Tag: Catholic Church

And No Religion Too

One of my fondest memories of childhood is attending Christmas Midnight Mass at my family’s Catholic Church. My cousins and I would bask in the glittering pageantry, well aware that as soon as we got home, all the presents beneath the tree would be vanquished under our attacking hands.

I’m about to become a father. Naturally, I should look forward to taking my own son to Midnight Mass.

Well, I’m not. Because he will not be raised Catholic. In fact, he will not be raised with any religion at all.

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Principle, Ploy, or Pandering?

Earlier this month, some polls implied that President Obama’s support among Latinos was so high that he was “close to maxing out” his lead over Mitt Romney. Think about that — Obama statistically could not get any more popular with Hispanics. The president might explode or something.

But then Obama went ahead and said that he supported gay marriage, and Republicans shouted that Latinos were so outraged that they were going to abandon the Democratic Party and vote for Romney, who of course, is semi-pseudo-quasi Mexican. The only problem with this GOP wishful thinking is that it is not based in reality.

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Why the Bombshell?

OK, this is going to come out as self-righteous, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I’m a straight guy who was raised Catholic. I grew up doing things like Boy Scouts and high school football. When I was a kid, depictions of gay people were rare, and overwhelmingly negative. But despite my relentlessly religious, hetro background, even as a teenager I couldn’t understand why anybody had a problem with gay people.

So I’m mystified why, after decades of social pressure, grown adults are only now saying, “I guess it’s not cool to hate on gays.” Of course, even more amazing is the fact that millions of Americans are still saying, “Yes, it is, because God told me to.”

President Obama’s decision this week to come out in support of gay marriage is breathtaking not only for its boldness, but for the fact that there is any controversy at all. I’m sorry, but try as I might to respect everyone’s religious beliefs, I can’t get past the idea that the supposedly principled stance against homosexuality is nothing more than fear, ignorance, and prejudice.

Now, those are subjects that Latinos know a thing or two about. Perhaps because we’ve felt what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those emotions, support for gay marriage is higher among Hispanics than among the general population. Yes, as I’ve written before, Latinos are no longer as socially conservative as they once were, and Republicans who insist that Obama will lose the Hispanic vote because of his announcement are deluding themselves.

In essence, twenty or so years from now, when gay marriage is legal in every state, you will have a hard time finding anyone who will admit that they once voted to deny fellow Americans their civil rights. It will be just like the old Southerners who insist they never called a black person a derogatory name in the 1970s.

Who knows, maybe even Arizona, by that point, will stop frisking Hispanic kids. We can dream.

 


Sez Who?

We all know about Martin Luther King Jr.’s resistance to the unjust laws of the Jim Crow South. King believed that achieving justice sometimes necessitated breaking the arbitrary rules that flawed humans had devised.

Similarly, in Latin America, where many of our families originated, priests often took a stand against the repressive authority of the oligarchies. Sometimes, as with Archbishop Oscar Romero, they paid with their lives.

So it’s clear that religious leaders should urge their followers to disobey laws that are unjust or run counter to the principles of their faith…right?

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Fourth and Long

Two recent polls caught my attention.

The first was taken at the height of Tebow-mania, when many otherwise rational adults believed that a mediocre quarterback could actually win the Super Bowl.

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Crystal Clear

Just a short drive from my apartment in Los Angeles stands a monument to religious excess.

It is the Crystal Cathedral, built back in the 1970s when an evangelical preacher named Robert H. Schuller had a great idea to rake in the parishioners. All he had to do was spend millions on an architectural marvel that undermined everything the Bible says about modesty and humility.

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No More Getting Pushed Around

When I was a kid, my mother provoked a controversy in our neighborhood by demanding more funding for local schools. She even got in the mayor’s face about it during a public hearing.

Our neighbors, as well as the people who went to our church, were scandalized. It wasn’t that anyone disagreed with her about the pathetic state of the schools. No, what caused them to whisper among themselves was the fact that she had spoken up about it.

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Wild-Eyed Zealots on the Loose … Or Not

I may owe the Pope an apology.

I’ve been critical of the Catholic Church and its stranglehold on Hispanic culture. It seems to me that religious dogma is a big reason why Latin America can’t dig out of its poverty-lined hole and, furthermore, why U.S. Hispanics are constantly scraping by for political, economic, and sociological power.

Well, I’m not rescinding any of that. But I am wondering if there is a bright side to overreliance on the Vatican.

You see, I recently wrote about the U.S. government’s fear that al-Qaida is trying to recruit American Latinos to its sick cause. The terrorist group supposedly thinks Hispanics can “move in and around the United States without arousing suspicion,” making it easier to execute crazy shit like setting off bombs.

However, there is no hard proof that this strategy is underway. As such, I have to wonder if al-Qaida has found it difficult to shake the Catholicism out of Hispanics.

I’ve written before about the powerful bonds between Latino culture and the Catholic Church. The Hispanic predilection to believe in a big guy in the sky is well-documented.

U.S. government officials are worried that it is at the “intersection with prison radicalization, gang culture, religious zealotry that you have a potential problem.”

This seems like quite a jump in logic. Yes, Latinos are overrepresented in American prisons, and gang imagery is unfortunately as big an albatross in Hispanic culture as it is in African American society.

But is religious zealotry more potent in Latinos than it is among, say, white evangelicals or African American Baptists? Why would believing in the Catholic doctrine make Hispanics more likely to convert to radical Islam?

And while we’re at it, why haven’t we seen terrorists from Latin America like we have from the Middle East? Indeed, residents of Latin America have more reason than most of the world to hate the United States. Our support for the region’s brutal dictatorships and/or drug-running rebels (whichever is convenient) has been so blatant that even jingoists don’t bother to lie about it.

And yet, citizens of Latin America don’t talk about exacting revenge on the United States or waging war. Far from it — they love the opportunities that the United States offers so much that many of them are willing to risk their lives to start over here.

Certainly the commonality, proximity, and shared history of the cultures have something to do with it. To people in Latin America, the United States isn’t some exotic, evil land over the ocean. They probably have family members who live here.

And similarly, it’s difficult to fire up a religious war when most residents in this hemisphere are some form of Christian. So again, is one factor for the absence of Latin American terrorists the prevalence of Catholicism in the culture? And might this strong faith be a hindrance to recruiting American Latinos for jihad?

Of course, I have no evidence for this thesis. I’m like the U.S. government that way. Still, I’m willing to give the Pope the benefit of the doubt and say that Latinos’ obsession with Jesus is one reason there aren’t a lot of Jose Padillas out there.

So score one for the Catholic Church. Now, if they would just listen to some modern ideas about birth control…


I’d Rather Have the Ocean Than the Desert

In a recent post, I wrote about the inherent Latino-ness of California. In a different post, I wrote about the continuing saga of illegal immigration in Arizona. Now watch in amazement and wonder as I twist and meld those two disparate subjects into a wholly new post.

As I mentioned, the new archbishop of the Los Angeles diocese is Jose Gomez, who is in line to become the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States. The new archbishop has a more tolerant view of immigration than many of his Christian peers, which is not surprising in light of his Latino heritage. But it may intrigue some people that the outgoing archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, is just as adamant in opposing the demonization of the undocumented.

Mahony recently compared Arizona’s anti-immigrant law to “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques.” Mahony said that Arizona had created “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law” that is based on “abhorrent tactics [used] over the decades with absolutely no positive effect.”

Mahony adds that the law features “totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources. That is not only false, the premise is nonsense.”

With their respective attitudes toward immigration, both Mahony and Gomez line up with their fellow Californians more than many social conservatives would like to admit.

For example, the LA Times recently released a poll about Proposition 187, that infamous piece of legislation that denied public services to illegal immigrants. The law passed in 1994 by a healthy margin.

However, the years have not been kind to the law. Now, more Californians oppose it then support it (by 47 percent to 45 percent). The LA Times attributes the change, in part, to the growing number of Latino voters, but adds that age plays an even bigger role.

“Californians aged 18 to 29 opposed this proposal by more than a 20-point margin, while voters 65 and over supported it by 12 points,” the survey said.  This was “a much larger disparity than when the results were examined by racial or ethnic category,” adding that “voters under 45 joined Latino and Asian American respondents in answering that illegal immigrants represent a net benefit.”

Apparently, “young Californians [have] a much higher comfort level than their elders with those of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. In both cases, exposure has brought familiarity, which has in turn brought tolerance,” according to the LA Times.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss all of us here in California as new-age, touchy-feely liberals with bad morals and a shallow view of life. As a matter of fact, I know a few people like that.

However, it’s well known that California, along with New York, plays national trendsetter more than places like, say Utah or Kentucky do. The opinions about social issues that are formed here always have a strong impact on any national debate. Immigration is just the latest example.

In fact, one could argue that Arizona is simply following in California’s footsteps. The original hard-line approach to illegal immigration (the aforementioned Prop 187) is the legislative godfather to Arizona’s new law.

But if California is any guide, “Arizona’s fast-growing Latino population will eventually begin flexing its political muscle to force a more moderate course on immigration,” according to the LA Times. “Nearly half of all K-12 students and babies born in the state are Latino.”

So maybe, despite all the teeth-gnashing and screeching, Arizona and the rest of the nation will eventually adopt California’s social mores. Hopefully, they will do a better job on economic issues, but that’s a whole other story.

Yes, like sushi, yoga, solar power, and other California-born fads, perhaps acknowledging the humanity of immigrants will become the latest national trend.

And that would definitely not be gnarly.


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