Saturday, 17 September 2011

Things People Do in the Name of God

I've always thought 'love God, hate organised religion' is a pretty good umbrella under which this bunny and others can define our faith in the man upstairs. I'm fortunate in having met an a multitude of people whose faith played a significant part in their lives, and it would be fair to say that this firm belief in 'something higher' was an overwhelmingly positive influence on the character and outlook of those I have come across.

Of course I'm well aware that this is not always the case - history is littered with individuals whose 'organised religion' was little more than a militia, masquerading under the guise of one set of beliefs or another. Faith has also taken some strange and wholly transparent forms, most notably those cults whose leaders steal the time, money and in some cases the innocence of their (it should be said, rather weak-willed) followers. They say that when someone else has said something better than you ever could, it might be unwise making a futile attempt to out-articulate them, so here's Malpoet on that subject - http://malpoet.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/warren-jeffs-mormon-child-rapist/

The issue of the effect that a misplaced or misinterpreted faith has on their actions resurfaced again this week, after Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott and colleague Danny Kennedy found themselves in hot water after a complaint was made by the Sandy Row lodge of the Orange Order (of whom they are members) against them. The Northern Irish assembly MPs face disciplinary proceedings, with expulsion from the Order presumably an option on the table.

Serious stuff - so what was their crime?

PC Ronan Kerr was killed by a car bomb planted outside his home in Omagh in April. As much as the murder itself was a disturbing throwback to troubled times, the manner in which all sides of the political discussion clearly condemned these actions (for which the Real IRA took credit) at least suggested that if the hatred and bigotry that defined a generation had not completely gone away (and if we're being honest, it probably never will dissipate entirely) such prejudicial sentiments were being distinctly marginalised by those in the public arena. Kerr's funeral saw a unique arrangement where the police and Gaelic Athletic Association gave a joint guard of honour.

Kerr was a Catholic, but the passing of a man who served his community attracted many who wished to pay their respects, regardless of faith or denomination. Elliott and Kennedy, both Protestants and public servants themselves, were among them. Now, according to some half-wit in South Belfast, this constitutes two men who have "sold their principles for political expediency" - and no, I'm not making that up. Contrast that with Elliott's explanation of events that attending  the funeral of a policeman who had been murdered was "right for the entire society of Northern Ireland and, maybe more importantly, right for the Kerr family. We did what we believed was the honourable thing and certainly I, and I know Danny, has no regrets over that. Danny Kennedy and I are leaders in society, what we want to do is ensure we move Northern Ireland forward. I do not believe it was any sin or crime to go to the funeral of a murdered police officer."

I know who is displaying more sense, decency and compassion from where this bunny is sat, but hey, some of you may think differently. To his great credit, Reverend Brian Kennaway expressed unequivocal disappointment at attempts by the lodge to expel the pair, "Multitudes of Orangemen through Ireland either attend marriage ceremonies or funerals. They see it as paying their respects and as their duty. The vast majority of people, including the leadership are embarrassed by this."

In which case, perhaps the smart thing for the Orange Order to do would be to find the individuals who made the complaint and expel them? Just a thought - at least it would put an end to the macabre spectacle of Sinn Fein's assortment of slimeballs and gangsters claiming the moral high ground.

On that note, anyone who watched 'Question Time' on Thursday night would have taken in the er...unique theory of Martina Anderson, a Sinn Fein MP. She agreed with former Bishop of Londonderry, Edward Daly, who suggested that the ban on priests marrying should be lifted - "One of the things that broke my heart most as bishop was some priests came to me and said they could no longer live a life of celibacy, that they had fallen in love with somebody and they decided to get married. Some of them were really good men and I felt it was a dreadful loss to the Church, to the diocese, to the priesthood, and indeed to themselves in many ways". I'm (nominally) a Protestant and not a Catholic, so it's really none of my business, but Daly's analysis would appear difficult to argue with - more than anything, it would surely be beneficial for both priests and their flock if the advice they were giving was based on more substantial real-life experience?

Martina's reasons for agreement are, however, somewhat different. Her suggestion is that had priests been allowed to marry in the past, then the Catholic church may not have experienced the scale of issues with the sexual abuse of children that took place over many decades (further tragic tales from the victims of paedophile priests are coming to light even now), “I think this is one element of it. Getting married would address that, if you allow for access in an institution for people who are, unfortunately, these kind of men. And if you have then the option of being married you could address some of that.”

This is of course a cocktail of terrifying stupidity and revisionist history. First up, the notion that enforced celibacy in a person's activity with adults somehow drives them to interfere with children is, to put it mildly, absurd. A paedophile is sexually inclined towards children, at least as their 'first preference' above adults either male or female - it is their 'orientation' so to speak.

 In reality, there are two reasons why any organisation might have the endemic problems which the Catholic church has both endured itself in terms of collateral damage, and inflicted upon a multitude of undeserving victims. First up, the position of authority and blind trust enjoyed by a priest over altar boys and the like create perfect conditions in which child molestation could thrive. Then, instead of hearing the cries of the abused and calling in the authorities to investigate them. the church conspired on a widespread scale to cover up the activities of paedophile priests, moving them away from the noise to strike again somewhere else, while silencing the victims in many cases. Trails of stolen innocence could be drawn across Ireland and the United States, and most worryingly, the current Pope was an active participant in the conspiracy.

Believe me, this bunny completely understands why so many people are devoutly atheist. Organised religion does itself no favours whatsoever when it preaches hatred against others, carrying with it a rulebook that forbids the extension of decency and compassion to non-believers. When churches become mini-states of their own, they contrive a 'greater good' just as any Statist entity does. Allowing the molestation of kids to continue in the name of something sacred is of course obscene, but that's exactly what happened amongst the hierarchy of the Catholic church. They had decades to 'address' this scandal, and, helped by a borderline above-the-law status with the authorities, made a conscious decision not to.

I know many good people of differing faiths and indeed none at all - one does not have to be a member of any church to possess admirable qualities and (to quote the song) 'If God was One of us', I very much doubt he'd want to join any of them. This bunny will leave you on that musical note - take care and I'll catch you soon.





1 comment:

  1. Good post Daz. '...it would surely be beneficial for both priests and their flock if the advice they were giving was based on more substantial real-life experience?' I think one of the great problems with organised Christianity is the fact that very often you have men (priests, vicars etc) giving advice about life when they have never lived a real life, being cooped up in theological and seminary colleges, or whatever they're called, for donkeys years, amongst men like themselves with no experience of real life; and Catholic priests then have to be celibate too. In many cases, it is a recipe for disaster, as we have seen.

    There are Christians like myself who have never been to church because of the negative press much organised Christianity has; if it isn't seemingly ruled by control freaks of one kind or another, then it's something equally negative. There's need to be a degree of honesty about it all, instead of all the false niceness that surrounds much of Christianity. If the church isn't reaching out to Christians who want a relationship with Jesus, then what is the point of organised Christianity after all?

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