THOUGHTS ON ASH WEDNESDAY
For nearly 2,000 years and starting again today, Christians spiritually begin their 40-day Lenten celebrations to prepare themselves for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ during the Easter Triduum. Ashes placed on the foreheads of believers constitute an ancient symbol reminding the faithful of their human mortality (from dust to dust). It is also the visual cue to begin a serious period of prayer, reflection, fasting, confession and penance. This is a period dedicated to honestly assessing our sins and failings as humans and in our relationships with family members, friends, acquaintances, and the totality of humanity.
I was raised Roman Catholic but now I would best describe myself as an agnostic “Cafeteria Catholic” who attends Mass less than a dozen times a year (including Christmas and Easter) for contemplation and meditation; to attend a few Weddings and Funerals; or just out of habit and a simple desire to be with other people on a Sunday morning in a place that doesn’t charge a fee to attend. I will not count visits to Roman Catholic Churches to enjoy the art, architecture or musical performances as those reasons can be shared by anyone – including non-religious or non-Catholic individuals.
I have had my fill of pompous, intolerant and arrogant Priests and lay Catholics whose admonished me that I was not a “real” Catholic because I did not believe (accept without thinking) every word of the Magisterium, the need for a celibate male clergy, the particular rules of sexual conduct, transubstantiation, contraceptive use, Papal infallibility, and other issues. I have often agreed with other Catholic doctrine with respect to the Church’s moral stand on treating all people humanely, justly, ethically and compassionately. This includes many Papal and US Conference of Bishops calls for universal healthcare, protection of workers and unions, being against Capital Punishment and pre-emptive wars, a need to globally regulate financial institutions and redistribute the wealth of our global oligarchy, and a long tradition of funding and operating many educational and healthcare institutions. Some of the priests I most respected for their dedication to God, the truth, and service to their neighbors and humanity, are now dead, retired, or have left the Priesthood in favor of other careers and the real human need for earthly companionship and marriage.
Having been called an “a-la-carte or cafeteria” Catholic, the same moniker could be applied to the vast majority of Roman Catholics around the world. Some “conservative” Catholics hypocritically only follow the Church in matters of personal sexual conduct and issues surrounding marriage and divorce, but ignore all Church admonitions for more “liberal” ethics and moral governance over our political and economic lives.
If one investigates most major religions (Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Zoastrianism) along with the many denominations and sects within Christianity, there is a wide variation of practices, beliefs, interpretations, theologies, and ways of life. These variations and internal debates are more pronounced with religions that maintain clergies, hierarchies, or groups of academic elders of sacred texts who claim to speak for the entire religion. Sadly, most organizations (business, political and religious) tend to favor “group-think” and do not tolerate many alternative views or criticisms.
One great failing of all 3 Abrahamic religions is that they all give great weight to long internally-inconsistent sacred texts that beg for further clarifications, commentaries and explanations. All 3 theologies boil down to (1) love “God” (Allah, Yahweh, or insert favorite name here) and (2) love your neighbors (fellow humans) as yourself – as the Rabbi Jesus succinctly summed up the entire Torah and His Ministry – which was reiterated by Mohammed in the Koran. Sadly, human beings have frequently killed each other over their religious texts and beliefs (feeling free to misinterpret their own and the other two traditions) and even what the word “neighbor” means. Hinduism and Buddhism do not suffer from textual worship and appear to accept a more universal “live and let live” attitude (from living life again and again all the way to Nirvana) because they are not prisoners of texts written by dead men concerning a supreme being whose existence cannot be proven or disproven.
During many long prior periods of human history and most noticeably during the last 30 years, a more sociopathic/psychopathic view of human existence has been advocated and practiced. This worldview embodies principles wholly contrary to the promotion of love, compassion, justice, tolerance, transparency, honesty, mutually-beneficial relationships, and other long-term attempts to improve the human condition on this planet. These ideals only favor the shallow short-term financial profit maximizing motives of a few. Ayn Rand is merely one of its last proponents whose writings have captured the imaginations of many selfish and delusional people in the U.S. and among our global oligarchy who want to justify their insatiable greed, unethical behavior and complete callousness towards the rest of humanity.
In summary, the Loving God and loving all your neighbors have been wholly rejected. If you have more money than “God” and believe only “you” were the cause of your financial success (despite key connections of family, friends, mentors and school buddies; hard work of employees; loyalty of customers, mentors, and business partners; bribing the right politicians for tax and special favors; plus sheer luck and inherited wealth) then a solely ego-centric worldview applies. The two new laws are (1) love yourself and (2) screw others before they screw you. This “theology” is far more entertaining, easy-to-pursue, and pleasing to greedy, compassionless, empathy-challenged, manipulative, materialistic, lawless, corruptible and highly-intelligent individuals who lack any consciences or souls.
This 5% of humanity now runs the vast majority of governments, economies, corporations and organizations around the globe to the detriment of the other 95% of humanity that in their eyes is just “sheeple” fit to be used, abused, and slaughtered for their benefit. These particular individuals are the direct causes of human misery, fraud, corruption, unemployment, un-payable debts, environmental degradation, and other crimes around the world. These actions (aka sins) of commission and omission by a few have been permitted to go unchallenged, unprosecuted and unpunished by our corrupt elected and appointed public servants in our broken political and economic systems. These representatives were charged with protecting the public good but disregarded that solemn duty in favor of power and money.
Our moral, ethical and religious leaders have been silent or distracted by other minor human failings. Those who have spoken up (including the Pope, Catholic Bishops, and other religious leaders in positions of authority)have been ignored or their message has been unclear, misinterpreted or discredited by those who support the new status quo. Too many citizens in the U.S. and around the world have simply acquiesced to this new world order due to their overall apathy, ignorance, fear, and irrational hope they may someday profit from this wholly perverse and lawless status quo.
We may have arrived at a point in our national history that the vast majority of people are completely powerless and incapable of stopping the sociopaths and psychopaths, who thrive in lawless societies where power and money make all the decisions. If all political, legal and constitutional avenues are closed to redress obscene levels of national income and wealth inequality; our perverse justice and health systems that treat people so differently based on their power and wealth; and our crony cartel economic system that minimizes the value of all human beings; then our society will eventually collapse by its own weight or by various violent means chosen by long-suffering citizens to overthrow their parasitic overlords and their political, social and business leaders. Eventually such a revolution may be viewed by many people as a reasonable and necessary assertion of justifiable self-defense against a lethal pandemic by a small number of humanoids without consciences or souls that are threatening the survival of humanity.
The overarching issues facing Americans in 2012 and over the next decade go far beyond merely such subordinate consideration of (1) choosing between our two bankrupt and corrupt political parties; (2) determining the “correct” interpretations of various religious theologies and traditions; (3) balancing the various old and unworkable economic and financial systems; (4) allocating funding levels for various governmental programs including contraception options; (5) how to use our Military and security personnel, infrastructure and equipment domestically and internationally; or (6) even how to deal with China. The fundamental choice for humanity is between perpetuating the status quo which is a world run by and for sociopaths and psychopaths, or radially altering our worldview to pursue policies that are principally designed to promote and foster our best human attributes and the mutual long-term well-being of 95% of the people who live on this Earth.
Submitted on February 22, 2012 by Marc Pascal from Phoenix, Arizona.