Hey, so I missed a few weeks there. Like, maybe seven or eight of them. Who’s to say. In site, back on track, working hard, blogging again. Gonna run through a couple of still-relevant backlog posts along with my regular stuff, now that there is regular stuff again.
Here we go:
My mother Natalia is real religious, muy católica, and it’s creeped out of her in more than a couple of conversations. If this gets back to anyone in the family, you folks know I’m Catholic and I’m far away from criticizing. I think that in the US, religion has gotten so wrapped up in wedge politics and has been so captured by the Reagan big-tenters that it’s difficult for any liberal to go in wholeheartedly. At one end you’ve got evangelicals trying to oppose the truisms of modern science at every turn (and not even the stuff that matters anymore, they’re fighting century-old battles like evolution or new ones like climate change that, when you think even medium-hard, have nothing to do with religion). At the very worst, empiricism says that there’s no evidence for the Divine, and that if you want it you’ve got to take it on faith, which is, you’ll recall, about the same boat we’ve been in since Aquinas.
The problem is that once you’ve gotten into political ground, everything’s got to take on a dialectical opposition. So if you aren’t a snake handler or a Borat-featured misunderstander of what speaking in tongues actually means (hint: ‘tongue’ means language in this context, not gibberish you make by waggling your own) you find yourself in the secular camp, which in recent years has taken on a haughty, self-satisfied smugness towards religion, which in the Western world played host to all the great minds for the last two thousand years. It’s not a bevy of idiots, is what I’m saying, but that’s lost on us because of its current most visible representatives. Another trainee told me he was glad he didn’t have enough Spanish to understand the Mass because that way he could get through it without laughing. I’m sure he didn’t mean it so badly, but he expressed a feeling exemplative of the current climate.
It’s a viewpoint that chooses to ignore the centuries of thought and philosophy that went into the ritual of th emass, and even if you think all godliness is ridiculous, there’s a beauty to be had regardless. It’s a worldwide body, expressing their prayers and their hopes and their fears in unison, and that’s a level of brotherhood seldom achieved. You’ve got to keep it in mind, even if the bishops in the US have their hearts set on corralling the sexual world and casting their hard won positions into the political arena.
Natalia made some offhanded remarks about vegetarianism going right along with atheism, and she’s not all wrong, in a correlative if not a causal sense. If you took a survey of American vegans and vegetarians, and definitely the same in our program here, I think you’d find a pretty excellent correlation with disregard for organized religion and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be that way, and really makes no sense that it is that way. All the reasons you’d have for abstaining from meat—concern for the animals involved and the impact that their farming has on the environment, for example—those should all resonate with a good Catholic. Saint Francis, for one, would be right with you.
We’ve been told that if you think religion is dumb, you should politely decline the invitations to Mass and to tell your parents that you aren’t religious but that you respect religion. What we should have been told is to endeavor, truly, to respect it, and to find the common ground between our beliefs and those of our hosts, and to struggle to reconcile them. If Peace Corps is about understanding, that’s exactly where it ought to start.