Friday, December 07, 2007

Pilgramages: when it's Hindus it's cute, when its Catholics it's hypocrisy

The Pope has said that a visit to Lourdes can cut a person's stay in Purgatory short. News organizations, particularly the BBC, are laughing out loud at this like it's buying your way to heaven. But let's look at other examples of prayer and pilgrimage, like the Hindu pilgrimage to the Ganges or other holy sites to pray. Or the "Kumbh Mela", which has gotten an exploitative film treatment lately. Both pilgrimages absolve a person of certain amounts of Karma, meaning that the person who does them can "go to heaven" easier, but the meaning is in the religious devotion, which is thought to purify the soul. No one would suggest that Hindus making one of these pilgrimages were self centered people trying to get a shortcut to heaven. But when it comes to Catholics, the idea that there's more to making a pilgrimage than just showing up one day and saying "Hi!" is not even considered. A pilgrimage to Lourdes is a complex and involved thing with components of prayer, confession, mass attendance, devotions, aimed at purifying the soul for approaching Our Lady of Lourdes.

Buying indulgences! Oh my! You know what indulgences were? They were the idea that if you gave a portion of your income to charitable works that you were performing a spiritual act. But Protestants invented the idea that you needed faith alone to be a good Christian, which is why all the soup kitchens and charitable orders actually serving the poor, with a few exceptions, are Catholic and not Protestant. Protestants are too busy believing in "faith alone" to help their fellow man like their own Gospels tell them to do, and they blame Catholics who care about helping the poor for corrupting the Church through their 'shortcuts to heaven' through charitable acts.

If all the Protestant churches in the U.S. would seriously devote themselves to helping icky poor and homeless people instead of serving as Sunday fashion shows for the well off and purveyors of escapist fantasies regarding "The Rapture" for the less well off this country would have the problem of hunger and of people not meeting basic needs solved.

But........that would conflict with Pastor Luther's modernizing project.

Like Dickens and others have said, Protestantism has allowed people to be greedy bastards six days out of the week and pious for one.

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