A little quiz question for today, what do the Pope, the Queen, David Cameron and Bono have in common?
Well, if you said the Pope is head of the Catholic Church, the Queen is the head of State for Britain and the Church of England, David Cameron is the head of the present Government, and Bono has a big head, then head would be the connection and you might be right and, actually, that is a right answer too, when you think about it.
But that’s not the answer we’re looking for today, so, sorry if you said that but good thinking just the same.
The answer we’re looking for is, and this might surprise some people, they all say or think they are Christians but in reality none of them are, which might surprise some people since two of them are heads of Christian Churches and at least one of them thinks they are God.
So, how is that the right answer, I hear you say? Well, I was at mass a couple of weeks ago and the priest was talking about the reading that day, which was the one about how it would be ‘easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God ’ (or heaven, anyway, same thing). And he went on about wealth and poverty and I was sitting there thinking, ‘Well what about the Vatican?’ I almost got up and said it, and if it had been another priest I might have, but this priest is old and retired and then I thought, ‘Well he’s not Rome so why harass him about it’. And then yesterday we were back on the money question with the story of the Widow's Mite. Now, I go to mass, I consider myself Catholic, definitely not a Roman Catholic but Catholic in the original sense of the word, which comes from the Greek and means ‘universal’, and that is how I consider myself. I am a member of the ‘universal church of humanity’.
I was in Rome a couple of years ago and while there was a lot to see, from an historical perspective, I didn’t particularly like the place and I certainly didn’t feel too inspired by the ‘Christianity’ of the Vatican, and wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back any time soon. When I was there, I was hoping for some profound spiritual experience and the nearest I got to encountering anything like that was looking at Michelangelo's Pieta, which is in St Peters and is a stunningly beautiful piece of sculpture. If you ever go to Rome, I couldn’t recommend going to see this highly enough.
The other big attraction was the Sistine Chapel and, honestly, I felt a bit let down by it. Firstly, it’s not really a chapel, as you would imagine, it’s just another room in the Vatican and by the time you get to it, you have passed through so many rooms painted from floor to ceiling with angels and the like, that your eye is a bit tired by the overload.
I had the same thing in the Renaissance section of the Louvre, I remember coming out and thinking, ‘If I see one more picture of the dead Christ…!’ And, for the record, the painting of God creating Adam, which I had always imagined was this huge painting across a domed ceiling, is in fact a small panel in the centre of the ceiling about 5ft by 3ft. (it probably is bigger than that, but from my perspective, that is how it appeared). The place was also packed, it was a hot day and, between the crowd, the stifling air and the smell of body odour, it wasn't a pleasant experience.
Anyway, what got me about it, was the wealth of art in the Vatican museum and, also, the fact that the Pope lives like an earthly king. He lives in a palace, is surrounded by lackeys and riches, he is dressed in expensive robes, waited on hand and foot and separated from the people. He is supposed to be Jesus’ representative on earth, how is that anything like Jesus? And another thing, he is supposed to be infallible, says who? I would like to know where that idea came from? He can’t be infallible, he is a human being, it isn’t possible, all humans are flawed and imperfect, it’s the most interesting thing about us. Just think how boring it would be, if we were all perfect and flawless?
When you look at it, everything about the Pope goes against everything Jesus preached about and the same goes for the Queen. It is a complete hypocrisy to have a Queen as head of any Christian church and the same applies to David Cameron and Bono, you cannot be that rich and be a Christian, it just isn’t possible, you may perform Christian acts now and again, but as long as you are sitting with all those millions (and avoiding paying tax) you are not and never can be a Christian in the truest and only sense of the word.
And since we’re on the subject of Churches and religion, any religion that differentiates between men and women is wrong, especially if the Bible is a big part of the religion, because one of the first statements in the Book of Genesis says, that God made them, male and female, both equal. That’s it, equal, no more, no less, equal. Not the Animal Farm kind of equal, where ‘everyone is equal, only some are more equal than others’, no, not that one. There was no qualification to it, all equal, no argument.
And if you really believed in the God of the Bible, you couldn’t regard any human being as not being your equal, (or as discussed in previous blogs, of equal value), because if you believe God made everything, then to say that a woman is something less than a man, is to insult God. If God made them equal then who is any human being to say that Her/His/It’s creation, woman, is something less, when they are both human. The value for what He/She/It has created, then extends to everything because if you truly believed that, then you have to consider that everything that God has created is of value to God, otherwise it would not exist.
Which makes it very arrogant and insulting to go traipsing around claiming dominion over other lands and other human beings and treating them badly, or as your own personal property. Because if everything is God’s creation then, maybe it’s time we started to really think about that and consider how we are living and how we treat other people and the planet. Maybe it’s time we cleaned up our act and started taking care of what we have been given because whether there is or isn’t a God, and whether you believe or don’t believe in a God, we only have a short time here so why don’t we do our best to live well and respectfully, and try and make life better for everyone.
I mean, does the Queen, David and Bono, and all those other millionaires and billionaires, really need all that money. They can’t spend it in a lifetime and it won’t buy them another life. They can’t take it with them so what do they need it for, to feed their egos and make them feel like they are successful, that they are better human beings than the rest of us?
Sorry, but the bad news about that is, if you can sit with millions or billions in a bank while on this planet another human being is dying for the want of something as basic as food, then you have failed in the most important area of life, you have failed as a human being and you have certainly failed as a Christian.
What are we here for, if not to live, life is supposed to be lived is it not? Why does it always feel that life is something to be endured or survived, why can we not just live and live well? We speculate and ponder on the meaning of life and maybe it is something as simple as that, to live it and live it well.
Comments as usual, are always welcome.
Lots of food for thought here Aideen.
The RCC would say that the infallibilty of the pope refers not to his sinlessness - but rather to his infallibiltiy with regard to matters of doctrine (and teaching i guess), they do, of course, point to the bible as their basis. I don't agree with them. They would alos argue that the doctrine applies to all bishops not just the pope. The dcotrine was first formerly established as late as 1870 -in the First Vatican Council, however, it is clearly seen in RCC history at least as far back as 1215 - the implication being that only those who subjected themselves to papal authority had the hope of heaven (a clear contradiction of bibilcial teaching). It is also interesting to note that the RCC believes that Protestants are anathema - but muslims are not since they believe in the Abrahmic God.
As to the money thing - I don't think being rich precludes an individual from being a christian, the bible teaches that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. I do however believe that those with money should use it, unreservedly, for the good of others - give it all away. After all, as you point out, no-one could possible spend those huge fortunes ammassed by various means. I understand Bill Gates is extremely philanthropic - possibly due to the tax laws in the US, but, it seems to me that they have a far more sensible approach to wealth in many ways - could this be because they are a nation founded on those who were persectuted for their religious beliefs? (leaving aside the Native American indigenous peoples of course).
Anyway, nice to meet you and read your comments. have a great day