Friday, July 26, 2013

Free Market Christianity

What happens when there is more than one Christian church denomination in areas where the religious freedom is practice?  In some cases, it motivates the churches to spread the Gospel rather than adhere to rigorous dogma:

Pope Francis has shown the world his rebellious side, urging young Catholics to shake up the church and make a "mess" in their dioceses by going out into the streets to spread the faith. It's a message he put into practice by visiting one of Rio's most violent slums and opening the church's World Youth Day on a rain-soaked Copacabana Beach.

Francis was elected pope on a mandate to reform the church, and in four short months he has started doing just that: He has broken long-held Vatican rules on everything from where he lays his head at night to how saints are made. He has cast off his security detail to get close to his flock, and his first international foray as pope has shown the faithful appreciate the gesture.

He's going further Friday, meeting with a small group of young convicts. He'll also hear confessions from some Catholic youth and then head back to Copacabana beach for a Stations of the Cross procession.

Dubbed the "slum pope" for his work with the poor, Francis received a rapturous welcome in the Varginha shantytown on Thursday, part of a slum area of northern Rio so violent it's known as the Gaza Strip. The 76-year-old Argentine seemed entirely at home, wading into cheering crowds, kissing people young and old and telling them the Catholic Church is on their side.

I'm not sure what to make of the current pope.  He seems genuine in his faith, although I've heard he is no intellectual powerhouse like his predecessor.   Of course, that may not be a big handicap as the popes have for too long been behind bulletproof glass and sleeping in lofty mansions where they periodically venture to the balcony to wave at the regular jack-offs.

Now, I'm not saying that these popes weren't pious men. There are plenty of pious men who never took the path of Paul and instead focused on other things. Not everyone is equipped with the talent to evangelize. This is one of my main criticisms with modern Protestants who think that worship is solely singing and playing instruments (which is apparently all we do in Heaven) and that if you aren't out there preaching about Jesus to everyone you meet, you're a terrible sinner.

That's an exaggeration, I know, but it is closer to the truth than most people realize. I've grown up in organizations where introverts like myself need not apply. There is something wrong with me if I don't care about other people's souls. I actually do, but I don't consider it my responsibility. To me, if you wish to seek God, I can help with that. If you do not, don't expect me to push it on you. Your life is your responsibility and as long as you are not hurting others, I don't care how you wish to destroy it.

Back to the article, I think it is great that the pope has asked people to go out and essentially evangelize. Catholics need to spread the Gospel as much as anyone else. The fact that he has been losing people in Latin America to other, more spiritually attuned denominations demonstrates just how out of touch the Catholic church, at large, has become when it comes to matters of faith, grace, and most importantly the Holy Spirit.

What we are seeing is what happens when you have competition, even competition among religious organizations. It allows them to reevaluate the needs of the people and figure out what is lacking in their particular society. While I do not think that the Catholic church needs to change any of its doctrines, I think they need to reevaluate their own methods in how they are relating to the people. I'm Anglican myself and I enjoy the structured worship that is much similar to Catholic Mass. I think it is healthy for people to confess their sins to a Priest as it allows them to share their burdens with a fellow man. I disagree with the standard response they take, which is absolving them of their sins and demanding a series of prayers, rather than just simply praying with them and asking God to intervene and convict them to do what is right.

But that's neither here nor there. I have my own problems with a lot of Protestant denominations as well, many of which could not be listed in a single blog. But you have to find a denomination that you are comfortable with.

Lately, the Catholic Church seems to be have been involved in progressive Utopian visions rather than focusing on the true roots of its existence. It is refreshing to see a pope willing to step up and take actions in this regard at least. Actions speak louder than words after all and so long as he focuses on service rather than essays, he'll do more for the Catholics than any previous pope.