A Contemplation On Easter Sunday: From Baptism To Waterboarding genre: Hip-Gnosis & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Since I don't like holidays, it seemed appropriate to use Easter Sunday as an opportunity to offer a contrarian's contemplation...as well as a sarcastic graphic. I often write about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and the Bush administration's efforts to skirt the issues of torture and civil liberties, so linking the two seemed to be a marriage made in heaven...between a man and a woman of course.

Two items in the news provided added inspiration. The first was the Pope's baptism of Muslim journalist, Magdi Allam. I don't begrudge Allam's conversion...but I don't see the wisdom of making it a focal point of the Pope's Easter Vigil. In these times of tension between people of faith, this high profile baptism seems to be the equivalent of throwing salt on a wound...or perhaps vinegar would be more appropriate given the imagery of Easter.

From The Times Online:

Pope Benedict XVI has risked a renewed rift with the Muslim world by baptising a converted Muslim born journalist who describes Islam as intrinsically violent and characterised by "hate and intolerance" rather than "love and respect for others".

In a surprise move at the Easter vigil at St Peter's on Saturday night, the Pope baptised Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken Egyptian-born critic of Islamic extremism and supporter of Israel, who has been under police protection for five years following death threats against him over his criticism of suicide bombings.

Mr Allam's conversion was kept secret until less than an hour before the service. He took the middle name "Christian" for his baptism. The Vatican said: "For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it."

In a combative article for Corriere della Sera, the Italian paper of which he is a deputy editor, Mr Allam - who has lived in Italy most of his adult life and has a Catholic wife - said his soul had been "liberated from the obscurantism of an ideology which legitimises lies and dissimulation, violent death, which induces both murder and suicide, and blind submission to tyranny".

Instead he had "seen the light" and joined "the authentic religion of Truth, Life and Liberty". He added: "Beyond the phenomenon of extremists and Islamist terrorism at the global level, the root of evil is inherent in a physiologically violent and historically conflictual Islam."

It's difficult to separate the Pope from the confrontational words written by Allam and I suspect most Muslims will view this very public baptism as an affront to their faith. I'm always amazed at the need people of faith have to assert that only those of their denomination have a kinship with the true God. History is filled with wars designed to hammer home that point. Nothing like an old fashioned crusade...or a jihad...or an intifada to demonstrate one's kinship with God. I don't know the Pope's true motivations in this matter, but it's hard to imagine this as an act of conciliation.

The second item involves the President's Easter message. Take a look at the following excerpts.

From Fox News:

America is blessed with the world's greatest military, made up of men and women who fulfill their responsibilities with dignity, humility and honor. Their dedication is an inspiration to our country and a cause for gratitude this Easter season.

On Easter, we remember especially those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. These brave individuals have lived out the words of the Gospel: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And our nation's fallen heroes live on in the memory of the nation they helped defend.

Look, I have no objection to honoring the sacrifice of our soldiers on Easter...or any other day for that matter. However, why must that acknowledgment be couched in terms that suggest their efforts have the authority of the Gospel...and therefore God? In my opinion, it simply sends a message to Islam that they can utilize as evidence that the West seeks to destroy Islam and install Christianity as the prevailing faith. If Iraq were part and parcel of the war on terror, why would we impart language that can be used to incite more terrorism?

No, the President's words don't directly state what I've discerned...but he clearly infers that the actions we have undertaken in Iraq have the blessing of God. Such a statement leaps over the numerous facts that suggest we may not be able to assert that our actions in Iraq were simply initiated to defend this country. Further, once we realized Saddam Hussein didn't have WMD's and wasn't involved with 9/11, I don't see the means to conclusively characterize our invasion of Iraq as an act of defense.

The fact that the President found it necessary to shift his rationale for the war on several occasions suggests he understands this criticism. If so, why was it necessary to refer to the efforts of our soldiers in the religious context he chose? Toss in the events at Abu Ghraib, the ongoing operations at Guantanamo Bay, the revelations we did use torture on "enemy combatants", and the refusal to clearly denounce and define such actions as torture and the notion that our President and his supporters view this as a holy war isn't all that much of a stretch.

Hence, after reading and ruminating on the above...as well as recollecting upon my Catholic upbringing...my conflation of religion, sin, Easter, and baptism with waterboarding and war began to emerge. The ultimate irony evidenced on this Easter Sunday centers on this subtle vitiation of the actual meaning of Easter.

As I understand it, Easter centers upon the belief that this day culminates God's efforts to send his son Jesus to live amongst us as a teacher and to endure death for our sins...only to rise again as evidence of the promise of eternal life for those who follow in his footsteps. I think the focus was upon a way of life; not upon religious institutions.

Frankly, it seems to me that on this Easter Sunday we are closer to the crucifixion of our fellow man than we are to the redemption that was promised in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that's the cross we bear. Let's just hope we have the good sense to resist nailing each other to it. Happy Easter?!

HappyEaster.jpg

Tagged as: Baptism, Catholic Church, Crucifixion, Easter, God, Humor, Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Resurrection, Sin, Torture, Waterboarding

Daniel DiRito | March 23, 2008 | 1:06 PM
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Comments

1 On March 24, 2008 at 10:11 AM, MysticSaint wrote —

good read!

thanks

2 On March 26, 2008 at 8:13 PM, Dr X wrote —

Good post. The Bush comments are the kind that speak to a blindness that flabbergasts me. Cherry picking the bible to selectively apply it in a way that makes it appear that the gospels are about nationalism or being soldiers produces absurdities. Bush's reasoning would also suggest that soldiers who died in the SS were men of the greatest possible love.

The problem with Bush's out-of-context application of this quote in reference to soldiers is that soldiers don't aim to give their lives for others. It is what they try very hard to avoid. What they intend is to kill their enemies... something that is totally at odds with Jesus's teaching. When Jesus spoke about dying for one's friends he was alluding to his own upcoming, willing death. It was not a death that came about in spite of his resistance; it came about with his deliberate refusal to resist. The quote Bush uses also alludes to the deaths that martyrs will willingy undergo - not as they stand up to power with the sword, but as they stand up to power with love for their brothers in truth.

Here is more on love, with a particularly interesting statement in bold and caps:

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. ‘IF YOU LOVE THOSE WHO LOVE YOU, WHAT CREDIT IS THAT TO YOU? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 27-38

A few more
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14).

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it (1 Corinthians 4:12).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

3 On March 26, 2008 at 8:28 PM, Dr X wrote —

Also, your comments on the Pope's actions are well taken. It's hard not believe that he isn't deliberately poking fingers in the eyes. I had the same question about his decision to restore "pray for the enlightenment of Jews" to the Good Friday Prayer in the Tridentine Mass.

How about "pray for the salavation of sinners?" Would that have not covered all those in need of enlightenment, or was it necessary to focus on 1% of the world's population that had been historically persecuted and murdered by the Roman Church? And coming from German, at a time when post war antisemitism in Europe is at an all time post war high, is particularly troubling.

With that little papal prayer edict going into effect on Friday followed by the Muslim conversion/baptism on Sunday, I believe he covered the two populations most persecuted and murdered by the Roman Church over the course of its history. Quite a busy weekend for his holiness.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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Leaders frequently use holidays to deliver messages. On Easter, the words they speak and the actions they take ought to comport with its meaning. Unfortunately, I fear the actions of the Pope and the words of the President delivered messages of divisio... [Read More]

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