As many people around the world celebrate Easter, I have some thoughts to share about some contradictions about faith and the holiday (and not the obvious ones about how nothing we do in the United States to celebrate the holiday has anything to do with its origins, I mean I wasn’t around at the time so maybe Jesus was really into brightly colored marshmallows but they have always been my favorite part of the day).
As I was researching Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget and the opposition from American Catholics to it (that’s only relevant because he is a Catholic and has openly talked about how his faith influences his policies), I got to thinking about other contradictions. Vice President Joe Biden is a Catholic, too but has consistently supported pro-choice policies. You can watch the two men talk about abortion here:
The new pope has created some controversy by washing some women’s feet the other day — he went to a detention center in Rome and washed both men and women’s feet but the latter just has never been done before. Pope Francis has taken a less formal approach to the job and is not living in the normal residence and it isn’t going over well with many, for instance the foot washing thing got under a lot of people’s skin. As if that’s the biggest issue facing the Catholic church. This is supposed to be the “honeymoon period” for the new pontiff but if church experts and followers are upset with this so it doesn’t seem like a very good “honeymoon.” As a non-Catholic, I think it’s great that he is taking a more humble approach and that he is the first pope from the Americas/southern hemisphere but think his actions during Argentina‘s “dirty war” seem more troubling than washing the wrong feet (he has been accused of turning priests over to the government and they were tortured, the allegations were from the priests themselves). Time will tell if this pope can really change the way things are done at the church but I sure wish people would focus more on that than the superficial nonsense that we all tend to like. The Daily Beast put out a great piece here.
Now, I have a lot of respect for people with true religious conviction. It should be noted that people who have strong religious beliefs tend to live longer and are healthier. And this is where I come to my personal contradiction. My relationship with religion is complicated as I am a pretty devout atheist but the only reason I haven’t been going to church recently is the one I attend is now across town from where I live and it can take up to an hour to get there (hey, on Sunday morning, I like to sleep in). I actually liked Sunday school when I went but my parents were told I “didn’t need to come back” after I argued with the teacher about what sheep looked like (after a summer on a sheep farm, I considered myself an expert, I was six at the time).
Last note: It is easy for people on the left (me included) to vilify religious institutions and religious people but we do that at great peril. The Civil Rights movement, for instance, was born and nurtured by churches. The power of religious institutions to do good should not be discounted.