education.

Still, the table remains undisturbed.

There are a million ways to spin this. Spin as you see fit, or see it for what I think it is. Who am I to force or to judge?

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