On the typhoon disaster in the Philippines...
My profound sadness with atheists today; and how difficult it can sometimes be to be a liberal/progressive who defends and supports them
by GREGG DesELMS | Wednesday 20 November 2013
Today, there's a graphic going around Facebook... the one shown with this posting... the one that shows a photo of devastation in the Philippines from what that country calls typhoon Yolanda...
SEE | http://bit.ly/1djjt8n (Google News)
...(the rest of the world calls it typhoon Haiyan), with an upper-lefthand-corner-of-the-photo inset of a set of Roman Catholic prayer beads -- a Rosary -- and then the photo's caption is: "The Catholic organization, 'Rosaries for Life,' has sent 3,000 rosaries to the victims of typhoon Haiyan, in the Philippines, so that they can thank god."
Note that the graphic's maker could not bring himself to capitalize "God;" and, of course, the purpose of the Rosaries was not so that the devastated Filipinos could thank him... or "her," if that's your preference... whichever.
The maker of the photo and its post wanted, at the very least, to point-out the irony of thanking a [G]od who would bring them such troubles (a paradox covered, by the way, in every seminary's first year of study). Others who posted beneath it, and its many shares, made that point, as well as that perhaps it would have been better to send things more practically useful... like food, water, clothing, blankets, medicine, etc.
Here's the graphic's original posting by its maker, a fellow named Jack Gerritsen...
SEE | http://on.fb.me/1fX34UG
...which posting he made a couple days ago (on November 18th). In the ensuing two days, some 15 people, at this writing, have "liked" it, and another over a thousand have shared it on their timelines. That may not sound like a lot, but it probably means that over 10,000 people had it appear on their Facebook newsfeeds yesterday and today. Whether that many people actually saw it, or it got scrolled-down below the point where a lot of them stopped reading their newsfeeds, is unclear. But it's probably safe to say that a whole bunch of people saw it. And, of course, that's fine... free speech and all that. As Voltaire keeps getting blamed for having said (but which his biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, actually more or less put in his mouth), "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
One of those over-a-thousand shares of the graphic was by a close friend, whom I will not here name. Her comment with her share of it was "Oh! And they're so tasty, too," a paraphrase of a line from an old "I Love Lucy" episode.
"Thank you for destroying my life and killing my family! Now let me go pray on that. WTF?" wrote one commenter beneath Gerritsen's original posting.
Wrote another, "Ask them to boil those rosaries to make soup..."
"Fuck Catholics, and all the rest of the self adsorbed [sic] morons!" wrote a third.
"I'd like to crack them upside the head with their useless beads!" wrote one of my friend's friends, beneath her sharing of the graphic; to which comment another of my friend's friends responded, "Well, I'm sure you can't strangle them. I'm sure these are the cheap-o rosaries."
"[T]hank god???? for what????" asked another; to which yet another responded, "...or repent for the sins that brought this horrible natural catastrophe upon them;" about which, upon being challenged, he insisted he was kidding, a tip-off to which he said he had hoped his use of the word "natural" had been. He subsequently amended it all to "[t]he sin of winning too many beauty pageants, perhaps? (Yep, it's a thing. Check the news.)"
Sadly, in their zeal to suggest what would be the more humane and useful thing to send, they both partially get that wrong, as well as make a huge cultural faux pas...
...not to mention the irony of their having done those things in light of their underlying well-intentioned desire for Filipinos to be helped.
So I set about the task of writing a long response, but then decided it was of sufficient importance that I wanted it as an original posting on my own timeline. From there, I've simply put links hereto as my comments in those two threads which so celebrate the graphic. Their participants won't really read it (and especially re-think their actions), of course, but I'm hoping you will.
Here it is...
The group's name is "Rosaries for Life." When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail; and all they have are Rosaries.
Yes, they should have either also sent -- or sent instead -- food and water and clothing and blankets and medicine and other needed and more practicallly useful things: no argument, here.
However, the Philippines is an extraordinarily Roman Catholic country, where Rosaries play a huge role in both daily and occasional religious life. They give comfort, and help to reinforce multiple lifetimes of historical tradition and ritual, based upon a deep and abiding faith which takes place in a country nevertheless ravaged, over time, by war, famine, storms, invasion (and concomitant rape as weaponry), and all manner of other things which most Americans can barely even fathom, much less have experienced; and in a country, still, where such as being a Burger King Manager is considered a good job; and physicians make the equivalent of $500(US) per month.
Literally thousands of persons have been lost to the storm in the Philippines; buried in mass graves, which so goes against the grain of Filipinos that I was actually surprised when I saw on TV that the first mass grave had been filled. To underestimate, then, the profound need to both dig and use one would be a huge mistake. Trust me, no Filipino would agree to it if it weren't absolutely necessary: that's how bad are things there.
The mourning of the families and friends of the dead in Filipino culture begins immediately, and lasts for up to 40 days, every single one of them containing a novena for the dead, usually at the home of the deceased, lasting a good, long time each evening; and including the repetition of the Rosary, using prayer beads, an almost unbelievable (to most Americans) number of times... so many times, in fact, that it makes even Mother Angelica and her on-air (on EWTN) novenas, and their repetitive saying of the Rosary with her Sisters at the Our Lady of the Angels monastery...
SEE | http://bit.ly/1cHiBoV
...look like a buncha' pikers! Filipinos love to repeat... and repeat... and repeat... and... well... you get the picture... the Rosary.
The mourning continues, and more novenas are additionally said periodically throughout the year; and especially on the one-year anniversary of the death.
Such ritual moments are times of profound anguish and sorrow over the loss of loved ones; and that loss is not gotten over by Filipinos in the same manner, or with the same speed, as in Western culture.
And prayer beads could simply not be a more important part of the Filipino mourning (and other faith) practice(es)...
...and here's the thing: THOUSANDS OF FILIPINOS' PRAYER BEADS -- ALONG WITH THE LIVES OF THEIR LOVED ONES -- WERE LOST IN THE STORM.
You all, in your smug and smarter-than-anyone-else-in-the-room atheism, and the insensible and cruel ridicule of those of faith which seems to naturally accompany it, would appear to deny Filipinos of deep and abiding faith that which both gives them such comfort in their time of strife, as well as is critically necessary for them to engage in the both culturally- and spiritually-mandatory rituals of their both mourning and very lives.
Even if you cannot understand faith, just generally -- or, especially the Filipino brand of it --- your nevertheless knowing that it exists and is of tremendous importance to them does not keep you from being so callous and cruelly insensitive that you would deny them that which so many of them consider at least as important as food, water, medicine, clothing or blankets. From your smug and arrogant Western perspective, you would presume to know, for them, what they really need? Really?
Moreover, you've all taken your collective eye off the ball, in any case. What's wrong with "Rosaries for Life" isn't that it sent Rosaries to the Philippines. Rather, the problem with "Rosaries for Life" is its pro-life, anti-abortion work... the very reason for which the group was formed, and no doubt the precise opposite of what you all believe.
They're a bunch of ultra-conservative, pre-Vatican-II, Latin-Mass-loving, spiritual warrior nutjobs who think they can, from the organization's website, "save the unborn and other lives at risk by restoring a 'Culture of Life' in the United States, and from there, the world" by "...a massive outpouring of Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets said for the triumph of the Culture of Life in our country. If Catholics would pray and act as they should, the Culture of Death would be put to rout in our country. This battle is primarily spiritual warfare, and it's time we finally get organized as an army. Why the rosary? The power of the rosary is overwhelming. Archbishop Burke recently said, 'All Catholics throughout the nation should...pray the Rosary for the restoration of the respect for human life... In the present crisis, praying daily the Rosary for our nation and invoking daily the intercession of Mary Help of Christians will be powerful forces for the victory of life and love.' Regarding the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Our Lord told Saint Faustina, 'Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will.'"
SOURCE | http://bit.ly/1fkdnEL | The Rosaries for Life website
You wanna' take issue with the "Rosaries for Life" people? Fine. But do it for the right reasons. Their sin is denying women their choice and control over their bodies, not replacing the prayer beads of thousands of now-mourning Filipinos who need them for reasons which have nothing to do with what "Rosaries for Life" intends.
The "Rosaries for Life" people are including their pro-life propaganda with all those Rosaries they're sending to the Philippines; but, trust me, the Filipinos there are just going to throw that propaganda away, without, most likely, even reading it (after all, they've understandably got a lot on their minds right now, even if they, too, are pro-life), and will, instead, simply begin to use the Rosaries in their mourning, where they're so sorely needed because they've all lost their Rosaries in the storm.
"Rosaries for Life," then, will not have achieved its goal of propagandizing Filipinos who don't already have pro-life beliefs to that way of thinking with its 3,000 Rosaries. But the organization, for good or bad, will have provided those Filipinos with what they will see as a Godsend in their time of grief... a grief which may only be responded to with non-optional cultural and religious custom and ritual that absolutely requires the use of said Godsend.
Perhaps the Lord, then, works in mysterious ways, after all. S/he's at least got a sense of humor, you must admit.
I love [my friend's name redacted], the starter of this thread; and I understand the point that the graphic she shared in its thread-starting post is trying to make. I even agree with it, at least superficially. And I've long known of -- and have been no fan of -- "Rosaries for Life"; and so I delight in that it's going to so miss its spiritual warfare target in this particular case.
But as with all things of this nature, the realities are nuanced, and complicated (or at least complex), and profoundly human...
...and so defies, prima facie, the intolerant, cold, hard, and dismissive rationality, reason and judgement of atheists who, in their zeal to prove that we of faith are both wrong and ridiculous, manage to so deeply wound with their words and actions that I can scarcely find a means of adequately articulating it, here (though I'm doing, as you can probably tell, my best).
As writer (and atheist) Tibor Krausz recently deftly wrote in his piece, "Atheists: A Rant," on the Killing the Buddha website, "[t]he mere fact of not believing in the supernatural doesn’t make you a well-grounded rational individual, let alone a humane soul."
"Judging by their lack of intellectual honesty and conceptual coherence, many of my fellow atheists appear to be rather sophomoric, no offense. Much of 'new atheistic' discourse these days, so lovingly trotted out on social media from Facebook to YouTube, isn’t so much about taking a principled stance against religious obscurantism; rather, it has degenerated into a nonstop juvenile lampooning of the faithful for their foibles, real or imagined.
"Latching onto the late and great polemicist Christopher Hitchens’s catchy but wrong-headed dictum that 'religion poisons everything,' my fellow atheists clearly revel in flinging their barbs at all the faithful, seemingly all the time, without any attempt at some distinction among them. Talk about painting with a broad brush.
"Popular atheism is turning into a fad whose main apparent purpose is to make you feel like you belong to an exclusive club of self-styled 'brights' so that you can congratulate yourself on your cerebral superiority to those religious 'morons.'”
SOURCE | http://bit.ly/Hi3FEG | Killing the Buddha
Though they deny the same to me, I respect atheists, despite my deep and abiding Christian faith and chaplaincy. I'm a liberal/progressive Christian of the "Living the Questions" orientation...
SEE | http://on.fb.me/1djgHzU (Living the Questions)
...who's mad-as-hell about how Bible-thumping, Bible-as-weaponry, Biblically literal and inerrant and infallible, conservative Christians have co-opted and misappropriated -- nay, verily absconded with -- the very word "Christianity," and all that it's at least SUPPOSED to mean; doing unspeakable things and harming people in unspeakable ways in its name; and who more revere "The Great Commission" (Matthew 28:16-20) than they do "The Great Commandment" (Matthew 22:35-40).
Though I am not "interfaith" as that term has come to mean (mostly because it has morphed into faith practices which are an amalgam of disparate multiple faith traditions, and so no longer even know that for which they stand); I am undeniably "interspiritual," as Wayne Teasdale coined that term and intended it to mean; and I include in my reverence for other belief systems not only the dozen or so major faith traditions which all include in their sacred texts some form or another of "The Golden Rule;" but unlike most Christians, I also include secular humanists, and have even lobbied for them to have miltary chaplains, for example. I am no enemy, then, of atheists; but they sure seem to be doing their level best to be enemies of me, and others of faith.
It is, then, with profound difficulty that I so often suffer the indignities of derision for my faith at the collective hand of selfish and unthinkingly (and hopefully unintentionally, but I have grave doubts) cruel atheists at moments like this and others. It is with even more difficulty, though, that I witness my friend, whom I love, so cavalierly participating in it. That moves me to nearly as many tears as does the Filipino tragedy, itself.
Please forgive me for being such a downer during the glee of your collective schadenfreude.
Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com
Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.