Indian Catholic News

Tragic response to Church's marginalizing folly

The antithesis of atheism and the phenomenon of secularization are the worst consequences of our most damaging failures.

 
The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, has always been a witness to various displays of spirituality, especially in Lenten religious observances. (Photo by Maria Tan)
By Brother Jess Matias
Manila: 

Why then did "religion’" or "religiosity" become so difficult for many "spirituals"? We perceive the institution of religion as signified by an organization of beliefs and norms of conduct that are agreed and imposed in common, on communities that have committed itself to such commonness.

Religion is what gave this mystery its name; it is religion that assured us of its commonness, that protected its orthodoxy. It gave us the comfort that what I believe in, will be held in common by another person in my community; that what I wish his conduct shall be, will indeed be the conduct that he will voluntarily do.

Sameness facilitates much of human behavior and human management — I can manage better myself in relation to others because we think and act in the same way.

If somebody else within our midst is different, then we are cautious to think, speak and act. It is now the mystery of the "unknown other" — an enigma that baffles and frustrates us because of our unfamiliarity and our confrontation with the unknown.

How do we speak and behave before people of another religion, another country or another belief system?

It is only today, when we are more open to diversity, that we are discovering more common ground we have with more people. We were only confined to think of commonness existing only between people of the same religion, same nation or community, etc.

It is only today that we are speculating into the possibility of unity in diversity, in pluralism, into the possibility of greater awareness of commonness amid apparent differences. It is only today that we are open to one another’s differences.

Religion, however, was not that way before. It was a bastion for our inner security; we are more comfortable speaking to one who calls the mystery as "God" than to one who calls the same mystery as "Allah."

All the more we are shocked at one who refuses to call the mystery by any name, and with those who, like Luke Skywalker, only recognize a "force."

But is there anything wrong with this emphasis on self-identity? Our long human story has repeatedly indicated however the trend of the source of our security becoming eventually our pride.

Is there anything wrong with wanting to be secure? Truly, we do rightfully seek security for our basic needs, in family, in a community, and in a religion or in an organization that celebrates its identity and commonness. It gives us the assurance of the meaning of our existence.

But when we begin to seek security in money, in prestige and in power, the thin line between the rightful purpose of self-preservation, and the unjust purpose of self-aggrandizement is dismally fragile. What we may utilize justly to avoid our own marginalization may unjustly cause another’s marginalization.

This unfortunate metamorphosis of purposes is rooted in the cardinal sin of pride: we begin to take pride in what we have become; and as we become bigger, we will seek more protection to secure what we have acquired.

Why have we started building castles and fortresses, high perimeter walls and exclusive subdivisions?

The sad consequence of our need to be secure is the vicious spiral of securing oneself by defending the same through becoming stronger; and in becoming stronger, we tend to seek more security. It is the spiral that nucleates hierarchization and marginalization.

What atheists have seen from their external vantage point is the hegemony that religion created. Religion created hierarchies and thus became a marginalizing agent. It became a fortress for us to protect us from the evils we cannot ourselves completely define, and unfortunately from people we cannot ourselves have not endeavored to understand.

Atheism, in my opinion, is a tragic response to our marginalizing folly; it cannot see the logic nor perhaps the morality behind a profession in a "God" that results in a behavior that discriminates. Thus, better for atheists to conclude that "God" as we see him does not exist.

In conclusion, the growing understanding of spirituality in relation to a nameless mystery behind our human actions, guiding us in a sense of order and balance in the same way that this mystery powers the universe, is acceptable — spirituality can acknowledge an absent God.

But let this be a strong reminder to us who chose to be spiritual within the confines of a determined religion. Are we going too far in our religiosity?

We are blind to the pride we have appropriated for ourselves, and thus insensitive to the transgressions we are committing against those we consider inferior, acts of unjust marginalization that we are sadly committing in the name of God.

The antithesis of atheism and the phenomenon of secularization are the worst consequences of our most damaging failures as a church. It forces us to rethink that in gaining our pride we have lost a significant part of what we have boastfully called our religion, an important mode of Christian conduct which our Lord has himself so magnanimously emulated and exemplified: that in our religion, as in any religion, that in spirituality and in any spirituality, nobody must be left behind.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines, and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

This is the second part of 'Absenting God: A discourse on the antithesis of atheism.' The first part can be found by clicking here.

Source: UCAN

Top Stories