The “OP-ED” Piece

I see the Crystal Cathedral is going transepts up.   

It’s that really impressive looking, almost all glass house of worship located in  Garden Grove, CA.   Architect Phillip Johnson designed the main sanctuary building which seats 2,736 persons.   The building was constructed using over 10,000 rectangular panes of glass.  Interesting fact:  the panes aren’t bolted to the structure; they’re instead glued to it using a silicone-based glue. This and other measures are intended to allow the building to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8.0.

But apparently, NOT a recession.

The church, founded by Rev. Robert H. Schuller the former host of the once popular,  “Hour of Power” TV show,  is broke–some $43 million in the hole.  Elders blame the economic downtown.   Seems the congregation numbers are lagging and so are donations and tithing.  As a result, the organization declared bankruptcy this week in a collapse blamed by some on its inability to keep up with the times and a problem in the fairly recent shift in power from Daddy Schuller to Junior.   Not sure what the problem is exactly and frankly, I’m not sure I care.

The church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which will allow it to keep operating while it tries to put its finances in order under court supervision. The church said that for the time being, “Hour of Power” will remain on the air and the Crystal Cathedral will continue operating as usual, but what this really is, is a call to arms.   A cattle call of sorts, for donors.  What Church officials aren’t saying is that they’re hoping for little widowed and wrinkled, blue-haired miracles with check books and working Bic pens. 

Oh, yes they are!     Because sadly, this is what organized religion does.   It’s all about the money.   And this bothers me.  It bothers me that little old ladies will hand over their life savings thinking this Church and its sleek glass construction is some direct pipeline to the Almighty.   They think writing a hefty check can help them barter real absolution and I’m bothered immensely that these money mongers will take it, under the guise of religion.    Oh yes, make no mistake— these days, I’m bothered by so much.   What’s annoying me these days is religion and politics and yes, even civil rights…our own, namely.  

Let’s tackle religion first.  As a little girl, I was always confounded by the Catholicism that I had to endure.    Yes, I used the word “endure” because that’s what it felt like–utter captivity for an hour every Sunday morning and the occasional High Holy Day.   

I grew up in South Central Texas, some 50 miles southeast of San Antonio.  My hometown was predominately Catholic because of its Hispanic and Czech/Polish population and because of certain cultural limitations, that meant Catholicism that was more dogmatic;  made that way because of fear and guilt-infused superstition.  I grew up amidst very narrow thinking in terms of ways to seek and receive spiritual deliverance.  I do believe that most people believed in a God that was more sorcerer than anything else.  I believed they believed in magic and needed the hocus pocus in order to believe.  They didn’t have the…dare I say the intellectual bandwidth…to have blind faith and nothing else.    That’s not a condemnation; that’s just an explanation.  These were simple people who worked their land or someone elses.  Education was an extravagance and back then, deemed an unnecessary one.

For example;  I would read the Church bulletin which included all these blurbs about upcoming events: “Please attend the crowning of the Virgin Mary”.    

Why?

Or I’d read about some Church holiday that required going to Mass, then getting in line to kiss Jesus’ feet as these two strapping Altar Boys  are forced to struggle with a heavy crucifix while a smaller, younger lad wipes off the feet after each kiss…as if THAT was sanitary.   Then of course, there was the recitation of the “Stations of the Cross”.  This involved praying in stages at stopping points.  We’re talking framed photos placed intermittently on the walls of the church.  They depicted scenes of Jesus’ final hours.    It’s big with us Catholics; not entirely alien in the Anglican and  Lutheran churches, though rarely an applied part of their worship.    We do it a lot during Lent, especially on Good Friday.

Again, why?

I used to kind of “dig” Church’s pomp and circumstance and how it stood on ceremony.  Now, I’m rather bemused by it all.   Seems like a colossal waste of time and resources, but if that’s what floats your ecclesiastical boat, row on.  

As Christians, we’re told that God is omniscient; omnipresent and omnipotent, right?  As Catholics, we’re told that we have to enter a tiny little confessional with a priest situated on the other side of this screen (or these days, right in front of my face in full human Technicolor) and go through another human being to find absolution.   If God is all those things, why confess to a priest? And wouldn’t the loving, benevolent New Testament God forgive me anyway, automatically??    To me, the Catholic way is in total conflict with its own teachings and therefore,  just doesn’t make sense.  But many have argued that this human to human act of confessing has psychological ramifications; that it’s harder to do and requires more penitent behavior to confess to another person, as opposed to just spewing forth every sin privately.   Just you and that invisible force called faith.   

I have a confession to make:   when after school Catechism classes included going to confession, sometimes I’d lie to the priest.   As an eight year old, I just wasn’t committing that many venial sins!   Sorry!!!   Still, how appalled the Church would be!!     It would probably also frown at the fact that I’ve interviewed psychics and even gone to a few and found several to be frighteningly correct in their conveyed prophecies.   The Church would probably be a bit miffed to learn that instead of Sister Angelica, I sometimes watch Joel Osteen on Sunday mornings.  Joel’s message is OK.  I like it because it’s not overtly messianic.  

Now, I will admit before God and you, gentle reader, that I simply can’t handle all the Jesus talk.  Sorry, but I can’t.  I can talk about Jesus philosophically, but when it gets to the salvation, part—uh-uh.    Glenn Beck kept me interested to a degree with his show when he’d discuss all those Constitutional issues, but lost me when he kept talking about his being saved by Jesus.  Bully for him, just keep it to yourself, GB.   Why does this turn me off?   I don’t know exactly,  but it does and it did even when I was a child.   I was raised with this premise, but it just seemed to always be in conflict with how I felt about God.   I have no doubt about that existence. 

And believe me, I don’t have a Christian bias,  to which you might call bullshit and that’s OK.  That would be your right, remember?   But you’d be wrong.   Here, permit me to beat you to the punch.     G.K. Chesterton once scribed:

There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions

I understand  how one might think me inclusively exclusive  in what I say, but I assure you, that’s not how I feel.   I play no favorites.  I get turned off by all religions, yet have no issue at all with anyone’s belief system.  Nor should anyone have a problem with mine.   As part of my live and let live approach, I believe that saying Merry Christmas is just fine.     Or not.    There can be a nativity scene anywhere one wants to place one, but by the same token, don’t bitch about seeing a Star of David erected publicly.

I think out of respect for the victims of 9/11,  there SHOULDN’T be a mosque included in any of the building(s) that will replace the World Trade Center.  But legally; constitutionally, how could construction be blocked especially if the planned $100 million Islamic mosque and community center would be built two blocks from the World Trade Center site and not where exactly where the seven buildings once stood  And we all know, those structures were toppled nine years ago, by 19-hijackers who practiced  an extremely radical form of Islam.   

And therein lies the problem.   Some experts say the proverbial apple rarely falls far from the tree when it comes to Islam in general.  They contend that Islam can become rabid at the drop of a hat.   Well,  I don’t know that much about this particular religion’s culture or its propensity towards zealotry and I would think that most Americans  share this ignorance.    That said, this mosque issue is going to be a tough sell convincing the other of the opposing opinion.  This is one incredibly polarizing issue and here’s why:  the mosque will be situated two blocks away from Ground Zero proper, but let’s discuss where it’s being built specifically:  on vacant property along Park Place, the former site of a Burlington Coat Factory that had been razed because it was severely damaged by airplane debris on September 11th.  

Hijacked airplanes debris, mind you.    Knowing why this land was made vacant changes things a bit, does it not?

Then again, can the new World Trade Center buildings once built, forbid observant Muslims from working there, based on the same reasoning?? 

This looks like every nun I've ever known

So does this...

I’m all about individual belief systems or the lack thereof,  for that matter. 

Burkas–wear one if your constitutionally protected right to practice a religion which mandates modesty among female members and therefore, women should be covered up.   Why wouldn’t a burka be OK?  Why do they seem so alien?  They shouldn’t.   I was taught catechism classes by nuns wearing the Catholic equivalent.  They were just as covered up.

Additionally,  I think we should be able say what we think without fear of retribution…..as long as it’s not truly injurious or slanderous.  

Remember Carrie Prejean? 

She was Miss California and the Miss USA 2009 first runner-up. Prejean received national attention after pageant judge and gossip blogger, Perez Hilton used his final question in the Miss USA pageant to ask Prejean about same-sex marriage laws in the U.S.   She said she was opposed to it and as a result, Prejean was stripped of her Miss California USA crown for alleged breaches of contract.   Hilton, who’s openly gay, crucified her in his blog.   What right did he have to do that?   He’s not married and by the looks of him, I’m not thinking he’ll be ordering his “save the date” cards any time soon, either.

I think what happened to Carrie Prejean was wrong and grossly unfair.     What happened to opinion and the freedom to express them?  Do the P.C. police only exist if you get offended???   Funny how that works.   It certainly keeps the likes of Janine Garofalo and Bill O’Reilly employed.

What it all boils down to is simple.  If you think Bush was/is an idiot and the worst president ever, OK, you have the right to opine that, but by the same token, I should be able to call Obama the threat to Democracy that I think he is, without being called a “tea bagging redneck bigot”.    I’m not asking for tolerance, just fairness and sometimes, that means  allowing  variables and turning the other cheek to things you don’t want or like, but in the interest of fair play, you do it anyway.   You eat it and you eat it quietly.

So, if you’re an atheist or a fervent John Bircher, that’s OK.   If you’re a Mormon, groovy.  A Bahá’í?   That’s your call.  If you choose to exercise your freedom of religion by hugging trees and dancing naked in the forest during a full moon while worshipping a wooden likeness of TV’s Samantha Stevens from “Bewitched”, I’m cool with it.    And  if  every February, you want to commemorate your belief that a ground hog-slash-prophet was killed and buried by the jealous and the power mad ground hogs from his same phyla, then reanimated a week later, exiting his grave only to see his shadow and then promptly determining that there will be six more weeks of NFL post season on the WB,  fine.   Just don’t talk about it.  

In other words, don’t ask/don’t proselytize. 

.

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2 comments on “The “OP-ED” Piece

  1. Phil says:

    LK, you once again cover a lot of ground with your writing, leaving lots of nuggets out there to examine, explore, and think about. We had similar upbringings with regard to Religion and I am struck by how I’ve come to many similar conclusions as you, much to the dismay and chagrin I am sure, of the most reverend officials of the cloth. I think you strike a good balance between tolerance and freedom, along with a good jaundiced eye for the power and resulting potential for abuse of power and money in most all organized religions.

  2. Sarah says:

    Well done. One of your best. Crystal Cathedral, located about 20 miles north of where I live, has been a destination of mine many times over, through the years. It IS a sight to behold! I think Schuller was more honest about his “calling” in the early years but slowly became a mere shadow of his former self. His son took over for a while but failed; he simply didn’t have the “gift.” Boring. At least Sr was a great communicator. I, too, wrestled with organized religion for years & dumped it long ago. Dogma simply sucked too much. In lieu, I try to practice a universal application of The Golden Rule to pilot my ship. Anyway, thanks for another well-written piece expressing very similar thoughts on religion to my own. I know you are a very spirtual person — but that is quite different from being a “religious” one.

And now, you may opine your ass off...

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