29 December 2011

Apologetics? I wish.

Here we go again. Another religious entry, dammit.

Maybe I am reading things wrong or too quickly, maybe I am missing some information, maybe just plain not doing enough research, maybe understanding things poorly, maybe misunderstanding the cross-generational cut, but in the cross-section of eloquent-to-non-eloquent responses I have seen in regards to just about any version of dogmatic interpretation (and believe me, I've seen quite a bit since my last post on this topic, not to mention over the whole course of my life), the information people have seems to be drastically short of substance somehow. A quark or two off from understanding the number one ethical basis of life: how the greatest law of life is love; and how genuine, earnest application of that basic, underlying, cemented root of ALL things is non-refundable, non-interchangeable, and absolute.

To me, neither side totally has it. But then again, I probably don't have it, either. I just had to say something. I just spent some more time scanning Catholic forums and was stunned at the sheer volume of inaccuracy. Such is the way of forums, and I am no studied theologian, but I was stunned. Stunned that there is no loving guide to put the retarder brakes on the snowball of misinformation going on, stunned at the gross number of people going round and round, already misrepresenting a whole slew of information, and dismayed that it will end up justifying some crazy-ass, wanked out position, or get in the hands of some already-jaded atheist.

Now, before I go turning you off with the implication that I am about to present the grand Pooba motherload of horsecrap, based on my perception, and call it "truth," just simmer down and take a breath. I'm not going to do that. Actually, I did do that, in the first paragraph, but if you haven't picked up on it before now, my entries concerning this subject are more defensive, as though I were attempting to speak to the heftiest of opposition.

It is, for lack of a better way to put it, a debate that I am having in my own head, having been sparked by this debate several years ago. Since that debate, I've been on a mission of sorts to better equip myself for answering the questions this debate called to light, since I have what I feel is a huge, deep-seeded desire to not only root for the underdog and for justice, but to hopefully provide a thorough presentation of something that is difficult enough to be summed up in a lifetime, much less a 2-hour debate. If I could stammer and fumble my way through a good conversation with Chris Hitchens, I'd consider myself pretty lucky.

I know it seems kind of silly, especially when it's just this one debate. But I've seen massive piles more of these kinds of things since this interview. I've read and reviewed articles on this subject, researched and double-checked actual dogmas, talked with priests and laypeople, discovered people who are trying to do what I'm doing but with limited understanding of the dogma (which then slips the slippery slope into rhetoric) and been a lifelong Catholic.

In addition to carefully swallowing every bit that an atheist, agnostic, or otherwise oppositional has had to say that I've come across, I've also been full of my own doubts. I cannot honestly sit here and say I've been a staunch Catholic from day one to year 32. One of the recurring themes seeming to surface as I go on a scavenger hunt for people with elevated intelligence on this subject is that wherever there is honest-to-goodness, hardball points to be made in opposition to the church, and to religion in general, this guy is there.

My dad, a rather devout Mexican Catholic, taught me that it was more important to search for the truth than to stay Catholic. He told my brothers and I that as long as we were on a quest for truth, that was more important than keeping a label. And from my mom, I learned the importance of being loyal to your beliefs.

That is what allows me to detach from the Catholic label and approach the topic as a person of freewill, compassion, and understanding for hard truths in the hearts of the most deeply-rooted opposition. Because maybe that's what Jesus would do. Jesus seemed to always speak for the underdog, the down trodden, the heavy-laden. I know for sure he didn't come to this world to free of us eternal death with the word "catholic" printed on his swaddling clothes.

But there is such a huge part of me that is deeply rooted in this discussion of faith and debate of ideals, this clashing of the masses, because humanity is capable of great love and love is the single most important, weighted, and valuable thing in this life. It is the element in which we do everything---e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g---it is the place from where all that is good transpires and doing good is rooted.

And so, that is the underlying principle, argument, and artillery I have to speak my ideas. Love. Unconditional love. Unwaivering love. The kind of love so strong and so pure that you would sacrifice personal comfort for. Epic love. The kind Dante had for his Beatrice. Or Romeo for his Juliet. Only those are just a snippet of what divine love is, and they still messed it up because they were humans. (Are you getting it now? Do you get how strong pure, thorough, and encapsulating divine love is? Okay, stay with me, don't worry about it for now.) God has that love for us, but on an unfathomable level. It is so ridiculously high above us and warm and comforting that to see that level of love, the brightness, the acceptance, the warmth, and the joy that is Him that we could not handle such a sight in its fullest form. You know, without dying and all, that is.

It is, also, coincidentally, the single most inspiring notions ever to beget the human race.

It is, also, totally and completely skewed by human vision with human trials and errors and feelings.

Our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions work to shade our eyes from that love in various degrees and intensities, much like sunglasses. It's not that the sun got dimmer, it's that we put something over our eyes.

Understanding this makes it easier to understand the pain of another human being. It also makes you want to judge less. It makes you want to do the things it will take to get you closer to that purer light. It also makes you realize that a creator of such divine love is a creator that could never forget his children, who could never be a god of wrath and of vengeance, or of capriciousness. The church needs to remember this and make it its focus; and the opposition, regardless of how high or low, needs to consider this.

Being able to come to some compromise in such a debate as this would be the application of that love in every sense. Loyalty, humility, passion. What are we doing when we spout out secular or religious truths in a way that is unpolished, incongruent, abridged, or deficient? Sparred out of pain or confusion?

We are simply just finding places for our pain to take root, that's what. Pain that comes from not having our questions answered truthfully and feeling left out at sea. And hard questions about the church, too: female priests, homosexuality, abortion. And that is hard to watch.

I mean, I've done it, too. We all do. We find moments of righteous frustration and we focus on them as being right. And as long as no one is offering to provide provable, solvable, tangible answers that change our mind, we keep on going. That is part of our human experience. We are not exempt from it.

But what if it wasn't so cut and dry as any one side puts it? What if it was?

Here's the thing: I think it is cut and dry. But not by us. By the divine creator, by our Savior, and the Spirit who guides us all. We have a duty to hold our brothers and sisters responsible, yes, but not to judge them. If the One who loves us loves us so much, then we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Period. Sinner or not. It is cut and dry in a way that in the face of His love, we will know our mistakes automatically, but it will be a private moment because our relationship with God is as individual as each one of us. As long as we choose Him, no matter our mistakes and atoning for them, we will be comforted in His arms.

There are no easy solutions, and that is probably why I will never be able to win a debate of this kind. But I have read as much on the lives of the saints as I have wonky forums, and I still get rather passionate about the plethora of ideas that circulate out there.

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