Tag: Catholic Church

Going Green, Staying White

Lots of people lost their minds recently — I mean, really went bugfuck loco — when Pope Francis said climate change is a real and grave threat to humanity.


Yes, a position that is supported by 97% of the world’s scientists and most of the industrial world’s citizens is somehow controversial. But then again, I’m not Catholic — at least not anymore — and of course, I’m Latino.

But why should the fact that I’m Hispanic matter on something as racially neutral as climate change?

Well, as I’ve written before, Latinos are more likely to revere nature and to support efforts to combat global warming. In fact, one study says that “54 percent of Latinos see climate change as something that is extremely or very important to them personally, much higher than the 37 percent of whites who answered in the same way.”

And Hispanic Catholics, who are naturally among Pope Francis’ biggest fans, are twice as likely as white Catholics to be concerned about climate change.

There are, of course, several reasons for this discrepancy. For starters, environmental racism is a factor. Toxic waste sites, landfills and polluting industries are located disproportionately in minority communities.

Basically, Latinos care more about the environment because they are more likely to be breathing in all that carcinogenic shit.

But there is more to it than simple self-preservation.

Some studies find that Latinos’ are more likely to be environmentalists because of beliefs that “grew from connections to their ancestral homelands and an understanding of nature as inseparable from God.” In addition, Hispanics’ concern about environmental degradation often arises “from values like love and respect — values they’d learned through their families, culture, and religion, which are inextricably linked.”

Well, that all makes sense. But there is even more to this complex relationship.

Some commentators have speculated that being part of a minority — any minority — makes you more empathetic to environmental concerns. For example, one survey found that 55 percent of gay people care greatly about the environment, compared to just one-third of heterosexuals.

The idea is that you are more likely to care about the planet if you don’t feel like you own the world.

Still, groups like the Sierra Club tend to “remain predominately white in part because they are not connecting with the actual concerns of minorities.”

So we have a situation where the people who are most passionate about environmentalism, and have the most to lose in a warming world, aren’t being heard.

How messed up is that?


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…

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