Tag: religious dogma

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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That’s a Fact Jack

Illegal immigration is down.

Climate change is real.

There were no WMDs in Iraq.

These are well-supported facts with the strength of data and/or obvious proof behind them. Yet millions of Americans don’t believe them. We’re not talking about conspiracy nuts or argumentative jerks.

We’re not even talking about the obvious players in the dumbing down of America.

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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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Power Play

Perhaps you didn’t notice when a national political leader said that America was entering the “Decade of the Hispanic.”

You can be forgiven, because the speaker was Henry Cisneros, and he wasn’t talking about our current decade. He was talking about the 1980s.

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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…


Dogma vs. Cheese

Among my numerous flaws is the fact that I’m not very charitable. Yes, I give money to worthy causes and all that, but I’m stingy with my time. My wife does volunteer work, which is one of the eight thousand things that I admire about her. Still, I’ve never found the energy to join her on her endeavors or to paint a dilapidated inner-city house or to devote a holiday to working in a soup kitchen or to do something else community-driven and altruistic.

My reluctance may be due to laziness or cynicism. Or it could be that my youthful stint doing volunteer work in the barrio of my hometown was less than satisfying.

I was a teenager, and I accompanied my mother on her rounds giving food to poor people. Again, I went not because I was bursting with the milk and honey of human compassion, but because my mom told me to. She needed someone to lift the heavy bags of donated foodstuffs, and I was informed that I was this person. So we drove around town, and I lugged clunking sacks up flights of stairs, entering each family’s hovel with the slump-shouldered, sullen indifference of the American teenager.

The families were overwhelmingly Hispanic, most of them recent immigrants who were still struggling with English. The land of opportunity was a lot harsher than many of them thought it would be, and they were, without exception, grateful for our help.

In fact, they were excessively grateful. I was hugged numerous times, and more than once a weary-looking Latina mother would burst into tears or repeat, “Gracias” over and over again.

This was not a moving experience for me. On the contrary, I got embarrassed. I didn’t like people falling over themselves praising me, especially when all I had done was carry some groceries. Plus, none of this charity work was my idea and all of it was against my will.

But still they went on in rapid Spanish, until my mother interrupted them to hand over the bill. You see, the food was free – but it still cost something. The price for being fed was a lecture.

The lecturer was my mother, and the topic was birth control.

My mother and I had noticed that most of the households were overrun with shrieking children. The Latino obsession with family (which I have addressed in these posts more than once) was in full flower. This was one of its negative outcomes.

So my mother tried to explain to these destitute women that they didn’t have to keep cranking out babies. She pointed out the obvious – more children meant more mouths to feed – and she tried to convince them that in America, they had freedom and choice and other abstractions that didn’t exist in their home countries.

But the lectures were not popular with the receipients. Many of the immigrant mothers were mystified about basic birth control, as if my mother were trying to convince them to buy a magic talking chimpanzee. It was just that exotic.

Those who knew about condoms and pills and IUDs usually dismissed them out of hand. It was against God, they argued, by which they really meant it was against the Catholic Church’s teachings. This showed me at a young age, as if I needed any further proof, that religion can do more harm than good and that people will abdicate responsibility for their own personal disasters under the guise of being holy. It also convinced me that Hispanics will never improve their quality of life as long as they remain fanatically devoted to the pope (see my earlier post on this).

Other excuses popped up. Some women implied that it was their culture’s way to have lots of children, oblivious to the fact that they were in America now. At least one woman said that her husband refused to wear a condom because it wasn’t manly. This was a special moment when my mother translated this particular item for me (and not awkward in the least!).

In any case, many of the immigrants had come to expect my mother’s sermon. They had to choose between having their belief system questioned or receiving those enormous rectangular cubes of cheese that exist solely for poor people’s consumption. It was their Sophie’s Choice.

So they listened, and then they said, “Gracias,” and then we left to repeat the whole futile process again.

And that’s why I don’t volunteer anymore. Or maybe I’m just lazy.


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